A few moments ago I took this picture. I find it a bit weird though, how nice this pile of old clothes looks but I guess it is still better to have a memory that serves the Instagram aesthetic than just a bunch of ugly photos. A little awkward guilt overcomes me while holding the camera. Me, the self-proclaimed minimalist, am I not? Should I not be over stuff?
That brings me to the answer of the question from the title. I’d like to give it to you right away, instead of having you read a two-digit amount of paragraphs to get a vague, personal poem. No. It never ends.
But: It gets better!
Over time, it really does. And yes, no matter how little it is you get rid of, the weird feeling stays. It will always be somewhat unsatisfying. In the way that while decluttering you will have to look at your mistakes as a consumer again. And please, let’s just call them that. Mistakes. Let’s not call it experiences or ramble about what we’ve learned from them. If we really had, this would not feel so uncomfortably familiar.
Of course, we did understand that this color didn’t match our hair. Or that it was really naive to wait one year to find out whether we would then fit into a size 0 again. (I did not make it. Did you?) We make those mistakes, and we do not make them for the first time.
After such a long time living this minimalist life, I for one still do have issues with this kind of self-awareness. Because people change. I don’t like the same thing every and every and every year. And I am not bored easily (except for really bad talks from colleagues who think they don’t need to be good at explaining stuff to be a great scientist, but that’s different). I just don’t like when it gets too repetitive and boring. And that can happen with everything. Clothes, furniture, hobbies… People change. My interests, favorite colors and taste changes.
This is also one of the reasons for me to probably keep a few more clothes than other minimalists. It makes it possible to go back to old styles I liked. For many things I decluttered in my life, I am really certain that it was the right decision. And I don’t base those on questions like »Might I still like this 10 years from now?« I do however not completely avoid this question. Because to me it is a question of sustainability and anticipation.
I also need some clothes for special occasions. Those with the formal wardrobe and the good manners. And in Germany, I also need to have those for every other of the 125 different seasons that we have. That’s not multi-purpose and it is pretty annoying. But it doesn’t do anything for me if I complain about it.
The trick is, to cultivate and maintain a minimalist wardrobe despite all of this nonsense. And in a way I am glad that I still have things to declutter. Because it means that things can get even better. Maybe I’m also a little emotional about this, because if my life would follow the ideal of Marie Kondo, I would really never have this nice feeling of ridding myself of stuff ever again, would I?
Following such high standards once, I really did become an extreme minimalist at some point in my life. I only had very very few things. Not more than one or two pieces for each (clothes) category. Even socks. In my manic naivety I washed them in the soap water when I took a shower and dried them over some heating pipe going to my neighbor’s apartment after (I did not turn on the heating myself, of course). To be honest, this experience might sound crazy but it was very much worth it. I am just over that phase now and I love my 20 pairs of socks. None of them are one to many.
Still, I always try to follow one of my favorite principles. I want to be consistent and consequent with my personal style.
That is, always being aware of the changes that happen to me. Being mindful and not becoming overwhelmed by things I buy. For instance, letting to many colorful pieces into my life rather than maintaining a lot of basics. I find enough chic in plain clothing. If something is too special, it almost always means, that you will be bored by it much faster. That is one of the biggest problems I have with fashion, and the main reason why I prefer to ignore trends.
My second important rule is that I try to be honest with myself.
If I really don’t like something anymore, then it has to go. It will find a new owner, I’ll make sure of that and I always find a sustainable way to get rid of things I do not need anymore. To me it is very important to only surround myself with things I really like.
That does not mean that I would toss out a sweater because of pilling. That’s not me either. (Also I own a Wonderbrush.) When I notice that I have mentally grown out of some style, or something just doesn’t fit me anymore, then I simply accept that it’s better to let it go. This works almost instantaneously for me. All I have to do is to think about it and be honest.
And this goes for many parts of my life. Home electronics, household stuff, etc… things just have to be replaced sometimes or new things are needed if situations change. With bigger items there is just one rule I try stick to: Always make sure you have the space before you buy it! – That really helps to avoid the situation of a once again cluttered space.
Now you know all my major strategies to keep my life low-maintenance.
And even if I would produce a pile like the one in the picture every half a year, coming to my decisions like that consistently, following those rules, just makes it more okay for me.
However, decluttering just once and then almost never having to do it again will be the better feeling in the end. I managed to be like that for several years. But right now it is not like that. I have a kid, we just moved, some things broke, bla bla bla. But it is true. Just being done with decluttering is great. It is the goal of minimalism.
Nonetheless, I believe that this perfect state can not be permanent. As I said, I think that people change. Very mindful minimalist might stick to their principles of not buying new things more consistently thant others. Thus, change happens much slower for them. But it still does happen.
Also, we always have to take into account which context we have. Are you a family? Are you single? Do you have a lot of space? Do you love books? I like to sew, for example. But often I make pieces I am not super content with, because they do not fit or look as I expected. Practice pieces, that’s what I call them. They all have to go eventually. And to be honest, I sometimes thought about giving up sewing, because it really is not minimalist unless you only ever make your own clothes. But I’m not that jacket-good, and I won’t ever be if I just sew what I need and not what I want to try.
At this point, I am very happy that I overcame any issue I ever had with being too attached to things that were expensive, a lot of work (like sewn clothes) or that I just really adored once. When I’m done with them, I’m done. And I know that it hurts me more to keep something old that does not serve its purpose anymore. And that letting go of it is merely the mindful thing to do.