Hi, I’m Sasha, and I am a recovering shopaholic and an aspiring minimalist. I see fashion as a form of self-expression. Every few months, I like going shopping and picking up some cute tops and a couple pairs of fresh kicks. And I have an unfortunate affinity for Amazon Prime.
As former hunter-gatherers, shopping provides us that rush, that wave of dopamine and adrenaline at obtaining new, pretty things. This feeling quickly subsides. Amazon is so addictive because it gives us two of these rushes: one when we click to buy something we want, and one when it arrives on our doorstep two days later. It’s an absolutely brilliant business model.
According to Forbes, in 1930 the average American woman owned 9 outfits… In 2015, that number was 30. Admittedly, I own far more than 30 outfits. And according to The Atlantic, Americans nowadays buy five times as much clothing as they did in the 80s. Fast fashion is a major polluter.
We live in a consumerist world filled with distractions. We’re on our phones, we’re constantly seeing messages to buy this, you gotta have that, all the cool kids are wearing it. When I saw a video of an Instagram influencer dancing in holographic butterfly wing lace-up boots, my immediate reaction was: “I MUST HAVE THESE.” After waiting a couple minutes, I realized this was absolutely ridiculous and impractical.
The theme of modern society is excess: excess food, technology, entertainment, shopping, medicine, friends, followers, likes at our fingertips—all of it can enshroud our presence and self-awareness on what really matters to us. Investing lots of time in things that afford us minimal growth can downward spiral us into lethargy, brain fog, and depression. We have a choice to purge our lives of the excess.
Counterintuitively, having too many choices can make us feel less free because it requires us to use up energy on making minor decisions that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Decision fatigue can decrease our productivity and lead to addiction to more of these things that offer minimal value relative to time invested.
But this fascination with material possessions doesn’t stop at clothes. We collect books, cards, seashells, bookmarks, papers, magazines, boxes… it gets to be a bit much sometimes, and it can even take over a room and become really distracting when it’s time to study. You understand this if you’ve ever procrastinated by cleaning. When I started cleaning out my room, I was shocked by what I found and didn’t realize how much I owned.
In June, tragedy hit: my closet collapsed. How was it possible that I was getting further away from my goals? I took this as a sign that I wasn’t living aligned to my values—I was overspending on clothes. For weeks, my room was the opposite of Feng Shui—there was barely any space, the temporary closet rack blocked the window and made it dungeon-like. My room became like a depressing cave and actually drained my energy. I was napping almost every day. On the bright side, it gave me an opportunity to start anew and design a closet that worked better for me. Thankfully, my dad was willing and able to build it. That experience really taught me the power of your surroundings. It made me ask myself: am I really a minimalist?
I’ve always considered myself a pretty neat and organized person, but I was frustrated that I never really made any real progress. My closet and drawers were overstuffed with clothes. It felt like I had to clean my room every few months. Over the years, I’ve had various decluttering methods: get rid of one thing a day, focus on cleaning one surface, try out some new storage methods that actually take up more space, sometimes I’d just give up and shove something in a drawer and forget about it. These methods never actually helped me with the root of the problem: excess of things scattered in multiple places around the room and the house, leaving me truly disorganized and never knowing where anything is or what I have. What doesn’t help is having a messy family. Two of our rooms double as storage space.
Last week, while procrastinating on an assignment, I asked myself, what am I doing to move towards the life I want? What am I doing to make my goals reality? I’d had enough. With one click, I ordered this book on Amazon Prime: The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
If I can go minimalist, anyone can.
What is minimalism?
Why should I go minimalist?
How to go minimalist
What is minimalism?
Miminalism is a mindful lifestyle that makes more space for what we love by letting go of what we don't.
Minimalism is mindfulness in action.
The universe spontaneously tends towards increasing disorder and chaos. Clutter is a passive process, but minimalism is an active choice. Our minds have power to shape our surroundings. As above, so below: clearing our space declutters the mind, freeing it up for creativity. It's about taking better care of our possessions.
Minimalism is a strategy to consider the full costs.
These costs to us can include money, space, time, health, attention, energy, opportunity. Storing 20 free Rutgers T-shirts comes at a cost: drawer space for things I actually like to wear, not just when lounging around the house or sleeping. So, ask yourself: Will I care in 3 months whether I have this? What’s it worth to me?
Minimalism is a lifestyle that reminds us what's important to us.
It prioritizes quality over quantity, and it allows us to make more deliberate choices as consumers and release things that don’t enrich our lives.
When we clean out the “extra,” we can make room for health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution, as well as new experiences, travels, and adventures. These are the things that engrave in our memory and provide lasting meaning and happiness.
According to The Minimalists Joshua and Ryan, this is the path towards freedom to learn, create, pursue our goals/dreams, and live life to the fullest.
Why should you go minimalist?
The benefits far outweigh the costs. Minimalism is efficient, enjoyable, and leads to greater clarity and focus.
Minimalism is efficient.
You may have your own reasons to be skeptical. Perhaps you say, “I don’t have time.” But actually, you will save tons of time later. Are you willing to make time for the kind of life you want to live?
Or maybe you say, “The mess gives it character.” True, a mess is a sign of an active and creative lifestyle… it’s also a sign that your surroundings could use some more attention. Do you really even know what’s in your room? I know I didn’t.
The reality is, minimalism can help you save money, time, space, and more. Make your room a place to energize, relax and unwind, reflect, and also to focus, do work, or be creative. Everyone manifests the lifestyle differently—fill your space instead with the things that bring you concentrated happiness.
Going minimalist is fun.
Or maybe you say, “It’s too much work.” Decluttering requires initial complexity; things get worse before they get better. But it’s well worth the time investment – you will see huge returns in other ways.
Tidying can spark creativity, because it challenges you to think like a designer. If you have a lot of garbage it won’t be as fun, but I guarantee you will thoroughly enjoy the result of your effort. Trust the process.
Also, it feels good to give back to the community by donating what we no longer need.
Minimalism leads to more clarity and focus.
I can appreciate some great art, fashion, scenery, and cuisine with the best of them; materialism isn't all bad. Minimalism is the antidote to addictive consumerism; it makes more space for the things that spark joy, rather than a temporary buzz.
Perhaps you’re thinking “I don’t want to let go.” We are tied to our past and over-identify with items that have already served their purpose and bear no relation to our present self. “That might come in handy someday” is rooted in fear of the future, fear of losing out, fear of scarcity. The thought of throwing things out or letting them go actually scares some people. The permanence of it scares me, too. But I don’t want to feel like a turtle bogged down by what I own. Do you own your possessions, or do your possessions own you? If really want to you want to keep it, nobody can take that away from you. Just be honest with yourself about what you will and won’t miss.
What clutters our environment, clouds our minds. Minimalism sparks a good headspace to live a life with more time, better health, more wealth, and more freedom to live a more meaningful life.
The path to minimalism: Practical tips for decluttering
Work by category.
Decide what you don’t want to keep first; then start organizing. According to Marie Kondo, the easiest sequence to organize is: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, mementos.
Clothes: Set aside clothes that don’t fit, aren’t your style anymore, or are uncomfortable. If you don’t feel good wearing something, chances are good you’ll never wear it. You will probably find tons of underwear, socks, pajamas, and lounge wear you don’t particularly enjoy. Maybe some shorts or dresses that are no longer a look.
Papers: Digitize to get rid of piles of papers. Use file folders for magazines and loose papers you still need.
Miscellaneous odds and ends: Obviously dry pens, expired products, and old manuals can be trashed. If a “just in case” item can be sourced within 10 minutes in the home or bought for cheap, then it’s safe to get rid of it.
Mementos: Do you connect to yourself from that time period? They probably served their purpose. I don’t even remember who I was when I was five, so there’s no reason to hold onto a birthday card from that time. And why on Earth do I still have Kidz Bop 3?
Digital space: Use Unroll.Me to unsubscribe to emails. Declutter your desktop, phone apps, and pictures. Fill your phone with apps that make you a better person, alternative options to social media. Some of my favorite apps include Insight Timer (for meditation), Google Keep, and Spotify.
Consider every space you use, including the bathroom and car, if applicable.
As a side tip: don’t let your mother see what you’re discarding; she might be horrified. Don’t dump your junk on siblings, either.
Does this spark joy?
Working one step at a time, one by one, empty each drawer, or each row of books, or each folder full of papers. Place everything on the floor. Hold every item in your hand. Ask yourself, “does this spark joy?” Pay attention to how you feel as you hold every item.
When I held a tight cocktail dress in my hands, I felt my chest tighten up. I got it from Forever 21 for $10—what a steal. It’s been sitting in my closet for two years. I don’t feel good wearing it, so it’s safe to assume I will never wear it.
After the purge, I felt lighter and happier. I was left with only clothes that I like. Roll and stand your clothes like sushi, as Marie Kondo demonstrates. I thought this was slightly nuts at first, but this method saves a ton of space.
In the end, I removed 71 shirts/dresses, 29 pants/skirts, 36 shoes/accessories, and 40 books, which is easily valued at over a thousand dollars. I’m donating all but 5 items, which are designer brands I will sell.
Donate, gift, or sell whatever's left.
Some things in great or lightly used condition will feel like a shame to throw out. Someone else may benefit from your books, clothes, or other items which may otherwise collect dust in your room or closet for years.
If you find it hard to part with anything you’ve opted to remove from your drawers or closet, you may store things out of sight as a transition. Box up the maybes for 2-6 months. At the end of that time period, if you didn’t miss those clothes, donate them.
Charities include Goodwill, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Ronald McDonald House (accept new, non-handmade toys and games), Toys for Tots (accept new, unwrapped toys), Soles 4 Souls (accept used shoes and clothes), Dress for Success, and United Way. If you want to keep it local, you can opt for nearby thrift stores, school clothing drives, and homeless shelters (winter clothes are especially in demand).
Some of these organizations, like Salvation Army, allow you to schedule a free pickup. Your donations are also tax-deductible, which may be more incentive to give.
Sell high-quality clothes on an app such as Poshmark, Mercari, or ThredUp. Personally, I’ve had success selling a prom dress on Poshmark and a Foosball table on Facebook Marketplace.
The next level of mindfulness is to become a conscious consumer. Moving forward, you can choose to buy only products (food, drugs, consumer care) that are good for your health and the environment, whenever possible (e.g. organic, natural). You can also opt for higher-quality, timeless pieces, instead of trendy fast fashion.
I hope I've given you some ideas for how you can apply minimalism to your own life.
Minimalism is a mindful lifestyle that makes more space for what we love by letting go of what we don’t. It helps us consider the full costs of our possessions.
Minimalism is efficient, enjoyable, and leads to greater clarity and focus.
Decide what you don’t want to keep first, then start organizing. Remember: “does this spark joy?” Donate or sell whatever is left.