Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. Becoming minimalist is part of the solution as it will unclutter your living space as well as your mind. But it’s not for the fainthearted! We share our experience of going minimalist.
We have embraced the concept some time ago but instead of gradually easing into it, we went cold turkey! That’s because an unrelated decision – to sell it all and travel – forced us into going minimalist in one fell swoop.
The travel decision
We were always dreaming about a mobile life but caring for an elderly parent kept the desire at dream level. Then gramps passed away unexpectedly and that jerked us into the realisation how fragile life is. So we decided right there to turn our dream into reality.
Dominos had to fall
Before we could depart, we had three more major dominos to knock over. First, the youngest sprout was in final year of high school. Then we had the business we managed from home, and lastly, there was the home itself.
We managed to sell the business and shortly after that school was finished. Eventually we could start working on the last big hurdle, selling the house. And obviously we could not sell all the stuff inside the house until we had a firm offer.
Minimalist 101 – in 6 weeks
On the mental side I held onto an explanation I found long ago: “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favour of focusing on what’s important – so you can find happiness, fulfilment, and freedom.”
On the physical side we had two suitcases into which we had to fit our new life!
So it was the romantic definition of minimalism versus the cruel reality of a suitcase’s interior dimensions.
Getting rid of all the crap we’ve accumulated was truly liberating. It was mentally challenging but spiritually rewarding.
As we started to realise that stuff with sentimental value doesn’t necessarily contribute towards our happiness and freedom, the process became easier. We came to the awareness, “This is it! We’re actually doing it!”
I want to share our experience of three things that were particularly difficult to sort:
Over the years we built a collection of more than 1 000 books, covering a very wide variety of subjects and genres. One of my favourites is “The Hermitage” which I bought in the museum in St Petersburg, Russia. It’s a 510-page celebration of one of the world’s most famous museums; complete with receipt and museum entrance ticket.
I could never imagine life without printed books. And I will always cherish the smell of old books, the almond fragrance hiding between the pages. But I have realised that the joy is contained in the reading, not the owning, of books.
I’m not talking about the wine estate that’s been in the family for 200 years, I’m referring to great gramp’s bayonet which he kept after the end of the Anglo Boer War.
It is not worth a lot of money, it was just unthinkable to part ways with it. But the concept of minimalism pulled me through. The mere ownership of the bayonet did not contribute towards my happiness and freedom, and I realised a fond memory is all I really need.
Another insight, which I am thankful to have reached, is that family members are not a depository. With this understanding it became easier: I asked, and if the answer was “no, thank you”, I used the next best solution which is the local equivalent of eBay.
As for the bayonet, fortunately, it ended up in a little museum that was established by one of the South African infantry battalions.
Modern houses are just not built for lots of portraits. They tend to be smaller, with large windows and open plan designs, leaving little wall space to hang lots of family portraits.
So it’s a real conundrum. And because it’s a family member inside the frame, it’s not wanted by anybody on this planet other than family members. Maybe. If they have wall space.
Someone suggested that the photographs be removed so that the frames can be re-used or sold. Well, the idea of opening the back of the portrait to remove the picture is just bizarre – it’s like skinning the family cat to keep the fur!
“It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly” – Bertrand Russell
A parting thought on becoming minimalist: we have not turned everything into money, instead, we gave away a lot of stuff. The pleasure of giving handsomely outweighs the burden of letting go!
I would love to have your thoughts on living with less.