The Challenge of Minimalism

In March 2015, we let go of about 80% of our possessions. With some misgivings, I gathered my books and sold some, and then gave away a lot more. Our shelves, tables, chairs, and other appliances went to people who responded to the ads I posted on Facebook, Craigslist, or OLX. Even our set of clothes dwindled. Between myself, my wife, and my son, we gave away 4 big boxes full of shirts, pants, and other clothes.

My books are my best possessions and treasures. I had almost all of Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi books, Tolkien’s books, the game of thrones books (which by the way belong to the series called “A Song of Ice and Fire”), a bunch of Filipino and Ilokano books, and nonfiction leadership and business books.

We could only bring a total of seven (7) big suitcases up to 50 pounds each and one small carryon item for each of us. It was an awesome experience letting go of the things we will not need in our new home in the USA. We moved to Music City–Nashville, Tennessee for me to take on a new job and live our life there!

It was my first brush with minimalism and it felt great!

After a long, grueling flight with our then two-year old son, we arrived one August afternoon to an apartment–empty, save for the essentials. We had a queen-size bed, a sleeper sofa, a microwave oven, a toaster oven, and all the appliances in our apartment (washer, dryer, dishwasher).

Fast forward to 2018, we have a full apartment. We have probably gained back everything that we needed and let go in the Philippines. In just 3 years, our almost 1000-square feet apartment is now filled with all sorts of shelves and cabinets, and lots of possessions.

How did we accumulate so much in 3 years?

Re-establishing our lives in another country. My wife and I felt as if we were starting anew. I remember the joys of buying our first few possessions as a married couple. We shopped for stoves, refrigerator, and all the things that we needed as we started our life together.

Starting anew in a different country felt that way, too. We bought nice shelves, lamps, frames, dish ware, cookware, and so many things we needed. But if I’m being honest, we also bought a lot of things that we wanted to live comfortably and conveniently.

It’s so easy and very convenient to shop and buy things.

There are so many shops and stores in the USA! American malls pale in comparison to the ones in the Philippines! But man, when they go on sale, they really go on sale! When you go to the Clearance section, you also get lots of deals that are difficult to resist. (To be fair, a lot of these deals go directly to balikbayan boxes, waiting for their chance to be brought to the waiting arms, legs, heads, and feet of family, friends, and relatives!)

It’s also easy to buy used clothes, furniture, trinkets, and other household goods on thrift shops, garage sales, Craigslist, eBay, and other online stores! On that first year, we probably spent the first Saturday of each month at Goodwill because of their 50% OFF everything promo! That’s how our apartment got furnished for the most part, and we ended buying a little more than we really needed.

The Lure of the American Dream.

It is easy to equate success and happiness with the amount of possessions that we have. There’s something empowering with the idea that you could buy pretty much anything that you want. It can give the illusion that we are living in comfort and abundance.

Do we really need everything in our house?

In July 2019, we moved to a different apartment. It has more space and, more importantly, it is less expensive than our previous one.

I asked several friends to help us move our things. It was tough. We still have a lot of possessions. To be fair, our baby, who is 8 months old, needs a lot of things: crib, some toys, cleaning and steaming equipment, and lots of clothes.

Exploring Minimalism

I have read several books on minimalism. The best introduction, perhaps, is Joshua Becker’s “Simply.” It is a very short book and provides the 7 principles to declutter one’s home and life.

Minimalism is a mindset and practice to be more aware of one’s needs and consumption. It is also a call for mindful consumption.

There are a number of ways that minimalism is practiced. Some people reduce the number of their clothes and shoes. Others decide to let go of anything that they have not used in a year. Still, there are others that follow Mari Kondo and ask themselves if something is giving them joy; if not, then it gets donated or discarded.

“Less is more.” That is the tag line of minimalism. Perhaps I, too, can implement it and find joy in a more limited amount of stuff.

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