I used to laugh at my Dad. I still do to be fair, but I used to laugh at him for a very specific reason; his total disinterest in “stuff”. Birthdays and Christmases were a nightmare. “What do you want?” I’d ask. “I don’t want anything.” He’d reply. Even when I rephrased the question to “What do you need?” He’d draw a blank. I found this infuriating and bizarre in equal measure. How could he not want or need anything? I always had a long list of stuff that I desperately wanted and thought I needed. Even with simple things like clothes he’d delight in telling me that the jeans he was wearing he bought in 1994 and they only cost £8. I’d literally shake my head and cringe at how skanky that was.
I recently watched a Netflix documentary called “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” which was created by two white American guys in their 30s. These guys had high flying jobs and all the material trappings which came with six figure salaries. They realised that these things weren’t bringing them joy and they were living lives habitually buying stuff without a second thought. They were filling an internal void with consumer purchases, attempting to buy their way to happiness and it wasn’t working. As a result of this realisation, they embraced Minimalism which is based on owning only essential items that serve a purpose and that bring joy. It rejects the notion of allowing advertising and capitalism to dictate your behaviour. This concept spoke to me and seemed to just make sense.
Around the same time, I was introduced to “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” written by Marie Kondo. I’m not a big reader and so I listened to the book on Youtube. Marie explains that you should go through your possessions, one by one, considering each item with one simple question “Does this item spark joy?” If you answer this honestly and really consider that item, it will lead you to de-clutter your life. Cool, I can do that. I mean I’ve moved house a lot. Like A LOT. 14 times as an adult. With all those home moves I have become pretty good at culling stuff because what’s the point in moving crap that you don’t need? So I figured I wouldn’t have much to get rid of.
I started with my clothes. 4 black bin liners later, I felt lighter. And that was just clothes. I spent the next few weeks going through each category of item in order as Marie suggests. I realised just how much stuff I was keeping hold of and how subconsciously stressful that was. With every bag that went to the charity shop, I felt freer. I wouldn’t say that I’m now a hard core minimalist but I would say that everything I have, sparks joy. I live without excess and as a result my living space has been de-cluttered and in a way, so has my mind.
I was in town on Friday as I had some errands to run so I figured I’d look round the shops while I was there. I went into H&M which is my favourite women’s clothing shop. I walked round, surveyed the items, thought about what I might need and picked up 8 items to try on. I decided to hold on to two that I liked and went upstairs and again picked up more items to try on. I stood in the changing room for the second time and looked at myself in the mirror. Did I really LOVE anything that was hanging in front of me? I thought about it for a few minutes. Well, that top is on sale so I should definitely get that. Those trousers will be good for work, they are a little tight but with a long top they’ll be fine. Then I stopped. What the fuck are you doing? Why are you doing this? What’s wrong with the clothes you already have? I walked out of the shop empty handed and I felt bloody good about it.
I talked to my Dad about the stuff subject over the weekend and his philosophy is simple: own less, live more. It may be that I’m getting old (34 in 6 weeks) but I’m annoyed to say that I think his approach to “stuff” is based on some pretty sound logic. Yes, we need certain things but we don’t need stuff for the sake of it. Reducing mindless consumerism has to be good for the planet and for our own well-being. I’ve certainly found it to be a freeing experience. I’m now attempting to live a life that the Minimalists would describe as deliberate and intentional and I’d challenge you to do the same.