With high living costs and modern day stresses, people are pursuing simpler lives
Minimalism is not just about decluttering and downsizing. It’s also about pursuing a less materialistic way of life in favour of experiences rather than things.
“The trend to downsize to smaller homes is fuelling minimalism and so is the high cost of living. I think people also want a less materialistic way of life because of the stress materialism often brings,” says Isabelle de Grandpre, founder of space-saving company Neat Freak.
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Minimalism in the strictest sense is not just about spring cleaning; it’s about a desire to live simply, paring down possessions to only those that serve you. “It is about intentionally living with only the things you need. That means if you only need one pot, then that’s what you have,” says De Grandpre.
However, most of us relate to a broader definition of minimalism – the worldwide trend to live with less. But, it can be a difficult process.
“If you’ve decided to go this route, you have to make changes, sacrifices and compromises, to which we’re naturally averse. But the rewards are great. I encourage people to imagine being able to fulfil bucket list dreams because they sold stuff they didn’t need,” says De Grandpre.
Here’s how three minimalists took the journey:
Through moving continents, from South Africa to the UK, I had to seriously downsize and sell just about everything. Two suitcases came with me, 20 boxes followed. I’m the ruthless one in the house.
If we haven’t used it for a while, out it goes. Also through moving a few times here, my things became leaner. I have eight mugs, three pots and one wok. I can afford more but choose not to, also because there’s more washing up as everything is used. I chose one or two sentimental items that represent all the other things I let go.
I did the same with books – kept my absolute favourites and deeply personal ones. For the rest, if ever I want to re-read them, I can find copies or go digital. I buy only low-cost secondhand cars for cash so that’s one less monthly payment. When choosing which things to keep, I have found there are one or two that remind me of life’s milestones. They mark time along the trajectory of my life, and these mean a lot to me. Most are small items, like a hand-carved mini-sculpture from my mom.
My former housemate was a strict minimalist, so I learned a lot from her. Before I moved in, I had a shed full of things: a six-seater dining room table and chairs, trestle table, large room divider and so on.
I sold all the furniture as I hadn’t used it in years, and it wasn’t my taste anyway. I tackled my linen cupboard, and threw away duvet sets and throws that I hadn’t used in years, and a 20-piece Noritake dinner set from my grandmother. I also got rid of clothes and handbags I hadn’t used in decades.
Collector’s Treasury got most of my books, and I donated my old desktop computer, after transferring the files to a small hard drive. I have some books in a cupboard, but most of my new books are now on my Kindle.
Sometimes I regret selling the bed, bought with money my father left me. But I have a new wonderful bed and it fits better in my small home. My furniture is chosen mindfully, instead of on sale or because I lugged it from a house I once had.
In the kitchen I have the essentials and what I need. When I had eight people for dinner, I had my four-set dinner service, and borrowed extra plates from a friend. My weakness is handbags, and I have too many throws, but we all need our comforts.
My husband was diagnosed with cancer in December 2016, and there simply wasn’t time or mind space to look after “things”. Fortunately, I’d started the decluttering process six months earlier with a big spring clean, with the help of five ladies over a weekend.
I compiled a list of groups to sort through – books, vases, yarns, paints, pots and pans, kitchen gadgets – and wrote each group name on a piece of paper. I put the pieces of paper into a bowl and chose one, randomly, every weekend.
Some weekends it was quick – removing a burnt pot isn’t hard. But other times it was tricky, and would take me two or three weekends to complete a group. I made decisions using KonMarie principles (by Marie Kondo, a Japanese organising consultant), and put away all sentimental items in one place.
In the end, everything unused on in day-to-day life (except for a shabby but loved baby blanket), was either given to friends or donated to charity. I’ve kept some key books that I re-read regularly and they fill one bookshelf.
Each room is basically furnished, and I have three sets of bedding per bed, instead of 23 old and half-incomplete sets. I try hard to work on “one item must leave for another to come in”.
I literally ask myself: “What will I throw out to make space for this?” It’s liberating to know exactly where everything is and not waste time looking for things. I found 24 pairs of scissors in the house, for instance, because we kept buying new ones to replace those “lost”. So it’s also saved us lots of money.