About twelve years ago my mom gave me a small book called “The Art of Simplicity” by Dominique Loreau. I thought it was a book with meditations and didn’t think much of it. Once I decided to read it, it changed my whole life and the direction in which it was going.
Until that moment, life was good, but I didn’t feel as happy as I thought someone in my position should be.
Then this book came along, and it was written by a French woman living in Japan. Her life philosophy was all about simplifying. With curiosity, I read more about it as she guided me through the process of minimalism. This caught my attention and I began to declutter first. The more things I gave away the happier I got and more peaceful, so I felt there must be a connection between simplifying and happiness.
After I decluttered, the phase of minimalism followed. How to live with what I needed and with what makes me happy. The first part was easy because I found that I need very little. The second part, asking myself “What really makes me happy?” was a completely different ball game. While looking around my small but cozy apartment I kept asking myself if this or that makes me happy. The answer was mostly “I am ok with it” but rarely “it makes me happy”.
Then, my gaze stopped at the photo from a recent trip and I felt excitement. From there I saw an empty cup of Starbucks coffee that I brought from another trip to remind me of where I drank it. I felt happy again. The next step was opening a photo album and thinking of all the great times I have had with friends and family. I then looked at my somewhat unused but visually appealing bookshelf, I felt a neutral feeling. The conclusion was simple: experiences are the ones that make me happy.
At the start of the minimalism phase, I started reading some old letters among which were letters from a friend that lives abroad. Immediately something in me said, “you need to move here”. I did not give thought much attention, but it would not leave me alone for weeks.
I was planning to move abroad because I have always felt it would help expand my horizons and I’d develop a different mindset, however, I never thought I would move to another continent. Yet, the more I have tried not to think about it the more my intuition told me this is what needs to happen. Slowly, I started doing some research and, to make a long story short, I found a job and moved overseas. Being here, I was able to continue growing in a way that is beneficial for me. I kept working on experiences and I have continued learning everything I could about simplicity.
After almost nine years since my minimalist journey began, here are the most important things I’ve learned:
1. There is a difference between decluttering and minimalism.
You begin with the former, while the latter follows and becomes your lifestyle. Decluttering takes a few years because it takes time to give away things and also because many of us have a lot of things. Minimalism stays with you for life. I have never met a minimalist who got tired of the lifestyle and wanted to go back.
2. There are different levels of minimalism.
Our lifestyles play a role in it, for example, I like different kinds of sports and have different equipment at home. The others may like photography and have all sorts of different cameras. All of that is fine. Your environment has some influence as well. I live in a tropical climate, so I do not need warm clothes which helps minimize my wardrobe. Minimalism is flexible and will look different for everyone.
3. Decluttering affects you not only physically, but mentally as well.
Your mind becomes less packed with all sorts of thoughts, expectations, and must-do’s. You become calmer. Your home becomes your happy place because you notice the little things that bring you joy.
4. Minimalism gives you a new perspective.
As you decrease your unwanted possessions, you begin to get a fresh look at your life. Many minimalists feel more in control of their own lives after eliminating clutter from their homes. Some choose to move, change jobs, downsize, and some stay exactly where they are. Ultimately, minimalism makes you feel like you’re back in the driver’s seat, the rest is up to you.
After making this change, I feel freer, happier, and more adventurous. I would encourage everyone to see where minimizing takes you. It is a journey that begins with small steps but over time becomes part of your everyday life. There is nothing to lose except a few sweaters and blenders.
About the Author: Katarina Bruvo is a traveler with dreams and ambitions. While living abroad she expands her social, cultural, and personal development.