I adore the concept of minimalism: a lack of decoration or clutter in my home; monochromatic style; paring down to the important things in my life.
Like many people, though, I have trouble actually achieving minimalism. I affix significance to objects, even as they gather dust at the back of my closet. I’ve had a bag full of clothes for donation outside my room for almost two months, waiting to see if I’ll need its contents.
Mementos—ranging from old report cards, to birthday cards, to photos—sit in a box at my parents’ home, begging to be recycled. Even as a child packing my bags for a summer trip, my parents would have to convince me to unpack my figurines and little rain boots, which I wouldn’t really need but thought I’d miss.
Anxiety over letting go might be a real concern that we’ll need the book we haven’t read in five years; but sometimes it seems to be a predilection for collection and a dollop of laziness. We allow our Facebook acquaintances to balloon into the triple or even quadruple digits, although we don’t talk to most of them. We accumulate stuff, until we’re overwhelmed with almost-empty beauty products and clothes that don’t fit but might someday. We avoid emptying our lives of the surplus, because we think it’s what we need and minimalism is hard.
(If you take a political-economic view, you could talk for days about the advantages and disadvantages of capitalism versus minimalism—and how it may or may not affect our drive to consume. Let’s just skim right over that, for the purposes of a shorter blog post.)
The anxiety of letting go might also emerge, at least in part, from a general fear of change. In French, what we say as “I miss you,” is stated as “tu me manques”; if you passed that through Google Translate a few times, it would likely evolve into “you are missing from me.” When we let go of things, of people, when we change our environments too much, maybe we’re worried that it might change our lives. What happens when we get rid of all the scaffolding that surrounds us?
Even when we know it isn’t logical, it can be so hard to let go; but it’s also such a release to relieve yourself of the burden of clutter. Look around your space and ask yourself why you have—why you need—your knickknacks. Look through the people in your life and question if they give you joy, laughter, love and support, or at least have at some point. If your life is populated with people and objects who do not do (or have not done) you some good, ask yourself why they’re there.
Of course minimalism isn’t as easy as that—clearly I have trouble, with my pockets of clutter peppered throughout my life and home—but you can only start by consciously considering what you welcome into your time and space.
Photo via StockSnap, by Marcin Milewski