I would like most of the posts that I write, at least for now, to be in some way connected to my up-and-coming Peace Corps service and I think that a post on minimalism fits that bill just fine. Minimalism comes from the ideology of simple living and, according to Wikipedia, the two phrases can be interchangeable. I like the way this blog put it best. Right there under the name of the blog to the right is the tag “Own less. Live More”. I really like that idea, because I honestly believe that the whole “American Dream” is counterproductive in accumulating the things that actually make us happy in life.
This is only coming from my personal experience. I grew up in a household where my parents expressed their love monetary (not that my family’s rich or that my parents never hugged me as a child). I also I grew up in a household whether I was told to save everything, to keep the memories or because I never knew when I’d need something “later”. Two days ago I threw away a father daughter dance invitation from 2001 that had been hanging on my dresser mirror. I’m pretty sure that every single grade school assignment I ever did is sitting in two large containers in my closet; kindergarten macaroni art included. I have also experienced, more than once, a time where I had to buy an item that I know I own already, because I couldn’t find the original in all the clutter of everything else, which is never fun.
For the past few months I have been practicing minimalism in a non-direct way. I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but I have become very disillusioned to the idea of accumulating stuff. It was probably a mixture of living in China as an exchange student and being unemployed for a month after I returned to the States. Even if I did care to spend lots of money in the export capital of the world, it wasn’t a very practically idea given my limited amount of luggage space and the high cost of shipping. I came back from China with $300 in my pocket, $300 in an American account, and no job prospects. My biggest concern was how I was going to pay my student loan when the first of the month came, which was three weeks away.
Luckily I was hired back at the company I’d left before going to China right at the end of July. During that question mark period between coming back and getting hired, I learned a valuable lesson about consumerism: I don’t have to spend money. Of course I did spend money during that period of time, on gas and groceries, but outside of that I didn’t spend a dime and life trekked along all the same. It was really easy for me to not spend money too, because there was nothing I really wanted.
I still carry that mentality now, only I’m starting to become more active in decluttering my life as opposed to simply not adding to the clutter. My hangers are hung backward, except for that clothes I’ve already wore (really surprised that I’ve hardly been wearing my once favorite T-shirts, didn’t even notice). I’ve given away three things this week and plan to continue if people are interested in the stuff I have. I’ve cleaned the clutter off two different areas in my room and it literally only took about five minutes (and I absolutely love the clean space look). I definitely plan to keep going. All I need is a day, maybe even just an afternoon to purge my closet of whatever papers are in those boxes, recycling in the process of course.
If I wasn’t doing it myself I wouldn’t believe that cleaning could actually be fun, but deciding to declutter your life is different than normal cleaning. It’s not about moving things around and getting at the dust. It’s about purging non-necessities and opening yourself up to the truly irreplaceable things in life. I understand the blogs that state that minimalism is a way of life. And the best part is that you can tweak it to the comfort of your own particular lifestyle. Be as extreme or as relaxed as you want. At the end of the day minimalism exist to improve on the individual’s way of life. I think that Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) know that better than anybody, that happiness isn’t accumulated in the amount of stuff we have, but in the relationships we make and the experiences we live through.