Minimalism is not the lack of something.
It’s simply the perfect amount of something.
It was almost exactly four years ago that I was sitting in the Baxter Theatre one chilly morning attending my very first TEDx event. We were only about two or three talks in; when a woman named Angela Gaye Horne came on stage and gave a talk that would make me rethink how I live my life. She introduced me to the philosophy of minimalism. When she concluded her talk I was conflicted between remaining at the theatre to watch the remaining talks or going home to start throwing stuff away.
The timing of the talk was perfect because just two weeks later I would split with my husband. Angela had put forward a thirty day minimalism challenge to the audience tasking us with giving something away every day for a month. I decided to cling to the challenge as a coping mechanism that first month after the break-up; and then proudly started referring to myself as a minimalist.
When I eventually moved home after my divorce was finalised; I downgraded from a large three-bedroom free-standing home to a much smaller two-bedroom apartment. This presented me with the opportunity to further minimise; and I managed to get rid of many things that were no longer serving me. I then scheduled a twice a year purging exercise to further minimise. You can’t be much more of a minimiser than that; can you?
Well, it’s time to come clean. This minimalist has been anything but a minimalist. Over the past few months, as I’ve been preparing for a very different life as a nomad, I have had to do the biggest purge ever. But, it was this past weekend when I held an open wardrobe for all my friends to come rifle through my clothes and purchase beautiful items at bargain prices, that the truth of my minimalism came painfully to the fore.
So, I have a beautiful apartment; which has been cleverly designed to allow lots of hidden storage space; resulting in an apartment that seems superficially very minimalist, with clear surfaces and lots of open space. But where there is great storage, there is stuff – hidden away – out of sight, out of mind! Ripe grounds for this girl to lie to herself about her material ways.
It all came to the fore when I unpacked my shoe drawers to neatly display them in my living room for all my girlfriends to access easily and try on. The picture was shameful – 70+ pairs of shoes – this after four years of regular eradication. How did this happen?
Contemplating my feelings; I know that all these clothing and shoe purchases; which were all done prior to my divorce; were a reflection of my emotional and psychological state at the time. I was bitterly unhappy; felt neglected; my self-worth was at an all-time low; and I had money to burn. The clothes and shoes were giving me temporary joy and were helping to distract me from my inner turmoil.
After my divorce; after I healed; I stopped buying shoes and clothes for any other reason than when it was absolutely needed. I no longer walk past Nine West and hear shoes calling my name; my heart no longer skips a beat when I walk past Zara. But I still held onto a lot of the existing shoes and clothes. And this is what really bothered me over the weekend as I looked at this collection that would rival Imelda Marcos. Why had I not given this up; why was I still hanging on to the past? Also, watching people try on my clothes and shoes really revealed how attached I am to these things that I never wear – that I absolutely know I could live without, with no negative impact to the quality of my life.
One of the things that I have always loved is that people have always told me that I have great taste in clothes and shoes. This was important for me when my self-esteem was so low; to know that there is something about me that is special – even if it isn’t me but the shoes I’m wearing. Although, I have done so much to find my self-worth and see my value as a human being and not as a clothes rack; I think a part of me still needed to hang onto that – just in case! If for whatever reason tomorrow I’m feeling low; or I question my worth; the wardrobe is always there. I realised this during the wardrobe sale, when I was holding my breath whenever someone was going through my stuff – it was important to me that they loved my clothes and shoes – as this was somehow an indictment of me and my character. How sad! I realised in that moment that I cannot be fully true to myself; live authentically; realise my purpose; and trust in my worth as a valued human; if I don’t let go of the material shackles.
So, my real journey as a minimalist starts now; removing everything that doesn’t serve me. I know that my nomadic life on the road will be more fulfilling and lighter without the restraints of unnecessary possessions.
Minimalism is a tool to eliminate life’s excess; focus on the essentials;
and find happiness, fulfillment and freedom.
JOSHUA FIELDS MILLBURN