I slipped into ‘minimalism’ by chance. Many people think minimalism is about sacrificing luxuries or buying cheap stuff. But it is not true! It simply means that minimalists buy and keep only that they really need, regardless of how much they cost, as opposed to what they just want. (More about need vs want.) Minimalism is a way of life. It means leading a simple, uncluttered life. I think my journey to minimalism started before I knew or heard of that word.
My husband and I have shifted house 12 times in the last 25 years within and outside India, after our marriage. An average of one move every two years! This was mostly because of job changes, and a few times for convenience, but never because the house owners pushed us out. 🙂 When we relocated to Chennai from my hometown where we have our own house, we decided not to take all our stuff along as we were planning to go back after 2 or 3 years. Since we were vacating our own house we had the luxury of leaving some things back, and we decided to take only the essentials.
They say, ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’, but I had acquired lots of ‘moss’ wherever I had lived and carried those to wherever I went on to, during my earlier household shifts! But with this move to Chennai, I had to leave all my favourite stuff especially my antique collections. I was totally confused as it was really hard to decide what was essential and what wasn’t. Looking at the huge pile of things I had accumulated, I had no clue about where to start. I had even kept my children’s kindergarten paperwork out of sentimentality (I think I was more attached to those than to the kids themselves!) Also, we had acquired a lot of stuff never thinking that we will move again from our permanent home.
When I was working in the corporate sector, I think I was leading quite a lavish lifestyle! We used to go shopping during weekends just to pass time. We had a lot of clothes, books, interior-decoration items, and so forth. I never felt like throwing/giving away even things I didn’t particularly like because I thought I might ‘need’ them one day. So I would store them up where they would stay for years, never being used. Once when I did a ‘stock verification’, I found that I possessed 8 pressure cookers and 6 Cheena Chattis (woks)! And I was using only 2 of each on a daily basis, the others having been retained ‘just in case’. So I decided to donate a couple of them to my maid. She said as there is no space in her home she does not want them! Only then did I realize she was already a practising minimalist! That was really an eye-opener for me.
Also when we moved to Chennai, due to the scarcity of time, we did not unpack all at once. Some boxes remained unpacked for over 3 months! Later I realized those were the just-in-case (pun unintended) items. We really didn’t need them, and after 6 months we got rid of them. I decided to make my home a living space instead of a storage space and retain only things which add value and joy to my life.
In Chennai, I have gradually developed a craving for silk sarees and steel vessels! (Earlier I was fond of crockery.) Whenever I see ‘traditional’ silk sarees in a shop I just cannot leave without buying at least one, though I wear them only once or twice a year! I realized I had been acquiring too much since I came to Chennai and discarding too little! There was always more to buy. At some point, I just decided I would rather have extra space and time, than extra things.
Now every time I buy something I try to give away two items. In the locality where we stay now, there is a facility for making donations in kind. A big cupboard with a glass door has been kept on the wayside. Whenever we want to give something away (clothes, shoes, books, bags, toys) we can just take it there and put it in the cupboard. There is an old man in charge who looks after the facility. They even have a refrigerator to store donated food.
Before letting go, I take photos of things that I am not going to use but am sentimentally attached to. I realized that things themselves don’t make me happy; it is the memories attached to them that do. I am also converting physical photos into digital form and storing them on computer drives. Recently I stopped the daily newspaper as news can easily be got online. Storing old newspapers is a real headache for me as I am allergic to dust!
I think I am succeeding in overcoming the addiction towards silk sarees and steel vessels now. But the main challenge is books. I don’t know if I will ever feel comfortable with Kindle and migrate to it. These silk sarees, steel vessels, and books are not allowing me to become a ‘complete’ minimalist! So I have added these to my vision board now 😉
I realized that I had been getting stuff to feel happy, but it didn’t truly make me happy. It was simply cluttering up my life, bogging me down. I cannot just pick up and move to another city when I want to! Trying to become a minimalist has been one of the best decisions I have made – it is changing my perspective. My gifting ideas have also changed. Nowadays, instead of giving some ‘thing’ as a gift, I have started giving tickets to music concerts/plays or tickets to visit places. I think while gifting we should keep this in mind: “Give people experiences, not things!”
We all know we can’t take with us all we like when we die. But still, we collect lots of stuff especially if we are staying in our own home. Imagine you are shifting from your own home and you can’t take all your stuff to the new location. List down the things you would select in that case. Those are what you really need! Give away the rest. Also, next time before buying anything, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I really need this?
- Do I have space to keep this?
- Will it add any value to my life?
- Will I give it away a year from now?
- Will it cost me money to store or maintain it?
If the answers to the first 3 questions are ‘Yes’ and the rest are ‘No’, go ahead and buy it!
Please share your thoughts on this. How often do you declutter your home? Do you crave for silk sarees and steel vessels like me? 😉 How do you deal with ‘just-in-case’ items? Have you migrated from books to Kindle?
Happy empty nesting 🙂
The best things in life aren’t things!
PS: Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs all practised minimalism just to avoid decision fatigue! Instead of wasting mental energy on deciding what to wear and eat they use it to focus on more important things! That’s the secret behind them wearing the same kind (colour) of clothes all the time!