I did something scandalous today.
I threw out all my unmatched socks. Maybe that action does not strike you as dramatic, but it was an important step for me.
For a long time, I had a special designated spot— a box in the corner of my room—where I stored my mate-less socks. I kept expecting those missing socks to return from Narnia or the Matrix (where-ever) and validate my ridiculous choice to hold on to so much worthlessness.
Maybe I held onto them because I genuinely expected those missing articles to turn up (unlikely). Or perhaps I kept them in some misguided effort to live “green” because, maybe, someday, possibly, they could serve a purpose (even less likely). Regardless, someday has yet to come and those socks have got to go.
A Simple Concept
For years I have been obsessed with reading blogs and watching Ted Talks and YouTube videos about living lighter and eliminating clutter. I even dragged my mother and friend to a book signing by “The Minimalists.” Now, I am putting my fanaticism to use.
The best way I can describe the concept of Minimalism is with borrowed words. According to Colin Wright, self-described author, blogger, entrepreneur, and traveler:
What Minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff – the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities – that don’t bring value to your life.”
Minimalism is unique to each person in different measures. Some minimalists enjoy living with as few possessions as possible (I’m talking 50 to 100 worldly possessions) to facilitate a nomadic lifestyle. Others focus on eliminating distractions so that they can focus on what is most important to them. What Colin Wright so aptly describes is that in minimalism, the most important thing is finding true value.
What value is there in a closet full of clothes that you never wear? What value is there in having an attic or storage unit filled with crap that you never see, let alone utilize? What value is there in having 1,000 Facebook friends you don’t know or don’t like versus 100 people you enjoy sharing with and love?
My foray into minimalism is not about punishing or depriving myself. It’s about freedom, baby!
What I realized is that my primary goal in embracing minimalism is to free myself of guilt. Guilt over not wanting the gift a loved one gave me or over not wearing a garment that reminds me of a special experience. Guilt over the money I spent buying things I don’t need and don’t use.
The most amazing thing happens when I eliminate these items from my life: the guilt disappears. I can keep my memories and keep my gratitude without burdening myself with stuff that I have carried through my life for literally no reason.
The biggest challenge has been parting with the possessions that cost serious cash, now knowing that these things were a waste of money. More guilt, but I console myself that sunk costs, irretrievable money spent in the past, should not be a factor that affects the decisions I make today. What matters are the choices I make going forward.
Less Stuff, More Freedom
My other goal for abolishing excess is to open myself up to new experiences and opportunities. Although I do have to wash my clothes more often, a wardrobe filled with only the pieces that I love to wear means smaller laundry piles.
Now that I don’t have to look at them, I don’t feel guilty for having spent too much money on a trendy item I will never wear again. I no longer have an over-packed closet that I just can’t seem to keep organized. By reducing frivolous consumption, I save money and time that I can better apply to add true value to my life.
Evaluate your surroundings and find a way to maximize the value of what you own.
Of course, I have a “non-minimal” number of miles to go, but my next plan of attack is to sell my vinyl record collection and my record player. I appreciated these things when I first bought them, but it has been years (literally!) since I have listened to them.
My foray into minimalism is not about punishing or depriving myself. It’s about freedom, baby! I’m freeing myself from addiction.
I can even utilize Craigslist or eBay to make money off the things I am getting rid of. I won’t because, to me, the benefits of making a little bit of money are not worth the effort. Perhaps, you would feel differently.
One More Thing
I have also found tremendous joy in giving. I took a large box of books to my local courthouse and jail because I know that the people who will find the most value in them are the inmates on the inside, doing their time.
All of this is to say that I encourage you to evaluate your surroundings and find a way to maximize the value of what you own. I don’t judge my fellow fashionistas who revel in a fabulous wardrobe or collectors who delight in their hobbies, whatever makes you happy.
I only wish to share that minimalism is making me happy and if you, like me, long for a decluttered, organized, and simplified existence, then I encourage you to experiment with minimalism. It feels great, and the risk is….