I’m foregoing the obvious opportunity to leave this blog post blank as a statement about minimalism. It pains me to do so, but I don’t want to waste an entire blog post on a pun, however clever I might think I am.
For the past couple of years, I’ve tried to focus on a minimalist philosophy. It’s not something I really talk about in everyday life, because it can be hard to avoid sounding preachy and holier-than-thou. It also tends to come across as a bit hipster and pretentious, which isn’t the point at all.
Until I moved to Scotland when I was twenty, I’d never really taken stock of what I owned. I’d lived in the same town my whole life, and never really needed to sort through the two decades of accumulated things in my childhood home. That all changed when I found a house-share in Livingston to live in for a year; moving all of my possessions would have taken days of driving back and forth. I started to sort, and found things I hadn’t seen in years. Time to declutter - which is what minimalism is all about for me.
I’m not a hugely sentimental person, so stripping down possessions isn’t particularly hard for me. I can just about pack everything personal that I own into my car (I haven’t tried for a while) - having so little is liberating in that respect. I’m not quite at the 100 Things Challenge level just yet, but if I discount things I own for the flat and for Charlie, it’s probably not a million miles away.
When I started writing this post, I spent a long time thinking about the definition of minimalism, and how I personally define minimalism. Many people who identify as minimalists would not consider me one of them; I own my own flat and my own car, I don’t count my possessions, and I’m relatively tied down to where I live. For me, minimalism is all about streamlining what I own, identifying the differences between what I need and what is superfluous, and moving away from a consumerist culture. What I want is to feel free from excess, absolved from the stress of material possessions, and to enjoy the experience of life without the distractions of things.
I feel more relaxed with less. Minimalism isn’t about being overly sparse, sitting in a bare white room like a monk with nothing to do. It’s about clearing away the noise, focusing on what you care about most, what’s important to you. It’s easier to appreciate what you truly care about, who you truly are, when you clear away the clutter.
I found the easiest place to start was with my wardrobe. I have a simple coathanger system, where every four to six months I hook all of my coathangers the opposite (‘wrong’) way. When I wear something, I hang it back up the ‘normal’ way after it’s been washed. If by the next cycle any clothes are still facing the ‘wrong’ way (except for seasonal clothes like my Christmas jumper), I donate them to charity. If I haven’t worn it in six months, chances are I’m not going to miss it. I’ve donated about half of my wardrobe this way; I now only have clothes I actually like to wear, rather than an excess of items I haven’t even thought about wearing for years.
Since I moved to Edinburgh permanently, I’ve started making more conscious changes towards a more minimalist lifestyle, replacing items I use all the time with high-quality versions, and throwing out or donating items I no longer use. I’m naturally a quite organised person, and minimalism is a great tool to help with that. I might try logging everything I own soon to see how close I’d be to the 100 Things Challenge, but right now I’m quite content with the level I’m at.
“Minimalism does not mean owning as little as possible. It’s cutting out the things you don’t care about - that you don’t need - so you can invest more of yourself into the stuff you’re passionate about.” - Colin Wright, ExileLifestyle.com