Like many things in life, what something means to you may not mean the same to others. Take minimalism for example. It has a different meaning to different people, but the core tenets remain the same. Some people confuse minimalism with cheap or frugal. While it does help to be frugal, it does not necessarily mean minimalist. What does minimalism mean to us then? We’d like to think that minimalism means owning or buying the minimum amount of things that will let you lead a comfortable but simple life. That’s a mouthful. Lets break it down.
Things you don’t need
There are many things that you accumulate in your life over the years. Some may have outlived their usefulness. Take for example our kid’s clothes and shoes. Kids need new clothes and shoes all the time because they keep outgrowing them. Some of us like to keep these clothes and shoes as memories. And we keep on accumulating until no amount of wardrobe space can accommodate them. Aw, this is the first shoe we bought for her. Look how tiny her feet must be. This is the shoe she wore on the 4th birthday. Look at this cute 5th birthday dress and so on. We should keep all of these as memories.
That is how we accumulated a ton of stuff. Not just clothes and shoes, but cables, keyboard, mouse, books, toys, usb drives etc. You name it, we’ve got it. All this stuff not only clutters your space, but puts undue mental load on your memory to remember what things you have and where you put them. Let them go. You have digital memories of your kids in photos. Don’t keep the stuff. Keep some memories or cables or whatever thing you want to keep if you really must. Most of the time you never even look at them.
What should I do with the stuff?
It was hard for us to let go of some memories, but now we never even think of it anymore. The way we go about it is is first go through the house once every 6 months or year. Mark all the things we have not used in the past year or so and will not use in the next 6 months. Then, get rid of them. We have cleaned up many things that way.
Next, donate all those things to the needy. Many orphan and poor kids consider it a privilege to have shoes and dresses without holes. For us, it is just another old piece of cloth. If you give away your electronics, plastic waste, papers and books to recycling or rag pickers, they make money and things get recycled too. Just imagine, a win-win situation. You declutter your house and some one else benefits. With all the things gone, you have more space in the house. You could perhaps move into a smaller house after all. Who knows? Smaller houses have lesser maintenance and expenses.
Not just physical goods
This doesn’t apply just to physical goods, but also to virtual stuff. Apply the same principles of cleaning on your mobile devices and desktops too. Find all the apps that you have not used in the past 1 year and will not use in the next 6 months. Then delete them. You can always install again if and when you need it. Don’t clutter your phone and tablet with unnecessary apps. Likewise, find all the software that you are not using anymore on your laptops and desktops. Get rid of them. If you are a coder like me, you probably have a directory named
workspace filled with software projects. Upload them to github or bitbucket and delete them from your machine. Keep it lean.
Strike the right balance
All of this is easier said than done. You need to strike a nice balance between removing too many things and keeping too many of them. Don’t get rid of too many things to the extent that you keep buying the same stuff over and over again. What is the point if you buy a bunch of clothes every year and get rid of a bunch of old ones at the same time. Likewise, don’t imagine and come up with a contrived example of how you will need something in a couple of years. It isn’t going to help. If you must, keep one of each type in case you want a backup. For example a keyboard, one micro-USB cable etc. But not everything.
Having said all this, I have a counter-point :). If you remember, when lightening destroyed my electronics, I was lucky to have an old router in my stuff. That router somehow managed to escape the minimalism clean-up which really helped me during the lock-down when I could not buy a router. So there are a few things that are just pure luck. But for everything else, apply minimalism.