The Heart of Minimalism: It's Not About Less - It's About More
Since I left the Isle of Lewis in March, I have been the proud owner of one backpack containing the following:
2 pair of socks
1 light jacket
1 warm jacket
1 bag of toiletries
1 laptop (including all technical gear)
1 bundle of sage
1 water bottle
1 pair of sunglasses & 1 pair of reading glasses
1 pair of shoes
1 yoga mat
And that's it.
35 things, 36 if you include the backpack.
Pure freedom for some, pure horror for others.
I left the majority of my stuff, or the remaining 65 things, in Scotland. Neatly packed up for my return in September. I don't need them right now because they are clothes for work and for the more freezing climate of winter. And of course Marjorie's things.
As I was expecting to be going to Iceland this summer, this package was sent there before I was due to leave from Switzerland- and returned to my Scottish hosts when it was clear that I would spend my summer in Switzerland.
Wherever I went, my backpack, named 'Schneggli' (the Swiss German word for snail, because that's a pretty accurate description of my backpack), accompanied me there. It was a glorious feeling to have everything I needed with me, at all times. And it was a lovely topic throughout my couch surfing days at my friend's houses. Some were simply surprised, exclaimed that they would not be able to do this. Some, and mostly the little ones, wanted to unpack the mystery of my possessions. Some where surprised by what it contained and what it lacked: "Why, you have a tripod but no towel?!"
Born out of these experiences and the fantastic conversations that were gifted to me because of it, I started to gain a variety of different perceptions on what people treasure and why, what they could never live without and why that is.
Granted, since I arrived in Switzerland, I added a few things. I was presented with two small and one big towel, as well as one linen bag for grocery shopping - all with the intention to be given back once I continue my travels. Mainly because summer arrived and I would have suffocated with only one pair of jeans and leggings, I added a few other treasures from charity shops to my wardrobe: 5 Shirts, 1 linen bra, 1 additional leggings, 1 long jeans, 1 pair of linen trousers and 1 shorts. And that is fine with me because it is not about the number of things. It is about the feeling they give you.
Let me elaborate:
For the most part, my journey with minimalism started years ago.
Way back when I was still living in a shared flat with three of my best friends. During every move up until that point, I always purged my possessions. Yes, I am a virgo and like organisation, but also I am a double (ascendant) virgo, equaling one negative: I am also lazy. I do not like to pack up, lift heavy stuff and do it all over again two or three years later. So, I constantly threw stuff out. Also, I constantly bought new stuff as well. Yet, only when it came to move out of the shared apartment and into the first love nest with my then partner (and quite recovered from two burnouts and the blossoming of a new relationship to stuff in general), did it occur to me to truly size down and not buy new stuff anymore.
I was a true fashionista back then, my collection of clothes filled a small, separate room. Thus, cleaning out my closet was the most reasonable thing to start my journey towards minimalism with.
From there it was a long way to my contentment with all that my 'Schneggli' holds.
What I mean to say is this:
Minimalism is not a one-day thing, nor is it an over night thing. It is a process. And one that should be carefully approached.
Succumbing to the idea to just grab fistfuls of your belongings and throwing them out is, in my humble opinion, not helpful (although go along with it if your soul screams for air and you feel like it!).
Because it is not just about the amount of stuff you own. It is about the relationship you have with them. It is about what story they tell about you. It is what you want to be, who you want to be. And it is about gratitude. If you are not familiar with Marie Kondo, I would strongly recommend to watch her approach to bringing order to households. She emphasises the underlying premise to be grateful for what you have and sit with it, feel into it, and then ultimately decide if it should still remain in your service. If not, give thanks, appreciate it for what it has meant for you, what it has done for you.
And if you are more into the humorous approach of not taking life too seriously but still feel that there could be some sort of benefit in it for you: Try 100 Things, a German movie that tackles the same topic, from a different angle.
How to approach this unscalable endeavour?
One area of your life (kitchen, closet, bathroom, attic, office), three different boxes (one to keep, one to think about and one to give away) and as much time for it as you need.
I took it a step further, coming from the sustainable mindset, post burnout, during healing and recovery, searching for purpose. My box of give aways was segmented into things I could donate, things that I thought other people would find helpful or usable (and a kindly spoken decline was kindly accepted and respected), things that met specific needs and could therefore be gifted to specific organisations (like my arts and crafts utensils that were cheered upon by the kindergarten children around the corner).
And I never bought anything new (apart from maybe underwear or merino wool leggings for Scotland). I went to charity shops, bought what I wanted, felt amazing to have put my money to a purposeful, supportive use, and whenever I grew bored of this stuff, I had no regret bringing them back to the shop. Give them a new life, a new owner, new memories to be established within a new environment.
I always found it magnificent to think of these things gaining a new life.
Because most of them, to me, had a certain energy (not quite a personality) with which they enriched my home and life.
Long story cut short and fast forward to the end of 2020. I made the decision to get rid of everything and reduce all of my belongings to one backpack, containing 101 things. This backpack, donated to me from a dear friend of mine, was christened (and no he is not active member of any religious community) 'Uwe'. His name resembles the sound people make when it is hard to get up or if they carry heavy loads. The exact replica of how I decided to call him that because on my first try of packing up and shouldering him, I had to sit on the ground, turn flat on my belly, struggle to even get to my knees and finally stand up fully. 'Uwe' or 'uh-weh', loosely translated 'oh my, that hurts!'.
And from here it would still take 1.5 years to downsize once more for my departure from Scotland to visit family and friends in Austria and Switzerland.
From March to June I lived out of my backpack 'Schneggli', containing said 35 things.
Which brings us full circle back to where we started.
Minimalism is not about owning less, it is about being mindful of what you own and why you own it.
It is an enriching mindset, an enthralling philosophy, an educational process of defining your lifestyle and who you are (or want to be) as an individual.
Thus, it is about owning more.
More awareness toward functionality, towards needs and longings, wishes and reasons.
It is an eye opening, horizon expanding course of mindfulness.
And it frees you.
Less so because you might own less, more so because it enables you to see what you already have and how much you genuinely want to have it in your life.
Sharing this with your partner, or even with a playful approach including your children and the toys they freely agree to donate, also deepens the bond between each other.
I conclude - finally, I know:
Minimalism is not about randomly throwing out things. It can be but it surely is not all of it.
It is a pretty mainstream word for subtly getting in touch with your innermost being, challenging your belief system, capturing your attention and drawing it back to life's innate questions.
Why do we have what we have?
What makes us happy?
What are necessities and how do they define us?
What do we want in our homes?
How and with what do we spend our time?
How do we want to live our lives?
Who are we?
What does really matter?
Therefore minimalism is nothing short than the existential confrontation with ourselves.
Do you want to give it a try?
Be bold and discover what minimalism holds in store for you: more than you'll ever have owned, I promise you.
From my heart to yours, beloved souls
Love and Light