I’ve never been one to feel like I need to own or wear brand name things. In fact I try to pronounce half of these fancy brands and I’m instantly corrected and reacted to like I should feel embarrassed for not knowing. If anything, I’m embarrassed I can’t speak a lick of French [one day!]. In today’s world, I wouldn’t know if there were an expensive pair of shoes staring at me until later someone tells me: “ooo did you see…?” I have a ton of friends that own beautiful accessories and things in which they find happiness, which is great. However you find happiness, even if for a moment, you should cherish. And don’t get me wrong, I like good fashion, but combining a nomadic lifestyle with “on trend” styles isn’t the easiest. Especially when you’re living out of one suitcase. Overall, I’ve never really placed significant value on “stuff”, especially expensive branded items (jewelry, clothing, accessories, etc.). I wish I could say that my feelings on all of this has lent itself to being a minimalist. Alas, it has not! You would think this would be easy for someone like me, but I have found the journey towards minimalism to be fairly long-winded and intense. So I share with you: Minimalism: The Struggle is real, The Outcome is Worth it.
FIRST THINGS FIRST – BACKGROUND
I should call out that minimalism doesn’t really mean getting rid of all of your belongings. In fact, I encourage you to learn more about what minimalism is and isn’t (see links at end). To help summarize, minimalism does not mean you live with completely nothing, it might not even have anything to do with “stuff” at all. Generally, it’s an intentional prioritization of your core values in life. As a result from this, it could mean ridding yourself of unnecessary stuff in order to live a simpler and happier life, which is what I am focusing my post on today.
So, Madonna called it. We are living in a material world. Since we grew up in this world, it’s easy to default to filling the world around us with stuff. Given this mentality, we have to purposely shift our minds away from thinking we need anything. When I decided to lead a nomadic life, I knew I would have to dramatically cut back on what I owned. I was excited be a minimalist because I read it leads to increased levels of happiness and freedom. But I’m not going to bullshit you, this has certainly not been an easy road. With the amount of stuff I donated to date, I wish I could say I was done. It’d be cool if I could say I’m one of those extreme minimalists that lives with nothing because they’re fascinating. Instead, I’m the type that doesn’t currently live with much but has a number of belongings collecting dust once in a storage unit and now at my parent’s place. They just love me for it! One day I will get to those remaining piles.
Living in San Francisco for nearly 7 years, I accumulated a ton, mainly costumes and miscellaneous shit. What was once surrounding me daily now feels like a distant memory. For 3 consecutive months in 2014, I lived out of a carry on suitcase and I couldn’t remember most of what I’ve stored, I didn’t miss a thing. I got back to the basics of living and it made me feel like I could conquer the world. And I have to make a quick distinction here that I am a digital nomad, which means I work every day and live in furnished sublets around the U.S., I’m not backpacking around with other travelers. Similar to most travelers though, I’ve found it’s easy to live off of nothing in your day to day. You really don’t need much.
THE STRUGGLE IS REAL, FOLKS
I still have piles I need to sift through as I make my way towards living with only a few suitcases worth of stuff total. Whenever I am reunited with my piles, I always take time (slowly, but surely) to donate to Goodwill and the Salvation Army. My once giant pile is now getting smaller and smaller. It has been more of a process than I thought it would be though. I have found it hard to get rid of gifts, things I’ve collected during my travels, and the most random of things I build an attachment towards. I have several hoarders in my family, so I understand the attachment people build with things and the emotional aspects of “saying good bye” to belongings. Some folks in the traveling community will brag at how easy it was for them to “quit their job, get rid of all their belongings, and move abroad.” I typically question if they actually mean they threw all their stuff in boxes and have it in storage, or if they legitimately got rid of everything. Was it really that easy? If they are young with no kids, perhaps they didn’t start with much to begin with. That’s the only way I can wrap my head around it! Overall, I’ve found this to be a difficult process and one that requires dedicated time and careful thought.
It’s been a long road but it has been worth it through and through. As mentioned earlier, minimalism isn’t all about decluttering. My priorities have shifted since I became a peripatetic to focus my “here and now” on adventure and travel.
These have always been values of mine but I have been placing more emphasis on them. Based on this, I now have more money and time spent on adventure versus things which has contributed to allowing me to live everywhere and anywhere (my latest fascination). I have redefined “shopping sprees” as window shopping and I try to buy only disposable items. It has helped me to approach this in phases and baby steps to ultimately get to where I am.
I feel that living like a minimalist has generally made me feel better. I recommend getting rid of a lot of your stuff you never use, don’t intend on using, or whatever brings you bluh memories. By doing this I truly feel it will allow you to live a less stressful existence, think more clearly and feel free. Not being surrounded by piles upon piles and removing distractions will naturally allow you to feel this way. If you don’t think you can do it, or if you ever feel like you’ve started and haven’t made progress, remember what Ralph Emerson said: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” So, decide and commit and I promise you will see the rewards.
If you’re looking to prioritize experiences over things, I highly recommend moving forward with decluttering all of those “things” you are surrounding yourself with at home, work, in your car, etc. Taking the time to do so has certainly made a positive impression on me.
To help move forward, I highly recommend the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Japanese organization consultant Marie Kondo. I learned you should only keep things that bring you JOY. Part of the concept of minimalism is that you don’t really need “things” to live a happy existence. If you want to learn even more about minimalism, I found these blogs and pages very intriguing on the topic and want to highlight here:
Please add any other recommendations you may have on this topic in the comments, thoughts are welcomed too. Thank you as always for reading!