Becoming a minimalist

I recently bought a Kindle. I found out that you could rent books from your local library for free and upload it to your device. I was looking for a holistic book, for some reason, I think I was looking for a Buddhism book and I encountered books about Japenese minimalism. I found it interesting and I said “Sure, why not?” and downloaded “Goodbye, things: The New Japanese Minimalism” by Fumio Sasaki.

I’ve always been the type of person who hates owning stuff I haven’t had the need to use in months. Even though I tried to be conscious about what I had, I never truly practiced minimalism, I just had a vague idea of what it was. I always associated it white houses with beds you can hide in a closet. I was kind of close to what it is… I guess?

After I moved to America, I became 200 times more materialistic than I was before; consumerism took the best of me. I sound like a communist, but hey you can’t hide the fact that America is a capitalist society where you are encouraged to buy until you bleed. Ok, this isn’t a sociology blog post. Let’s move on.

Back to the book… So, I started reading the book and started to feel excited to go home and start decluttering. It remind me of the Marie Kondo craze when her book came out (yes, the book came before the Netflix show) and everyone started folding their clothes differently. I only got to half of her audiobook, but it was enough for me to donate clothes and organize my closet. Then I stopped caring plus folding clothes the “Marie Kondo” way was too hard to upkeep. Nay, it wasn’t too hard I was lazy.

The first chapters of the book have Sasaki telling you how messy, in all the ways, his life was before becoming a minimalist. According to Sasaki, Japan had a minimalism wave (no pun intended) after the Tsunami. He explains people were devastated about losing all their stuff after the catastrophe which ignited a new minimalism trend throughout the whole country. Later on, he talks about why he decided to partake in the movement.

He shows you pictures of his apartment… Dude has a bed and a teapot. I’m not exaggerating. I think everything he owns fits in a carry-on. It’s pretty interesting to see. His house is clean for sure.

There are some interesting theories in the book. One that resonated with me the most is how stuff becomes silent to-do lists. For example, a cluttered desk. There’s probably a stack of paper you have to go through, sticky notes, books you haven’t read (and won’t read any time soon) and useless trash you never get around to throw away. Your desk becomes cluttered and when it’s time to work, even though you’re working, that cluttered desk is making noise in your space. It becomes a silent to-do list because you know you have to go through everything, but you don’t, and it slowly becomes a burden. Another thing, having a closet full of clothes and looking at it going “I have nothing to wear” when in reality you have plenty of options, but you already wore what you truly like and feel comfortable with, or you go out and decide to buy another outfit because you need it. It’s those type of things that clutter up your space and your mind.

In my case, I didn’t have an excessive amount of clothes but I did have some pieces who were uncomfortable to wear, I looked odd in or I didn’t like anymore. I had books I planned to read and never did, so they were in my shelf collecting dust for over two years (I kept buying books). I had three shades of red lipstick, always used the same one, five bronzers, three different types of setting powders, more lipsticks, eyeliners I never used, seven blushes… I was a makeup hoarder. Even though I had something similar at home, I still bought more makeup. I thought that I needed or I justified it by being “different” enough. Bottom line is, I kept buying things mindlessly…

Years passed by and I started noticing a pattern where I kept buying stuff just to buy stuff. Most of them I used, some, I used twice and left it in a drawer to be forgotten. I started to hate it, I felt remorseful after buying something I was excited to buy in the first place. The book made me realize the attachment I irrationally had for stuff so I decided to part with them, and by them, I not only mean my clothes, I mean books, CDS, skincare items, shoes, accessories, pencil cases, folders, stationery, perfumes, magazines, handbags, wallets, backpacks, and my makeup.

I completely reorganized my bedroom. I reorganized everything I owned chapter by chapter. I followed the book’s recommendations and tips, and it worked. Sasaki keeps reminding you that minimalism is different for everybody, it’s not a competition on who has less, it’s ending up with the things you really need and love.

After finishing the book, my bedroom looked impeccable. I know where everything is and how much I have of it. To give an example, I used to have a big acrylic drawer full of makeup and now all my makeup fits in one makeup bag. The only exception, are the eyeshadow palettes (too big).

All this minimalist craziness made me save money in the long run. Now, all my purchases are intentional and are not made from a place of compulsiveness. I don’t go around buying lipsticks just cause. Everything I own serves a purpose and it’s being used.

I feel much better because I started to detach the importance I put behind material things. Before I used to aspire to have more, own more because the easiest way to show your status and your success is by showing off what you have. That was my definition of success: showing off what you have. It makes me sound vain, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who attaches meaning to material things in an unhealthy way. You start to become envious and greedy… It’s a rabbit hole of insecurity. That’s what brands feed off of, from your insecurity, buy this so you can feel this way. Like if magically stuff is going to feel the void we feel in ourselves. It won’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against owning nice things, nothing like that. The problem resides when your things start owning you.

Also, it made me more sustainable as well. In a Venn diagram, I think minimalism and sustainability overlap. Sustainability’s main goal is to produce less waste overall and go zero plastic. Minimalism’s main goal is to own what’s truly essential in your life and to stop hoarding stuff, basically. So, for me, minimalism and sustainability go hand in hand. The less you buy, the less waste you produce; it’s simple.

I really enjoyed the book. It’s short, easy to read, not at all boring. It’s a guy telling his story. I might warn you, he’s the typical guy who is obsessed with Steve Jobs, to the point where I think he’s idolizing him too much. Steve Jobs is a pretty great guy, but… You don’t have to agree with everything or follow all the tips, again minimalism should adapt to you, to your lifestyle, and how it can work in your favor, not against you.

Have you considered approaching a more minimalist lifestyle? Or even decluttering your room? Let me know in the comments.

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