Have you ever wondered if you need everything you own? Do the clothes and cars your life is composed of hold any meaning? More so let me ask you this: have you ever felt lost in that clutter?
If the answer is yes, can you get rid of it, or does your brain pull out the “what if” argument? What if all the shoe stores go bankrupt? Then it’s sensible to have 20 pairs at your disposal! Or what if the coat industry collapses? You’ll need those five coats you inherited. Or what if every person from your community decides to drop by for dinner unannounced? Then the dining set for 18 people occupying your cupboards will make total sense. Such scenarios may seem silly when written here, but in our minds, justifications like these keep us from throwing out some of our otherwise useless possessions.
There’s a new movement known as minimalism which tries to make you realize that the excuses above really are an illusion, nothing more. Especially in our student years, it can be challenging to transition between states where you still don’t own that much, but you are entering the state of self-sufficiency. All of us have probably had to figure out what’s necessary and what’s not, but being an international student makes that twice as difficult. Not only do you have to find out what is necessary for your well-being, but you have to do so on the move, in totally alien culture.
I will never forget the panic I felt standing in a Dutch furniture store when I moved to the Netherlands, my mind running at 200 per cent, trying to figure out which bed wouldn’t destroy my back. How much cutlery did I need? Are there special rules to picking linens? Should you own more than two? The anxiety was doubled by knowing that I was taking this time away from being at university and connecting with its community. Ultimately, you end up with some sort of household, but the question arises if it is worth losing the opportunity to get to know people? For students, especially those of us who are far from home, minimalism can provide relief from this dilemma.
So what is this minimalism thing, you might ask. It’s quite simple: minimalism is about cutting down the excess. Nevertheless, focusing on needing less is only part of the story. In fact, the main goal of minimalism is to create room.
Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, authors of bestselling books Everything That Remains and Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, explain that means “making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment.”
Being a minimalist doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything. If you love your book collection, you don’t have to stuff them into a shredder. If you’re emotionally attached to something, keep it. However, as you start to go through your belongings, you’ll discover that for every item you really adore, there are 30 more that are just kind of there. Minimalism says to get rid of those 30 and hold onto the important one.
When you start decluttering your life, suddenly what is really valuable comes forward. Instead of washing your car or polishing your 45th pair of shoes, maybe you find time to call a friend you haven’t seen in three years. And that’s the whole point of becoming a minimalist — so we can re-learn to “use things and love people.”
There is no pressure, either. You can start small — no need to get a garbage truck and stuff everything except the bed into it. The first step might be simply going through your wardrobe. To illustrate, I came here with three bags of luggage. And for the last two and a half months, I’ve been using contents of just one. It’s unfortunate that only now I realize most of the clothes were “just in case” hoodies, shirts, and dresses. As a result, I don’t stand in my closet, deciding what to wear, and I’m ready to jump into my boots within 10 minutes of being asked to go somewhere.
Decluttering provides you with readiness and flexibility, since you don’t have to plan according to what you own, but rather according to what you want. It’s a very liberating feeling that helped me aim my energy towards my interests. If I’ve spiked your interest and you’re thinking about trying the “live more by possessing less” philosophy, the recently released documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things is a great place to start.