Student rids herself of worldly possessions

Michelle Fairorth

It’s hard to let go of things.

That’s not me trying to be Nietzsche. I mean, it’s hard to let go of things: literal things. Material possessions. My stuff, man; it’s hard to let go of my stuff.

But I recently discovered this ideology called minimalism. It’s not the same as Feng Shui, which I was lead to believe for years. It’s about de-cluttering your home, dumping your possessions into the metaphorical toilet of life and flushing them into the dark abyss. Or donating them to Goodwill, whatever.

The propaganda is this: “Fit your entire life in one suitcase!” It sounds glamorous. The idea that you own so little you can simply toss everything into one bag overnight and hop on a plane to France to start your life over and change your name to Ruby or something. Whether that is either really romantic or stupidly farfetched is up to you. What it undoubtedly isn’t is easy. It’s difficult, and there were tears shed, and I’m really, really embarrassed about it.

The goal of minimalism is to limit yourself to owning 100 items or less at a time. If you want to buy something new, you have to give something away, so as not to exceed your limit. The idea is that, without all these evil inanimate objects clouding your inner eye, you will be able to do some serious self-meditating and discover your “true self”. Or something. Looking back, I’m not really sure what the point of this is. In a free market economy based on consumerism, this is not a very realistic way to live, unless you also happen to live in a cave and flinch when the light touches the entrance.

However, if you are determined to become a minimalist, know that when it comes to giving away things that you care about and (possibly) base any part of your identity upon, ripping the Band-aid off does not work. You need to tread carefully, go slowly, take itty bitty baby steps.

Step one: discard your junk. Unless you are a hoarder or an Olympic couponer, this step will be relatively painless. Go through your old boxes in the attic, throw out the receipts and the socks with holes in the toes and that one teddy bear you had when you were 3 with a button-eye missing. Throw that garbage out. You’ll already feel lighter.

Step two: throw out the duplicates. Want to keep a box of colored pencils? Cool! Want to keep 20 boxes? You’re insane! Throw those multiples out and keep one or two. Your superego will punish you if you cave into the desire to hoard these things like a chipmunk storing nuts for the winter. If you need more, you can buy more when you run out. There is this thing called mass production, and another thing called Wal-mart, which makes this not only possible, but convenient. A box of colored pencils costs $6.50. You do not need 10 of them cluttering up your desk and storage space. You do not need seven deodorant containers. You do not need 50 things of toothpaste, and 30 phone chargers. You need one, or two, and the rest can go.

Step three: sentimental stuff. This is where the process begins to sting slightly. Sentimental stuff is OK, but you probably have a lot of it. I mean, you probably have hundreds of photos of your fifth grade choir performance, but honestly, do you need that many? If you are the kind of person who keeps every letter and childhood photo and newspaper clipping you have ever received, you need to let that go. Right now. I don’t care if it’s a blanket your great-great-grandmother knitted you: it has mothballs and it looks hideous. Get rid of it, stat! Chuck it out the window, along with the guilt that will inevitably follow suit. Sorry grandma.

Step four: this step is by far the worst. This is the one which feels like having your heart desecrated inside a nutcracker: narrowing down your crap. At this point, you have eliminated the junk, and the extras, and the sentimental worthlessness. Every one of your possessions is useful and valuable at this point, but you aren’t there yet. You need to take inventory of your possessions and figure out how far away you are from your goal number, which should be around 100.

This is where I gave up. What I forgot to account for in my estimations were all the little things I never think about: every lipstick and knick-knack each count as one item. I was forced to choose between keeping my headphones or my chap stick, this shirt or that pair of jeans, and in the end I couldn’t do it. The conclusion I came to is that maybe I don’t need to become a minimalist, after all.

While yes, it is unhealthy to hoard the things you aren’t using any longer, it is equally unhealthy to bring down the metaphorical guillotine on your belongings. You should possess the ability to let go of these things when you’re done with them, but by the same token, you certainly don’t need to burn it all for some bizarre, metaphysical reason.

So, take it from me. You will not feel better for throwing out your possessions. You will feel worthless, and empty, and you’ll want your old baby pictures back.