Is your house or apartment cluttered and crowded? Do you have things you haven’t used in months or years? Do you spend time chasing after material possessions in the pursuit of “happiness”? Do you feel like you couldn’t possibly live without ALL the stuff you currently own? Do you ever stop and think, maybe your stuff is actually starting to own you? Do you define yourself by your possessions? Perhaps it’s time you started getting involved in the minimalist movement.
Minimalism can be defined as the practice of keeping things simple and effective. Travelling, especially for an extended period of time is a great way to experience radical minimalism and to prove to yourself that you can survive without ALL the material things we’ve convinced ourselves we need. When you’re literally carrying your life around in a backpack or suitcase all of the optional extra’s suddenly seem a LOT less appealing and important!
Here are some lessons in minimalism I learnt when on a 3 month backpacking trip around Canada and Europe:
- Clothing- pack a small number of good quality pieces you can mix and match.
- It’s possible to happily exist in small but functional spaces with minimal clutter – hostels, hotel rooms, camping tents.
- We don’t need the latest kitchen appliance or gadget to create healthy and beautiful meals
- One of the best ways to reduce bag weight is by keeping toiletries to the essential basics, and your personal hygiene/aesthetics do not have to suffer for it.
- Swapping books with other travellers or at book exchanges means you can have interesting reading material all the time without having to lug around a small library.
- There is an incredible amount of beauty in the world around us, pretty but useless possessions aren’t necessary for aesthetic pleasure.
- If there’s something you really need but don’t have- ask someone. The kindness and generosity of people in general is often underestimated.
While long term travelling does require extreme minimalism (unless your surname is Kardashian) it’s surprisingly easy to incorporate aspects of this into your home:
- Get rid of belongings and clothing that you don’t regularly use (ideally to a charity if in decent condition)
- Invest in good quality, multifunctional essentials that are also designed to minimise space usage (furniture, appliances, etc)
- Think before you buy- do you really need it? Is it really going to improve your life? Is this going to be useful and used regularly?
- Cultivate a wardrobe that allows you to mix and match and need less clothing items overall
- Borrow books, cd’s and dvd’s from the library, find a local book exchange, use a kindle/e-reader, subscribe to an online music streaming service
- Avoid buying things that are purely ornamental or that you’ll use once and then leave on a shelf
- Plan your space smarter- create more room