Have you ever stood in front of your full closet but had nothing to wear?
Let me tell you why minimalism has helped me change my life for the better, why it works and why it’s way more than “You’re only allowed to have so-and-so many things”.
I first heard about it about 4 years ago. My girlfriend and I were just about to move to Zurich and had all of our things packed up. Remember those card-boxes for moving?
We had 23 of them.
And that was after my girlfriend had moved in with me a year before, sorting her stuff out back then and after we had already sorted out most of our stuff for moving this time.
At the same time friends of Judith also moved (Berlin, if I recall correctly?). We were invited to their farewell party and that’s also where I got told that they were minimalists.
“Minima-what?” I asked.
And then I fell into the rabbit hole.
Ok, no, it wasn’t that crazy, to be honest. We went to the party, the party was fun and then we went home.
But something else happened there.
I was in their weird flat where everything looked super tidy and they had hardly any stuff lying around. I thought they had already packed up their things only to realize later that they hardly had packed anything at all yet.
I also found out after a while that when they finally had packed up all their belongings in the same cardboard boxes we had, they had 6 of them. That’s less than a third of what we had. After we had sorted out.
What? How’s that even possible? They didn’t even need to sort out anything.
It took us two rides with a VW T4 van, fully stuffed to get most of our things to Zurich. A while later we made another trip and got the rest. They moved by packing their Toyota and driving to Berlin.
The thing was: When they talked about minimalism, they seemed so convinced, so happy. They made good points about exactly why they were so happy. It sounded interesting, but that was it for me for now.
Stuff goes, memories stay.
In the process of moving you always get rid of a lot of things that you have just lying around. I had lived in the same flat for about 7 years so there was *a lot* of stuff that I finally got a reason to get rid of.
The funny thing was: When we had arrived in Zurich, we had no clue what the things were that we sorted out back home. Zero. Nada. Nothing. Nichts.
It’s so interesting that we cling to those things because we cling to the memories they provide, but as soon as they are gone you can’t remember what you had actually just thrown out.
That doesn’t mean your memories are gone, though. They have always been inside you, you can’t just throw them out. Stuff goes, memories stay.
And by the way… If you’re truly scared that you’d forget your precious memories when you throw out the things that you mentally attach them to, let me give you a hint: Pictures of those things are taken quickly and a folder on your hard drive named “memories” takes up much less space than the things themselves.
So there we were, in Zurich, having moved to a new flat with our old stuff.
We sat down in front of the TV one day (on an old mattress because the sofa we ordered took 6 weeks to deliver… classic) and turned on Netflix. We like documentaries so we scrolled through the corresponding section and found this documentation on minimalism.
And then we fell into the rabbit hole.
Ok. No, once again we didn’t.
But it was another piece of the puzzle that we found that further completed the whole picture for us.
“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.” — The Minimalists
It’s funny that sometimes in life out of sheer luck you stumble upon things at precisely the right time.
If we hadn’t moved I doubt we’d have picked the idea of minimalism up for ourselves as well if we didn’t have the first-hand experience of seeing the benefit of sorting out.
But that’s how life goes sometimes. All it needs is a little bit of luck and the right timing.
The monster in the basement.
And there we had it. We were hooked.
We sorted out more and more of the stuff that we didn’t need. The more we got rid of the better it felt.
I can’t tell you why that is but it’s an interesting phenomenon.
The fewer things you possess the clearer your mind gets. It’s a sense of ease of mind for some weird reason. Ever heard somebody say: “Damn, my flat is too clean and too big, I wished I had more things lying around that attract dust.”? Yeah, me neither.
Are you one of the people who have a garage or a basement full of stuff?
The parents of a very good friend of mine do. So often I heard them say “We finally need to clear out the basement”. But they never did. It’s all still there.
I get it. There are so many things down there that the idea of clearing it out is simply overwhelming. And when you’re working you don’t want to spend your leisure working as well.
So all that stuff is just sitting there. Waiting to be thrown out at some point.
The thing is: The thought of “We have to get rid of this” and “It’s going to be so much work” has been nagging on my friend’s parents for years now. By pushing it off into the future and accumulating more things they have carried it along in their lives and made it a constant negative influence.
The Essence of Minimalism.
No, we don’t live in a flat with one chair. No, we don’t own just one bar of soap for washing. Yes, we still got a small basement where we have stuff.
And that is fine.
Minimalism doesn’t mean you have to live like a monk. It means to remove things you don’t need and that don’t give you any value.
Remember the question in the beginning about the full closet comes to mind. How many times has this happened to you?
What if instead your closet was only full of your favorite things. Wouldn’t it be much easier to find something to wear then?
Everything in our basement is something we need. Maybe not constantly, but we need it. The mattress and the guest bed that we put up when people come to visit. The snowshoes that we use for hiking in winter. The cooling fan I put up next to the bed in summer because heat kills me and I can’t sleep when it’s hot.
All of it. Things that add value to our lives.
So, no. If you define minimalism with “You are allowed to only have so-and-so many things”, then I am not a minimalist. Some people do define it that way and that’s why I would probably fail the how-to-be-a-hardcore-minimalist-test. But I use the principle of minimalism for my own life.
For me, minimalism means more than just removing things.
Ready for the big truth?
The essence of minimalism is removing negativity out of our lives. If we remove the negative things, all that remains is what’s positive.
And that, my friends, is why minimalism can help you live a happier life.
It doesn’t just mean to get rid of things. It means to get rid of negativity.
Things can bring negativity. See my friend’s parents’ basement as an example. But for me, it’s way more than that.
It’s removing random scrolling on social media that only generates negativity and replacing it with having time to read a good book that creates value for your life.
It’s ditching those old toxic friends that were a bad influence, you don’t actually like and just meet because you’re polite. Instead, you’re replacing it with meeting and spending time with the people you truly care about. Your true friends, your family.
It’s quitting a job and finding one that creates less negativity in life for you.
THAT’s the essence of minimalism for me.
Remove negativity and only positive things remain.
There you have it. The reason why minimalism can help you live a happier life even if you don’t consider yourself a minimalist.
I invite you to give it a try. I’d love to hear if it worked for you the same way it worked for me.
Until next time.
Thanks for reading.