Monday, April 27, 2015

Minimalist Monday: Into the Heart of Darkness

Belying this extremely dramatic post title, this is just a simple update on how I've been doing in my minimalist explorations in the past month or so. In short: we've moved, we've unpacked, we're enjoying the new apartment and neighborhood. Despite my anxiety over the size of the kitchen and closets in NYC rentals, our new place actually has a bigger kitchen than we've had previously, and a small walk-in closet in the bedroom - it's the first time I've ever had one at my disposal! Granted, it's currently mostly taken up by sports equipment of various shape and purpose, but still really, really fantastic to contain miscellaneous clutter.

So, maybe I shouldn't have panicked about all our stuff, and started getting rid of things because I was worried about being able to fit into the new space (I most definitely shouldn't have - for that specific reason). But you know what? I'm still really, really glad that I did all that decluttering; I can honestly say that I haven't missed a single thing I discarded. What's more, I've actually been decluttering after the move as well - maybe not on such a grand scale as before, but a little here and there every week, and I believe that it continues to make a big difference to our home and my stress levels.

Since that first post, I've made a concentrated effort to familiarize myself with the principles of minimalism, and most importantly, the practical application of those principles in everyday life. I've now read quite a few minimalist and simple living books and subscribed to a couple of minimalist channels on YouTube, and I feel that I'm much better informed than I was even a month ago. When I started my big pre-move purge, I was under the impression that being a minimalist entailed a very strict set of rules, like 'You can only own an X number of clothing items', 'Your skincare routine can't be more than three products', 'Your living space needs to be clean, simple and mostly bare' - and it just didn't seem to fit my lifestyle. But in truth, none of the resources I've turned to advocated any such rules at all - because minimalism isn't a set of rules to follow, it's a mindset, a shift in perspective.

The minimalist mindset is about having MORE of what you love, and none of the things that you don't - and it doesn't just encompass material possesions. Many of the books I've read, in addition to giving tips on purging your closets and streamlining your bathrooom, discussed subjects such as work planning and organization, personal commitments, goal achievement, or even healthy diets. It seems that you can apply the concepts of minimalism to just about any area of your life, to help bring into focus what matters most to you, and stop worrying about the things you don't care about.

Which brings me nicely to the reason for the dramatic title: in order to develop that minimalist point of view, one needs to decide what it is exactly that matters most to them, what they love the most. I don't know about you guys, but it's been proving quite difficult for me - I'm a bit prone to over-analyzing things anyway, but since the beginning of my minimalist experiment, it seems that I'm starting to question anything and everything.

How many pairs of socks does a person need to function comfortably? Could I get away with just one cocktail dress for all my formal occasions? How many different snacks should I keep in the cupboard before I stop remembering what's actually in there? Could I own just one pair of casual sandals, since summer season is so short here? Would it feel better not to have any back-up toiletries under the bathroom sink? What are my daily priorities? What have I been neglecting and what have I been overindulging in? Which unnecessary activities are taking precious time out of my day, which things would I like to spend more time on?

To be honest, it's been a bit exhausting trying to figure out all these things for myself; trying to find a balance between what is too much and what's not enough in each area of my life. Which is mostly why I've been feeling a bit uninspired to blog lately - well, that, and the fact that I haven't actually been trying very many new products lately. So if you have any beauty-related post requests, I'd be forever grateful if you cared to type them down below; I have lots of minimalist post ideas floating around, but I understand that it's not everyone's cup of tea, so I'd prefer to space that content out a bit for you guys.

But in general, I feel that I'm moving in the right direction, and it's been good to do a bit of soul-searching and gain some introspective insight about myself, my preferences, priorities, passions. In terms of material stuff, I've found that I get overwhelmed very easily by the size of my wardrobe, and as I'm donating more and more of my clothing, I'm happier about what I have and the outfits I put together from what's left. There are some gaps in my closet, but I've also been trying not to go out and purchase a lot of new things all at once - just a couple things each month, again, so that I'm more mindful about my possesions. It's also becoming easier now to get rid of things I really don't like: a weird pink mug (I don't like pink!), an ugly glass sculpture I once got as a gift, a type of candy I never eat, an ill-fitting bra. It really does feel so much better to only surround yourself with things that are beautiful, or at least useful.

How are you guys doing with your spring cleaning or general decluttering? I was talking to Kar Yi the other day about the minimalist books I've been reading, and she remarked that minimalism has now become a trend and everyone is 'purging'. I however believe that yes, while everyone seems to be getting rid of their old unwanted stuff, that's where it ends for most people - it's not at all about changing one's point of view and habits, and few people are trying to make a lasting change in their lives. What do you guys think?


  1. Your concluding sentences are so true -- we go through stages of massive purges and just end up refilling the spaces that we took pains to make with new things. I loved hearing about your progress. Good for you for standing strong!

    I've been making the slowest of purges lately so that I don't impulsively get rid of things and regret later, and it's really difficult to stop the habit of instantly scouring for something new to replace the old stuff with. About purging being a trend: I think part of it is that fashion/beauty blogging has been going on for a while now and people are just completely overwhelmed by the amount of things they own at this point. City developers are also creating smaller condo units and such, so space is also a big issue, as you know first-hand from multiple experiences. I'm lucky to have the space that I currently do, but should I move somewhere smaller, I'd have to get rid of at least 2/3 of my belongings. It's a funny thing because a part of me loves the hoarding and accumulating and collecting shamelessly, but sometimes I'd also be disgusted with the amount of excess spilling out of my room and out there in the shops. (I was at a particularly disheveled H&M yesterday and completely turned off by everything in sight.) I do want to make a change to something that sticks but maybe I'm just not there yet, even now.

    Anyway, lots of food for thought in this post. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Liz! You're completely right saying that fashion and beauty bloggers have been amassing things for a good couple years now, so it's only natural even they, with their enormous closets and beauty rooms, are reaching the point where they cannot possibly acquire new things without getting rid of something first. But that's just it - clearing out the old only to replace it with the new, without stopping to think why all these things were purchased in the first place, and the consequences that constant turnaround may have for their lives and surroundings.

    I think one of the most interesting things I took away from my 'minimalist research' is that being a minimalist can mean completely different things for different people, it's an incredibly personal thing how much of anything is just right for you. It's good to take a step back when you're feeling overwhelmed (like I often do), but if it feels just right to collect things lovingly, then you do you.

    Also, I completely get you with H&M; actually, after purging my closet and dresser, I vowed not to purchase clothes at certain stores anymore, and H&M was pretty high on the black list :D

  3. I think that maybe minimalism is having a bit of a trend moment, and I see terms like clean, streamlined, and well-curated being used all over. And I totally agree about the sheer number of products a blogger must build up over time. I've got too much stuff and I don't even have a blog! While I'm not really interested in having the bare minimum of belongings, I am trying to own my stuff as opposed to having it own me. And I think that no matter our available space or personal aesthetic, we should be aware of what we're buying, consuming, and putting back out there.
    And glad I'm not the only one driven to distraction by H&M, hahaha.

  4. That's it, Monika. I think you nail it: minimalism is more of a mindset, not so much about how little possession one can own. Everyone has their own set-point.

    I also look at this minimalism more of a journey or finding what I am comfortable living with. It differs with different stages in my life: when my son was born, it was maximalistic to the max. Now we are able to pare down a bit. Yes, to think of it as a cycle may be true.. everything in life is a cycle of birth and death, ups and downs, etc. I really enjoy this post & discussion -- let's keep it going!

  5. I've just ordered that Japanese book on tidying up (sorry the name eludes me) and Im looking forward to reading it. I'm toying with the idea of minimalism, but not too sure where to start. I recently purged my wardrobe and now I literally have nothing to wear and fear I might have gone too far. Except with my purses, I cannot for the life of me practice minimalism there. And you need more than one cocktail dress.