I Was Nowhere Before I Found Minimalism

“You free?”

It was in the dead of the night, and a friend messaged he needed company.

Naturally, I rushed to meet him.

While we talked, I couldn’t help but feel irritated; he kept on checking his phone and would momentarily ignore me.

I sat in silence, appalled, as I know this person has been usually sensitive. And attentive.

He was drowned with distractions, and he was letting them rob him of the otherwise productive moment we could’ve spent talking about how shitty and unfairly the world has been treating him lately.

We never concluded and called it a night.

Despite the irk, I couldn’t help but feel pity. If ever we’ll have the chance to get together again, I’ll share minimalism to him.

I first read about Minimalism years ago on Mark Manson’s blog (Read), and it connected the dots I was subconsciously trying to connect myself: the fleeting high after a purchase, the unfair imposition of one’s fantasy to every new prospect, etc.

In short, I was all over the place.

And it’s causing me multi-layered emotional distress. 

Five years later, and I’m still learning and incorporating minimalism to every aspect of my life, which had gradually improved as I learned these four benefits to the minimalist approach:

Letting Go Could Be Nasty but Is Totally Worth It
When I was starting, I followed this one simple rule: If you haven't used it in the last four months, ditch it.

I started with my old clothes.

Deprived of clothing options growing up, those clothes were more than clothing to me. They were patches to a childhood void.   

I howled every time a memory of every single piece hit me as I tossed shirts into the trash bag.

Three days later, and I forgot about the whole drama; I don’t even remember 90% of the items I’ve given away.

Old pairs of shoes went next.

Then, souvenirs from several events amassed through the years (I took a pic of them first, don’t worry).

After that, home items that either gather dust in their stack (desk fan, USB cables, soap trays, a CD full of love songs from a wedding, etc.) or random things that eat space (empty shoe boxes, perfume bottles, phone cases, etc.).

De-cluttering had been so addicting. And liberating.

Everything that’s left seemed to have magnified tenfold in terms of value. 

When I buy stuff these days, quality is the foremost aim.

We’re talking about pieces that will either last long or could blend well together.

To me, it meant lots of monochromes.

While going for premium, sometimes, may require for additional ‘spending,’ you’ll save in the long run as you won’t have to buy again for some time.

Also, you’ll be spared from extra expenses (e.g. fare). More so, time and effort.

Cheap things have pricey consequences.  

The terror to letting go of the things you’ve accumulated over time, along with their sentimental value, should deter most first timers.

Heck, you worked for those things to end up in your closet.

But to let go of the inessential, of superfluous clutter, of future attachment and distractions, one must start from somewhere.

No matter how small.

Freeing your closet up of space is a great start.

Soon, you’ll realize you did not just free the closet itself, you also freed YOU.

And this snowballs into your personal life as well, especially with people. Which is our next point:

Less Pressure to Match the Pace of Others
I’ve installed, deleted and reinstalled Bumble (a dating app) more times than I could count.

Story goes like this: a friend finds a lovely prospect, shares it with me and I instantly imagine a similar, if better, love story.

Then, as I skim through countless, fellow self-conscious profiles, nasty things began creeping out from within: self-doubt, self-worth questioned, etc.

When a prospect does match, it usually felt forced and inauthentic.

It’s NOT me.

I am not the romantic type. (At least not in that medium).

Minimalism taught me having hard conversations with yourself is necessary to find the ‘why’ behind every discomfort, and pain.

And to face them head-on.

Why am I doing this if it doesn’t feel right?

After the self-talk (I made it sound like I’m practicing a script, so my neighbors don’t tag me ‘Angry Loony’), the result had been the suffering was self-imposed. Surprise!

I did it to somehow keep up with my friends as I yearned to maintain the same interests as they do, because it will keep me in their circle.

It was a slap in the face.

There was shame.

And forgiveness.

Then, acceptance.

Finally.

In the end, I’ve chosen peace and deleted the app.

My heart was light, and a smile came.

Someday, I will find my own Rom-Com, in my own pace.

Most of my friends didn’t care that I didn’t swipe ‘right’ any more.

They cared that I was there when who they ‘matched’ with don’t communicate with them any longer.

A New Heightened Self-Awareness
I rarely get envious these days.

No, really.

The type that shades the eyes acrid green, not from eating too much broccoli, but from frustration, anger and haste, because the other person seems to be having it all.

They have better network, better job, better built, better personality, etc.

And their humility makes it thrice annoying.

Come on, be cocky, so we can hate on you.

Living the minimalist life attuned me to identify what triggers the envy meter into seismic hysterics every time someone better appears.

Unknowingly, we tend to react in a way it would be shameful if others could read our mind: whenever acquaintances we deem within our ‘competitive range’ post positive happenings in their life, we’re mostly indifferent or shrug off an inexplicable irk.

We’re supposed to be happy when others are ‘winning,’ right?

But when alone, and in our most honest reflection, something just doesn’t feel right.

We’re not that happy for them.

Taking a closer look, this is an echo from the herd instinct cave.

We’re social creatures, after all.

Evolution hardwired us to react to those who seemed to be gaining an upper hand as a threat.

Then, as society progressed, people concluded killing those who they deem as a threat isn’t befitting of their being slowly ‘civilized’ anymore, so they tamed the feeling of being threatened and turned it into bursts of instantaneous juxtaposition.

Now, instead of feeling being threatened, we compare first.

While it’s normal, most of the time it’s toxic. And useless.

Yes, I still greet comparison at the door, but only to tell it to get lost.

Because I’ve acknowledged my strengths and weaknesses may differ from others’...

... that these so-called ‘better’ people control what they share to the world, in lieu of a much rather unpleasant daily realities.

And that I’ve come to appreciate my own journey rather than seek validation by comparing and trying to surpass theirs.

Becoming a minimalist will help you develop this unerring compass to better preserving your self-worth.

In today’s heavy validation-seeking society, it could be your anchor to staying sane.

And being grounded.

Which leads us to our final point:

Everything really is simple, and we make it complicated
I once posted this on FaceBook:

Hardest matters on Earth:

  • Wurtzite boron nitride
  • Diamond
  • Getting a YES or NO answer from an indecisive person

I, being the third option, used to have a hard time giving a definite answer from the simplest queries (“Do you want to try this cafĂ© instead of this one?”) to the much broader ones (“Would you like to reconsider this trip since there’s a typhoon, although we’ll be up in the air before it makes landfall?”).

It made my friends go nuts. My family, yell at me.

And the root was my being a people-pleaser.

While I don’t want to disappoint anyone, I don’t want my personal joy compromised either.

So instead of saying YES or NO, I beat around the bush in the hopes of reaching a win-win situation, which takes a lot of energy and time.

Minimalism, and its zero tolerance to baloney, taught me most people would rather take a hard NO than a forced YES.

What the yellow brick road did for Dorothy to get to the City of Oz, Minimalism did to me.

It showed me how to narrow decisions down to the most useful, and essential.

And it took me years to trust people’s judgment.

Because I’ve come to trust mine.

That they may be disappointed with some of my decisions, but at least they’re authentic, and we’ve cut to the chase.

Sometimes, the hardest questions have the simplest answers. And most of the time they’re within our reach.

In a nutshell, Minimalism is being unapologetically selfish, so you can be selfless with the right things.

That means saying NO to a lot of things, so you could say YES to these:

  • spend more time with family
  • bond with non-toxic friends
  • pursue enriching hobbies
  • more sustainable travels
  • take better care of your health
  • go after worthwhile experiences
  • walk the pet to the park
  • authentic self-improvement, etc.
Your turn.