I’ve written about my interest in minimalism because of my ADHD and also during my Low Buy Year, when I worked on my obsession with retail therapy. What started with an inspiring (German) book—“Einfach Leben” by Lina Jachmann—roughly three years ago grew to become an approach to life, at least in parts. And in certain instances, it helped me tremendously and still does. But—and there is a BUT that I simply can’t ignore—it’s not the answer to everything. At least not for me.
The upsides of minimalism and decluttering
My ADHD fuzzy brain works much better in a clean and ordered environment, especially when it comes to thesis and other writing/thinking/research work. I keep my desk clear of clutter, cleaning up anything I needed for a task so I can start anew the next day. Storing my documents and papers in a suspended file box instead of stacking them in thematic piles makes my thesis life much easier (not that it adds to any progress, but anyway…). It also takes up less space.
Getting dressed is much easier since I made the conscious decision to stick to just my favorite colors—black, white, grey, and blue—and only add dots of color here and there. I’ve never been a very colorful person to begin with, but often bought certain colors on impulse without thinking when and where I would wear it and how I would combine it. Thoughts that may feel inspiring to the average fashionista are dreadful for decision fatigue prone ADHD fuzzy brains like me. It’s not that I dress like a chessboard, but with nearly everything being easily combinable, getting dressed isn’t such a drama anymore (at least most of the time).
Decluttering felt and still feels great. Giving away stuff I don’t need or want anymore and freeing up space—sometimes for something new, sometimes not—makes life feel just a tad lighter. And who doesn’t love feeling lighter, no matter in which context? Our cellar is less chaotic, my closet and shoe rack are orderly and our kitchen is filled with things we can use daily, not just once in a while on special occasions. I love it. And Wonderguy to this day hasn’t lodged a complaint.
Last but definitely not least, it made shopping cheaper, more organized, and much easier. During my Low Buy year, I learned to purchase things I really need or at least could put to good use, NOT things I just want because they look nice. I have been budget-conscious all my adult life, so it’s not that I ever randomly bought everything that didn’t fall off a shelf before—I’m used to think hard about if I can afford something. Problems arise in the moment any sales are on or I see something cheap on any pre-loved platform and flea market. Then my inner post-war grandchild kicks in. I can hear my granny say “well, now look what we have here, that’s a bargain” and off I go without giving it a second thought. I still get this inkling today, but most of the time I’m able to hold back and indeed think twice before purchasing something …
The downsides of minimalism and decluttering
While decluttering and the Marie Kondo trend is all nice and well, the moment you start throwing out stuff you could probably need again, it turns against you. Being brought up to act and think economically, I used to keep certain apparel—like jeans, jackets, shoes that were a bit more costly or that I loved at some point—so that I could rediscover them to a later date. This has worked great for 15 years. Along came The Minimalists and Marie Kondo … and now I can still think of at least 4 pairs of jeans, a winter parka, 2 blouses and 2 bags I dearly miss and regret giving away. Of course, I can barely remember most items I decluttered, so this means it worked like a charm. Still, I should’ve kept certain items, just in case. Solely because The Minimalists (and their flock) don’t like ‘just in case’ items, this doesn’t mean I have to follow them. But we live and learn, obviously.
Fashion. I love fashion, even though I probably don’t look like it. I’ve never cared much about short-timed fads and rather focused on building a wardrobe filled with items I can wear for years to come. Something that is now a maxim of sustainable fashion to me felt just natural most of my life because it’s the logical and economical thing to do. Needless to say, there were bad buys, and I wasn’t always as intentional about my purchases as I would have wanted to be—hence, the Low Buy Year. But overall I’m more Coco than Karl, more Carolyn than Sarah Jessica, more background than front row—and I still love garments, bags, backpacks, and shoes. Minimalism helped me to establish my basic fashion rules and clean up my closet, and it also makes getting dressed easier. But I still love to choose between different pairs of jeans, black dresses and grey turtlenecks. Which is no big deal, but it took me a while to understand this and grant my inner maximalist some space in my closet (and my mind) 🙂
I never decluttered or minimized my library—storing all my books digitally never even crossed my mind, no matter how many minimalists praised this option in their books. Though this is not true; I have decluttered some books and gave them away, but that’s something I do every few years to make space for new books. After ending my Low Buy in January this year, one of the first things I did was bulk buying books. And I haven’t really stopped since … Though thanks to my book budget—yes, books even had their own budget—I didn’t run out of new reading material during my Low Buy Year. I want to cut back a bit in the months to come, mainly because I got soooooooo many great books I now want to read them without getting distracted by fresh additions to my shelves. But we’ll see how that works—rediscovering one’s shelves is one of the greatest joys of a bookworm like me!
Conclusion: Make it work your way—I guess
I have thought about writing this post for some time. Minimalism as a lifestyle or philosophy has been around for some time—in the wealthy West, at least. After all, most people all over the world live a sort of minimalist lifestyle not only without knowing this, but more importantly, without wanting it. Socio-critical thoughts aside, minimalism has been around long enough to arrive in mainstream culture, at least according to an intriguing new video by Matt D’Avella. It proved its point and helped many people, including myself.
That does not mean that we have to follow it to the t. Like with so many other ideas and philosophies, it is not so much what other people make of it than how we make it work for ourselves. Some things are simply impossible to do right now—as much as I would love to ditch my smartphone and install a landline (without an answering machine), I can’t do it for professional reasons. Others do not fit our individual lifestyle—going digital with all my books definitely is no option for me. And then there is the fact that every one of us only has this one life—and we should enjoy it the way we want to as long as we do not harm others (and the planet too much).
Therefore, I will stay alert about what I add to my wardrobe (though I just purchased a trillion turtlenecks on my favorite pre-loved platform because I had wanted some for years). I will think long and hard if I truly need something and how it works with what I already have. I will still make bad buys, because I’m human.
And I will buy books. Lots of 🙂