I used to read through Huffington Post’s minimalist section in search of home décor ideas for my growing family and packing ideas for traveling with a family. I was also curious about the life of digital nomads and their way of life especially after a colleague of mine, Jacqueline mentioned of their existence. The digital nomads (people who travel around working on line) were able to achieve their lifestyle by scaling down their lives, ridding themselves of unnecessary possessions, and only investing in items that truly improve their quality of life. I fervently read through on line columns about people traveling around the world with only a small backpack and never felt like they didn’t need more that what they have.
At the back of my head, I asked myself “Was this all possible?” After all we grew up learning how to accumulate- from books, clothes, cosmetics, cars and money. Then one day, someone proved me wrong. Another of our colleague told me that he wanted to lead a “minimalist life” and got rid of most of his material possessions except for a few casuals and basic necessities. For a young man born into privilege life with a family home in a prime district in Singapore, Ivan tells me how he keeps it real.
In fact, Ivan has gone down the path of de-cluttering for years without realizing the meaning of it. “I would have episodes of having random things and not being able to make sense of my own personal space”. He would de-clutter in a few days but still hold on to much of his possessions. Months later, clutter would pile up again and he was back being a “hot mess”. Earlier this year, things changed. A friend of Ivan’s threw out bags of stuff after a reading a book on minimalism. The book is a best seller called “The life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo (also known as the KonMari method). After burying himself knee deep in the book, Ivan started to make true sense of the word “minimalism” and started to commit to follow some rules of the book.
“It was not an easy start,” said Ivan. “But on hindsight, I don’t miss anything I discarded”. He started by getting rid of all his possessions in bags and categorizing them, only to go back to them days later because “it felt like a waste.” In the process he kept thinking “I can’t give or throw this out because someone special has given it to me”. Days later when he held the same item in his hands again, he told himself “ I don’t really have the space for this”. And in the trash it went.
“Gift cards and little tokens from friends and family was the hardest”, Ivan admitted. “How could I throw away something that was handmade, handwritten or hand wrapped for me?” This took him weeks to whittle down before he decided on a few cards and handwritten notes. He them proceeded to scan these precious possessions shredded them and moved on. “I am happier that they are stored in soft copy and will never fade”.
After a few stressful weeks of putting away his things- Ivan could now see an island of articles, book and documents, toiletries, and gadgets. Everything he owned could be seen from a plain view. He then started to discard them by category. Ivan’s tip was “ to focus your mind on each item in each category to make a solid decision, in no order at all.” Marie Kondo also emphasized this tip. Ivan advised, “Dwell on things you are not sure of and give them some time to proof their worth. I also kept them throughout the day and looked at them and thought to myself if I did really need them. Needless to say, most didn’t make their cut.”
Ivan’s material possessions are now down to a few of these things:
1 pair of sneakers
2 pairs of socks
7 pairs of briefs
2 boxer shorts
2 casual shorts
1 pair of jeans
1 pair of casual pants
3 smart casual T-shirts
2 long sleeve shirts
1 pair of running shoes (will dump soon)
1 pair of sweats
2 active wear shorts
2 active wear t-shirts
1 pair of formal shoes
2 pairs of formal pants
2 button long-sleeve shirts
This process liberated Ivan. Today, Ivan feels “light”. He literally has no baggage; and enjoys the things he truly needs. He also doesn’t have visual noise in his personal space. He knows exactly where to look for his things and he has a new found discipline to challenge himself before buying something. He also finds it more enjoyable cleaning up and is confident that he can now live with much less. His overall focus at work, hobbies and training for sports is also now much sharper and with much more intent. When I asked Ivan to summarize his new life in three words- “Light, simple, clear,” was what he said.
Because of this exercise, Ivan is back in control, and he is now taking stock. “Learning to say no, surrounding yourself with possessions that bring you joy, is a big thing I had to tackle.” Control over his life from now on is what Ivan will be demanding. And this poem summarizes it all:
Thirty spokes meet in the hub; through the spaces between them is the essence of the wheel.
I learnt a great deal from Ivan and I personally think it is hard to be a minimalist; it requires you to be highly aware of what your actions mean. If you have chosen this lifestyle choice, and you are in the midst of bettering your life, I celebrate with you.
Ivan’s tips preventing clutter from resurfacing:
- Ask yourself if you truly needed that item
- Google alternatives and hacks to help yourself
- Minimalist living goes beyond any method and you need to adapt your own style
Co founder- Om & Away