Exploring Minimalism | Enough vs. Excess

2/18/2016

Minimalism: Enough vs. Excess www.kwananju.com

Growing up, my parents always made sure I had just enough to get by on. sure I didn’t live a life of excess. Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of the value and meaning of having enough. I became greedy and obsessed with filling my life with things. After amassing so many possessions, I realized that I felt stifled and didn't value the items. But, I don’t have to be enslaved by my possessions. I own my stuff, it doesn’t own me. So, I’m taking stock of what enough means to me and finding ways to enhance it.


My Path of Excess

I’ve always been envious of people who had the ability to get more. I thought that amassing great amounts of things would lead to a happily enriched life. I think that’s partly the Malawian in me - I find that my culture enforces the notion that more possessions mean more wealth, more abundance, more happiness etc.

Since I had set up this expectation, as soon as I could get more, I did. I never pay full price so I justified buying things by the savings I was making. I bought for the sake of buying and not out of necessity. To make matters worse, I often shopped as a form of therapy of coping with the stresses of life. In the end, however, the satisfaction and thrill of possessing something disappeared after a few uses.

Excess Leads to Clutter

All that meaningless consumption lead to clutter. It's no surprise that my physical space was messy. My emotional space became complicated with feelings of guilt, greed, frustration, and disarray. Having such an attachment to meaningless consumption is unhealthy and unnecessary. I find that this form of overindulgence doesn’t lead to much joy or fulfillment.

A Turning Point

Sometime last year I found myself with a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Clearly, this nothingness didn’t come from a lack of clothing. I realized that my compulsive shopping habits turned me into someone I don't want to be. I was dissatisfied with the sheer volume of stuff. I was also hit with a sudden awareness that it didn't contribute to my happiness or well-being.

I felt weighed down by it all; the greed of wanting to always have more, the guilt of buying into that greed, and resentment of having allowed myself to feed both the guilt and the greed. That’s a lot of emotional baggage to attach to clothing!

I realized that I had turned into someone I don’t want to be because of my compulsive shopping habits. I was blessed with the ability to acquire a lot of things, but they didn't bring much joy to my life - just clutter. I thought to myself - what’s the point of having all these things if they don’t contribute to my happiness? I realized that something had to change. I felt compelled to let go of excess.

Finding Enough

I'm working on gradually kicking my addiction to stuff. I now believe that clothes shouldn’t carry such emotional weight. The primary value of clothing is to supply a necessary barrier between your body and the environment. Their secondary is to decorate and adorn your body. I don’t need hundreds of items to achieve either purpose. I can achieve both aims without making clothing a source of guilt or resentment.

I’ve been getting rid of things that no longer bring joy. I throw out anything that's trash and donate or gift anything that might be useful. I currently have two huge bags of stuff in my living room that are going straight to a charity store. I'm also developing a closet that reflects my personal style. The plan is to only own things I love and use regularly. I plan to only shop with intention and purpose and not impulse.

My path towards a more simplified life is only just beginning. I've learned a lot in the past year and am looking forward to putting it into action. Your turn now: are there any things in your life that aren’t serving you? What’s your take on minimalism? Share your reactions in the comments below :) 

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