Lessons in Minimalism

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I was sitting at my desk working away when a colleague quipped “Your workstation is so bare and stark and always in order. Like a minimalist!”. I wasn’t sure if she meant it as a compliment and I wanted to reply something witty and intelligent, but instead I said thanks and moved on. Obviously I kept thinking about it for rest of the day ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I am an accidental-turned-intentional minimalist. I was born poor and stayed solidly poor up until I was 25 years. Which means I lived with acute awareness of constant struggle of coping with limited resources and its value. A full wardrobe of clothes brought just for myself was unimaginable. More than 2 pairs of shoes was extravagant. Family vacations were foreign concepts. Up until I broke out of the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, I simply knew nothing but to live with less.

When I started to see my bank balance swell a little, and got some shiny new credit cards, I did go through the phase of buying stuff I did not need – the phase where you have been too tired of constantly holding yourself back due to lack of money and then let yourself go a little knowing you can afford stuff. But the phase passed away quickly. Being able to buy stuff meant living with and dealing with the stuff. Clutter became an irritant part of life. And then came the realisation that true satisfaction came from quality of things and not its quantity.

I am one of those people who went from involuntarily living with less, to voluntarily living with more and then voluntarily living with less again. The full circle. The experience came with a few lessons.

  1. Buying quality is real wealth: Buying 10 cheap T-shirts is not being rich, Buying that one T-shirt that fits you perfectly, lasts long and ticks every box of what you want in a T-shirt is real luxury. And when you find that good quality T-shirt and realise you can afford it is true wealth. 
  2. Clutter weighs you down: When you have random stuff piling on, it bogs you down. You end up spending way more time in arranging, cleaning, organising stuff than you should. You have to spend time finding stuff you actually need in the clutter, making decisions. It is stressful and distracting.
  3. Clutter is a waste: Buying thoughtlessly and piling on stuff for the sake of it is a waste of a lot of things. Waste of your time, money, energy, space, and ultimately earth’s resources. It doesn’t help anybody.
  4. Minimalism is not owning less. Minimalism is owning enough: This took time to understand. Minimalism gets a bad rap for propagating living with less which is interpreted as living uncomfortably. That is a wrong way to look at it. Minimalism means you own and live with just enough stuff to be comfortable and let go of everything else. Think of it this way – Mark Zuckerberg is famous for wearing a grey t-shirt and blue denim. That is his uniform. That all he wears all the time. But he doesn’t just own one grey T-shirt right? He owns a few, just enough for him to wake up everyday and open his closet, pick out a t-shirt and go to work. Owning stuff that he really needs in the quantity that he perceives is enough is a good example of what minimalism truly is.
  5. Simplicity is the ultimate splendour: I don’t mean this in aesthetic sense of things. I mean it in a design point of view – how things are built to work. Minimalism helps you focus on beauty of experience. You learn to appreciate quality, function, craftmanship, and integrity of things around you when you focus on their true nature and how it helps you live your life.

I try every single day to live with just enough. I still think I can let go of a lot of things I own and purge a little more. I am glad I have that awareness. From a financial point of view, it has helped me save a lot of money and time. Yes I am a minimalist and proud of it.

Photo by Alexandru Acea on Unsplash

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