Following a gap year in 2013/14 my husband and I returned to the UK to be faced with a huge storage locker full of ‘our stuff’. Before travelling we had stored our belongings, including furniture, household goods and clothes, thinking that we would need it all when we returned to our normal lives.
During and after our gap year we realised, to our horror, that these belongings, stored so carefully, were influencing our choices. We may have extended our gap year or chosen to live somewhere overseas long-term, but we returned to the UK because we had stuff here. Once we landed back in the UK we needed to rent a flat with enough space for our stuff. The alternative was to continue to pay for storage space. Eventually we chose a flat that was big enough to house everything because that was cheaper than paying for rent and storage.
After a year living from just one backpack I was overwhelmed by all of the stuff that we had stored and I hated that our belongings were forcing us to make certain choices. My minimalist journey started because I wanted to be free to make any choice I wanted. In the past I was not free to choose where I lived because of my physical possessions. I never want that to happen again.
We have now lived in the same rented flat for nearly three years and in that time I have been taking a trip towards minimalism, paring unused kitchen-ware and 40 year old encyclopaedia month-by-month. However, as we start to plan another long-term trip I know that I have not arrived at my minimalist destination because I would still need to rent a large storage locker when we pack up again. It is difficult to decide to let go of some items, especially as we have storage space in our flat at present. My husband is not so keen on the idea of minimalism and he is holding onto some of his belongings with a death grip, but I will continue a slow and steady purge of all sorts of things and I hope to wrench some old shoes from his grasp very soon.
Overall becoming minimalist is taking a lot more time and effort than I expected. Thankfully I have managed to maintain a perspective that allows me to appreciate the step away from consumerism and I have tried not to add possessions to replace those that have been given away or discarded.
I know that minimalism will mean different things to different people. In addition to being free to make choices, I am hoping that having few belongings and eating simpler meals will allow me time to concentrate on the more important things, like family, friends and appreciating the beauty all around me.
The shape of my life has been influenced by the lives of people I have met when travelling, though I know my lifestyle is very different to theirs, as they do not have a choice. Living in the UK means that I am far richer than most of the people on the planet because I have food, clean water and comfort. Being able to make choices makes me extremely privileged.
While I romanticise a simple lifestyle, my ideals would likely be scorned by many people who would love to be able to rest or daydream with a full belly. Resting and eating are things that I take for granted. Without a chance to rest and eat I know that I would have few choices. As I take the time to journey towards minimalism I would wish freedom and choices for others.
I am neither wealthy or poor, but I am learning that it is my perspective that determines whether my life is overflowing with riches. I am hoping that embracing a simpler lifestyle, with fewer possessions and the freedom to choose, will allow me to explore the world or, at least, to explore my world.