Deconstructing the “Minimalist Ideal”

Decluttering is so on trend, isn’t it? It fascinates me that after the long, long decades of “more of more” mentality has taken a sudden and severe shift. Ironically, it seems to be mostly an aesthetic choice and not a lifestyle choice, and my mind runs with reasons why that could be so.

I find minimalism and decluttering go hand-in-hand. When one starts to declutter, I find that one also starts to see the value of less. The value of space.

Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash

Currently, I’m sitting in my over-stuffed bedroom trying to make recompense to my closet as it bulges at the seams. I guess most “traditional” minimalist “advice” would be to pull it all out and sort it. I wonder who started circulating that piece of advice. Did they have a busy job? Kids? Hobbies?

That advice never set well with me. My energy levels leave much to be desired, and if you asked me to tear out everything so I can make thousands of decisions in the span of a few hours, I would laugh at you. Loudly. Yet somehow, my first real “declutter” was exactly that. A couple years ago I threw all my clothes on the floor and bed and set out to make every decision quickly, efficiently, and to complete my project during said day.

Would you be surprised if I told you most of that stuff stayed on my floor for weeks? As I’d try to sort things, laundry still collected, decision fatigue overshadowed me, and yeah…nothing got done. I’ve probably done this many, many times with various other parts of my belongings and it’s never, EVER worked out.

Decluttering is as individual as we are human. There are always objects and possessions whose value conflicts with the minimal ideal. It’s a journey, surely not a sprint, and if you follow any lovely minimalist blogger, you’ll notice it’s a constant process of reevaluation.

Photo by Katherine Gu on Unsplash

In the end, it’s not about having a specific wardrobe style, a specific number of clothes, or even only so many belongings that fit in your backpack. Minimalism, under the surface, is more about objects having meaning, either by use or by memory. What objects mean the most? Which ones are the most useful? What gets lost in the junk drawer, the back of the closet, or underneath the bed? It’s about finding your possessions, the ones you bought with a purpose, and letting go of others that will do good in the world somewhere else.

Maybe that’s a bit too spiritual for your taste, but what I mean is that “The Ideal” isn’t an empty room, nor is it a color palette, a style, a number, or a set of rules. It’s the end result of a personal journey to the intersection of an aesthetic, a mindset, and the creation of calm.

It’s the feeling of looking around and having every item in its place. It’s not letting the emotions of others run your life and keep you up at night. It’s knowing you are working towards a goal that is better for not only yourself but for those around you. It’s about clearing out everything that is in the way of the life you’re trying to live.

That’s not something a set of rules will bring you. Or certain pieces of clothing in certain colors. It’s not something you find in another person’s journey. It’s the picture that illustrates your quiet place. In essence, it’s you.

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