Let me start by defining what I mean I don’t mean by “minimalism.” I don’t mean painting everything I own white and having only one chair in my apartment (I have two). I don’t mean spending thousands of dollars on a space-saving couch that morphs into a coffee table, desk, and bed. And I especially don’t mean possessing 100 things because it’s a nice round number.
Minimalism is a very personal idea. To me, it means minimizing mental and physical energy on things that don’t matter so that I can focus on what does. And what does matter for me keeps changing because that’s what life is about. Being a minimalist (I don’t like applying any -ist label to myself but I make an exception here but it’s an important part of my life) allows me to be flexible with where I live, where and how I work, and most of all my TIME.
I grew up in a house that was sometimes minimal by default because we didn’t have a lot of money. When I entered my teen years, I started wanting more stuff to look and feel like the kids I went to school with. What is different for me now is that I put minimalism in action because it’s a choice. Poverty is (usually) not a choice – it’s incredibly stressful and limits choices.
I went into college not sure what I wanted to do with my life. I ended up choosing Environmental Studies as my major. The classes were incredibly stimulating and infuriating at the same time. I remember learning about landfills, water and food shortages, and the incredible standard of living disparities between the richest and poorest people on Earth. It was eye-opening and made me realize how sheltered and brainwashed I was by the media and formal education.
In one class (International Environmental Issues), we watched The Corporation – a documentary about how corporate greed and corporate collusion with governments is destroying the world. We watched other films about NGOs who were trying to progress fair labor laws and stricter environmental standards for companies. I remember sitting in the dining hall that day with some friends and proclaiming (out of frustration, mostly) that I felt powerless in the face of all I was learning. “The only thing I can do is STOP buying STUFF.”
And so it started… slowly. Instead of not buying stuff, I only bought stuff that was used or secondhand. This saved me a lot of money but I still kept to my hoarder tendencies from my younger years because I was still getting over not having a lot of stuff as a kid. A few years later, I eventually stopped buying stuff and started giving away things I didn’t use. My friends made fun of me (not so much anymore because I think this way of living is getting cooler – right?). Around this time I was getting more serious about personal finance too.