We would like to use the next few articles on this topic to share other people’s stories with you. If you thought I can’t adopt minimalism because I have kids or because I am too old (or too young), maybe these stories encourage you to rethink. And maybe they give you the nudge to start your own journey to minimalism.
Today, we would like to feature Christine’s story. Christine, her partner Marty and their son Michael are friends of ours. I have known Christine since 2001, first meeting her when we both worked for the same company in London. We both ended up living in Sydney. While Paul and I left Sydney in 2016, Christine still lives there with her family on the Northern Beaches.
Over to you, Christine…
What minimalism means to me
I used to think that minimalism means living frugally, having a home with spartan decor and wearing the same boring clothes all the time. I have since learned that minimalism has many facets. To me, minimalism means removing unnecessary ballast and distractions from my life. It’s about simplification and efficiency to free up time for important things in life.
How it all started
I became interested in minimalism when my friends (yes, that’s you – Sandra and Paul) told me about their plans to sell or give away everything they owned and travel the world instead. Intrigued by their quest, I started to read articles, watched TED speeches and YouTube vlogs, and listened to Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.
I wanted to know why someone would want to live with less by choice (not a necessity) when all we hear in the mainstream media is that we need more to be happy. I learned about the mental impact our surroundings have on our wellbeing. I realized that a cluttered home negatively impacts our wellbeing. While I understand that there are psychological issues at play, imagine what it would feel like living in the home of a hoarder?
I also came across Daniel Levitin, author of The Organised Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload who talks about how information overload is impacting our brain and ability to focus. I learned that every decision, no matter how trivial, use brainpower which is a finite resource. Choosing an outfit from an overstuffed wardrobe and that I have nothing to wear panic is a classic example. On the flip side, people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg chose to wear the same clothes to eliminate minor decisions from their daily life.
I became more conscious of the terrible impact excessive consumption has on our environment. That cheap item that gave me momentary pleasure may end up in a landfill for decades to come, and poor quality donations are a burden on charities. Plus these items are often produced in sweatshops that exploit their workers.
I could also relate to the statistics about how much time we spend acquiring, sorting, tidying and managing our stuff. Not to mention the stress searching for things around the house. We spend a lot of time working, only to waste our hard-earned money on stuff we don’t need and our precious time on maintaining it. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
How we adopted minimalism as a family
A few months ago, we had to empty our bedrooms to have new carpet laid. Having everything in sight, made me realise how much stuff we had accumulated over the years, and we decided to vigorously sort through everything before moving it back in. Once done, we decided to tackle other areas in our apartment.
I must admit, it was hard work spending several weekends organising, selling and donating stuff. I also battled with decision fatigue and found it hard to let go of some things, particularly items I once loved or expensive pieces. But there was no point holding on to something we had no use for and which took up valuable space. Now I ask myself what all the fuss was about, as I haven’t missed a single piece we parted with.
Our son has been involved in sorting out toys from a young age. I didn’t think it was fair if his things disappeared without his knowledge, particularly when they went to friends and family where he might recognize them, and I think it instils good habits. At times, I was surprised by his decisions. I would have chosen differently on his behalf – also a sign for me that involving him was the right way to go about it.
How our life has changed
The impact of the changes was amazing. Our wardrobes are well organised, making it easier to get ready. Cleaning and tidying are not as tedious and everything has a place, removing unnecessary stress looking for things. Our home is much calmer, visually and mentally, and it is much easier to concentrate and focus in this environment. Spontaneous visitors don’t put me in a frenzy anymore either. Whilst we invested a lot of effort getting to this point, we are reaping the benefits and save time in our everyday life.
We still have way too much stuff, but we have changed the way we live. We are more mindful nowadays about what enters our home, and we work hard to reduce waste. We think more about purchases and tend to spend our money on fewer, but better quality items with greater longevity.
My next project is digital decluttering. Oh, joy…
Feature image by Markus Spiske on Free for Commercial Use