One of the greatest things about being a minimalist, is that it forces you to think about the things in your life which are most meaningful to you. That’s no easy feat because at first glance it might seem like everything you own deserves a spot in your heart and your home.
In the not-so-distant past, I thought the same way. Every keyring, every old party invitation, and every trinket felt significant.
But once I figured out what was causing me to hold on to these relics, I felt lighter than I’d ever felt in my life. And after moving house a few years later and having to unpack all my stuff from a larger house into a smaller space, I discovered minimalism.
I thought that I had decluttered all I possibly could, that I had minimised to the max. So imagine my surprise when I was struck with a question which highlighted even more excess in my home.
My husband and I were sorting out home insurance, but we didn’t want to overpay to cover the cost of our stuff. We got asked, “If your home and all its possessions got destroyed tomorrow, how much do you think it would cost you to replace?”
Now, while most people would frantically start estimating the worth of the entirety of their possessions at this point, I altered that question in my mind so it was now asking, ‘If your home and all its possessions got destroyed tomorrow, what would be most important for you to replace?’. Minimalism has trained my mind to ask those questions of myself, but I had only ever asked on a room by room, and drawer by drawer basis.
What would be so important to me that I would have to replace it if it were destroyed? My adult colouring book that I rarely touch? My ornaments which are just there as shelf filler? And if they aren’t that important, should I use up valuable shelf space for these items which I have to clean and worry about being broken?
If I were to have a fresh start, should I replace every book, every mug, every piece of furniture, every cable, every gift, every utensil?
Just the other day, a heart with a rhyme on it that was bought for my wedding to remember my nan, went flying to the floor and smashed. I was upset for about ten minutes, then the feeling passed and I realised that it was simply something bought from a store which didn’t represent her, but my feelings about her. And when it broke, my feelings didn’t vanish along with the rubbish bag the heart ended up in. After all, she resides in my real heart – not some pretty piece of acrylic.
The item itself was meaningless, but I hadn’t considered that until it smashed.
Imagining starting from absolute zero is an entirely new and sobering thought process.
It’s an overwhelming question for most, and one which would have shocked and terrified my past self to think about. When I imagined starting from scratch, I looked around my living room and started noticing things that I wouldn’t waste the time, energy and money replacing.
Then I noticed the things that were special to me (not including necessities such as our dining table), and they included things like my trusty laptop, and some favourite hardbacks which I regularly revisit. Above all of that was my husband and son.
When you challenge yourself with the concept of starting from scratch, it’s terrifying, I know. It’s even scarier to consider it as a consequence of some sort of disaster. But it forces us to think about what we really need and what truly makes us happy. That, in turn, makes us think about who we are beneath our stuff.
Are you a party animal like your wardrobe suggests, or more of a Netflix binger? Are you an avid reader like your shelf suggests, or do you find yourself exploring the world instead? Are you really a fitness freak, or someone who classes a trip into town as exercise?
Once you become clear about who you are and what you stand for, it enables you create space for your true self to shine, and it allows you to easily discern the most important things in your life. This can save you money when it comes to things like choosing house insurance, or when you shop more mindfully. It can even lead to you making big life changes such as career, or relationship.
Minimalism gave me the space and clarity to think about why I was still in the same job position as ten years ago, despite many opportunities to climb the ladder. I was too comfy, too secure, and too preoccupied with acquiring shinier stuff, instead of listening to what my heart was saying (which was that I’m only fulfilled when I’m writing, growing, helping people with their issues, and inspiring adults to live up to their true potential).
So, if you could start all over again from now, with nothing but yourself, what would you need? What things would you buy all over again? What would you do with your life? What would you be? Who would you spend your time with?
If you struggle with those kinds of questions, turn them around. What wouldn’t you need? What wouldn’t you buy again? What wouldn’t you do with your life? Who wouldn’t you spend time around?
Feel free to let me know in the comments.