Don’t confuse having less with being less, having more with being more, or what you have with who you are.” Noah Benshea
Today I’d like to share my minimalism story – why I started, and how minimalism has changed my life.
I’d love to be able to say that I became a minimalist when I was already living a joyful life and simply realised I could do even better. However, this is not the case. In a particularly tough battle with clinical depression, I went from simply unhappy and discontented to rock bottom.
Everything happened over 11 months, but in a nutshell, a few reasons for this included
- An enormous, never-ending amount of unstable changes in my life
- A horrible travel experience
- Unsuccessful house hunting
- Unknowingly holding on to a toxic friendship
- Constant comments by someone, who didn’t know I was fighting depression, on my weight gain and appearance
- Facing anxiety in what others consider normal situations
- Insomnia & nightmares
- Severe fatigue
- Actively practising healthy eating, enough sleep, gratitude & mindfulness, but not getting better – and struggling more with that feeling of being stagnant
As someone who is naturally optimistic and bubbly, sadly I was weighed down by a lot of frustration and confusion at the time.
My journey started when I took a few days of annual leave to rest & recharge at home. And one day, I unexpectedly encountered minimalism – being more with less.
It began with a TED talk. I had used to watch them all the time, especially on my lunch breaks at work, because I loved the idea of using even a spare 10 minutes to learn something new.
Most things had stopped interesting me, especially since I was always extremely fatigued, but this one caught my eye: The Art of Letting Go by The Minimalists followed A Rich Life with Less Stuff.
I was intrigued.
But while I couldn’t quite relate to ‘the American Dream’ of a six figure salary and luxury cars, I still knew this was something I wanted. Because while I wasn’t chasing wealth, I had physical and mental clutter.
Just like that, I started following Youtubers who live a minimalist, simple, joyful, organised life. It started by discovering the journey of an American girl who traded a fast-paced life in a consumerism-driven society for a better life in Europe. It went onto an Australian girl who created a 30 day “Simplify Your Life” challenge, which challenged you to declutter everything in your life, from your clothes to your technology.
I felt inspired for the first time in a long time. But ‘minimalism’, ‘the art of letting go’, a rich life with less stuff’. What does it all really mean?
For me, it means
- being mindful of your habits and intentions
- decluttering your life – a spring clean for your mind, body & soul
- adding value to your life – enriching your passions, knowledge & experience
- not necessarily having less, but not having excess
- focusing on the things that matter
- having only things in your life that serve a purpose or spark joy
- asking yourself, “What am I really pursuing?”
If I were to summarise minimalism, it’d be the second to last point. Isn’t it a wonderful thought: having only the things in your life that bring happiness, growth, and fulfillment – and nothing that brings stress and frustration?
The funny thing is, I was a minimalist before I was a minimalist. Without intention, my ‘stuff’ was already refreshingly simple. I had a monochromatic wardrobe, less than eight pairs of shoes in two colours, used one black & gold bag for everything, and supported local businesses (why buy something when you can buy the New Zealand made version?). While realising I was already a minimalist and that all the things in my life sparked joy, I also realised there was a lot more I could do.
So I started.
Over the next 6 months, I slowly found excitement again in the process of constantly growing, learning, and becoming a stronger, wiser, more conscious person. The goal was not to have more, but to be more; to focus on the internal things instead of the external.
Some of the things I did:
Donated clothes I rounded up clothes I hadn’t worn for a year, asked my partner to do the same, and donated them to Red Cross. My wardrobe had more space, I had less stuff I didn’t need, Red Cross had quality second-hand clothes to sell, and their profits go toward humanitarian efforts!
Simplified my technology I unfollowed, unsubscribed, and unliked. I turned off notifications for almost all the apps on my phone, creating less distractions and mental clutter.
Got LinkedIn Learning Full of courses on everything you can imagine, this has so far taught me new skills in Photography and its elements of light, exposure, editing & composition, Communication and Teamwork skills, and things I’m simply curious about, like Human Resources. It’s exciting to be able to learn anything you want like you would in a university lecture, to answer chapter quizzes to track your learning and to learn something new whenever you want. Your new skill gets added to your profile as a certification, too!
Made my own beauty products There are so many hyped beauty products, but most can actually be handmade at a fraction of the price! To this day, my very own organic rosehip, chia & vitamin E blend is one of the best skincare products I have ever used; my teeth polish, a mix of organic coconut oil, activated charcoal powder & spearmint essential oil saves me over $50 than buying the product online; and my hair dries smoother and silkier with my own blend of organic argan & macadamia oil.
Made my own candles I love candles, as something about them just makes my home feel cozy, intimate and relaxing. I started to accumulate too many, so I started making them myself using plant-based soy wax & natural cotton wicks. I’ve also made Watermelon, Jasmine, Cinnamon Orange, Whiskey, Coconut Lime and more. Not only is making candles super fun, burning them is very satisfying. They make beautiful gifts, too!
Started fresh every day I realised one of my biggest causes of stress was simply the everyday scramble through my bag. It fit everything, from my wallet to makeup to lunch to diary to stationery, but did I really need everything in there, all the time? I opted for a new, smaller bag with less compartments, so my things can only be in so many places. I clear it out completely every day when I get home, and I start with an empty bag every morning. Now I always know exactly what is in my bag and where they are. I have everything I need and nothing I don’t. My bag is tidy, clean, organised, and lighter to carry, and I’m clear-headed, quick to find things, and free of stress.
Repaired/replaced things Fixing the wiper switch in my car, replacing my phone stylus, getting my car a new battery – these were all ‘little things’ I delayed til later, but caused small annoyances on a weekly basis I always overlooked. I feel much better – more put together – and it’s a great feeling knowing everything I own is functional and in good condition.
Kept track of my money I started using a phone app to track my money and see how much I’m spending on what. I love the simplicity and practicality of the app, and it helps me to see where my money’s going and to ask, “Is it worth it?”
Simplified my debt I’m grateful that my student loan was paid off years ago, and that I have never had or plan on getting a credit card. However, I still made mindless financial decisions, leading to too much debt. Recently, I moved all my money, mortgage & KiwiSaver all to one bank, paid off and closed my Q card & overdraft, and paid a huge amount off my car loan that significantly shortened my term. The result: budgeting is easier, I feel much lighter, and in just a few months I’ll officially only have one debt, my mortgage.
There are still many things I want to tick off my minimalism to-do list, such as donating books to prison (the Department of Corrections accepts donations, so your pre-loved books can go towards something meaningful!), making over my makeup with local, ethical brands, and making more of what I consume instead of buying. However, I’m very proud of the changes I’ve made so far and how I’ve applied minimalism to improve and ignite my passion & love for life.
So why am I in love with minimalism?
Since becoming a minimalist, I feel more in tune with my purpose, my life goals and passions.
I consume more consciously, and reflecting on the thought that every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want, always think about where my money is going and what effect it will eventually have.
I feel like life has been simpler, lighter, and more in focus.
After almost a year of fighting my demons, I remember the exact moment I knew I was recovering from depression. I was walking to work early one morning, and this feeling just hit me:
I’m back on the right path again.
I had wandered off into the woods for a long time, lost and directionless, but when I realised that I was back on the path of becoming the person I wanted to be – as if I had pressed ‘un-pause’ on my self-actualization journey from before my depression – it was the best feeling ever.
I look forward to sharing more with you, such as how I found my purpose, how I get out of a rut, my bucket list, my new house, my capsule wardrobe, and more, in the hopes that perhaps it will inspire you too.
In the meantime, perhaps I could interest you in what I use to stay inspired?
Thank you for reading! ❤