Once, I thought that all that mattered in life were the things that you possessed. Things like your car, house, watch, clothes. I chased all of that for many years, until I woke up one day, and realised: “What’s the point?“
That was the first step of me becoming a minimalist, and real joy.
What is Minimalism?
Minimalism is about living intentionally, and with a clarity about what possessions make us happy and what do not. It removes distractions from our lives and allows us to focus on what is essential. Minimalism is highly specific to every individual, so everybody has a different degree of what minimalism means to them.
For example, a baker will probably appreciate and use a blender and a mixer, among other things, in his/her home. However, a baking enthusiast who uses the equipment only once in a year might be better off renting/borrowing the equipment, rather than buying them.
How I Got Started With Minimalism
I first had to understand what made me happy. Through several months of deep self-reflection and self-questioning, I discovered that there was only one thing that truly did, and that was freedom. Freedom in the sense that I was free to make any choices that I so wished.
When I had that clarity, I realised a lot of my possessions were actually preventing me from doing that. Unlike what societal norms encouraged, I didn’t need a flashy car, luxury watches, big apartment, or a multitude of clothes. These were distractions. Buying into them actually gave me a lot more headaches, because I now needed to worry about maintenance, not damaging these items, researching on the next better model, being concerned about the color coordination of my outfits, and the list goes on.
Ultimately, I made the choice to get rid of everything. I started with the bigger objects first. Since I was in a metropolitan city with a great public transportation system, I decided to sell off my flashy car. In fact, I realised I didn’t need a car at all. My original reasons were to keep up with the Joneses and to make myself feel good about myself. I didn’t need to do that. It was just myself speaking from a position of low self-confidence, and using my possessions as a convenient crutch for something more meaningful.
Next, I got rid of my big apartment, and down-sized to a smaller apartment, but in a much more convenient location. My workplace, gym, supermarket were all places that I had to frequent, and I made all these my priority. So I found a location where these places were supremely convenient to access via train or foot.
Becoming a Minimalist: The Initial Sweep
In the process of moving apartments, I had the opportunity to get rid of more of my possessions. Since it was a much smaller space (roughly half the size), I was actually forced to get rid of a lot of clutter. You may not know it, but clutter comes in many shapes and sizes. Most surprisingly, clutter does not just look like “junk”. Clutter can even come in the shape of a fancy Nespresso coffee maker, a classy KitchenAid Mixer, a sporty wakeboard surf rack, or a luxurious TV set.
All these items were really nice things, but they had one thing in common: I didn’t use them much. I got them because they were “cool”, “everyone had one”, and “I would use them someday”. I decided to get rid of all of them, either by giving them away to my friends and family or by selling them away.
I definitely took a loss on all those things, but selling them taught me one thing as well: it was hard trying to get rid of things. It wasn’t something I could do in a day, nor was it something that allowed me to easily get back 100% or even 70% of the item’s value. Sometimes I had to give the item away because no one would buy it, or I had to sell it for half its original value or less. That really taught me about the intrinsic value of things and how we sometimes value things more than they’re worth.
Becoming a Minimalist: Clothes
Clothes were a particular bugbear. I used to be so concerned about whether clothes would match and whether they look good. There were a lot of clothes that I would have bought and worn only a couple of times. Streamlining my clothing choices and becoming minimalistic about my clothes was a huge change on my life. Here’s how I did it, in this sequence.
- I got rid of all clothes that were worn-out, torn, ill-fitting, or yellowed.
- I gave away clothes that I didn’t like
- For those clothes that I was unsure about and felt that “I should keep them just in case”, I forced myself to wear them in the upcoming days. Almost immediately, I knew if I really did like them enough to hang on to them.
- For those leftover clothes that survived the rounds above, I wore them in my daily rotation.
I still have around 2-3 too many t-shirts at this point, but the idea is to not replace them after they eventually wear out. Ideally, my wardrobe will only consist of 2 kinds of attire: black t-shirt and jeans for daily wear, and blue workout t-shirt and shorts. I only have one kind of socks – black no-show socks that I can wear with anything (Serious life hack! If you only have one kind of sock, you will never lose socks or spend time matching socks after doing laundry anymore).
I still have 2 pairs of shoes now, but I’ll only have one pair in the end: a pair of white Adidas Stan Smith sneakers. They are great for casual or smart casual wear, and can be athletic enough for hikes or the gym. It’s especially important that they are solid soles because I do deadlifts and squats, so soft-foam shoes won’t cut it.
Becoming a Minimalist: What To Do With The Rest
I realised that I had a lot of small miscellaneous items: low-value, low-reusability items, such as letters, gifts, souvenirs, or swag. Giving away these items was hard because they had absolutely zero value to anyone else. I took photographs of any that I felt had sentimental value, and then I donated most of them to the Salvation Army and threw away the rest.
A lot of other miscellaneous items I had lying around the house turned out to be old micro-USB cables, adapters, screws, buttons and objects that I kept “just in case”. Most of them were never ever used. For those really important ones, I decided to keep them in a small box. For everything else that I could get from the supermarket or convenience store cheaply, I discarded.
I also realised that I had WAY too many supplies. I had multiple tubes of toothpaste and multiple bottles of shampoo and body wash. I bought several as spares because I was afraid of running out, but it’s really never a problem because you will always be able to get a replacement easily even if you really do run out. A convenience store or supermarket is always near enough.
Becoming a Minimalist: Useful Questions To Ask Yourself
Eventually, I got to a point where all my possessions could fit 2-3 suitcases (and my snowboarding bag). However, this was just the start. With the consumeristic society that we’re in, it’s so easy to start collecting stuff again. We get bombarded with advertisements on a daily basis, and we see products all the time. Even if we don’t visit any shops, buying products are just a click away on our mobile phones or computers. To combat this, I started coming up with several systems to stop myself from buying more, or at least be more conscious of what I buy.
I found that if I tried to delay my decision-making for as long as I can, most of the time, I end up not wanting that item after all. Besides delaying though, I found that there were several questions that helped me frame my thoughts properly whenever I considered buying something.
- Do I want or need this?
- Will I still like this when it’s no longer new and the novelty is gone?
- Will it show wear gracefully?
- Will it keep working reliably for a long time?
- Will I want to maintain and service this?
- Am I going to be using this enough?
- Is this going to improve my life significantly?
- Is there any of my current possessions that I can replace with this purchase?
Try Being Minimalist Today
I hope this blog post helped show you my mindset regarding minimalism, and give you a better idea of it. Hopefully, you might even be inspired enough to take it up and experience for yourself how much joy it has brought to me. If you have any suggestions or anything to share, feel free to use the comment box below.