When I went up the stairs to the attic in my little townhouse I was dreading the piles of storage I would find up there. I knew it would not only contain years of my life but also creepers like spiders and silverfish. They came with he age of the house. The 1940 build house was old, not isolated and specially the attic was a huge attraction for bugs to hide.
I hated the moment, yet it was for a good purpose, right? I was about to make the biggest life change ever: I was becoming a global nomad. A decision not lightly made, that required a minimalistic lifestyle.
Starting preparations for that kind of life began 2 years prior to the day I boarded a plane to South East Asia. And once the decision was made I knew I had to sell everything I owned that had value and throw away the rest. Hence the date with the attic.
I never regretted throwing away all that stuff but sometimes it was emotional
There were tons of photo albums, I flipped through fading pictures of my childhood and torn pages of my children’s earliest days. And after absorbing memories I put them in a garbage bag. Same with the suitcases with memories of my earlier travels. Nice to see my port diary once again and for the last time. I realised while going through all the stuff that it was equal to holding on to the past. It was time to let go and open a door to the future.
Lessons I learned from getting rid of the clutter in my life
- Living a minimalistic life saves time. I have no attic anymore or storage where I need to go through looking for things. I just know where everything is, for I own few things. That means I have more time to enjoy life. And living in S.E. Asia is a matter of cheap buys. If I miss something and I really need it, it is easy to buy and does not cost much.
- I can pack up and leave in an hour. Really, I tell you, the other day when I moved house, I was packed and ready to go within an hour. And if I did not have some plants to cheer up my balcony, and the content of the fridge to move, I could have moved without help from a friend. It is just a matter of strapping my belongings to the motorbike, get my backpack and off I go. That is right! All I own fits in a 15 liter backpack and a 30 liter dry-bag.
- I save tons of money. For I seldom go shopping. I never was a fashionista or a girly girl. But I had my stuff and I did like clothes. So I had closets full of them and in every size just in case I put on weight or decided to diet myself to a smaller size. Now I have like 4 shorts and a bunch of t-shirts, 2 dresses and 2 leggings. Oh, and 2 bikinis. That is about it, and it is all mix and match. I do not spent hours in front of my closet anymore wondering what to wear.
- When I do go shopping, I can spend more. Living in South East Asia means that clothes are petite, to say the least, so I buy second hand. I buy the stuff you, reader of this website, probably throw away because you have that spur of the moment closet clean out.
- No more dieting, part of living minimalistic is also being more aware of what you eat. I eat much healthier since I live a nomadic life. I do confess I still like fast food, but where I live it is simply not available, so I limit myself to eating that only when I visit a big city. My health has improved and so has my weight, I’ve lost over 10 kilograms after I left the abundance of the Western world.
- You can store memories in your heart. Because my life changed so much I live much more in the present time and am able to absorb moments much more than before. I re-discovered the ability to store memories in my heart instead of in photo albums and mementos. I do not need all those things, let alone two or three of each.
The most important lesson I have learned is that I can be more happy with less possessions
I always sort of panicked when I had to let go of things, not that I was a hoarder, but it was the convenience of having things. And I became preoccupied with it. I did not see it back then, back then it was normal. But now I see. If I do not have something I work around it. Or I do without. Like those ever so sharp kitchen knives with chef quality, I do not need them. Now I do all the cutting and cleaning with a potato knife and 1 kitchen knife that costs less than 2 dollars. And it works just fine.
When selling my stuff and calling the goodwill collectors once again, I had honestly asked myself a few difficult questions: Why do I feel so ashamed when I see them stuff their van with things I didn’t even know I had? And why did I buy all that stuff in the first place? What did it add to my life?
The answer is that I was easy to be influenced by advertisers and pretty packages and full of believe for the usefulness of things that I easily could do without. And shopping comforted my soul. But in that time my soul was like a bottomless pit. It seemed to be never satisfied.
I’ve learned that being a minimalist is all about addition, and not about removing things. Throwing away my stuff, that wasn’t minimalism. That was just what it was: getting rid of the clutter. Minimalism is about what I add after that. The process of making good decisions based on proper motivations of the necessity of things and the ned to have it.
Minimalism is about being realistic and awareness
I spent way too many years of my life chasing after things, even though I was never envying people for their luxury, I wanted to create a comfort zone of my own and in doing so I lost track of what I needed most, and that was not a lot of goods, clothes and a stuffed fridge.
At the moment my minimalistic lifestyle takes me a little too far. I live alone, on a cliff, by choice, the gorgeous view and the remote location come with a price. There is a huge lack of water in this area. So I’ve learned a new field of minimalism. The village well is almost empty and water is supplied only a few times a day. There are so many large families here that there is hardly enough water for all. I have rainwater, stored in huge tanks and I shower with rain water. But it hardly ever rains, it is the end of summer and water is becoming a problem. But one learns fast. Laundry can be done with less washing powder and less water, flushing a toilet only after a #2, and when you shower short, you safe a lot of water also.
But I draw a line, this is as far as it goes. I do not want to become a scrooge, after all my minimalist lifestyle is about improvement and enjoying life. So in this house the balance still is positive, the location of the house favors the lack of water, but the moment that changes I am out of here.
And I guess that is the base for my minimalism: to improve my life for the better. To be aware of impulses and by doing so being more in the present and more authentic than I ever allowed myself to be. And yes, I do enjoy nice things, I have some luxury products that I cherish.
When you live minimalistic you cherish what you have, and you do not miss what you don’t have.