This August I participated in two minimalist experiments.
One was to get rid of physical objects as a game, the mins game; The other project was practicing a Buy-Nothing month.
The premise of the mins game is that you get rid of the same amount of objects as is the number that day. For example, on August 1st you would get rid of one object, on August 2nd two objects and so on, throughout the course of the month. My partner originally invited me to do this with him.
I was really excited about the idea, I host clothing swaps all of the time but this was more, this would challenge me. It went really well for the first few days. We both set our items aside and asked each other about it daily. I got a little more excited and started purging things ahead of time, keeping track of my number. Matt petered out after the first week. I made it well into the 20’s (I’m past day 24 and still slowly culling). We were on the road a lot last month so it made it hard to keep up at the end.
I found that I loved getting rid of things! I mean, there are obviously objects that I didn’t get rid of and I’m not going to, and then there’s the category of things I want to get rid of or think about getting rid of then after a while take it back. I have a rule at clothing swaps that the person who originally brought the item, if they decide they want to take it back even if another person has chosen it, it’s still theirs. I also like to hang on to things for about a month to make sure I don’t need it. The amazing thing that comes with getting rid of stuff is space. Space. Wether it’s physical space, mental space, emotional space, spiritual space… it’s wonderful, new, space!
How many objects do you hold on to that weigh you down? How many objects are holding you in the past? How often do you take inventory of your “things” and make space for the new?
I realized that I don’t take inventory of my stuff nearly as often as I should. I thought I knew what I owned and that it wasn’t much, but I was wrong. A great trick I learnt with clothes is to turn all of your hangars backwards and then when you wear the item you flip the hangar back. After a month or so of that flipping, you can actually see what you did or didn’t wear. For me, there were items I loved but never got around to wearing because I had too much stuff. This became true for a lot of my things: My makeup was cluttered with all sorts of stuff that I never used; I owned handbags that I hadn’t seen in years; I have a wall of shoes… and wear the same 4 pairs over and over; even dog toys and dog treats; how did I amass so much stuff?! And what is the point of holding on to the someday maybes?
Getting rid of all of these things (so far 305 items) has allowed me so much freedom! New space. New opportunity. Or just more room to breathe. It really motivates me to keep going. To live simply. The old adage is true: Less is more. I can do way more with less. My living space is way less cluttered. My mental space is far more open. And my emotional space is ready for so much more!! I’m no longer burdened by stuff! It’s really rewarding to also see my things going to new homes and new people who will appreciate it more than me. Sharing is caring.
My other project, Buy-Nothing Month, was another minimalist endeavour. This was influenced by my two good friends who for a year, practiced non-consumerism with their Buy-Nothing Year. The month before, July, I had spent almost twice as much as I usually do per month. This was alarming to me and I needed a way to cut back on my spending. I was getting nice and settled into my newly fixed income (read: making almost twice as much a month as I had been previously) and my spending was clearly matching that. The problem was that the months before that were expensive, travelling and paying for a yoga teacher training course (not cheap!), and I also needed to start saving for the future: a masters program, more travelling, more yoga training, buying a house, saving for retirement…
My solution was practicing a buy-nothing month; only spending money on what I considered to be essentials. So no more daily coffee’s, no more eating out or ordering in, no more frivolous purchases or needless purchases (how many times do you go to the store and buy something you weren’t looking for and don’t end up using?). Overall, this was a success. The bulk of my money in August went to food and gas, with some other expenses popping up along the way. I spent roughly 70% of my average spending per month.
So one month I went from spending 70% more per month to spending 30% less. That’s a 100% difference! Just think if I did that for a year like Julie and Geoff. My key findings with the experiment were that as soon as I took the option off of the table, I didn’t think about it. I thought it would be hard to give up my daily coffees or eating out but I actually just prepared more and ate better; turns out this wasn’t just beneficial for my wallet.
My thinking towards money in general has shifted. I now look for where I can spend less. I have learnt to approach companies to see if we can mutually benefit. I recently bought a new yoga mat and thought to send the company a message to see if they offer deals to teachers. Turns out they do offer mats that are slightly disfigured but no less useful at half off, but it’s not advertised anywhere, you would have to send a personal message. I also follow companies that I like and wait until they do offer a promotion. A lot of expensive restaurants, for example, will offer a Prix-fix menu where you get the same experience and taste yet usually less than half price. Sometimes waiting for those moments or seeking them out, is so beneficial and no less rewarding.
There’s a term in yoga, one of the moral and spiritual observances for yogis, Aparigraha, that sort of sums up this minimalist thinking for me. Aparigraha is roughly translated to non-attachment or non-accumulation. It is one of the Yamas; the counter part to the Nyamas that combined consist of the second limb of the eight-limbed path according to Patanjali’is Yoga Sutras. They provide guidance as sort of the Commandments for yogis. Aparigraha is the “commandment” that suggests one should not be attached to worldly objects.
One should not be attached to expectations or outcomes. One simply lives and observes the moment. Now this is easier said that done, especially when we live in a materialistic world, but it is possible. Minimalism is a huge concept in feng shui; the more clutter in the material world, the more clutter in the mental one. If you want a simpler life, simplify what’s surrounding you. I stumbled upon a great website the other day becomingminimalist.com that offers great articles and advice on minimalism. From my experience, it is definitely something worth pursuing. Who knows, you may just feel so free you pick up and travel for a while!!