Minimalism tends to reluctantly come with the territory of an expat lifestyle. Over the last decade, I've experienced most extremes of the minimalist spectrum. I've lived out of a backpack, sold everything I owned to travel, given away my most prized possessions in an effort to rid my attachment to stuff only to be robbed of more stuff that same year; I've moved continents with a couple suitcases multiple times, lived with my belongings scattered across 3 countries for years and regularly purge things that have no use to me (just ask my husband). But, guess what? I still like stuff. ALOT actually.
The Reality: Minimalism is NOT a thing. It's self awareness.
While the concept of capsule wardrobes with pretty and perfect pinterest graphics to guide you is appealing… that appeal usually dies when you take to your closet and start tossing things into the unnecessary pile. I, myself, went through this process dozens of times without ever calling it a capsule wardrobe. I just learned when I had to pack my shit all the time, some things weren’t worth taking. My friends would light up when I mentioned I’d cleaned my closet out again. It wasn’t old, worn out stuff I was leaving behind. Most of it was like new, if not brand new, and it was all theirs for the taking.
I don’t regret being so unattached to clothing. Besides, who doesn’t love shopping and especially in new countries with new fashion trends. What I do regret, is having the mentality that because something is unnecessary right now, it doesn’t belong in my life. Some things aren’t about necessity. Some things are just about the vibe. And, some things are about money. Countless times, I’d found myself wishing I hadn’t gotten rid of those black pumps I was never gonna wear when I was out shopping for black pumps for a friend’s wedding.
Then, somewhere around turning 30, something started to shift. I didn’t beat myself up for being able to have nice things when much of the world around me was falling apart and didn’t have food to eat, much less a cute apartment. I didn’t feel lost when I went shopping or wake up to a closet with things I didn’t feel comfortable in. I didn’t find the thrill and satisfaction of shopping and acquiring things the way I once did.
I want to say this came with age; but, really, age had nothing to do with it. Getting to know myself, being honest about and owning who that is, what she likes and more importantly, what doesn't fit into her life has everything to do with it. Not to mention, our ingrained beliefs about consumerism, which need a good recalibrating to get there, are difficult to shed. Everywhere we turn, someone or something is telling us who we are, should be, what we like, what we need, how much better life will be with it and what’s missing.
So, how do you shift into this confident sense of self awareness? Start with these simple questions. Give them some attention; whatever that means to you.
1. Firstly, throw out any idea of Minimalism you already have. It’s such an individualized thing. Because, YOU are a unique, complicated individual who cannot be summed up or predicted in an algorithm! This is about what supports the best version of yourself. What is most important to you?
2. Pay attention to what you are drawn to everywhere around you. That’s your style. The food, fashion, imagery, people, work, ambience, energy, hobbies, etc. that make you feel confident and comfortable. Screw trends. YOUR personal style doesn’t go out of season. Seriously. What lights you up?
3. Look around you right now. Does 100% of that stuff have a purpose? Function?
That function doesn’t have to be practical. It can simply be that it reminds you of a great memory with someone. It makes you feel loved. It makes you smile. It makes you happy. These are the necessities anyway. If it doesn’t serve your best you, consider parting with it. Does it serve the best version of you?
4. Think about why you want the stuff you do. Is it the consumption trap? Or real desire? Is it worth the investment? Is there something that would bring you more joy? Why do you want it?
5. Consider your friends, your job, your activities. Minimalism isn’t just about physical stuff. It bleeds into every part of your life. Are you filling your time with quality? What is the quality of your life?
6. Most importantly, consider how thankful you are for the things you do have. When we look at the reality of our life situation, we tend to gain a little perspective on the external drama. What do you already have?
It's true that many of the most positive people and cultures I've encountered are also some of the poorest. Yet, they have such a great attitude, such a good outlook and they laugh, joke, smile and give more than any other people I've met on the planet. There is definitely something to be said for that. But, what that looks like in your life is up to you. There is NEVER a one size fits all solution and more often than not, it's mental much more than it is physical.
The most important thing about minimalism is that you take the time to know yourself, what works best for you and ONLY fill your life, space, relationships, etc with things that truly define who YOU are. The rest is really just a distraction.
Linny |Founder & Editor|