During my freshman year of high school, my family traveled around the world for eight months. We had decided to take off after we watched an episode of House Hunters International. It was a spontaneous decision, but we were committed. I prepared for the trip by enrolling in online school, starting a blog, learning about the first country we were going to, and finally… packing. I asked my mom what we were packing in, and she told me that we each had only a carry-on and backpack. All my clothes, personal possessions, school books, and supplies had to fit into those two bags for eight months. At first, I had a hard time believing that all my stuff would fit. But I soon started the process of deciding what was essential to bring and realized that it would not be so difficult after all.
After packing a minimal number of belongings, we departed. As I looked down through an airplane window at my hometown, I knew that I would not see any of my other possessions for a long time. Soon, I discovered that having less was not so hard. In the morning, instead of searching for half an hour through a closet stuffed with clothing, I wore whatever was clean. I may not have been the most trendy or stylish 14-year old in the world, but my clothes got the job done. As for schoolwork, I managed just fine without eight hundred different pens.
As our trip progressed, I fell more in love with living out of a carry-on. It was one of the most freeing things I had ever experienced. Whatever I did not need or could not carry, I had to get rid of. If I needed something new, I had to make sure I had space for it. If I did not, I let go of something else to make room for my new possession. I considered every addition to my small storage space deeply. To have to be so mindful of everything I owned was enlightening and revealing. It made me question what was truly important in my life.
Eight months later, I walked back into my room at home. Although I was happy to be home, I was overwhelmed. There was just too much stuff everywhere, and I wondered how I could ever use all of it. I simply trudged on, accepting that this was just what American life was destined to look like. I would graduate high school with all my stuff, go to college, spend the rest of my life paying off college debt, get a desk job so I could support myself and buy more stuff, get married, have kids, retire, and eventually pass away.
One day, when I was scrolling through films on Netflix, I settled on one called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. The images on the screen flicked before my eyes and excitement welled inside me as I learned about the concept of minimalism. I finished the documentary, ran upstairs to my room, and got rid of half of my clothes. Since that day, I have been a proponent of minimalism and all the benefits it offers.
To me, the word ‘minimalism’ essentially means living with only what is useful or brings you true joy. The lifestyle is not meant to make you suffer, in fact, it allows just the opposite—allowing you to fully appreciate what you have. It emphasizes on people over things, and this helps to improve relationships in all areas of your life. Most importantly, it has taught me that material things should not be the motivation for my life choices.
Minimalism is a form of self-care. By not overwhelming yourself with useless clutter or striving to make more money so you can buy that clutter, you are giving yourself a break.
You are not defined by the amount of stuff that you own.