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Aspiring to Minimize: Simplifying made easy

Like most people I go through silly internet phases. In one moment I’ll find myself obsessing over YouTube videos about beauty hauls and then the next week filling my podcast queue with commentary podcasts about The Bachelor. But inevitably I always return to my tried-and-true: Teen Mom 2 and This American Life. The other day while I should have been working on homework or my blog post I was watching a YouTube video when Tra looked over my shoulder. “Is that another video about minimalism?” he said as he chuckled. The screen in front of me showed a man unpacking his “suitcase,” which was really a bag the size of a carry-on item, that held everything the man used to travel with for 90 days. I was hooked.

I became obsessed with the concept of minimalism when I stumbled upon a trailer for the documentary: Minimalism. Since then I have subscribed to podcasts, YouTube channels (Light by Coco, Rachel Aust and Sadiya Marie) and probably read a dozen articles and blog posts.

Minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of the items you own and don’t use, it’s about ensuring that you will get the most out of the items you own and decide to purchase in the future. As one blogger put it, why would you spend $200 on a special-occasion dress that you plan to wear once and $20 on bargain shoes you plan to use everyday? Minimalism is also about being a conscious and responsible consumer. If you worry less about your things you create more time for the things you love.

Things are often connected to emotions. Sometimes we collect things as a way of preserving memories. If we didn’t, souvenir shops wouldn’t exist. Other times things are stored for more sentimental reasons. Couples often keep remnants from the earliest days of their relationship. We keep all sorts of items from loved ones who have passed away. These emotions are all valuable. But, it is important to separate the ‘thing’ from the emotion you are trying to preserve. If you let go of that old sweater your grandmother used to wear, are you letting go of your feelings towards your grandmother? Of course not!

To try and put these ideas into practice Tra and I started small. We sorted through all of our clothing to identify every article that had no place in our already cramped closet. It was hard to let go of my favorite blue sweater. I remember when I bought it on the sale rack at Nordstroms. I had no idea how attached we would become. It was a great piece to dress up or dress down and was my go-to item when I didn’t know what to wear. But, as you can see, it was so worn! So, with some reluctance, I threw it in the pile.

One of the items Tra chose to let go of was an ill-fitting collared shirt that he had never worn. He purchased the shirt in anticipation of New Zealand job interviews and it didn’t quite fit. Not only was it just too big for him, the arms were too long. He found himself keeping the shirt just because it was brand-new, even though it would never fit him… unless of course his arms grew another couple inches. Every time he opened the closet it only reminded him that he bought the wrong size. Freeing himself of the shirt was liberating.

My obsession with minimalism might fade, but I hope that a part of the philosophy stays with me. My feelings that are connected to things are important, but those feelings aren’t going anywhere just because I choose to declutter my life. When I moved to New Zealand I left a whole room of things back home. I haven’t given any of it a second thought. Fitting my life into two suitcases was already an exercise in minimalism, but I can still improve. From now on I will focus my purchases on quality items that will last, instead of the best deal. If any of you are looking to buy any of the items pictured in this post, you can find them at Dunedin’s local thrift shop.

If you’re interested in what it means to be an ethical and responsible consumer, check out this great video by Grist.

Music Pick of the Week

Each week I try and highlight an Indie music artist at the end of my blog post. If you would like me to consider your music email me.

This week I’ve chosen a song from the Philadelphia-based artist Alex G. Give it a listen and maybe consider downloading one of his albums on Bandcamp.