A life-long minimalist

Minimalism has been a key concept that has been making the rounds for the past several years. Decluttering your life is inherently connected to Marie Kondo and her method, but other streams of minimalism have emerged as well.

I have watched hundreds of videos on YouTube about the subject, though I’ve never read the book and didn’t watch the movie either. But I have been curious as to how others are doing it and what their approach is.

As it is, I’m not following in anyone’s footsteps. I don’t declutter according to the Konmari method, I don’t get rid of all my belongings to become an extreme minimalist. I don’t furnish everything in white or at least very light colours. I have not eliminated all decorations either.

In fact, I have lived my own brand of minimalism for my entire adult life and even as a teen.

As children, my brother and I shared a room. We are very close in age and apartment-living in Berlin usually means limited room for every child to have their own. But eventually, I did get my own room and whilst I am the older sibling, I opted to take the smaller room. I felt I didn’t need a big room.

When my brother and I moved out from home and into a new apartment together, I opted for the smaller room again. When we moved after three years, I again took the smaller room available.

I never needed the bigger space. I had everything I could possibly want and since I never owned a ton of stuff, I didn’t need much furniture to store it in and was happy anyway.

My brother is the hoarder in the family. As in, he owns more stuff than anyone else in the family and keeps things on a ‘just in case’ basis. The concept of decluttering is foreign to him. Or has been until his most recent move into a smaller apartment for the first time in his life. His old apartment was massive, though, and the pandemic taught him that he really didn’t want to look after such a big place. So, he decided to downsize and realised just how much he would need to get rid of to make the new place work.

I have never been materialistic. I like a new shirt or new shoes as much as the next person. But I can only wear one pair of shoes at a time and usually don’t wear a lot of tops at once either (unless to layer in winter).

I have always had everything I needed and often more than that.

What really did it for me, though, was the decision to travel full time for several years. I had to get rid of all my furniture and decided to get rid of everything else that didn’t serve me on my travels, or I knew I wouldn’t want to come back to after. I left a few things with my brother and some more with my parents. But I didn’t want to clutter up their storage either, so most of my possession were donated or gifted to friends and family.

It was the most liberating experience of decluttering in my life.

Travelling and living in various countries on a temporary basis also meant that I didn’t accrue many new possessions. In my time in England, where I lived almost four years in total, I did end up gathering more than I had previously. But when I moved back to Germany and ended up in Hamburg, I still only had a few items, which I shipped across the channel at a rather inexpensive rate.

Settling down in Hamburg meant I needed furniture and all kinds of other things to equip an apartment with, most of which I hadn’t owned for years.

That cost money and since I tend to live more frugally, I didn’t spend a ton of money on new stuff either.

I have since moved to a new place and changed quite a few things. When I first arrived in Hamburg, I truly didn’t know how long I would stay, but now I am more settled, and I wanted my place to reflect me more. I felt the desire to create a home, which looks very different to a place where you know you won’t stay forever.

Whilst I currently own more things than I ever have in my life, my place is not cluttered. Far from it. Most of my furniture is open. I have only one set of drawers, and even my wardrobe is open hanging space.

I keep decorations minimal as I have never been a fan of kitsch. I own a solid capsule wardrobe that I am still adjusting here and there. My kitchen is sufficiently equipped for one person, and it is oddly the only place that tends to feel cluttered sometimes.

I’m happy with my version of minimalism and don’t feel the need to subscribe to anyone else’s version of it. After all, I had thirty years of experience with it now and know what I want and need.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t a minimalist traveller right away. But I will talk about that another time.