This year was a process of discarding things. Not because I wanted replacements, or new purchases, but because I needed to inventory things. Things that I had forgotten I even had, or things which I hung on to for no particular reason.
When I found posts on the Konmari technique, and other minimalism-focused cleaning techniques, I told myself that this was exactly what I needed. It wasn’t a matter of throwing things out, but of finding meaning and deliberate selection in what to keep and what to give away or discard.
The easiest to discard were the clothes ; years of clothes that I wore simply because they fit me. The challenge was not to buy anything that looked like them, or that had the same bluish hue. After discarding the clothes which stayed unused for a year, or half a year, I realized that I only wore about 20% of what was in my closet. It also meant that I slowly needed to find new clothes to wear.
This was tougher than I had expected, but a welcome change. You see, I’m not the shopping type. And in order to keep my budget intact, which mostly went to rent and to food, I had subconsciously developed the habit of not wanting anything else. Clothes were the first thing that I figured I didn’t need immediately. Until this year, I hadn’t realized that my wardrobe was three years behind.
Now that I had more resources, and had lost a bit of weight, buying new clothes seemed a breeze… until I realized that the weight I thought I had lost hardly made a difference in department store sizes. In my mind, I must have at least become an M, or size 08. But as it turned out, I was still an L, and a size 10. It reminded me of how I disliked shopping.
Minimalism is supposed to teach you to detach. I had hoped that buying new clothes would teach me to reconstruct my look and create more confidence in myself. I slowly realized that what I had been avoiding was accepting how I really am, and learning how to work with this while learning to love myself more. It sounds so selfish: to love myself more. But in the past years, this might have been the biggest breakthrough that I had to make in order to enjoy life.
It sounds strange, doesn’t it? Isn’t survival a built-in instinct for all humans? I am slowly learning that there are people who have an acute sense of survival, and there are those who are willing to sacrifice a bit of themselves for the benefit of the other. I also learned recently that these two types tend to gravitate to each other; the self-sacrificial one finding some sense or purpose in being given attention by another. The other, taking all that can be given– until the sacrificial one has been bled dry.
But I digress.
Minimalism also means mindfulness. Learning to let go of things that create some dead weight on our consciousness. So, after the clothes, the next thing I had to sort out were all the sentimental junk that I hung on to, only because I was told that it was difficult to acquire. Somehow, the gift had become a symbol of sacrifice, and required sense of gratitude on my end.
It made sense then– the gratitude hostage.
So out went the journals, the expensive planners, and the smaller junk that no longer meant anything but a ball and chain. I also sold all things that were related to those meanings, sold them for much cheaper online for people who would like them more than I did.
Minimalism also means learning to figure out what items still create happiness, or serve a purpose in your life (or at least where you are in life at the moment)
This meant sorting out my books, cleaning out my shelves. I had found books piled up which I had intended to read long ago, if only because I wanted to become something (what the book espoused). But I realized that I had spent less and less time reading books, and more and more time with people whose idea of friendship was all talk and no substance. I often wondered why I even bothered spending time with them; the answer is: because I was given attitude if I didn’t.
So, next went the books. Gift books, bookmarks, and other reminders of what I had hoped to be– but realized later on were not what I am. Why the hell did all this garbage accumulate on my shelf? All these self-help books. All these “you can be better” books, which reminded me of my constant depressive states that never really had a reason, until I figured out the reason was that I desperately wanted freedom.
And for all the success and independence that I thought I had acquired then, it turns out that I’m a lot happier now with a whole lot less. It escapes me how I spent my twenties climbing an imaginary ladder, and I am hardest on myself for this. But what good is it regretting the past that can no longer be changed, right?
So you see, minimalism is a process. It’s a soul-healing process. It must have taken me about 6 months to completely dispose of things. I think I still have spaces which need to be cleaned up. My goal is to make sure that I get to let go of things every three months; to make an inventory of the things I need on a daily basis and not to accumulate junk.
In the course of disposing things, it was funny how many things happening at work and at home slowly revealed to me how other people saw me.
Just like when I went shopping for new clothes– I thought I had been a certain size, but others really thought smaller of me.
I realized that I had unwittingly branded myself as the person who does anything and everything that everyone else doesn’t want to do, oftentimes for free!
The kind and patient one. The one who has so much time to share emotional space with others. I’m also the pushover, since students can easily talk to me and ask for a consideration and pass with substandard output. I feel disgusted thinking about how pathetic I must have looked.
At this point, my challenge with minimalism is getting out of the branding. I always wanted to be a teacher who inspires excellence. I also wanted to be a novelist. I wanted to also have a business, and then maybe become a manga artist.
But, along the way, I also lost sight of my own goals and began filling my life with so much (meaningless?) work because I had thought that’s how one creates a name for oneself– I had slowly made myself a “yes man” if only because I worries about how people thought of me.
I had accumulated all these tasks and to-do lists, without doing an inventory of my life.
On my thirtieth year on earth, I begin this inventory. With a new decade, I hope to find more meaning, and purpose, and to make the most of what me wasteful twenties taught me.