My Minimalism has somehow become infectious. It inspired my best friend to have a major clearout, and then write this article. Thanks Katie!
“Minimalism seems to have made it into the mainstream, in parts thanks to the New York Times No. 1 best selling books by Marie Kondo. Their success comes from understanding that our relationships with our possessions are not just practical but emotional too; and although I began my journey towards minimalism because I just want to be able to keep track of what I had, it quickly became a way of an emotional decluttering too.
Less Choice is More Freedom
We spend our day making constant choices about small or unimportant things – what to choose from the menu, or in the supermarket, what clothes to wear in the morning, which books we read. When I began getting rid of stuff this was something that concerned me – what if I want to read that book again? Or wear this skirt ? What if at some point I desperately need this automatic avocado peeler and slicer? (Okay, I made the last one up….).
But although there have undoubtedly been times I have felt a pang of absence for something I no longer have, there is a bigger payoff: an absence of what I call ‘mind-clutter’. To chose between 6 pairs of trousers and 10 tops creates needless choice. As Neil Gaiman says “the main reason I’ve been wearing more or less the same thing for about 20 years is so that I don’t have to think about what I’ll wear”.
Removing these constant tiny choices has stilled my mind and allowed me to chose what I focus on, like my underlying thoughts and feelings, or the world around me. And having less choice makes me appreciate the smaller choices I do make – which cup of these two to use, which of my two scarves to wear, where to sit to be in the sunlight. Consumerism teaches us that constant choice gives us freedom, but it often just shackles the mind. There is a joy that comes from these small choices and even a joy from having no choice at all.
The Spark of Joy
And joy is what Kondo’s second book is all about. Every time we see something we react to it – often on a deeply subconscious level. For me a large part of choosing what to keep was bringing these reactions into the conscious level. Kondo has a simple but effective way of determining what to keep – if it doesn’t bring a ‘spark of joy’, ditch it.
For example, I had a big stash of clothes I couldn’t wear anymore because I’d put on too much weight. I kept hanging onto them because I did not want to let go of the thought that I am not that person anymore, and did not want to think I might not be her again. But the truth became that every time I saw them I felt sad, and guilty and bad about myself. When I gave them away I also gave away these feelings.
Sometimes the emotional reaction to things is not that simple, for example, there were some things from my ex that stirred fond memories in me when I saw them. But at the same time it was bitter sweet because we’re are no longer in contact and I am sad to have lost him. Some things I got from him I gave away, some I kept but put in storage. It’s important to remember the past, even the sad bits, but to be constantly be reminded of it by your possessions can encroaches upon the present.
Be Friends With Your Pen
The anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggested that humans can only really have strong connections to about 150 people in their lives. I think that this is also true of our belongings. Every time you see or use something your own it is an interaction, like a human one, it demands our attention, even if it is only to pick up a pen and paper to write a letter. My possessions are now like friends – each one needed and wanted.
I started my minimalist journey because I had 4 rulers but everything was so cluttered I couldn’t find anything. I now have one ruler and can find it most of the time! But it has also been a surprisingly spiritual journey. I understand more now why nuns and monks give up their possessions on entering the religious life. I thought it was all about self denial, but it is as much about freeing your mind from negative relationships with the world around you and there by giving you the space to be more aware of your inner self.
- Katie Moudry