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Minimalism isn’t about punishing myself for owning things; it is having the consciousness that my happiness isn’t determined by my material wealth.
Three years ago, I got married.
Much before the wedding, I had packed all my essential belongings and sent them off to my would-be-husband’s home. A week elapsed post our small temple wedding and I was reminded that I had to vacate my previously occupied one-bedroom apartment. And that turned out to be a lesson in awakening for me.
I had lived in the one-bedroom apartment for close to two years, but packing my things turned out to be a baffling experience. I had presumed that my ‘meagre’ belongings would accommodate easily in my car. We had to hire a tempo.
One room, two years, and I had managed to fill up a tiny space with so many things. I couldn’t even recall the purpose of obtaining most of them. Watching the tempo take off to my new house, I couldn’t fathom whether my solitude had allowed me to purchase material goods to keep me company or the excuse that now a lot of things were affordable because of my paycheck. The three-bedroom apartment where I now stayed would effortlessly absorb all my things, but I was left feeling unhappy and dubious within.
For seven days I had managed to live out of one suitcase and a carry-on bag. I had had everything that I needed. I couldn’t remember living in any kind of discomfort because of the absence of my one-bedroom-full-of-things. When I opened my cupboard, the ample space inside had been comforting. I didn’t have to struggle to choose. We even travelled within that span, and my suitcase had sufficed. New adventures and discovering the world and myself brought me immense happiness and peace. At that point of time, my belongings were of least concern.
Now the clutter of things in front of me bothered me. It meant I had to find space for each of them in my home that already had all I needed. The boxes contained clothes that I had unmindfully bought so I didn’t have to repeat my work wear for at least a couple of months, were a little too tight or loose and in wait of the perfect weight, promised a future that may never be or were remnants of a past fetish that held little value now—monetary or sentimental. There was an abundance of shoes matching my outfits and others that anticipated the-matching-dress to arrive; bags that I had collected over decades, half of them forgotten or tattered but still not given away; books that I had long ago read and those I wanted to read; crockery that more than sufficed one person; and plants.
Something was amiss. I wasn’t being honest with myself. When did my belongings start defining my space, my happiness, and my purpose of being a working woman?
In the weeks that followed, I found myself poring over each box. I emptied them one at a time, spent a good many hours deciding on what I absolutely needed and loved and what could be donated or trashed, and placed each item intentionally in my home.
Those initial days, the hardest part was to let go. Things, emotions, relationships, and choices—though they mayn’t define us any longer or be essential for our existence are still difficult to give up. It is easier to cling on to something in the hope of finding meaning that, realised only in retrospect, doesn’t exist.
I was emptying my house of clutter out of the sheer will to do so. But is ‘will’ enough to be a sustainable minimalist? What happens if I am less willing to follow this path some day? What will be my driving force then? The philosophy had appealed to me and I was sure I wanted to follow the path. But the core to being a minimalist lies beyond mere willpower; it is in finding the ‘reason’ for oneself.
It took me several sleepless nights to finally find the reason that would enable me to make this lifelong choice.
Minimalism isn’t a fancy term or an internet sensation. It is a way of life, chosen consciously and in complete honesty to oneself. And it takes years to be one. It has been three years, and I still have a long path to tread.
“What does minimalism mean to me?” is a question I continue to ask myself even today. It helps me reiterate my decision.
Minimalism for me is living my life more intentionally. It is a belief in myself as much it is in the essence of minimalism. I have rebuked myself enough for buying things and not giving up on what I already possess. I need to stop doing that.
Minimalism isn’t about punishing myself for owning things; it is having the consciousness that my happiness isn’t determined by my material wealth. It isn’t about emptying my home and living a frugal life; it is understanding when I have more than I need. The act of decluttering is like spring-cleaning; it should happen every spring. But living a minimalistic life means I won’t need to declutter because I only have enough.
When I walk into my home today, I feel joy. It is a space I absolutely love because it houses only what I absolutely love. The furniture has been carefully chosen. Each thing is a reminder of something that sparks joy in me. My camera and the numerous accessories, books, and plants define me and enable me to be who I want to become. My wardrobe doesn’t overflow; it only contains pieces that flatter me.
I have also come to understand that some of my belongings might have more meaning and use for somebody else. I often sift through my things (my ideal spring day is yet to arrive) and donate all that no more bring me joy or help me be the person I am. I only retain what has a meaning for me that I can define.
Being a minimalist has helped me find pride in myself. It has made me a better traveler as well as a city dweller and has helped me grow as a person. I take small steps each day. Though there is no finishing line that I have to cross, I need to keep working on myself, the same way I work on being a better writer and photographer.
Image source: Flickr
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