I learnt that I am not defined by my possessions, the number of friends I had, or the amount of work I was doing.
Like most other teenagers, I used to be a full-blown shopaholic.
I would buy at least five pieces of clothing every month. As long as the clothes were on sale and in my size, I would probably end up buying them – even if I didn’t need them.
When I was younger, I always thought buying more things would make me happier and make my life better. Instead, I found that as I began to accumulate more and more possessions, my mind also accumulated more clutter.
Without even realising, I entered a downward spiral of consumerism, accumulating many things I never even needed.
But over the past year, I have completely transformed my lifestyle by learning to live with less.
According to The Minimalists, minimalism is an approach to living with only the things that serve a purpose. The act of decluttering helps one create more room for what’s most important in life. The main benefits of a minimalist lifestyle include more happiness, freedom and fulfillment.
By these standards, I was far from a minimalist. Besides owning way too many clothes to wear, I also owned items that did not serve many purposes and were just there for the aesthetics, like physical books, excessive home decor, and trophies from over the years.
I first learnt about minimalism when I was watching “How to clean my room” videos on YouTube, and discovered the life-changing KonMari method, which encourages tidying things according to their categories – beginning with clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items, and lastly, sentimental items.
Introduced in 2011 by Japanese organising consultant Marie Kondo, the method emphasises only keeping items that bring value and removing things that no longer spark joy.
Inspired by Shintoism, a religion that plays a huge influence in Japan’s culture and values, expressing gratitude and thanking each item before letting it go are essential steps to the KonMari method.
Although I was once skeptical about minimalism, I decided to give this lifestyle a try to see if it could bring about benefits to my life.
According to a study done by Carolyn Rodriguez, 20 per cent of people said that they had trouble discarding their possessions.
Being a sentimental person, I’m guilty of falling into this category. I have many clothes that were either worn-out or no longer fit me well, but I couldn’t bear to discard them because of the emotional attachment I developed towards those pieces.
However, decluttering felt much simpler when I started setting small goals for myself, such as trying to declutter a section of my room each day of the week.
By tackling one area of the room at a time, I didn’t feel overwhelmed to discard all of my possessions within a day. I started by decluttering my wardrobe as that was the area that needed the most attention.
Over the past year, I got rid of over 100 pieces of clothing – either passing them on to my helper or selling them online – and only kept items that I would wear on a daily basis.
I discarded tight-fitting dresses, tops that I no longer liked, as well as newly-purchased pieces that hadn’t been worn before.
Instead of impulsively buying things, I would make a list of things that I wanted to buy and only purchased them if I still wanted them after two months. This helped me ensure I made conscious purchases.
Whenever I found myself browsing for things on online shopping websites like Shopee, I would remind myself that those items were not on my list of things I wanted to buy.
Avoiding physical clothing stores in shopping malls also prevented me from buying clothes impulsively, as I would resist the temptation to browse through the clothes and buy them when I didn’t need them.
Since minimalism and sustainability go hand-in-hand, I would often shop secondhand and buy pre-loved clothing from Carousell to be a more sustainable consumer.
Besides material possessions, minimalism also emphasises on focusing on mental well-being and relationships that bring happiness to one’s life.
In the past year, I have tried to make a conscious effort to prioritise my health before anything else.
Through minimalism, I learnt that owning more things isn’t necessarily better. Similarly, doing more things and knowing more people isn’t always a good thing.
I learnt to cut ties with people who did not resonate with my values such as respect, humility and morality, and removed them from my social media accounts. I soon learnt that having my family and only a small circle of friends is more than enough for me.
Initially, I thought that decluttering would make me feel uneasy as I was letting go of things that I had developed an emotional attachment to. Instead, living with less made me feel a deep sense of calm and freedom which I never thought would be possible.
The KonMari method has not only helped me declutter my items effectively, but it has also encouraged me to practise mindful living. It made me realise that I used to waste money on things I didn’t need and helped me to re-evaluate my priorities.
To me, minimalism is about living simply and making room for things that add value to my life by getting rid of things that don’t. What started as just a simple act of decluttering has truly been life-changing for me.
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