Updated: Feb 7, 2019
I hadn't even heard of minimalism 18 months ago. I mean i'd experienced minimal music, visual art and fashion before, and maybe used the term a few times in a work context, but overall had no idea about a minimalist movement, what a minimalist was or anything of the sort.
In early 2017, a window of opportunity opened up (whether that was carefully planned or if the stars just aligned who knows) for my partner and I to take a break from work and go travelling. Something I had not done in my teens or 20s because i just wasn't in that mindset, always thought i had too many things going on, but I always listened to the stories of my friends who took that adventure and felt slightly envious of all the amazing experiences they had, people they encountered and memories they would keep forever.
In the lead up to this, we needed to save money for it all, a few months to prepare, a rough number to get to. Now, i feel like i can squeeze general day to day savings from lifestyle choices but that wasn't going to cut it, that would help but we needed something more substantial and long term. As i sat in a flat full of things, i looked around for what i could sell, what had i not used for a while? I realised that i had a lot of stuff. We had a lot of stuff. Stuff that we ‘needed’, stuff that had emotional attachment to it, stuff that was just, stuff. Those jeans with the rips i loved but never wore, the super cool Trapdoor t-shirt that was stuffed down the bottom of the wardrobe with my old football kit, the dvds that were never watched (but when it came on TV i watched it), the books i promised myself to read but never did, the sofa bed we bought years ago for that one time someone stayed over, which actually stored all the extra cameras, school work, sleeping bags for festival season. Old phones, a keyboard, 3 guitars, which i only played to impress my partner when we first met. Computer game accessories, we’re talking guitar hero here with full band gear. Cooking books, random wires, old routers and board games that didn't have all the pieces. (Aren’t we all searching for missing pieces?) They all went. Some to new owners, people who would get great value in using them. That mentality was there, but it was more to save money. As the travel time got nearer, the furniture holding all this stuff went, as too did more shoes, trinquets, tools and clutter. For the final push, we sold the flat. Whatever core valuables remained stayed at my parents until our return. I looked down at my keyring and there was nothing there. No car keys, no house keys, no work fob, no pass, no bottle opener, nothing. This should be scary but why did it feel so good?
A couple of nights before we left, we packed our bags (over packed them - minimalist work in progress) and reflected on the effort put in to get rid of that stuff. It felt good, not just knowing that i could live quite happily with less but also giving that opportunity to others to gain value in your stuff. I know one of my guitars went to an 8 year old for his birthday, his first guitar. I know a photography student now uses one of our cameras for their course. I know someone has picked up my books and read them rather than leaving them to gather dust. Someone is definitely having the time of their life on guitar hero. One of my suits was worn by a 16 year old for his end of school prom. The list goes on.
It was when we were in Ninh Binh, north Vietnam, when it all finally clicked, what we were doing was becoming minimalists. Minimalism was the tool that helped remove the excess stuff (physical and mental) from our environment that allowed us complete freedom to enjoy what was really important to us. Plus we’d also helped others find fulfilment and added value along the way. There was no anxiety of stuff back home, was it safe, will it still work, there was hardly anything left. No work issues, no delayed commutes. We were living in the moment, taking ourselves out of our comfort zone, exploring the world and learning more about ourselves and each other. Now I have my own memories I keep forever.
Minimalism is not just about consumerism or having less stuff, it can impact many areas of your life. A friend of mine once said the reason they couldn't find the time to do more of what they enjoyed at home was because they spent a considerable amount of time cleaning. Cleaning the cabinet that stored the stuff that was never used.
The minimalism journey, so far, has been extremely rewarding and it’s only the start.