6 In Lifestyle

Thoughts on Minimalism

Do you ever feel as though the whole universe is trying to send you a message? That’s how I felt last month when I bought my Starbucks tumbler. Actually, it all started with… cramps. They were quite bad as per usual and so I left school a bit earlier that day. A week later a friend caught up with me as I was heading to class and told me about a documentary she had seen. According to this documentary, she explained,  the reason I was experiencing such gut-twisting pain was my constant exposure to plastic! This was most unfortunate news indeed, as only 15 minutes prior to our chat I had been drinking water out of a plastic bottle. That very morning I had used cosmetics out of plastic containers, and I had brushed my hair with a plastic brush. My life was entirely filled with plastic encounters from morning till dusk.

That afternoon I was at the convenience store to buy another drink, and I decided to grab a bottle of Arizona Green Tea as it always came in a glass bottle. Well, imagine the betrayal I felt when I ripped off the paper packaging they have around the bottle neck and discovered they had changed their bottles from glass to plastic! So I came to the conclusion that the only two options for drinks that didn’t involve non-plastic containers at school would be either buying coffee or buying a tumbler.

So I proceeded by searching to web for non-plastic tumbler options, and I stumbled across a Korean blogger who happened to be a minimalist. She had written a series of posts in which she was trying to reduce the amount of waste she produced. One of these posts had to do with using a tumbler in order to avoid having to use a paper cup that would just go to waste. The blog post caught my eye because that very morning I had also listened to a news report regarding Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, in which the governor of California vowed that regardless of Trump’s decision the state of California would hold to the standards of the Paris climate agreement. This was quite a moving moment for me, because up until that point all I had really done was pointed my finger at Trump and muttered a string of words that I probably should not feature here. Here was one person who was saying, that regardless of what Trump did, he was going to do his bit.

This combination of environmental issues and the series of blog posts lead me to read further into the minimalist lifestyle. At first I walked into the bookstore to find a book about minimalism, but there was something incredibly ironic about buying a book about minimalism when the whole idea behind minimalism is getting rid of stuff. So I walked out of the bookstore empty-handed that day, and borrowed a book about minimalism from my school library instead. Upon reading it however, I thought that the Korean blogger had done a much better job at introducing minimalism, and maybe the reason is that she had been writing about her process in the midst of practicing minimalism. Through her blog I learned that minimalism is about getting rid of the things that aren’t important, so that you can fully appreciate the things that are important. It felt much more personal and emotional than the book that listed off all the reasons you should become a minimalist and how you could get there.

This also reminded me of the books on decluttering by Andrew Mellen and Marie Kondo. Although neither book is about minimalism, both emphasize that an important reason for getting rid of clutter is to better appreciate the things that you actually love or “spark joy.” It seems that this is the exact sentiment behind minimalism, only it gets lost behind the photos of completely empty rooms and the extremists who live with little beyond the bare necessities. I thought to myself, if you only considered the idea of keeping what you actually love and getting rid of the things you don’t need, minimalism is quite achievable… but then I went to London and spent a fortune on rubber stamps and collected all manner of ephemera: ticket stubs, maps, cards, postcards, et cetera, et cetera. I came to the conclusion that I’m no minimalist, but a magpie that delights in collecting things to decorate her nest.

Then am I a maximalist? No, I don’t think so. I think I might have been at one point with cosmetics and art supplies, as I wanted to see for myself what worked best for me and was curious about all the hype for certain products in the beauty blogosphere. However, I have always been very particular about the things I buy, and when I do buy things I tend to do my best to care for them and use them until they are all worn out.

So I have decided that I am neither minimalist nor maximalist. Rather, I like to think of myself as a curator. I like to curate my life. I enjoy fine things with a modern or classic design, and I love to collect things that represent my style and interests. Instead of pursuing a minimalistic life that doesn’t fit my world views, I’ve decided to continue on the path that I’m already on. That’s not to say that minimalism is useless to me, I’ve learned interesting and valuable lessons from minimalism and will most likely read more blog posts on ways different people practice minimalism in their lives. But I would like to think more on this idea of curating your life and share that process with you in future posts.

Your turn ♥ Have you ever considered becoming a minimalist? Why or why not?

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  • I really enjoyed this post! In a world where materialism and capitalism prevail, sometimes it’s quite hard to be minimalist. Curating is a perfect in-between that leans more towards minimalism imo. Carefully and consciously choosing what we would like to put into our lives really helps control the clutter while still enjoying material goods, I think!

    I’ve always grown up with clutter (I think I may have gotten it from my parents? They’re always reluctant to let things go), but I’m getting better at managing it. I’ve already sorted out a big garbage bag full of clothes I don’t wear anymore, and I’m planning on selling them. If they’re not sold in 4 or 6 months I’ll just donate them. It’s a small portion of my clutter that I’m letting go, but it already feels so good and refreshing.

    • Kim

      My family has been much the same way! My journey away from clutter has been a very gradual one, and I’m still in the process (especially when it comes to books lol). It really does feel good to let things go, but it’s also hard to let go sometimes because I worry about what I’ll do if I regret throwing it out. I think I’m still fine-tuning my letting go criteria but I guess that’s something you learn as you go along huh? ;)

  • Really interesting topic- I rarely hear people who are somewhere in the middle! Personally, I don’t think I could ever be a minimalist because I own so many things that I love, either because someone bought them for me, because I bought them with my first paycheck, because they’re books, etc. I get attached to things either because of their sentimental value or their actual use. I find a lot of “unnecessary” things useful, and to me, giving away things or throwing out things just because you’re trying to declutter is wasteful. It’s not really minimalistic to say “okay now I’m going to get rid of allll my old crockery” because even though you don’t have it anymore, doesn’t mean it stops existing. Especially when items are ageing, like, an old plate with a chip on the bottom. Other people won’t take it, so it just becomes part of another landfill.

    You’ve really made me think freshly on this topic!

    • Kim

      Exactly! For the longest time, I was the person that would keep even the envelopes of birthday cards and Christmas cards that I received, simply because they had been gifts and had sentimental value. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I went back through those cards and realized that a good number of those cards had been sent by people who were simply passing through my life and I was no longer in contact with. So I only kept the cards that really had meaning to me, and let go of the ones that didn’t. I do worry about things going to waste though. As you’ve mentioned there’s entirely the possibility that the things I discard will just end up in a landfill somewhere. I already contribute to so much of the waste, even if I don’t intend to: food wrappers, parcel wrappers, etc. I think it’s why I’ve become much more conscious of the things I do buy. I am willing to spend a little more so that whatever I purchase meets both function and design, rather than just function. If I’m going to live with the thing for 10+ years, I would prefer it to be pretty as well :P

  • It is great learning about someone in the middle. I read about people living a minimalistic life and while I have taken action to declutter and be more mindful of what I consume, some people are very extreme and that is something that I do not want for me, even though it is great for them!

    I think I take an approach similar to yours. Not going too overboard withe excessive things but being more mindful about what you keep and buy. I think there is a good balance in that, :)

    Emily | http://emilytrinh.com

    • Kim

      Yes! That’s probably why I hadn’t really thought of looking into minimalism until now. That extreme version of minimalism wasn’t something I was interested in pursuing. Now I’ve found a middle ground and find that my heart is more at peace than if I were to have declared myself a minimalist :D