The first time I ever heard about minimalism was from the Netflix Documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. I stumbled upon it one day when I couldn’t find anything else to watch, and I was intrigued; the concept was completely new to me, and as soon as I finished watching it, I ran to my room to start the clean up of my life. As it turns out, trying to part with your things isn’t all that simple. I got caught up in sentimentality, guilt, and the feelings of “but what if I need it some day?”.
And so, the ideal of minimalism remained just that for me; a far off concept, a way of life I would like to pursue, but never an actual reality. Over the years, I’ve tried to keep my wardrobe to a reasonably small size, and to throw out things like receipts, nice containers and boxes that I say I’ll use one day but never do, and keep my notebook collection to a minimum (a writer’s curse, unfortunately). But somehow, I always manage to have way too many things lying around and cluttering my space. It’s been a constant stress, and a never ending cycle of wanting it all gone but not wanting to actually get rid of any of it.
Fast forward to the start of 2020; I’ve just moved into a new house with my partner. The moving van was packed full of my things. Boxes upon boxes of things. Some of which I still haven’t unpacked. So, I continued to ignore the issue. Then, only a few weeks into living in the new house, my partner and I decided to separate. It was a fairly amicable split, but no matter how “nice” a breakup is, it’s never a great feeling living in the same house as your ex. So, I packed a week’s worth of things, and came to stay with my dad for a few days.
And then, a national lock down was announced due to the spread of Corona Virus. Who would have seen that coming, right? Clearly, not me. So, I found myself in my dad’s house, without the majority of my things. My childhood room was completely empty, bar some posters and a ukulele. I started to unpack everything I had brought with me; I had one drawer’s worth of clothes, the pair of shoes that I wore down, a guitar, two books, a journal, my laptop and microphone for work (I script and do voice over, as well as other writing work), my phone, and a small bag of toiletries. That was on the 17th of March. Exactly one month ago, today.
So, how do I feel about it? I’ve been documenting how I’m finding it daily, and here are some observations I’ve made:
You don’t need as many clothes as you think you do - In the house that I shared with my partner, I had a whole wardrobe to myself, as well as two drawers for socks and underwear. I had ten pairs of shoes, and six different jackets. For the last month, I’ve been living with a fraction of that. I have one heavy winter jacket, three jumpers, five teeshirts, one set of pajamas and four sets of bottoms. I haven’t found myself reaching for anything else to wear that I don’t already have at hand - I can barely even remember what clothes I have left at my house. I’m a big walker, and have been getting out for plenty of strolls to get some fresh air, and my single pair of Doc Martens have been doing me just fine!
The makeup you use every day is probably the only makeup you use - When traveling to my dad’s, I brought my most frequently used makeup. Regardless of quarantine and a lack of social outings, I’ve been wearing makeup quite frequently for social media posts and my YouTube videos. I’ve never found myself wishing I had brought any more with me, because if I’m really being honest with myself, the only makeup I ever use is that makeup bag’s worth that I have right now, and I’ve found it to be more than enough. The same is true for any kind of toiletries/grooming products.
When you only have one of something, you’re more likely to use it - I’ve found this especially true with my notebooks. I had a growing collection of unused notebooks gathering dust at home, and although I had intended to use a lot of them for various purposes, they remained empty. When I was packing, I brought one with me to use for reflection and writing down how I’m feeling after the breakup, and a funny thing happened; I found myself using it every day for a variety of purposes. I write in it every night to reflect on my day, I write in it every morning to outline my plan for the day, and I use it for goal setting, recording of ideas, and any creative bursts I might have. Turns out - you guessed it - I never needed thirty notebooks, after all!
Those things you keep to use “when I have time” will probably never get used - Don’t get me wrong, hobbies are something we should definitely make time for. They’re extremely important during times like these. However, sometimes people hobby hoard. I’m guilty of it. You’re guilty of it. We all have that box of acrylic paints that we’re sure we’ll learn to paint with one day, even though they’ve been sitting in the press untouched for the last five years, or that box of wool and knitting needles that you bought a book on how to use, but you don’t even want to start reading it, or that obscure instrument you bought on a whim because it would be nice to learn how to play something. I think during times like this, our real passions shine through, and we realize that even though we have time for those things we’ve been putting off, we’d really rather be doing something else instead. Although I’ve had many aspirations to try a number of endeavors, actually having the time for them brought my priorities to the forefront. Do yourself a favor and sell, donate or throw out those beginner’s kits, those “How To” books, and those DVD lessons that you’re never going to use, and focus down on the stuff that really matters to you.
It’s all in the mindset - Since the start of quarantine, I’ve found myself in very much a necessity oriented mindset; do I need to buy this? If so, why? Even though a lot of shops remain open, and a lot of things like books, shoes, clothing, and home ware remain easily available, (and the things that aren’t available locally are available online) I haven’t had the urge to go out and buy anything. It’s funny because right now, I have more disposable income than I ever have, and I’m not spending any of it; and it’s not down to not having enough money or having anywhere to spend it, but feeling like I don’t have to spend it at all.
Overall, I’m delighted with the impact that having less has had on my life in such a short space of time, and once this is all over, I’ll seriously be reconsidering a lot of the things that I still own. Although I’m not the happiest about being cooped up in this lock down (I’m sure everyone feels the same), I am definitely grateful for the opportunity that I have had to change my lifestyle in the way I’ve always wanted to, and I really would encourage anybody who wants to make a change in their lives to start today. After all, we don’t have much else to do!