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When Can Minimalism Be Taken Too Far?

My minimalism journey to extreme and back again

Minimalism
Photography by Aires Mateus

I was first exposed to the world of minimalism when I was gifted Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up for Christmas back in 2015. Until then, I had only ever been taught that my goals in life should surround earning more money so that I was able to obtain more stuff. Whether that be better clothes, a better car, a home, as well as experiences and travel.

At 25, it had never even occurred to me that life could be made easier by having less stuff. At this point in my life, I was a student and I was also working part-time to make ends meet while I was studying. I was always struggling with money and one of the ways that I supplemented my income was by selling second-hand clothes and household items. My partner and I had been living together for five years at this point and in this time, we had accumulated a lot of stuff, especially since I had mastered the art of finding bargains at second-hand stores.

Furthermore, all of our friends and family members knew that I sold stuff online and so would often give me their second-hand items either to sell for them or to sell for myself. And while there were times that I was able to sell a fair bit of stuff and pay for things such as small getaways at the end of the year, most of the time I just had a pile of things sitting in the back room of my home, waiting to be sold. And when I say I pile; I mean it almost reached the roof.

I was on one of these small vacations when I read Marie Kondo’s book and it lit a fire under me like I had never felt before. My partner and I came home, and we did a clean sweep of the whole house, including getting rid of the pile of stuff to sell as well as rolling our socks into the specific way that Marie suggested. And while some feelings of scarcity certainly did arise in me, for the most part having a clear home was exhilarating and I indeed found the juggle between university, work, and a personal life just a little bit easier to manage.

But we didn’t stop there. At the time we also lived with my partner’s brother and we all decided that instead of fighting over how much cleaning there was to do, that we would get rid of all of our kitchen items except one mug each, one plate each, one bowl each, and one cup each, as well as cutlery. And while there were some judgemental murmurs from our family over this new direction we had taken in our home, there was no longer huge piles of dishes to take care of and it felt like a real win.

Soon enough, my partner and I moved into our own rental property and once again had to decide how to fill our home. We had moved all of our possessions from the last home with us to the new one but quickly decided that we wanted to veto the majority of it, especially after discovering The Minimalists and their documentary. With only a few short years left to complete our degrees, we both sorely desired the ease that having less stuff brought and so we very seriously downgraded our possessions once again, we didn’t even have a kitchen table.

But after a while, this didn’t seem to be enough and we weren’t getting that same hit that we initially got that summer when we returned home and cleared everything out. Life was still stressful, and I personally found myself going through some extreme health issues which made the most basic of things hard for me. And when I was feeling overwhelmed and like I couldn’t handle things anymore, I would go through my home and see what I could get rid of.

And when I was able to get rid of something, I felt like I had achieved one small task and I was able to move on with what needed to be done. And soon enough, every time I felt myself feeling even the smallest amount of stress, I would find myself once again going through my possessions, trying to get my “declutter” fix. And while this would work for a short period of time, I would often lay awake at night, counting all of the items that I owned in my mind and thinking about which ones I could potentially live without.

It even got to the point where I went through my home and made an actual list of every last thing that I owned and if I wanted to buy something new, I would make myself get rid of something else first, even if I didn’t really want to. Slowly this tool that once aided me, turned into some kind of monster that controlled me and I knew that I once again had to make some changes. I had to breathe through the discomfort when I decided that I once again did indeed want a kitchen table.

I would implement breathing techniques when I would find myself feeling sick and obsessive about our possessions and I would go for a walk when I noticed myself wandering through the house, seeking something to throw away. Nowadays, while I still feel the pang to throw things away when I am stressed, I do have a home that is filled with stuff including lamps, cushions, pictures, heaters, and more. The difference is that I don’t have piles of unused things that I am potentially going to sell, and I generally say no when people want to give me their hand me downs. All in all, I have a deep understanding that while less can be more, sometimes “some” is just fine too.

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