“There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much and the other is by desiring little.”
Jackie French Koller
I grew up in a family that considers shopping a leisure, a way to spend time together, a family that – above all else – loves accumulating stuff, that considers ostentatious spending a way to validate the self and impress others.
The car we drive, the house we live in, the brands we wear – all this was supposed to reflect the status and publicly display the power. What’s more, our – preferably impeccable – looks were a direct reflection of our illusory happiness.
It took me a while to notice the cracks in this strategy. I was getting everything I wanted and yet I wasn’t happy or fulfilled. I was definitely feeling a spark of excitement and pleasure, but it would soon vanish, bringing me back to square one.
It took getting everything I ever wanted to realise that I wasn’t happy, to realise that I was living according to someone else’s standards, following someone else’s rules – and that it was about time for me to start making my own choices.
This process was at once liberating and confronting – my parents still live that way and I’m learning to respect that. I don’t want to judge their choices or feel resentment – they did the best they could, the best they knew.
Now it’s up to me to set my own rules. And, as much as I like my stuff, it’s not really part of who I am. Naturally, I’m still very far from becoming a die-hard minimalist. However, the process of letting go has been in itself an illuminating experience.
What I wear, how I look, where I live, whom I work for – these things don’t define me. What really matters is the sum of my experiences – places I saw, connections I made, things I accomplished – a resume of my virtues and values.
The stuff we own and that we so much strive to gain simply distracts us from what really matters, from the real things that bring us happiness. Who am I trying to impress or keep up with? Am I compensating for the lack of confidence?
A few months ago, I’ve started downsizing my possessions. First slowly, now more and more intently, I’ve been removing the unneeded, the unnecessary, the superfluous. I’ve also made it my priority to buy less, spend less and buy better.
I now focus on things that help me cultivate my passions, bring me closer to my goals, promote my values. Minimal living means letting go of the stress related to clutter, decisions and space. It creates the freedom to feel, to be.
Having worked in fashion from many years, detaching my self-worth and personal identity from clothes and objects is far from easy – but feels fantastic. It allows me to explore who I am without them, focus on finding new ways to express myself.
I still love beautiful things and I haven’t quite stopped dreaming about specific items on my wish list. But before I buy them, I want to spend some time decluttering and reflecting, in order to understand if they will bring me joy in the long run.
I’m not sure if I will ever become a true minimalist. But I’m willing to invest my time and energy in actively editing my life, creating a new framework with which to view it and the space to enjoy more of the good surprises that I’m sure are coming.
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