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How the Basic Idea of Minimalism Can Cut Down Stuff and Stress

Photo by David van Dijk on Unsplash.

In the spring of 2017, I had two sweaters, four shirts, three pairs of pants, a jumpsuit, and three pairs of shoes. I didn't wear it all.

The documentary Minimalism outlines the idea behind the movement: live with what truly makes you happy. Get rid of items that aren't really wanted. Keep only that which makes a difference.  

The concept of minimalism is popular with millennials. I remember a time in college where the notion of a "capsule closet" captivated some of us but ultimately affected none of us. At least we were interested, which is more than I can say for much of our country.  

Since graduation I've mostly been doing odd jobs for elderly neighbors while looking for a career. I've learned about taking care of a house, but mostly I am astounded at how much accumulates with a lifetime. To compare different households which all contain various amounts of antiques, mementos, and things, a uniting word ties them together: full.  

Not in the sense of a full life or fulfillment, just full. Unwanted gifts from in-laws, every TV they ever owned, decorative pillows for every month of every season, clothes of grandchildren who don't have room to store their own things, at least three wreaths for each season, unused candles, a home gym that isn't used, a dining room filled with glass cupboards displaying china and silver (although the room itself and the valuables are rarely used). All the stuff literally can't fit into their houses. Closets are overflowing with supposedly precious yet dust covered items teetering on overloaded shelves. I could not hang a single extra pair of pants in a section of lady's closet. Her pants section alone, crammed to the brim and unable to fit one more pair, was bigger than an average closet.  

Part of my shock is from my own naivety; my family has refrained from overt consumerism. Our last two televisions were taken off the street, not because we can't afford them, but hey, free TV! We are not minimalists by any means, but we have avoided much of what sweeps our society perhaps because my family simply didn't want to be bothered with the stuff. That's what it ultimately is: a bother. That's why I'm being paid to come help: to dust, clean, organize, shift items from one room to another.  Sometimes, I'm hired to help make the decisions of what to get rid of and what to keep. We are so attached to items hidden away on shelves that only the bottom scrapings are actually disposed of; the rest is returned to a closet to be revisited in five years.

I also am guilty. I tend to wear my same favorite clothes while ignoring the rest of them. I have more pairs of ankle boots than I need. Most of my jewelry goes on unworn. The documentary makes a valid point, one that blazes through the clutter and dust: keep what brings you joy. I love my ankles boots. I wear them a lot; I'm keeping them. I don't love my necklaces. I never wear them; I'm not keeping them.  

The idea is not to deprive yourself but rather to truly enjoy your possessions and not let them become a burden. If your seasonal decorations bring more joy than annoyance, wonderful. Keep them.  Treasure them. But if items are only shuffled from one place to another and show up only on To-Do lists and not Get-To-Do lists, it might be time for a change.