This post was originally published on Eco Warrior Princess.
The moment I realized I had too much stuff was when I went on my first backpacking trip to Africa. I had to decide what to take and what to leave behind. Looking through my closet I discovered I hadn’t worn 75% of my clothes and thought, “Why do I have so much shit?!”
The worst part of it all was that 75% of my closet was worth about $3,000. I spent $3,000 on things I didn’t even end up using.
Backpacking in Africa completely woke me up. The families I spent time with had very little, but they didn’t seek for more. They were content. Happy. They had everything they needed. I wanted to live like that.
When I came back from my travels, I returned to my daunting closet and removed everything I had in it. The only items I put back into my closet were the ones in my backpack. I knew as a traveler minimalism was important to me, but now I wanted to live a simpler, more enriched lifestyle.
Adopting minimalism to my daily life meant realizing all the stuff I currently had did not define me as a human being. It did not reflect what brings me joy or who I am. I wanted to live a lifestyle that is representative of what matters to me. None of this stuff mattered.
I did not need the excess amount of clothes because what was important to me was forming real human connections.
So I asked myself, “If I had less and appreciated what I had more, does that mean I can experience and appreciate my life and relationships more?” The answer was yes.
Becoming a master minimalist isn’t about having less things. It’s about appreciating what you already have.
Here are a few things that helped me during my minimalist journey.
Identify your essentials.
Write what you absolutely need to use every single day. Be as descriptive as possible. For example, instead of writing “clothes” write out “shirt, jeans, socks”. List it all down: your keys, wallet, phone, toothbrush…these are your essentials. The more detailed you are, the easier it will be for you to decide what to let go.
Here is the backpacking list that inspired my minimalist lifestyle:
Four-Month Travel Checklist
- 2 pairs of pants
- 1 long sleeve shirt
- 1 t-shirt
- 2 tank top
- 1 bra
- 1 rain jacket
- 5 pairs of underwear
- 1 swimsuit
- Sseko sandals
- Slip Ons
- Hair Brush
- Hair ties
- Prescriptions: Cipro, Probiotic, Imodium
- Bug Spray
- Passport and Visas
- Shampoo/Body Wash
Ask yourself what adds value to your life versus what is collecting dust.
This is the hardest part: being honest with yourself. As I was going through my belongings it was really easy for me to decide what stayed and what had to go. I realized I cycle through an essential core group of clothing (and things) that I always came back to. Those were the keepers.
If it was “collecting dust” (things I hadn’t worn in a long time, or couldn’t remember why I had it), they had to go. The process can get tricky with items that hold sentimental, emotional value.
For example, I adore my record collection. While I don’t need to have all these records, I still use them consistently. However, I don’t need the clothes that I didn’t wear in my closet hanging around. I don’t need them because I don’t use them.
If you are having trouble with this process I suggest checking out Courtney Carver’s Project 333, a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for three months!
Get rid of the fluff.
Begin separating what goes in the donate box vs the sell box. You absolutely should not throw things away as that would be a waste!
If you’re having trouble figuring out what to donate or sell, call your local thrift stores, or even ask any friends/family if they need anything that you may have. Clutter can create such a negative space. You’ll feel refreshed letting go of things and find peace in your own home.
We are told by the media that we need to buy new clothes to stay up with the trends. What makes it so easy is that it’s not expensive thanks to companies like H&M and Forever21.
When you achieve Step 2 on the list, however, consuming less comes second nature. When you decide to buy, buy what you need. Buy things that are of higher quality, sustainable, and ethically made. Part of consuming less is consuming consciously.
Minimize your waste.
Going zero waste helped me become a minimalist. I had to think about everything I used and make sure it would never end up in a landfill.
Living zero waste meant everything had to serve a purpose. Instead of buying plastic disposable razors, I bought a safety razor. Instead of plastic water bottles, I bought myself a Klean Kanteen. My inspiration? Check out Trash Is For Tossers. By minimizing your waste, you’re already minimizing your consumption of things you don’t need.
Are you ready to become a minimalist?
What is important for you to understand is that you cannot turn into a minimalist overnight. Take your journey toward minimalism one step at a time, and as you develop a conscious understanding of what is truly important to you, you’ll become a better, happier, and more fulfilled individual, surrounded by what you truly value in your life.