And, yeah, probably the new black as well. Although that’s such a tired joke.
Minimalism is where it’s at today. It’s more than a trend, it’s a lifestyle.
Let’s start with fashion. Not just paired-down style but a paired-down wardrobe. There are all kinds of sites online extolling the virtues of making due with less. In these uncertain times, etc.
Last year, Sheena Matheiken launched The Uniform Project, in which she wore seven identical black dresses every day of the week for a year and did a hell of a lot of accessorizing. However, the accessories were all vintage, thrifted, donated items so she wasn’t out shopping for new stuff. She also raised money for children living in Indian slums by putting aside a dollar each day and asking blog visitors for donations. Now through with her year, the Uniform Project has moved on to some other “pilot projects” of what seems to be other women taking the challenge.
You may also have heard of Six Items Or Less, a challenge in which a bunch of people pledged to wear only 6 items in their wardrobes for a month.
But there is also a wider minimalist lifestyle movement going on. There are blogs about minimalism and Becoming Minimalist. There are people who have paired down their crap and live a simplified existence, debt-free, with few possessions. Within the past month, the media was abuzz with the declaration of the death of the “McMansion.”
The fashion world has taken note. Everywhere one turns right now it’s all about minimal lines, sleekness or a return to fashions of a simpler era, like full skirts inspired by the 1950s and 60s. Runway shows have highlighted clothing that lasts; something one can wear for years. Something one can wear to work and to parties. Fashion magazines show off wardrobe staples and how to build your wardrobe on just a few pieces.
But it’s not just about what one wears. There are many people advocating for tiny houses. And I’m talking tiny.
It does give me pause.
For about a year now, I’ve realized how much the stuff I own has become more of a burden than a joy. This past summer, I got rid of a lot of stuff at a garage sale but I still own quite a bit. I’ve come to accept that my minimalism will have to come in stages. This is what minimalism is like for those of us with some hoarding tendencies and the habit of assigning “stuff” major significance in our lives. As I may have mentioned, I recently went through a box of school papers and found big stacks of worksheets, weekly readers and every art project I ever did in preschool. And it was hard for me to throw some of it out! Notes from junior high!
I’m definitely making headway. Recently, I attacked my drawer of t-shirts and put just about every one of them in a storage box in the basement and left out just the few that I’ve been wearing recently. That may sound pretty silly – they are just t-shirts. But for me it’s a major adjustment. Now when I open my drawer there aren’t 35 t-shirts or 20 t-shirts (I should have counted them). There are probably 10. It’s easier to make a decision in the morning and there is somehow less guilt involved. Eventually, I’ll take those t-shirts out of the basement and donate most of them to a thrift store, except for my Billy Carter t-shirt in which he is holding a can of Billy Beer. That stays.
I’m thinking about doing the same with my books. There are some I truly enjoy and some I’ve never even read. There are some I read and thought sucked but I still own them. They still take up space in my house.
I guess I’m on a quest to be surrounded only by things I truly enjoy and want. Everything else can go. And if that means I have to sweep through my house seven times over the course of a year, that’s OK. Luckily, my house is fairly small so these sweeps don’t take long. Actually, I used to feel just a little bit bad that our house isn’t bigger, as if it weren’t grand enough, but I’ve come to realize that is really stupid. There are only four of us and one of us weighs 12 pounds. Another of us weighs 70 pounds and sleeps on a round bed on the floor. I won’t go into what the humans weigh but suffice it to say that we all have all the room we need and we wouldn’t want to be responsible for cleaning or filling up more space. I heart my tiny house.
In the winter, when we’re snug in our tiny bedroom and the heat comes on and the cat is on the bed and the dog is in her bed or on her mat on the floor, our house feels safe and cozy. There’s no other feeling like it.
The thing is, we’re all so wrapped up in our own stuff that we hardly notice everyone else’s stuff. Unless you’re the kind of person who is constantly comparing your stuff against other people’s stuff so you can then get better stuff, you don’t really notice what other people wear from day-to-day. At least I don’t. And even if I do notice that someone is wearing the same sweater two days in a row or the same pair of pants on Friday that they wore on Monday, I don’t care. I don’t think, “You poor loser. You can’t afford another pair of jeans! You can’t afford another sweater!” That’s something only teenagers really care about.
Getting rid of your stuff is like losing a lot of weight. You’re lighter and you know you’re mostly the same person inside but sort of not. There’s more “you” when there’s less you or maybe it’s just that you’ve burned everything down to the essential parts and then you walk away, moving forward towards whatever is next.