I’ve been a collector all my life. As a child my toy box was bursting with small colorful things; I would keep all the things I found in nature, especially chestnuts, and combine Lego with Christmas tree decoration and cheap plastic giveaway toys.
It was a creative, colorful childhood. Material things can make you happy to a certain extent. All these things were valuable to me, because they inspired me to create. My mom would paint with me and I would make the most extraordinary presents for my friends out of the things I discovered in the depths of my boxes and bags.
Today, I consider myself to be a minimalist, but I’d never regret the many things I collected in my childhood. In fact, I still kept a few of these bits and pieces and use them – like the gemstones and seashells I put around my night sky colored candles. Or the souvenirs and presents that remind me of places and people I love dearly.
This wooden box on my desk reminds me of my grandparents, the coasters with prints of Mucha paintings make me think about a journey to Prague with my family and I found the huge seashell with my sister in Florida on Sanibel Island. The tiny book about Cape Town as well as the ‘Gift of Prayers’ my host family there gave me make me recollect memories of a time that shaped my personality very much and helped me a lot on my path of discovering the Bahá’í faith. The necklace that contains a grain of rice with my name written on it is a gift my host sister from Venezuela gave me when she returned to Germany.
How can I consider myself to be a minimalist while collecting material things? At some point in my life, I started to keep things that were not making me the creative and happy being I was as a child. I started buying make up, clothes and things everybody told me I needed, but that stopped me from expressing myself fully. My mind was filled with these things and I’ve let my possessions possess me. Doesn’t it make you feel a strange way to think about all the meaningless items you collected over the years? The Ikea decoration you thought you wanted, but you only bought because it was cheap? Or the many clothes piling up in your closet?
For me, the difference between the abundance of things I collected in my childhood and the multitude of things I possessed in my teenage and young adult life is the meaning I gave to these items. As a child I saw magic everywhere and I collected things to create stories. The bags of make up I possessed recently didn’t give me joy. I needed to change something and started to reflect on the value of my material possessions.
I love the process of decluttering my space. For me, it is not merely a way to make my space look a certain way on a superficial level, but it is a form of therapy. 2016 was crazy, full of new experiences in South Africa, but also filled with the depression that haunted me for months, after seeing what people could do… It was the most disturbing thing that happened to me, losing trust in people around me and in my own mind. It still takes time to heal and to rebuild my optimism and trust.
My faith helped me a lot. Detachment is a big part in the scriptures of the Bahá’í faith and hope can come from focusing more on the spiritual aspect of our lives, while not neglecting the material part fully:
It is indeed a good and praiseworthy thing to progress materially, but in so doing, let us not neglect the more important spiritual progress, and close our eyes to the Divine light shining in our midst. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 63.
I’m still a collector. A collector of stories, of meaningful reminders of the things I learned and that give me joy. But I needed to throw out all the meaningless items. I believe that reflecting on the value of things would probably make everyone of us a minimalist. We would become more joyful, it would change our mindset towards others, we would be less selfish and more capable of loving others and being loved. Also, we would live more environmental friendly and sustainable lives!
While saying goodbye to meaningless things, I also tried to implement a more eco conscious lifestyle. I try to avoid plastic and bad chemicals as much as possible. I replaced all my creams, facial wash items and so on with only a few natural products.
I use Dudu-Osun, a natural fair trade soap made out of ash and shea butter, a bamboo tooth brush by Hydrophil, zero waste tooth paste tabs, the Lush Soak ‘n’ Float shampoo bar, lavender oil for my easily irritable skin, as perfume and for my depression, rose water used after washing my face and coconut oil in a huge jar for skin, hair, to help my eye lashes grow and for cooking!
I also tried to minimize my waste in the kitchen by buying food in my own glass containers. In Münster, a zero waste lifestyle is quite easy because of the wonderful store Natürlich Unverpackt. They sell their products without unnecessary packaging – pasta, nuts, beans, spices, sweets, cosmetics and even cleaning agents! If you want to learn more about this great store, you can check out this article on the blog Wasteland Rebel. Shia writes about anything related to an environmental friendly lifestyle and published a book about Zero Waste living. I really like her hands-on approach and valuable advice!
Cooking brings me a lot of joy – especially if the food is easy to make, delicious and mostly vegan, but without feeling restrictive. Often people have an unhealthy attitude towards food. They are diet freaks or they eat junk food they don’t enjoy. Food is often connected to regrets and negative emotion, while it should be a source of nourishment, healing and joy!
There is one food blogger focusing on a vegan diet I really enjoy reading. She doesn’t like labels, but shows people how to enjoy a plant based diet full of taste and all the good things we want for our bodies, whatever shape we are. No weight loss programs, no body shaming, but recipes that make us feel good in our skin. Her name is Ella Woodward. You should definitely check out her blog Deliciously Ella or buy her book full of great recipes!
A beautiful inspiration on my path to a minimalist lifestyle is the film Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things that shows the lives of different minimalists and their ways of striving towards a more meaningful life.
I hope you will find as much joy as I did in decluttering your life and focusing on what brings you true happiness! The body and the material world are important, but we should not forget our spiritual life and our inner voice teaching us about the things that are really important!