Minimalism is a bit of a trendy at the moment. Facebook groups share how to get rid of excess stuff holding you back, experts advise how to declutter your home and your life and capsule wardrobes make so much sense. I love the concept of minimalism – making minimal impact on your environment through sustainable choices, buying and using only what you need, living bigger with less, valuing experiences over objects, being a conscious and purposeful consumer.
I get it, I really do. I want to live that way. But I just can’t do it.
Maybe I should do a positive mindset rethink here. “I can’t be a minimalist – yet.” Ah, yes, the power of “yet”. A little word with so much potential. I can’t do it yet, but in the future, if I really work at it and want it enough, I can be. Surely? Maybe.
I have a confession to make.
I am a repeat-offender failed minimalist.
The fact that I keep trying proves I’m resilient though, right? At least that’s something. I want to live simply, I’ve tried to live with a minimalist mindset, but to date I’ve failed, miserably, more than once. Sure I’ve had glimmering moments of success:
Like that year I didn’t buy any new clothes so I could save for a huge family holiday when my daughter graduated high school.
Like that year before we moved into our downsized home and I decluttered like a crazy woman, disposing of junk, giving away or selling items of value. Following Marie Kondo’s advice, “keeping only those things which speak to your heart”, all sorts of items were removed from my home and my life forever, without regret.
Like when I stopped shopping at the supermarket altogether (well almost), supporting local butchers, fruit shops and farmers markets, making most things from scratch and avoiding processed foods and big supermarket chains. I certainly spent less, ate better and wore smaller clothes.
Sadly though, none of these lasted. I soon returned to buying clothing for specific occasions as well as purchasing on a whim, both in person and online. I purchased new home wares, replacing some of what I’d gotten rid of. I reverted back to eating more processed foods and shopping at large supermarket chains, using the excuses of convenience and time saving.
Why do I do this?
Some would say I am attempting to fill a deep void created by something lacking in my life, whether perceived or actual. Apart from the convenience aspect of food shopping, I honestly believe it is based on a combination of deep-rooted fears and gratitude. I buy and enjoy beautiful items and products because once, not so long ago, I couldn’t afford them. I treat myself because I now can. I am at the same time grateful to be able to do this and fearful it may not last. It’s my very own, consumer-driven carpe diem. I am simply ‘seizing the day.’ Let me explain a little.
Growing up, my family were not wealthy. Don’t get me wrong; we always had everything we needed but my parents sometimes went without, so we didn’t have to. My mother almost never bought things for herself; skincare, new clothes, family holidays, even gifts for her spouse were not on the radar. She never complained or made us feel guilty about this but comments like “you know we can’t afford that” or “how lovely for them; we could never afford to do that” peppered her everyday conversations and still do. It was a constant restraint used to silent our requests and sometimes, I expect, a convenient excuse to avoid making difficult decisions. As a child, I accepted this unquestioningly but as I matured, I decided I didn’t wish phrases such as these to be part of my vocabulary, even if they were sometimes true.
I distinctly remember attending a friend’s Nutrimetics party as a teenager. We all smelt and sampled the products and I thought how lovely all the apricot-scented creams and lotions were. When it came time to place orders, my friends ordered items to start or top up daily skincare routines. I don’t remember if I ordered anything (I suspect not), but I clearly remember feeling sick in my stomach because I knew I couldn’t afford these products. Of course, I couldn’t ask my parents for money because even Mum didn’t use expensive skincare like this. I went home feeling miserable, nauseous and extremely jealous of the other girls.
As a uni student with not much time but even less money, I scoured second hand shops and market stalls for wardrobe basics. There were some pretty cool op shops near uni and fortunately, I didn’t attend events which required fancy clothes. On receiving my teaching appointment, I immediately purchased a new car and when I commenced working, enjoyed building up my work wardrobe. In my mind, not being a consumer was linked with not having enough money and now that I had more money than I was used to, I was excited to begin consuming. This was soon slowed by a mortgage and later by children and part time wages, but the connection remained strong in my mind.
Can you see where I’m coming from? Now, when I buy a new outfit on a whim, it gives me a sense of achievement because I can. When I buy a special dress, I appreciate how it makes me feel each time I wear it. When I purchase my favourite skincare products, I savour the fragrance and texture every time I use them and am grateful that I can now afford them. I take pleasure in buying beautiful household items and products and I delight in using them. My taste is rarely expensive, my favourite brands not in the designer category, but I shop often. I self-medicate with shopping, using it for stress relief, as a reward or just because I feel bored or like the look of something. It’s my go-to cure. This is why minimalism and being a conscious consumer continues to prove challenging.
I’m a realist and I know I’ll probably never be a true minimalist. But I also know I can simplify my life considerably, wind back my materialism and consume in a more conscious and mindful manner.
With this in mind, my word for 2019 is . . .
One one hand, this should be easy because I already have so much more than I could ever need. On the other hand, I know it will be difficult as it involves breaking habits and changing mindset.
“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” – Steve Jobs
During 2019, I intend to work hard to make my living simple.
Do you choose a word or theme for each year or set New Year’s resolutions?
Wish me luck!