Love People. Use Things.

The first question my stepmother asked about my apartment in San Antonio was, “Are these all your clothes?” When we moved in July, the movers were surprised: “Only 36 boxes for a three-bedroom apartment?”

The accidental minimalist

I didn’t set out to be a minimalist. As a kid, I was the opposite: I had so many clothes, toys, and things that they filled two bedrooms. Some of those things — especially the books — were important to me, but most weren’t. It was impossible to keep it all neat and organized, much less use all of it. So it all became stuff I ignored, or got stressed about when I had to look through for something.

The fact that I didn’t need to keep all that stuff didn’t occur  to me until I was older.

I went to college in a city four hours from my hometown. Unlike many of the students there who lived 30 minutes away from campus, I didn’t have the luxury of making multiple trips on moving in or moving out day. Everything I needed for the entire school year had to fit in my car. At first that was stressful. But soon I learned to enjoy the process of deciding what would go, and what would stay.

I learned I didn’t need to keep all that stuff.

When I graduated and moved in with my husband, all I had with me was the stuff I had at my last semester of school. And I haven’t taken much from my childhood home since. There’s still two rooms of stuff there.

Why I’m a minimalist

It makes me feel better. My generalized anxiety disorder stuffs my brain with words and fears and fragmented thoughts — my brain is cluttered, so my house can’t be too. I’ll go insane.

I’m also monumentally aware of my privilege. I’m so lucky to be in a position where I’m able to donate things to Goodwill, or pass them along to friends who need them.

I need things to have a purpose and attain that purpose. I want emails I get to have something actionable — what do you want me to do? I want the things in my house to have a purpose, too. If something isn’t fulfilling that purpose, what do I need it for? I’d rather give it away to someone who will use it.

Challenges of minimalism

It all boils down to having family and friends who don’t understand, or are hostile about my choices.

  • You have so few things!” Yep!
  • “You’re giving that away?!” I sure am. You want it?
  • “You only have one [whatever]?” I only need one.
  • “You don’t want anything for [your birthday/Christmas]?” Just to spend time with you.
  • “You might need that someday.” Probably not. And if I do, I’ll buy a new one.

My house doesn’t look empty. I have three bookshelves stuffed with books; I have plenty of clothes; I have a big television; I have lots of art on the walls. I just don’t have much I don’t use or find valuable.

It’s about more than stuff

Minimalism doesn’t just mean I get rid of stuff. It also means I think carefully about the things and people I bring into my life. It means I take time to go to therapy, and consider my current schedule when I’m invited somewhere or asked to do something. I try to remember that my feelings matter just as much as other people’s. I try not to let guilt run my life. I try to enjoy the present.

“Love people. Use things. The opposite never works.”

What do you think about minimalism? Anyone else out there a minimalist?

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