My journey to minimalism began three years ago as a fashion choice. In the past, my closet was as an assault of prints, colors, and styles. My mantra then was, the more colorful and the more geometric, the better. Somewhere along the way I became so tired that I needed a break. My loud clothes (I had a leopard-print phase) became so deafening that I wanted a more quiet one.
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I saw minimalism on a fashion website and was intrigued. I was jealous of those people who only have 33 items in their closet or who only wore one color. Then I began reading about people like Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs who have “uniforms.” Zuckerberg even said, “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.” Suddenly I thought, what if I applied this philosophy to the rest of my life?
It must have been fate because early last year, a Japanese woman named Marie Kondo was making waves for her new approach to tidying. In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Way of Decluttering and Organizing, she said that we should only keep things that spark joy. The book wasn’t available yet in the Philippines but I wanted the book so bad that I ordered it online. It soon changed my life.
Most works on minimalism teach us to get rid of everything we don’t use. Some say to get rid of the things we haven’t used in the last 90 days, while some say to put everything we own in packing boxes and take things out as we need them. Those left in the boxes should be quickly disposed of. And if you look for photos of minimalism, they are always cold, empty, and lifeless. Kondo’s approach is the complete opposite. Yes, her methods are just as ruthless (she insists on getting rid of books you haven’t read yet), but she advocates a warmer approach to the process. Instead of focusing on what to throw away, she focuses on what you want to keep.
Her one measure is tokimeki. She says, “Take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” So even if my trinkets from my travels serve no real purpose, I still get to keep it because it makes me happy.
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There are only a few rules to following the KonMari Method. Do things by category: clothes, then books, papers, miscellany, then mementos. Mementos go last because they take longer. Kondo also advises that you gather all clothes, books, papers, and other stuff together so you can see just how much you have.
It took me a while to minimalize but it was extremely rewarding. I got rid of so much things I hoarded in the past. My room isn’t one of those sleek and lifeless minimalist showrooms but I am happy because I am surrounded only by my favorite things, or things that add value to my life.
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In terms of fashion, an interesting effect happened. By disposing of clothes I don’t like, I feel like I have more options, because I only see the clothes I actually want to wear. Now, my closet is a calm sea of blacks, whites, blues, and grays. Prints are only limited to quiet stripes and checkers.
But the most important effect of minimalism is what it’s done to my brain. By getting rid of physical clutter, I seem to have gotten rid of mental and emotional clutter, too. Aside from the things that no longer add value to my life, I also removed negative thoughts and baggage.
So what is left of me after my experience with minimalism? Joy, contentment, and satisfaction. I realized that you don’t need much to be happy. In fact, things can’t make me happy. As noted fashion editor Diana Vreeland once said, “‘It’s not about the dress you wear, but it’s about the life you lead in the dress.” Minimalism isn’t about living with less. It’s about living more.
Are you also a minimalist or an aspiring one? Share your thoughts below!