Becoming a Minimalist

I was standing an airport in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania when I was waiting for my luggage to come out onto the conveyor belt. Half awake and jet lagged I stared at all the luggage pass by me without seeing my bright blue bag. I jokingly told my brother, “My bag is probably still in Ethiopia.” When the conveyor belt stopped, I slowly went into a panic mode. How was I going to survive without my clothes and shoes, my special shampoo for my dyed hair, and my makeup bag? For the record, I survived. My bag was put on the next flight from Ethiopia to Tanzania and it was dropped off at our hotel the following night.

The day I woke up and realized that I had no luggage, I let myself panic for a good five minutes and then told my parents that we needed to go find a mall to buy clothes for a few days. Without all my extra belongings, I realized I didn’t really need all that extra stuff to enjoy my vacation. It made me reflect on how much I didn’t need to be happy.

In grad school, I had no furniture or kitchen utensils of my own and all my belongings fit into a 10×10 bedroom. I borrowed a lot from my roommates and didn’t need to buy anything extra. When I moved to Richmond, my parents helped furnish my apartment and then I started to accumulate so…much…stuff… The following summer I moved out of my apartment in Richmond, put my belongings in storage, and spent the summer in Georgia. All I brought to Georgia were two luggage bags. It was freeing having nothing with me. I didn’t feel overwhelmed packing and I could actually see out of the back window of my SUV.

My excessiveness hit me again when it was time to move to New York. The moving company came to pack and pick up my belongings and asked me to sign the inventory sheet. The mover said, “Ma’am, you have forty two boxes. Please sign below to acknowledge that.” FORTY TWO BOXES?! These weren’t small boxes either. I was a little appalled at myself for having that much stuff in a one-bedroom apartment. Did I really need all of this stuff in my apartment? Thankfully the movers unpacked my belongings and put them in place. Once everything was put away, I made three piles of things.




The “need” pile was composed of things I needed: furniture, basic household goods for my living room, bathroom, and kitchen, clothes, shoes, personal belongings with value.

The “think about it” pile was composed of clothing and shoes I haven’t worn in months…pretty much things I forgot about. If I didn’t take anything out of this pile, I would donate it.

Lastly, the “donate” pile was for belongings I was ready to part with. I somehow ended up with two of everything from my old apartment even though I lived there alone. I also donated all my cheap IKEA kitchenware, which I replaced with Williams Sonoma (quality over quantity!) I gathered numerous trash bags of things and dropped them off to the local Goodwill. I felt so relived knowing I got rid of so much stuff.

After emptying about 30% of my apartment, I felt relaxed. There was less clutter, the countertops were always cleaned, my closets were not packed, and everything had a place without overflowing.

I finally tested my minimalism after taking a four-day trip to NYC with friends. I packed everything into a carry on luggage because I knew I had to get on the train, arrive at Grand Central, take the subway, and get to the hotel carrying all of my stuff by myself. I had four days worth of clothes, shoes, two jackets, and even had space for a bottle of Grey Goose (NYC alcohol is overpriced!)

Have you tried to be a minimalist?

Don’t be afraid to let go!


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