Goodbye Stuff, Hello Happiness

Minimalism is a big trend now, and for great reasons. After years and years of surrounding ourselves with stuff, many of us have begun to see the flawed logic behind the urge to acquire. We are getting closer to understanding its futility, and we’re happily living with less.

I'm not talking about the minimalism of the wealthy, who hire interior designers to appoint their loft apartments with sparse and expensive design elements. This is not about a rich person's minimalist aesthetic, or a clothing fashion based on cashmere neutrals. I'm not interested in minimalist 'style'. No, I'm talking about the minimalism of working class people like me. This is about choosing to be something other than a compulsive consumer of things. It's about stepping back from the insanity.

The main reason we buy anything non-essential is this – we want to be happy. Be it clothes, cars, electronics, purses, boats, shaving cream, and plants, we believe and are encouraged to believe that something we bought will at last make us whole.

This is fiction, and more and more people are realizing it. More of us are understanding the only true nature of happiness – that it’s a do-it-yourself job, an inside job, and a job in which accumulation has no place. There’s a push to start letting go. It’s one of the best trends for people and the worst trend for corporate retail. Bad news for Wal-Mart; good news for you and me.

Going minimalist is more or less challenging depending on your personal commitments. If you have a straight job with a dress code, like my husband and I, you have no choice but to maintain ‘work clothes’ if you want to keep your job. (This raises the question of whether you’re in the right job, or the right life, or if having a job at all is necessary. Living with less means living with less, and that includes the house that the bank owns that I live in, and the car I drive, both huge expenses that, if I were to release, I wouldn’t need to work a day job to support.) Minimalism also understands that radical changes in what we ‘own’ (we in fact own nothing) requires radical changes in how we live.

My husband and I have been doing some significant downsizing over the past year. But we’re ramping it up now: this weekend, we plan to go through the house and do a deeper purge. This will include non-essential things that we have been emotionally attached to for years.

I have a few very specific goals with this latest cleanup/clean out:

❤ My work wardrobe aside, I’m reducing my summer clothing to 20 pieces or less. I’ve given this lots of thought. The only clothes I need for summer are a couple of pairs of harem pants, one pair of shorts, a bikini, a beach cover up, one pair of jeans, one pair of leggings, one pair of yoga capris, one yoga top, one sweater, tank tops, and some t-shirts.

❤ For summer, 6 pairs of vegan shoes: two pairs of Tevas (one pair for walking and the other for hiking); one pair of wedge sandals for dress; one pair of flip flops; one pair of beach walkers, and; one pair of closed shoes.

❤ Gardening accessories, particularly pots. I’m reducing the number to up to 10 of the best we have. I’ve accumulated far too many of these. They’re taking up too much space in our home and in my head.

❤ Camera equipment – photography was, for a long time, a big hobby of mine. But I haven’t been drawn to it for years. I see elegance and form in other things now. I never thought I’d make the break, but it’s time to get real and let the photography equipment – all of it – go.

❤ Underwear: if I didn’t have a straight job, I wouldn’t own a bra. It’s the first thing I take off when I get home from work, and the last thing I reluctantly put on before I leave for work. I hate them. I’m always braless when I’m not at my job. I’m not small-breasted either, but if my breasts and nipples - unencumbered by fabric, hooks, and wires - offends someone, they can always look the other way. We have this insane collective mindset in which we worship breasts, objectify them, evaluate them, lift and separate them, surgically enhance them, fantasize about them, and make memes about them, but we don’t want to see them in public feeding babies or bouncing happily under t-shirts. Very weird. 

❤ I’m reducing my bras to 2, and my panties to 7. Prepare for a TMI moment right now, and stop reading if you’re sensitive - 3... - 2... - 1... - outside of work, I rarely wear panties. Hate them.

❤ Beauty products: why do I need to amplify my looks? I’ve already streamlined hair and body care products to the minimum of vegan items, but I’ve been stubborn about cosmetics. Time to change that. I don’t need 20 bottles of polish for my toenails. One neutral color is enough for summer. 

I already bought my summer makeup from vegan Etsy seller Etherealle – a spare palette of lightweight neutrals. Everything else is going. And I’m ditching mascara. I’ve been using it since high school, and it’s time to take my leave. Goopey, flakey, expensive stuff. This is a good chance to explore why women submit their faces to makeup and surgery. I’ve never had surgery, but I’ve been tempted, and now I’m wondering why the thought of having my face carved up by a plastic surgeon ever even occurred to me. Madness.

And while I’m hitting goals this weekend, I’ll probably glance through the kitchen and streamline things in there. My husband will happily help with that.

I’ve been purging since last spring, and there’s one thing I’ve learned: minimalism is a process. It starts with an amorphous feeling that we’ve been duped by someone or something. We grow tired of the cycle of working for money, spending it on stuff, then earning more money, and so on. It feels tedious and tiresome. We begin to realize that the things we’ve been distracting ourselves with distract us for only minutes at a time: we need another fix (more stuff), soon afterward. We feel shackled to the world, instead of living in harmonious, nonexploitive love with it.

So, we give away or sell some stuff, and feel a little better. Then, we give away or sell more stuff, and feel even better. We start reading about the journeys of other minimalists, and are inspired to streamline more. And the leaner we live, the leaner we want to live, until we begin asking exactly what’s essential for inner peace and happiness.

At first, we’re not honest with ourselves about the question of what’s essential, but as we continue to evolve, we realize that life’s essentials comprise a very short list. Then, we start facing our addictions, ridding ourselves of emotional baggage, releasing longstanding grudges, reversing childhood brainwashing, paying off financial debts, making our homes and lives lean, and spreading the news of Less is a Lot More to others, who get turned on, start exploring minimalism, and start freeing themselves from the Matrix.

What we have is not who we are. Give away or sell some stuff. Purge until it hurts a little. You’ll be joining a popular trend that is growing fast: you’ll start on the path to minimalism. You’ve been fooled into believing that things will make you happy; but the worm has turned. Now, you know better. You’re not going to believe how lifechanging it’s going to be.

Live in peace.

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