In Pursuing Minimalism

I’m trying to get rid of some of my stuff.

It started with donating a lot of my Pokémon things to the club on campus (plushes, hundreds of cards, other paraphernalia.)

“You don’t want to sell any of this – just donate?” The execs confirmed as I unclipped the keychains from my backpack and handed them over.

“No,” I said, perhaps foolishly because I’m sure I could get some decent money for all of it, but I didn’t want to impede the club’s budget. “I’m just donating it.” Just trying to own less stuff, just trying to minimize.

My friend told me as I sorted through my closet – which mostly just meant instead of owning a lot of t-shirts I own some t-shirts – “Grace, you can’t scale your whole life down to fit into two suitcases.”

Maybe she’s right, but that can’t stop me from trying.

As a caveat to this project, I know a minimalist lifestyle is a result of immense privilege (no one would get to the point of being able to scale their possessions down if they’ve never been allowed to scale it up in the first place, there’s a certain sense of elitism with projects like tiny houses and Walden.)

But I’m also not trying to go the route of tiny houses or Walden. I just think, someone else could enjoy my Pokémon plushes more than I do. I don’t need three bottles of expired antidepressants. Someone else will actually use my saxophone instead of glancing at it in the corner of the room and thinking I should really practice.

I’m not trying to fit my life into two suitcases, though the challenge is tempting. I’m also not partaking in any 30-day types of challenges (though I’ve heard those have done great things for people.) Mostly, I just don’t want to own too many things I don’t need. Owning less stuff will make the type of life I lead easier to manage.

I don’t currently have a home, exactly. As in, my parents have a house they are given. My address on my driver’s permit is listed not-quite-legally as my aunt’s home, and in May I will need to have all of my things out of this dorm room. Where my things are going, I don’t know. I’ve thought about renting a storage unit with some friends, and I might do that. My interest is piqued by the idea of fitting my life into two suitcases (though the Keurig and the bicycle present somewhat tricky problems with that.) But I also own quite a few books and if there are possessions that I get sentimental with, it’s my books.

I’ve managed to chuck photographs because I have them digitized, gotten rid of a lot of jewelry because let’s face I never wear those pieces, even gotten my life down to about six pairs of pants, but my books present another problem.

Yes, I own a Kindle. But the truth is I hate reading on my Kindle, I hate reading on my laptop too. Reading on books feels much better to me and it’s a thousand times easier for me to annotate (the next problem is if I do get rid of my books a lot of them are illegibly annotated which will probably send them to the trash instead of Goodwill.) But books are heavy and books take up a lot of space, meaning they make my little whole-life-in-two-suitcases dream very difficult to achieve.

So books present the biggest problem in my journey toward a slightly more minimal lifestyle. Books and my bicycle, which I would sell but my dad would probably kill me because he loves biking as a family and it’s also a really nice bike.

When I first started this, first ditched an enormous number of clothes, one of my friends approached me in private and said she was worried about me. Because, isn’t getting rid of things a sign of suicide?

Now technically what my friend is worried about is more nuanced than just getting rid of things. A suicidal person may give away most or all of their possessions, including treasured items (note: I’ve kept my laptop, my phone, my schoolbooks, my grandpa’s compass) and this behavior would need to be accompanied by other symptoms.

However, I did take her seriously because I have a history of depression and self-harm and I thought ‘I should probably make sure that’s not what this is.’

I’m pretty sure it’s not because if I was suicidal I probably wouldn’t be nearly as stressed out about my future as I am.

But in all seriousness, if someone you know has begun to get rid of or give away a significant number of possessions accompanied by excuses like “I won’t need them anymore” and exhibits other signs of depression, it may be a good idea to approach or check-in on them.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to shave off possessions here and there. I decluttered my desk yesterday and already feel a hundred times more productive. And of course I know this isn’t for everyone, some people thrive in a mess or with a lot items (even if they own a lot but it’s still neat.) For some people, possessions are comforting and can bring a lot of personality to a place (I’ve been there too.) But I also think if I’m going to experiment in college, then changing the way I approach possessions is probably one of the safer and more practical ways to do so.

-Grace T, February 2018

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