My mom is a self-proclaimed minimalist and is constantly in the process of downsizing my childhood home. Every time I call her she is either putting something up for sale on Kijiji or deliberating putting something for sale on Kijiji. She doesn’t do it for the money, but rather for the clarity and zen she feels upon getting yet another physical attachment out of sight and out of mind.
She is definitely on to something, as she typically is.
Minimalist living is oh so trendy right now, and for good reason. We live in a world obsessed with ownership and driven by consumerism, and we encounter more than a few problems with this collective mindset. Of course, economic sustainability is reason numero uno as to why we should all be jumping on this this downsizing bandwagon.
“Get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy,” writes Marie Kondo, organization guru and author of the bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In her book, Kondo depicts tidying and organization as a cheerful conversation in which anything that doesn’t “spark joy” is to be touched, thanked and sent on its way towards a better life elsewhere. In addition to her work authoring bestselling books, Kondo also runs an acclaimed consulting business in Tokyo centred around de-cluttering and re-inspiring spaces for her clients. Kondo’s ultimate aim: for her clients to find themselves surrounded exclusively by things that bring importance and active purpose into their lives.
The “KonMari” approached is two-pronged. First, she recommends tackling your clutter by category—(for instance clothes, books, papers, miscellany and then things with sentimental value)—and once your clutter has been sorted, immediately begin discarding, donating or selling anything that doesn’t “spark” the aforementioned “joy.” The second step: literally surround yourself with what remains (since by this point, only your most joy-giving belongings should be left). Kondo recommends putting the remaining items in places that are visible, accessible and easy to grab and then put back.
Of course, the reason we cling to things is oftentimes sentimental, and the nostalgia monster is a tough one to battle. Like that off-the-shoulder Bebe tee that you wore to your first high school dance. Yes, that was a special night, full of whimsy and fluttery feelings when you got to dance with that boy you had been crushing on for practically ever, but let’s be honest here, you are never going to wear that shirt again and you will still have the memory of your former crush’s sweaty, adolescent hands on your waist even after that tee has died and gone to t-shirt heaven.
Kondo makes it sound so easy, in her cute, compact, easily digestible volume, but then again, she confesses to have been an organizational nut since her wee years. For the rest of us, who haven’t been gifted with her organizational intelligence, here are a few tips for transitioning into a more minimalist lifestyle.
- Have a (realistic) game plan. “I’m going to be a minimalist by next week Friday!” = not realistic. “I’m going to get rid of one item per day that does not bring me joy!” = realistic.
- Start small. Start with de-cluttering your desk, then move on to your chest of drawers, then to your closet. It’s okay to transition gently.
- If you’re not sure where to start, treat the process as you would a deck of cards: discard duplicates.
- Focus on finding the right homes for the things you’re ready to get rid of. This way you are not just guiltily chucking those items that carry sentimental value, but instead renewing their purpose. (If you need some inspiration for “renewing purpose,” just rewatch Toy Story 3)
- Make a conscious effort to spend your hard-earned money on experiences verses things.
The economical advantages of living simply are plain, but the real aim of minimalist living is a change in mindset. No, you don’t need that new jacket from Artizia, last season’s fits just fine. So instead of spending your Saturday at the mall shopping, why not go for a run, spend time with your family, or read a book. Refocus your energy and let the emotional and psychological benefits infiltrate the rest of your life. When you’re ready, consider downsizing your social life—bye bye toxic relationships—your technology use and even your schedule.
Leonardo da Vinci (our second favourite Leo) once said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
And are you really going to argue with good ol’ Leo?
Main image via Style Caster