About a year ago, I found myself moving from the greater D.C. area to Pittsburgh for a new job and new horizons. I made the move with zero furniture and 3 car loads of stuff, which at the time, I thought to be minimal. I was naive.
Today I find myself moving to Iowa (please no corn field jokes) to embark on a journey to acquire my MBA, and with it I have those same 3 car loads of stuff plus all my newly acquired furniture to fill my empty Pittsburgh apartment. As I contemplated getting a moving truck to take all of my stuff with me, the appeal of minimalism swelled inside me like a Georgia peach.
And you know I like juicy peaches.
Not only will I sell all of my recently acquired furniture, but I set what I consider an ambitious goal: to get my 3 car loads of stuff down to just one car load of personal possessions.
I thought surely I must have things that I don’t need. And the journey begins…
Part 1: Books
The first item I addressed was my ever growing collection of books which I keep mostly so visitors will think I’m smart. If you ask me to get rid of one I’ll stop you, pleading that I might lend that to a friend someday or reread it when I’m 60.
After going through my book and movie collection twice, I gathered two large boxes of books and movies that I don’t need. I hauled both of them off to the local Half-Priced Books to sell them.
They gave me $40 for the first box, which I thought was fair, but a measly $11 for the second box. The $11 made me call them swear words under my breathe, but the effect quickly wore off, as time is of the essence, and I have no room for things I don’t absolutely need.
Now granted, I could have made much more selling these books on my own, but I’m on the quest for minimalism and that would take entirely too long. Besides, I could surely apply my skills to something that will generate more revenue than selling a few used books, and you can as well.
Part 2: Clothes
Next came the clothes. While I am a little fashionista, I routinely give clothes to Goodwill so I thought this part would be easy. It was and it wasn’t.
The first bag of clothes was easy to gather. It consisted of clothes that I don’t particularly like or seldom wear.
The next bag was more difficult. This is where I encountered the things I like but hadn’t worn in 6 months.
What I found to be true was that unworn clothes either aren’t my style or they don’t fit well, both good reasons to let them go. For example, I had sports coats that were really nice but were simply too big.
Fact: poorly fitting clothes will never look good, so don’t keep them.
Once I arose out of the fire I had 3 trash bags full of clothes! So much for having nothing I didn’t need.
Part 3: Furniture
This was the easy part. While my furniture is all new, and it does all match perfectly due to my impeccable taste, I don’t need it and agreed to get my stuff down to one carful.
In order to accomplish that, I needed to sell all of it.
An ad on Craigslist and a couple texts, emails, and phone calls later everything was gone. That was pretty easy and I got a couple hundred bucks back in the process.
Part 4: Junk
We all have stuff that’s honestly just junk. The fake Christmas tree in the closet, the nick knacks that our friends gave us that serve no real purpose, the decorations that have no sentimental value and frankly no ascetic value either.
Going through my apartment I found quite a lot of this. The watches I never wear, the spare suitcase, the fancy briefcase I’ve never even used, the party platter dishes I’ve also never used, the lunch box that’s been hibernating for 10 months.
I gathered so much of this, that when combined with my 3 bags of clothes, I had one carful of stuff to take to Goodwill.
Reaching My Goal
As of this writing, I have one week left until the big move. I’ll still working through selling some tools and going through my stuff again to find more donations for Goodwill.
Look for the conclusion of this journey in part 2. In the meantime, I’d like to explore why I’m subjecting myself to all this reduction.
The Call of Minimalism
My pursuit of minimalism sparked from the empowerment I experienced from moving to a completely new place, where I knew nobody, and creating a life for myself there. The experience gave me the confidence to pursue any opportunity.
It also brought me to the realization that if I reduce my stuff, I will be better prepared for the next opportunity life presents.
So, I decided to experiment on myself and see what real minimalism would be like. Here are the benefits that compelled me to make this journey.
A) Minimalism is touted as a good way to free yourself from compulsion and materialism. By escaping from the culture of constant consumption and acquiring more and more, you can save money and create the space in your life for other things.
My hypothesis is that by simplifying my life and possessions, I’ll be able to focus more of my time on a smaller number of things, and create more impact doing them.
I don’t want to be weighed down acquiring stuff. I want to save money, travel, and apply myself fully to a small number of things. Minimalism is a lifestyle choice.
B) Minimalism promotes a quality over quantity mentality. The perfect example of this idea is clothing.
Most of us have way too much clothing.
Who needs 30 shirts, some of which you wear what, once a year? Minimalists have cited that dramatic wardrobe reduction makes life simpler, and by diverting your focus to very few items, you select high quality items that you like more, and believe it or not save money in the process.
Would you rather look amazing all the time, or mediocre but with a lot of variety? Tough choice, I know.
C) Minimalism allows you to free your mind while freeing your house. Getting rid of stuff has been cited by many to promote better organization and has a parallel effect of making the mind less cluttered too.
De-clutter your life, de-clutter your mind.
Origins of Minimalism
Where did this grand idea come from?
While my personal journey to explore minimalism really has no connection to a broader movement, I find it interesting to think about the trend of minimalism and the history behind it. No matter what name you give it, it’s an idea with remnants throughout time, and finding the inventor of minimalism is likely as impossible as it would be fruitless.
In contemporary Western culture minimalism has had a ripple effect, making its way through the music scene, the art scene, the design scene, and yes, the lifestyle scene. In a culture of material goods and consumption, minimalism is a compelling idea.
If you look at the Japanese culture, a culture which seems well-suited for the idea, you will find no shortage of beautiful examples of minimalism. It exists in their contemporary culture, as well as throughout that culture’s history.
You can look at the art, Zen Buddhism, or the way they manage space and interior design. The Japanese know how to do simple.
Call it placebo effect, but I do feel lighter and happier the more I give away. As cheesy as it sounds to hear myself say that, it’s true.
I feel like I could go anywhere, do anything, and not be tied down by material possessions and things that honestly shouldn’t matter. The real value of minimalism that I’m finding is that as I free my mind from the clutches of material possessions and all those little nothings, I create freedom and space to focus on big things that matter to me
I feel completely flexible to pursue any opportunity that would get me closer to my goals, and devote myself to work that is meaningful. But the journey is just getting started. Stay tuned for part 2 of this tale.
Would you consider Minimalism? Why or why not?