Welp, nothing like sudden and unexpected job loss to kick you in the ass and compel you to return to a blog that’s been collecting dust for more than a year.
Today, I lost my job of six and a half years. It was, at once, both shocking and unsurprising. I walked out of the bright, modern space for the last time today thinking everyone was in the same boat. It wasn’t until later that it hit me: the company isn’t shutting down, they just laid off half their staff. The truth is, I don’t know what their future holds. That’s no longer my concern. My future, which is no longer tied to there’s, is now my central focus.
So what does that have to do with minimalism? Well, I feel like I’ve been far more “aspiring” than “minimalist” over the past year. My consumption has increased. My desire for things has returned. The momentum to rid myself of everything that does not serve me has slowed to a crawl. I attribute some of this to my former job where I was inundated with shopping, and where it was my job to encourage consumption (albeit at a discount). Hypocritical, right?
The desire for more things also harkened the return of insecurity. I’m less comfortable in my own skin than I was when I started this journey. I worry more. My indecisive nature is heightened. I find myself retaining items “just in case” or out of guilt. While minimalism doesn’t necessitate ruthlessness, it does require trust. Trust in oneself and one’s decisions. I have yet to regret anything I’ve parted with and have no reason to believe I’ll regret what I donate going forward.
So, on the cusp of a new year, I find myself at an actual new beginning. I hope I can make the most of the time I have between now and my next venture. I’d like to be brave. Until then, I intend to keep up the positive habits I cultivated recently, and recommit myself to a lifestyle that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. And I recognize it’s not all about ridding yourself of things that no longer serve you, but also valuing what you choose to keep.
Today, I choose to keep my chin up.
I’m in a rut as of late and I think I’ve finally identified the cause: after a year of decluttering and creating space for what’s important, I have yet to clearly define what minimalism is for me.
Currently, I look to others’ adaptations and imitate them for a while. This creates discomfort immediately, since these lifestyles took years to cultivate and reflect the goals and aspirations of people with different priorities and passions. I’ve undermined what’s important to me because it’s not important to people who inspire me, and I find I’m increasingly discouraged. Instead of integrating the concept of minimalism into my lifestyle, I’m allowing it to take the driver’s seat in an extreme way: Get rid of everything. Buy nothing. Live with the items you already have, even if they no longer bring you joy.
In short, I’m allowing others’ interpretations of minimalism to influence rather than inspire.
Just as I came to this realization, I found a post by Courtney Carver about the sins to avoid when simplifying your life. At the top of her list is comparison, which is exactly the saboteur I’ve attempted to describe. Says Carver,
When you compare your efforts to others, especially others who are years into the process, you discount the progress you’ve made and the benefits you are experiencing.
I’m so focused on the end game that I’ve forgotten to enjoy the process. And by not clearly defining what my end game is, I’ve made the journey more complicated by comparing it to others.
Comparison and fear of judgement go hand in hand, especially when dipping your toes into the unknown. Concern for what others think — or more accurately, what you think others think — will always be a roadblock to progress and personal growth. It’s challenging to be inspired by others’ journeys while accepting that your path is not going to look like their paths. Once you define what’s important to you, only then can you manifest a truly meaningful life.
As I continue down the path towards minimalism, I’m struck by how obvious its principles seem within a multitude of applications. Ridding your living space of clutter provides more opportunity for activities you enjoy. Minimizing your closet helps remove decision-making from your morning routine, offering brain power for more important considerations throughout your day. And downsizing your belongings while traveling makes an often stressful process considerably more carefree and enjoyable.
I watched several people struggle with the physical and emotional demands of their stuff – literal baggage – at the airport recently. The man who stood ahead of me at security cursed when his bag was taken to the end of the line for inspection. “Every fucking time,” he muttered, shaking his head in frustration. My fellow passengers who boarded the plane looked harried as they made their way down the cramped aisle, their carry-on baggage failing to live up to its namesake as it rolled heavily behind them. It’s a full flight with even fuller overhead bin space, and the anxiety among travelers as they search for an empty bin is almost palpable. Someone’s cane barely fits among the shopping bags and overstuffed totes, and one woman struggles to remove her personal item from her luggage while a line forms behind her.
This show of sorts is all made possible by what people assume they can’t do without during a trip. More often than not, we end up wearing the same things every day, or requiring less options than we think we need. How many times have you arrived home after a trip and unpacked items you never touched? How much easier and carefree might your travels be if you thought less about options, and more about true utility?
I asked myself these questions during my recent trip to California, and opted to pack as light as possible to see what kind of impact it would make on my travels. Having experienced the burdens of packing heavy during an Amtrak tour of the East Coast several years ago, I was ready to experiment with packing minimally. A single backpack carried my essentials: a few clothes, swimsuit, toiletries, flip flops, walking shoes and, of course, a hair dryer. I walked casually through the airport with my belongings strapped to my back, and immediately felt lighter despite the weight on my shoulders. This feeling of ease and relaxation continued with me onto the airplane, where previously I would be searching with increasing agitation for free overhead bin space. I sank swiftly and deliciously into a state of total relaxation as the plane ascended gracefully into the evening sky.
During a time when delays, over-booked flights and lengthy security lines are the rule for air travel, infusing a little zen into the process offers some welcome relief. To paraphrase Timo Way, travel blogger and minimalist, all you have to do is minimize your belongings — in this case, what you bring with you — to maximize your experience.