Last night, I watched a documentary titled- Minimalism- A documentary about the important things on Netflix. I knew of minimalism, I had heard about it, knew what it meant, the word itself gives away a lot. But at the end of the documentary, I was convinced that I need to try this out. For people out there, who do not know what minimalism stands for, or don’t have the patience to sit through an entire documentary, or read literature, here is what it means:
This minimalism isn’t about art or literature, it’s a philosophy of life. You choose to surround yourself only with things you need in your life or that add value to your life and discard the things that don’t. It could very well be an antonym for consumerism, an ideology, that propagate greed and encourage increased consumption of goods.
Whereas consumerism tells you that you need that, you also need that and you definitely need that, minimalism asks you, what do you need?
I am going to give you a little more context of who I am, and why I want to embark on this journey especially since I have always been a self-proclaimed shopaholic.
I was born in a middle-class family, well provided for, we always had enough and even indulged sometimes, but I was surrounded by relatives, cousins who somehow always had more than what I did. As a child, it was difficult to understand that they had more because they could afford more, I had less because my parents could afford less. Please note, I was in no way, not provided for. All my basic needs were taken care of. I had shelter, I had security, I ate three meals a day, I went to a good school, I had many clothes, a lot of Barbie dolls, books, shoes, bags, pencils, colors, puzzles, a walkman, and many other things that I don’t even remember now. I had enough. I had more than enough. But I still wanted more, probably because I was surrounded by a lot of people who had more, or the same things but better, a better house, a better barbie doll, better hair clips. So I grew up with things that I needed and things that I wanted, and slowly the pile of things I wanted, started increasing.
I moved out of my home at 17 and that is when this habit of always looking out for more stuff, wanting more stuff, worsened. I was in control of money now. My father sent me a generous amount every month to cover all expenses and though it was a limited amount, it was more than enough, so I indulged, without being under the watchful eye of my parents, I bought more than I needed. I bought clothes, a lot of them, I bought books, I bought earrings, I bought shoes, I bought home decor items, I even bought bookmarks, I mean who buys bookmarks, but I did. And by the end of the month, I was broke, and I had to ask my parents for more money, which they never refused. I tried controlling my spending, I tried limiting what I spent, I tried saving, I failed. I always carried a guilt that I was wasting my parent’s money and that somehow slowed down my spending but never curbed it.
Three years of college went like that and I got a job. I was employed. Now, not only did I have control over money, but it was the money that I was earning. The guilt vanished. I bought more stuff, that I really didn’t need. Another three years working, earning and spending. I was still broke by the end of every month. I hardly saved or had money for an impromptu trip.
Cut to present, I am unemployed, and not having a regular stream of income discomforts me. I was having a conversation with my mother, when she asked me, ‘Why does it make me uncomfortable taking money from them?’ I always thought it was about my financial independence which I value deeply in my life, but I also realized, a major part of it was my ability to spend without guilt. I didn’t want to lose that. I wanted to spend however I wanted on whatever I wanted, without being questioned. The other day, I went to Decathlon, and I ended up buying three pieces of clothing I had no need of- a pair of shorts, a skirt, and a sweatshirt. I spent a thousand bucks on it and it made me kinda happy. Momentarily. I had been feeling down and low for quite a while now, and it just cheered me up, I also bought a magazine that I am sure I am not going to read. Why do we do that? I have acquired so much stuff in my life, what for? I even give away stuff easily, things I am bored of, old things, old clothes, but then I acquire more. Why? This hedonistic lifestyle that we are all living, what is the purpose of that? What does it lead to? Happiness. Yes. For an hour perhaps, or a week, and soon its back to the same thing. Our lives have become more about consumption than experiencing. We consume and consume and consume and we are told to consume more. I was an economics student and there is a concept, ‘Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility’. It states, that keeping other factors constant, the marginal utility or simply put the satisfaction of consuming a product, would decrease with every subsequent unit. So let’s say you have an ice-cream, and you perceive the utility of the first ice-cream cone as 10, the next ice-cream you eat, the utility decreases to 8 and then with each subsequent unit, it keeps on decreasing. And yet we keep on consuming. One after the other. Perhaps, we are trying to recreate that feeling of happiness or satisfaction that we felt when we consumed the first unit. Everyone knows how it feels to walk in a showroom, look at beautiful clothes, browse around, pick some, go into the trial room, try new outfits, and you know you look great and then you head towards the payment counter, swipe your card and it’s yours. Just like that. So you go back home, hang it in the cupboard and you feel happy, like this was a good buy, you look great in it and a few days later, you are back to feeling miserable, you hate your job, or your boss yelled at you, so you go out again, this time to a make-up shop perhaps, you buy a new red lipstick, because red’s your shade, and you come back and you put it in your make-up box and then a few days later its a new pair of sunglasses, or a sling bag that would go with the dress you bought, and oh you definitely have to buy a new pair of shoes, or another gadget or something that is just needed to do something to complete something, to make you feel whole. Doesn’t it sound depressing? It does to me, yet I do the exact same thing, with clothes, with bags, with stationary.
How do you break out of this? Do you go become a hermit? A recluse? Give up earthly pleasures? Give up going to ZARA, Forever 21, H and M, buying new phones, new shoes, new bags, new gadgets, new car? Yes and No. You give up what you don’t need, you build a life which is not consumed by stuff. You clear up. You become an active participant in your own life. You choose.
How do I break out of this? With a project that I have decided to call Project STUFF. I want to regain control over my life, I want to enforce my will on myself, cut down my consumption and my spending, and live a life which is more than just STUFF.
How will Project STUFF work? Every week I am going to pick three spaces in my house that I am going to declutter. The stuff in those spaces will be segregated into three categories,
- Things I need
- Things I don’t want to let go of
- Things I don’t need
For all the stuff that I will put in category 3- I am going to donate some and sell some. (I know selling seems a little skeptical after my rant about consumption and consumerism, but I hope, people would only buy it if they really need it.) All this while, I am not going to buy anything new, anything (except replenishable goods and groceries) for the duration of the entire month of February. Baby steps.
Today was Day.1 of my project STUFF. I started with my desk. That was the most messed up, cluttered thing in my house, and possibly the easiest to start with. To document my progress, I am going to be taking pictures and posting it here, and on my Instagram account. I am going to measure my progress and sum it up on February 28, I have something in my mind to showcase it but I won’t reveal it as of now.
So go on, scroll down and see how DAY.1 of Project STUFF went:
So I started with decluttering the above three spaces- my desk, the table and the basket. I didn’t touch the books on my desk or inside the desk drawers or my files in the basket. Other than that yeah, I got everything out on the floor.
Here is how much stuff I had:
Then came the hard part, I had to segregate my stuff into things I need and things I don’t need. I took the liberty of putting things I don’t want to let go of in things I need and here is how the stuff looked after the segregation activity,
After an hour and half of decluttering and segregating, I neatly packed all the things I didn’t need in a cloth bag, soon to be donated or sold and I arranged the rest of my stuff.
Here is how my table looked at the end,
Do check out T-rex’s head.
Phew. That was long and tiring and frankly, it felt really good. I could have let go of more things, but this is how far I could push myself.
Tomorrow, I am going to choose another nook or corner of my small house and declutter that. And now I am tired of typing.