The much-touted first step to changing your life is-‘Get rid of the old’. It is a symbolic step towards making way for the new. Some people chop off their hair and get a makeover. Some people get themselves a new wardrobe. Some people just throw out things which they’ve been collecting for years and which have absolutely no value. Most claim that they feel lighter- as if they’ve shed years of baggage. It gives them the space (literally and metaphorically) to welcome the new. I have always thought this to be foolish- I did not see a palpable causal connection between throwing away old things and changing your life. I (sort of) do now and I want to take it one step further by adopting a more minimalist lifestyle. Here’s how I intend to do it.
Step 1: Go through my ‘collection of memories’ one last time, fix them in my memory and make peace with letting go of them. Welcome the closet space.
By nature, I am a collector- I collect everything from clothes, to shoes, to bags, to books, even memories. For me, my collection of chocolate wrappers, ‘mint’ packets and birthday cards symbolizes memories. I equate them with a time capsule- several years down the line, I would go through my collection and live through the good times again. In fact, it’s been years since I have even looked at them. I, now, realize that the memories will remain irrespective of whether I still have the chocolate wrappers or not. The memories are in my head and I don’t need a collection to remind me of the good times. The only purpose my collection is serving is to take up much-needed closet space. Letting go of it does not mean I don’t treasure my memories any more.
(Unfortunately, this will have to be done at a later date, since all my stuff is at home.)
Step 2: Donate old clothes, shoes, bags etc. Welcome the closet space.
I have a whole shelf of clothes which I have not worn in ages- in some cases, for as much as a year. I still have these clothes for one or all of the following reasons: I like them, there is a memory associated with them and/or I might need them sometime in the near future. I failed to understand that these clothes were only cluttering up my cupboard and that it was unlikely that I will ever wear them again. I now realise that since they are no longer useful, there is no point in having them. Further, since I have not used them in so much time, it is unlikely that I will need them in future. If such a need does arise, I can always buy something similar at that time.
So, the other day, I went through all my clothes and got rid of at least a quarter of my wardrobe and donated them to charity. I have much more space now and feel considerably lighter.
Step 3: Stop acquiring new things and make the most of what I have.
I have never understood why people give up their material possessions and choose a more minimalist lifestyle. I always equated it with sacrifice. I never understood the freedom which comes with owning little and that, in the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t matter how many shoes I have. What really matters is how interesting and exciting my life is. Does owning 20 pairs of shoes make my life exciting and interesting? No, it doesn’t. Instead, I find myself constantly ruing the fact that I own only 20 pairs. I have barely used most of them. What do I actually need? Not more than 4-5 pairs and that is also a little too much, if you ask me (but hey, one step at a time). This is what I learnt:
- Less I own, less I need to worry about.
- Less I own, easier it is for me to move from one place to another.
- Less I own, less I need.
- Less I own, more I enjoy what I own.
- Less I own, less I waste.
- Less I own, less I have to lose, more freedom for me.
But here’s the catch, I still find it difficult to give up what I already have. If, at this point in time, my happiness is linked to what I own, I need to acknowledge that fact. I realize that it is foolish to just throw away/ donate all my stuff if I am not ready to do so. So, to start, I am just not going to acquire any more and make use of and enjoy what I have till I am ready to take the next step towards a minimalist life.
Step 4: Try to fit everything I own into a suitcase. (Books are not included- I don’t think they ever will be).
As of now, I have no idea as to how to go about completing this step. I am hoping to eventually reach this point through some trial and error and maybe even a little heartbreak. Maybe, I will have an epiphany.