Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Thoughts on minimalism

I've been watching some YouTube videos about minimalism lately. I was never attracted to minimalism because I always saw it as an extreme thing, like some kind of competition to see who can live with the least amount of material possessions. Like, a friend told me about the concept of a "capsule wardrobe" in April last year and I looked it up and was like, uhhhh... no. Only own a fixed number of clothes? They all have to be neutral colours in order for me to be able to mix and match them with each other? No way, José! It just seemed to me that minimalists are weird the same way that hoarders are, just on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Everyone who has seen my book collection knows I'm not in contention for being a minimalist. I'm not exactly a hoarder either but things do pile up and I'm bad at putting stuff back where it should be. One of my friends posted a video which talked about whether a book lover can really be a minimalist, and you know how on YouTube it's so easy to go down a rabbit warren of clicks... so I started watching a bunch of videos on minimalism and discovered I had it wrong. In fact, YouTuber Break the Twitch said, "Don't let minimalism become just another one of those things that you feel like you need to continually work towards." He talks about how minimalism has become associated with the image of "the perfectly white wall and white bedspread" and says that is not what minimalism is all about; it's about "the freedom that choosing to consume less and own less can give you".

I particularly liked what another YouTuber, Lia's Loft, said about minimalism: "When I think of the term 'minimalist', I just think that means -- oh, I take minimalism, the tool, and I use that to reduce excess in my life, to make sure I'm focusing on the right things, to make sure I have stuff that I love and value." She said doesn't want people to see minimalism as a sort of "super exclusive club for people that like to have nothing in their house," and added that "it's not about being perfect, it's about making your life happier and just exploring and loving your values and loving yourself." Someone else, I can't remember who and can't seem to find the video now, said that minimalism is a way for you to become aware of your spending and consuming habits and be more purposeful about them, like to do things more mindfully.

From there I watched two videos of Marie Kondo talking about her method of decluttering. I already knew of her books and her methods (in fact, more than a year ago I bought a chest of drawers so that I could put away my clothes the way she suggests, because it's SO GENIUS and I was so tired of having to try to stop T-shirt piles from collapsing when I would pull a T-shirt out from the middle of the pile on the shelf in my wardrobe). But I'd never read her book for myself, and hearing her explain the rationale behind her method, I really liked that she said the focus is not on what to discard, but what to keep. Positive instead of negative. And she advocates keeping only the things which "spark joy".

She has gotten brickbats for that "spark joy" concept, but it did really work for me when I cleared out my closet. At the time I wasn't consciously using her idea, but I tossed out clothes which no longer fit, which weren't comfortable to wear, and which I didn't feel confident while wearing. You know there are some clothes which when you wear you just get this feeling you're looking like a total frump? Whether you are or not, you just have that feeling? Or you feel like the clothes are making you look shapeless? Or some other thing? As for comfort, that included not only materials which didn't feel comfortable next to my skin (actually I hardly had any of those because, having eczema, I avoid materials which make me itch) but also tops with a low-ish neckline that always made me ultra self-conscious whilst wearing them, skirts a little too short which I would always be trying to tug down and fretting over when I went out in them -- things like that. So that worked really well.

The "spark joy" idea is not going to work with my book collection, though. I haven't read many of my books -- in fact, at this point I would say maybe 70% of my books are in TBR (the To Be Read pile). So I can't tell whether they would spark joy until I've started reading them, unless they're of genres which I've tired of or contain tropes I know for sure now I wouldn't want to read. "Sparking joy" also won't work with my craft collection. Of course it all sparks joy. I like doing crafts! So what if I haven't done any papercraft for 15 years?? Urgh this is hard.

But watching the minimalism and decluttering videos is inspiring me to want to declutter my house more, and I found a great video from Origami Twist on how to deal with craft supplies:

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