Another lifestyle change I am interested in and on which I started reading is Minimalism. However, right from the start I knew that I would never ever want to live in a house that looks like the cover of many of the minimalism books currently on the market (white, sterile and barren).
I also knew that there would be certain things in my household that I would not get rid of or that I could only slightly downsize. For me a minimalism no-go is books. I have no intention of ever living in a house that has only one shelf of books. I love the fact that I grew up in a house that had only one room that didn’t have any books in it – the toilet. I currently live in a 2 bedroom semi-detached and 3 rooms hold books. I am, however, not saying that I cannot discard some of them but to do so I will need my dad’s help as there is no sense whatsoever donating German books in such a foreign-language-phobic place as the UK (yes, I said it – you s*** at foreign languages – the exception proves the rule!) which is why he has to take them to Germany for me.
I have to admit that I own books that don’t actually deserve being called books and that definitely don’t deserve the shelf space that they’re currently occupying. I do own a Kindle and I do own ebooks (again mostly the kind of books that don’t actually deserve the name – you know what I am talking about. I mean the ones you are hiding behind 3 other rows of books on the top shelf of your bookcase) but there is nothing quite like buying, reading, owning and looking at paperbacks and hardcover books. In order to be a more conscientious book consumer, I decided that I will only be purchasing used books from now on.
Coming back to the actual topic, the reason why I am interested in minimalism and downsizing is the fact that I suffer from Stuffocation – a James Wallman coinage that adequately describes my situation. I have too much stuff. The knowledge that I have too much crap has been lurking in the back of my mind for quite some time but has become all the more apparent after I moved into a small cottage the size of a snail shell (for which I pay racking Edinburgh rent although I have mould everywhere and it is not even close to Edinburgh).
The first thing I started when I finally decided to do something about the amount of stuff I own was to rumage through my closet and get rid of everything that didn’t fit or was in a colour I hated. I had to go through my clothes a couple of times to get it down to a moderate sized wardrobe that actually fits into my drawers (to be perfectly honest I have 2 boxes of summer clothes in my wardrobe that have not been used in over a year but I don’t want to let go of them as I still haven’t given up hope that I will see a proper summer with sunshine and more than 20 degrees C in Scotland – while there’s life, there’s hope, right?).
In spite of my efforts, though, my house is still utterly cluttered and I am still stuffocating in it. So, I decided to gather even more information about minimalism and decluttering. I figured that just finding a way to organise my sh** is not the answer to my problems – it would only make me an organised hoarder but a hoarder nonetheless.
Amongst other things, I started reading James Wallman’s Stuffocation and man can I tell you it is worth the money. He doesn’t simply give you examples of alternative lifestyles or give you advice on how to declutter, he shows you how materialism came about and how we as a society have been brainwashed for the last 100 odd years. He gives you the origins of the problem (materialism and consumerism), the impact on our thinking and the dangers of it on our environment and health. He has opened my eyes on so many things and reminded me of things I already knew and/or experienced myself. Reading a chapter of his book still has the effect on me that I jump up grab a box or go to a room and start decluttering like a maniac (I completely lost track of time yeasterday and realised a bit late that it was time for supper) but at the same time it – for lack of a better word – deprograms you (not that I am saying that’s what he intended with the book or that he would ever call his intentions deprogramming).
By highlighting how you, the reader, are trapped in materialism and how you were and are being manipulated by an industry to consume more and more, he forces you to question every aspect of your daily life. I honestly am disgusted by my own contribution to upholding a system that is so dangerous to our planet and our sanity. I came to realise that I, too, generally preferred to spend my money on stuff that I didn’t really need instead of using my energy and my money for experiences and causes that would actually make me happy and/or would help make the world a better place. Most importantly, my money went into the pockets of people and supported a system that I don’t even believe in. I supported pollution, rich people getting richer and probably child labour.
I have still a long way to go but I really think it is worth the while. What could possibly be more empowering than getting a grip on one’s life and living in alignment with one’s moral values?
Source picture: http://www.mix1005.fm/three-ways-clutter-affects-health/