I’ve been thinking a lot about minimalism lately. It’s been a pet ambition of mine for a while now- most likely prompted by living in three countries in the same amount of years, which renders you with very little “essential” belongings. Upon arriving in Australia three years ago (three years!), there was no furniture, no cookware, no picture frames- no belongings to speak of save a few suitcases, instruments, a tent and some scuba gear.
My project to furnish a new apartment with entirely second-hand goods sparked a real interest in surviving and thriving with less stuff, and I was reminded of this while backpacking in New Zealand last month.
When you’re backpacking, you can’t take much with you.
A change of outfit becomes laughable. Every little thing adds weight, which is a real consideration when you’re pulling long days up hills, through wind/rain/typical NZ conditions. Every item has to serve an essential purpose, and for me, the size of my pack really forced me to reevaluate what essential means.
A change of socks: essential
A change of pants: non-essential
Coffee: non-essential, although I definitely brought it along anyway
A towel: essential
A pillow: Not so much
Backpacking is such a fantastic exercise in so many areas, one of which is having space enough to identify the things I use as crutches in daily life. There are a few of them: Regular, specific meals, good beer, social media, nice things… they’re comforts that mean a lot to me and when they’re not there, it’s a little uncomfortable.
It’s a little uncomfortable to not have the routine morning latte (#firstworldproblem, I KNOW). It’s a little uncomfortable to have packaged pasta dinners for three days running (although to be fair, Clary was an excellent campfire cook and we really did quite well with what we had). It’s a little uncomfortable to want to change your clothes and then realise you don’t actually have any dry ones. It’s very uncomfortable to not have a hot shower for four days.
But for me, the uncomfortable space is where growth happens. It’s where I am forced to get out of my own head enough to take note of the things that matter slightly more than whether or not my eggs had salt on them this morning. It’s the impetus to reevaluate the things I choose to consume or engage in. It’s the realisation that maybe I’m a little more material-driven than I’d like to admit.
These realisations, although not the greatest, are what prompt change. They inspire me to do more with less. To continue to scrutinise what I buy and the circumstances surrounding it. And not just in a material way, but also to be happy, content and present with less stimulation. To be okay with waning out the extraneous, the irrelevant, the superfluous.
Again, this quote spoken in a Hot Yoga studio in New Zealand: “Let go of what doesn’t serve you.”
Things that don’t serve me: unnecessary time on Facebook, impulse buys, impulse cocktails, drama.
Let go of it.
Minimalism is about weeding out the unnecessary and putting time and thought into the bigger things that remain. It’s an abstract interpretation of what is a very definite concept: to replace the meaning we assign to things and shift it to real experiences- people, emotions, knowledge. Real living.
“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
– Lao Tzu
“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”
– Frederic Chopin