I moved to the US in 2000. I had a suitcase and a cargo bag with me. Included in the cargo bag was my computer tower…yes the whole box thingy. Being a student, I had no money to either buy a laptop in France or a computer upon arrival in the US, and so resolved to take it with me as it would have been much more difficult to study without one (I was studying web design and management). Needless to say, I didn’t bring it back with me two years later when I came back to Europe.
Fast forward 5 years, I’m backpacking solo through Central America. When I started my backpack weighted 15 kg (33 pounds), not humongous but still, it became a pain fairly quickly to have to haul it onto crowded buses and when walking around a town I just arrived in looking for a hostel to stay at. So I started leaving things behind to drop weight. I ended the trip with 9kg (just under 20 pounds). It was a relief as I got ill towards the end and being able to lift the bag easily with one arm was much appreciated. I got rid of a rain poncho (if it rains just get inside…don’t walk through the street) in Guatemala, left my electric shaver in Honduras and tore out pages of the places I had already been to in my guidebooks.
I think this is when my almost-obsession with travelling light began. And thus in my mind this when my journey with ‘minimalism’ started somehow.
Over our years in London Ann and I accumulated a fair amount of stuff. Each time we moved to a new place we’d try to get rid of stuff but somehow it always seemed like there was still lots to carry despite our best efforts. Still it was a great feeling to get rid of clothes, trinkets and old magazines we didn’t needed or want anymore.
Lately I’ve become more focus on this. Stuff. Do I really need what I have? Why do I want to get this or that? Does it or will it really add something positive to my life? And in the last few months, every few weeks I’ve been going through my materials possessions and got rid of a few items each time. And each time – without fail – I didn’t regret it.
And so I came across the term “minimalism” (there are many many references to it all over the web) but I’ve been reading about people’s experience with this endeavor and it really (mostly) resonated with me.
The idea that owning less of everything (physical objects) helps to clear your mind and focus your thoughts is an interesting one. The amount of energy we expend getting stuff is huge. Not only do we end up working more to get more money to buy more stuff but a lot of mental space is consumed thinking about whether or not we are making the absolute best choice in an ocean of options.
There are people who work very hard to reach a number. “I own 100 things” or “I own 50 things”. I don’t think that’s what minimalism is about. It’s about what feels right to you. It’s about going through that process of consciously deciding to buy something, instead of just buying it impulsively or to make us feel better on a bad day.
There are as many definitions as there are step-by-step guides on offer online. If you’re curious, check here and here. One of my favorites is actually a post about what minimalism is not about.
PS: Ann’s latest article on elephant journal just went live, check it out here.