On Minimalism

Minimalism has always been contrary to who I am: a multiculturalmultilingualmultiracialcolorfuljack of all tradesworld traveler. Except, maybe not entirely for that last part. Traveler. 

Throughout the last decade as a frequent traveler, I’ve tried to automate my packing process to no avail. I have always been slowed down by an overwhelming dread of having to choose among the vastness of my belongings. At times, my possessions seemed more like burdensome responsibilities than useful treasures.

Shuffling through hills of possessions to get to what I really needed to pack was time-consuming and inefficient. It was so easy to lose items. And when I did, it was hellish to search for it amongst the number of items I’d been clutching onto throughout the years.  Now I should note, I do not think my situation was not like that of a hoarder. But for a New Yorker living in a normal sized New York apartment, anything more than minimal is just too much.

the life changing magic

One day, while browsing Audible, I came across the audiobook by Marie Kondo: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Not once does the author mention minimalism. But after listening to this book, and over the course of three months of decluttering, that is exactly what I had begun to engage in.

I donated over 15 extra large bags of items. Today if you ask me what I donated, I don’t even remember. That’s how much I didn’t need any of those things. I purged through a storage of art supplies, clothes from college that I would never wear again, uncomfortable shoes, outdated jewelry, unwanted gifts I felt guilty parting with, old paperwork I no longer needed or could scan, ugly lounge clothes with holes which brought me no satisfaction, old books I would never read, and the list goes on.

I donated bags to my local non-profit center, sent boxes to Santo Domingo, and brought SUITCASES (cheap on craigslist) of items to give to folks in Havana. Seeing people’s faces light up with glee at the sight of these donations, made me glow with fulfillment because I’d not only done a service to myself but also to someone else in greater need.

This book also explains how to best organize your items efficiently so that everything is accessible and nothing is forgotten, which is a crucial component of minimalism. The most important lesson for me was giving everything a place. Your keys, makeup, electronics, socks, underwear, should each have a designated place. If everything has it’s assigned spot, it’s harder to lose the items and/or to accumulate more clutter. And this is exactly the useful mentality that’s helpful when packing a suitcase or backpack for a round the world trip.

Folding by Marie Kondo

Nowadays, when I come home from vacation, I know I will be greeted with a sleek and more minimalistic home. Instead of having 25 dresses I kinda like, I have 12 dresses I absolutely cherish.

I no longer buy useless souvenirs during my trips, just things I know either I or someone else will absolutely love and/or use. Packing and unpacking have become organized and seamless. My mind is clearer, my time is spent more wisely (especially when packing), and my home feels like every single thing in it brings me some form of satisfactory utility.

The book begins by Marie Kondo boasting that no one who has taken her class has been unsuccessful. I thought to myself ha, we’ll see about that. But dang, she got me too.

Here is a summary the top key points I’ve learned about minimalism:

  1. Don’t hold on to old gifts out of guilt.
  2. Gift mindfully.
  3. As a Reddit user put it, decluttering can feel like a relief from constipation.
  4. This relief of decluttering can be turned into a good habit.
  5.  99% of the time, you are holding on to something you don’t even remember owning
  6. Packing, unpacking and cleaning up become seamless.
  7. You save money only buying what you need and/or what truly makes you happy.
  8. Fold upwards so that you see everything and nothing gets lost in a “hill” of clutter.
  9. You should always know where everything you own is, and assign it its place.
  10. Donate, donate, donate. This way you, someone in need, and the environment will all benefit.

Any other traveling minimalists out there? Share your tips and experiences in the comment section below!