I am an aspiring minimalist.
The entire 2017, I felt guilty and horrified at the number of clothes I had. I had gathered ~100 saris, most of them gifted. My clothes occupied two bed boxes and three wardrobes. Every time I opened my wardrobes, my guilt increased. I felt bad giving away stuff, as I had hardly worn them more than once. Worse – I had a stack of new, completely unused, clothes. I had a cupboard full of bags and one full of footwear. I felt choked.
So, early 2018, I decided it would be my no-shopping year. If I didn’t buy, I would use the existing stuff & then not feel bad when it was time to discard them. In the 1st quarter of 2018, I chanced upon a documentary on Netflix, called Minimalism. It spoke of letting go of consumerism, and how minimalism helped people cope with the angst they were undergoing. It struck a chord with me. Since then, I call myself an aspiring minimalist.
It has not been easy! Specially since consumerism and gifting are ingrained in us. You go to a mall, see something, buy. You go to meet someone, you carry something for her/ him, and you get a gift in return. Even my family could not understand at first why I was saying no to buying and gifting. ‘Once in a while, it is okay.’ they would say. But it is not! Because that once in a while tempts you to more frequency.
But I labored on. I reduced my outings to malls, going only to watch a movie or to eat. While there, I would not window-shop. Blinkers on! The festival season has been upon us. I am pretty sure discounts and deals are being flung in our faces with rapid regularity. But I have been unfazed. I stopped taking a newspaper a long time back. So, I do not get to see the full-page advertisements on ‘festival hungama’. I unsubscribed myself from newsletters of all eCommerce portals I used. You do not see it, you do not get tempted!
Does this mean I did not buy things at all anymore? Of course not! It just meant I was more conscientious about my purchases.
I still buy books. I cannot bear to part with them currently, but I know, in the future, I will donate my books.
I still buy souvenirs when I travel. They are mostly fridge magnets (the only clutter I do not mind growing!) but once in a while, it is a wall hanging or maybe even a piece of clothing which is a specialty of that place.
The only clutter I don’t mind growing!
I buy essentials and perishables. The difference is – earlier I would buy and hoard – e.g. many kinds of daal. Result – I would be throwing food items out as they had expired or had got infested with insects. Now I buy just one or two types of daal at a time, use these fully, and then move on to something else. Can it get frustrating to not have something at hand when you are craving for it? Absolutely! But we are getting used to it (the husband gets included in this form of minimalism too).
Also, I do not shop online till I have created a list of at least five-six items I absolutely need. When you have fewer items, you end up adding things to your cart to reach the minimum order amount etc.
Every six months, I do a purge, and give away stuff to my household help.
I cannot give away my shoes because I have big feet, and find it difficult to get footwear in my size. So, I discard footwear only when they are completely unusable.
The saris that I do not intend to wear – I am converting them to other clothes like lehengas and suits. The saris get used up, and I do not have to buy other clothes either.
I strictly told my parents to not gift me anything for festivals. Cash was so much better! Actually, digital money. I loved accepting money as a gift in my Paytm/ bank account. Specially since I have been on a sabbatical! I have still been gifted clothes this year from other family members, despite vehemently opposing it. To family and friends, please, no gifts!
I have a loonnngggg way to go before I pare down to 50% of my current possessions. But I will get there.
I do not mean to preach. Maybe minimalism is for you, maybe it is not. Maybe you will be horrified thinking how can a person not shop the entire year-round, maybe not. Maybe you dismiss this as a new fad, maybe not. I am not even asking you to adopt minimalism. Who am I to shove a way of life down anyone’s throat? My firm belief regarding any of these things – feminism/ vegetarianism/ environment-ism/ minimalism etc. – is that the feeling has to come from within. No amount of preaching can convert you if at least a flicker of that feeling has not lit inside you.
But what I do want to convey with this post is a request – please do not gift me things. Your love for me can be shown in many other ways. You suffocate me when you gift me a material possession. Has minimalism affected my mental health? I will simply say I feel less guilty now. Lighter. It feels like a burden has been lifted off my shoulders.