WHY I BECAME A MINIMALIST (AND YOU SHOULD, TOO)

Devin Brooks
 

minimalism is a beautiful thing.

Its benefits range from less stress to an improvement in relationships and quality of life.

Like most things in life, everyone comes to minimalism for their own reasons. The wonderful thing about minimalism is that it's flexible enough to include an infinite amount of lifestyles, whether you're an entrepreneur looking for clarity of mind or perhaps a fashion enthusiast trying to build their ideal closet.

If you're unsure about minimalism, maybe my journey to it will help you connect with how it might help you.

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My journey to minimalism

I grew up in a school environment where bullying was not only accepted, but even sometimes propagated by authority figures. By second grade, I had met my first experiences with female bullying, and this trend would not stop even when I came into my college years. This bullying came from both girls my own age and even teachers and faculty.

To make matters worse, I also tended to chose friends who were not good to me. Often my best friends would want me around to listen to their problems and when it was convenient, but when it came time for my own feelings and hardships, they would laugh and even mock me. Sometimes this would happen in front of our peers.

I had it a bit rough. I didn't understand what I was doing wrong to deserve my experiences. To compensate for it, I changed my appearance, my clothes, the music I listened to. I tried becoming a different person to please others. The scar part as that I didn't realize how often I was doing this.

Eventually, I lost myself.

I, of course, still didn't realize this. All I knew was that I was still in a bad situation, friendless, and felt that I was constantly being punished for something I didn't know I had done.

This affected everything from my art to my career choices. I felt I needed to follow a specific path that wasn't necessarily what I wanted from life. I felt ashamed to write, and ashamed to produce my own work.

 

There is where I started to get in trouble.

I've always loved fashion, but the warm-good feeling that comes from shopping and owning material goods slowly became one of my only sources of pleasure. 

This exploded once I got older. I felt that I needed things to validate myself. I latched onto the ideas of the women in the magazines. I had to be like them. I soaked in and bought what the advertisements were selling like they were my personal religion.

I spent money unwisely, ran up debts, and spent hours searching for clothing I didn't need.

Did this make me happier? No. The high of shopping would fade away, and I'd realize that nothing had changed. I was still me.

 

Something had to change

I came upon The Minimalists in 2016, and I was astonished. Live with very little? What? How could anyone do that?

But as I read Joshua and Ryan's journeys to minimalism, I saw that they were onto something. I envied their mindfulness, their focus, and their happiness.

I decided then. I would try this whole minimalism thing out.

I didn't do the whole slow reduction in what I own, but I've always been a little bit dramatic. I cleaned house, donated bags of clothes, books and items.

At first I had what I could only call withdrawal. I felt strangely exposed with my bare bookshelves. I also realized that most of what little I had left I didn't actually love. I had only kept them out of a sense of necessity, but not because they made me feel good.

 

This, I think, is where the true meaning of minimalism hit me.

I thought that by getting rid of all my stuff, I would magically achieve this new life. I was, however, repeating the exact same pattern as I had before, only this time I was shedding items to be someone I wasn't.

Here's where my epiphany kicked in: the problem wasn't me versus the world. It was me versus myself.

I didn't like myself. Somewhere, deep down, I must have known this all along, but I've found that when we're just trying to survive, our minds will close out anything that could make us falter.

My mindset was also, ironically, preventing my progress and self-realization.

 

I had to accept some hard truths

Minimalism, of all things, showed me that my happiness was a result of my mindset. 

That's a hard truth to accept, considering that it meant accepting my present and past circumstances. I had to understand that even if, for some reason, I continued to receive the kind of treatment I've had so far, I was the one responsible for determining whether they hurt me or not.

The world was not going to save me. There was no one who would magically make my life all right and make the past years disappear.

My job was to accept my past, my present, and work for my better future. My job was to pick myself back up with self-love and generosity. My job was to continue to be the best person I could be despite other people's behavior.  

I've come so far since then, but I'm still working. I still have deep, black feelings from so many years of feeling attacked that it's hard for me to fully break from that shell of self-defense. Sometimes I don't make the wisest choices, but I'm slowly learning to treat myself with more grace and compassion.

Without minimalism, I still wouldn't have realized what held me back all these years later. I'm grateful for my discovery every day.

 

minimalism is a gift

Minimalism gave me the courage to look myself in the eye. This step opened up an entire new world of possibility: it streamlined my focus and brought back my artistic confidence.

Once I vowed to be kinder to myself, I found that I was no longer ashamed to pursue my work. I was brave enough to strike out my own path despite other people's reservations for me. 

To be more specific: less stuff equalled more time and more focus. I found I wasn't distracted. I could work hours and hours on a project, get fully consumed to the point where I didn't pay attention to the time. Creative flow became an experience I was familiar with.

By only keeping the things that mattered to my life, I realized I had achieved that clarity that I so impressed with from The Minimalists. I was truly pursuing what mattered most.

I also wasn't afraid to start from scratch. While minimalism does save you money, this wasn't an immediate benefit for me. I mentioned how I didn't love what I currently owned.

If you've read A Minimalist's Guide to Prevent Over-Shopping, then you know I am a fashion freak. My current closet was full of reminders that I bought for others, not myself. So: I scraped my closet and built a capsule.

It took a long, long time, but I was determined to bring a limited number of pieces into my life that were unique to who I was and truly made me feel beautiful.

I wasn't afraid. In the important parts of my life, I no longer am.

 

minimalism can do the same for you

Not my exact experience, but hopefully you can see that minimalism is not about counting your possessions. It's about instilling the confidence and love within yourself to live only with the things that bring you joy and have true meaning in your life.

Whatever journey you're on, minimalism can be incorporated into your life to deal with whatever struggles you're braving through.

FURTHER READING: 3 THINGS MINIMALISM ISN'T AND 5 THINGS MINIMALISM IS

What do you think of minimalism? Do you want to give it a try? Let me know in the comments.


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