Journey of a Fashionable Minimalist: Episode 3 – Discovering minimalism
This post is part of a 12-part series called Journey of a Fashionable Minimalist, telling in part my decluttering and minimalism journey, as someone who has always been interested and invested in expressing herself through outfits and accessories, and other related things I’ve learned through minimalism. A new episode is posted monthly. Read all posts in the series.
I first discovered minimalism around 2011–2012, when I was talking to my friend Rachel about YouTuber Alex Day. We both watched his YouTube videos because he was funny and his videos were genuinely entertaining. Rachel and I talked a lot on MSN Messenger, and she told me about Alex Day sharing that he owned less than a hundred things in total.
This seemed bizarre to us at first, because as we started to count some of our belongings, it became apparent to us that we must surely own over a thousand things. I was so sure I had almost two hundred books at the time. Understanding that he had lived on his own and not with his parents like both of us, perhaps it was easier to just own fewer things.
Rachel and I were surprised by the amount of belongings we had, so we held each other accountable and made a goal to get rid of 71 things by the end of the month. I don’t remember the number exactly, but it was somewhere in the 70s. I wrote a list of all the items I had decluttered (I actually blogged about it, but it was on a separate blog that is now defunct), and Rachel and I found it surprisingly easy. Some of the things I had decluttered included pens that didn’t work, notepads that never got used because I thought their designs were “too nice”, and other random trinkets and broken jewellery that I previously couldn’t bring myself to get rid of. It was through this process that I was encouraged to go through more of my belongings and remove anything I didn’t need or hadn’t used in a while. It made me realise I had a lot of things that I didn’t use, that were taking up my personal space in the room I had in my parents’ house. I had definitely owned a lot of items that had no worth, value, or purpose in my life.
Initially, I don’t think I knew that this could be called minimalism. I just thought of it as simplifying my life. In 2012, I started something called Project Simplify Georgie – it was a blog that outlined my efforts to simplify my life, both physical and digital. There were some things I completely jettisoned, and others where more of a process was involved. What shocked me most was perhaps the amount of clutter I had in the form of ornaments, costume jewellery I didn’t really like, a lot of sentimental items that were effectively just pieces of paper, not to mention various bric-a-brac that was away in storage. I feel that storage should be used only for things we really want to keep, but that we have no space for at the moment.
Marie Kondo has been all over the news lately. She suggests in her method of tidying up to tackle sentimental items last, as they are hardest to replace, and by the time you reach them you will have had enough practice finding the things that spark joy to be able to deal with something as important as old photo albums passed generations down. However, as someone who loves clothes and fashion as much as I do, it was very easy for me to declutter sentimental items and find solace in the fact that they were part of a memory that I could clearly re-live in my head, yet much harder for me to pare down my collection of clothes. That said, Marie Kondo’s passion is not with the concept of minimalism but rather with keeping places tidy and making sure everything has a home in your place. The method of going through your belongings and removing things that “spark joy” is certainly one that can be tied to minimalism, because minimalists generally live a minimalist lifestyle so that there is more room and more time for things and experiences that make them happy.
I learned a lot of what I know about minimalism today from The Minimalists – what one might call the OG folks who popularised a minimalistic lifestyle, were agains consumerism, notoriously left their high paying jobs, and sold a lot of their belongings to do what they really wanted with their lives. The concept was mind-blowing to me. Until I found out about minimalism, I did not realise how much clutter I had at home, and how many unnecessary things I was holding on to.
Decluttering my digital life
The decluttering of my digital life was not difficult. I had built up an obsession of registering domain names and then not really doing anything with them. I could only maintain a few projects at a time, so it made sense to let the domains expire and stop squatting them. At first it was hard, so I started giving away domains or selling them, so I could get some money back. Those that I couldn’t sell, I eventually just let go.
I pared down the amount of fansites and fanlistings I had. I was a big part of The Fanlistings Network, and I don’t think I had the most fanlistings (there was no limit to how many you could have), but I was probably one of the people with the most. I had 121 at my peak. Although it was relatively easy to adopt a fanlisting out to someone else, and get the details changed at the Network, I liked a lot of niche television shows, musicians, and songs, so most of the time I ended up having to close my fanlistings without finding a new owner. I got rid of a good 50 in a short period of time, and it sort of trained me to be better at applying for fanlistings for subjects I truly loved and cared about. Yeah, only the ones that really sparked joy.
After that I decided to reorganize the websites I owned. I ended up consolidating the blogs I had all over the place. I moved all my written pieces to my blog, and I ended up deleting a semi-private blog I owned. I had a blog for things I learned and my notes from university, as well, but I ended up taking that down too. I also had a website that served as a gallery for stock photos. I simply didn’t have the passion to keep all of these going at once, and every time I tried to funnel some of my energy into these projects, I always ended up at the same place: my main blog, which has evolved to what it is today, and what you are reading this blog post on.
Funnily enough, I did dedicate a small blog to my decluttering efforts. It was called Project Simplify Georgie. At least I didn’t put it on a flashy new domain name – I just put it on a subdomain to keep things simple.
Decluttering my wardrobe
I attacked my clothes head-on. I spent so much time decluttering my digital life and was feeling rather good about it but I hadn’t really tackled my wardrobe.
It was difficult facing a lot of the clothes I owned because a lot of it was built up from clothes that were given to me or that were bought for me. I found a way to separate my clothes between what I liked and what I didn’t like, and I hid a lot of the clothes I didn’t like towards the backs of my drawers or buried deep in my wardrobe. I didn’t want to tell my family about my feelings because I felt that they would be offended.
For a short time, keeping the clothes I liked and at the front of my drawers, or all in one spot, helped me forget about the clothes I didn’t like. But over time, this ate at me – they were forgotten about, but they were still physically there.
Because I was brought up to wear my clothes until the fabric was well worn, these were the only clothes I felt confident enough to tell my mum about and she would often give me the green light to throw them out. Oftentimes, I’d use them as rags to wipe dust off the surfaces of furniture in my bedroom, before they were tossed. When clothes were far too big or small because I had grown out of them, I brought them to my mum and she would often give them to my cousins who would fit in them.
Some of my cousins really appreciated receiving the clothes I didn’t like. They live in Indonesia and the style of clothing they stock in stores there is vastly different from what is sold in Australia. They also can’t afford to have a large wardrobe of very nice clothes. I never thought about it then. I was just glad to get rid of the clothes. But now, as a regular second-hand buyer and seller, I can understand the joy one gets in finding a new owner for things they don’t like, and I can understand the joy one gets in inheriting something that someone doesn’t want anymore.
After some time I disliked this process because my mum would suggest I keep clothes that I didn’t like – because they were “still in good condition”, most of the time. But I often hated wearing these clothes and they made me feel uncomfortable, and I didn’t want to own them at all. In an upcoming episode I will discuss more about style, but wearing clothes I don’t like is a no-no for me, and why it’s now very important for me to put a lot of thought into the clothes I buy before I buy them. Because my mum didn’t really allow me to pass these clothes on, I often went and sneakily donated some of them myself. I would fold them neatly and put them in bags, and put them in clothing bins or donate them to the nearest op shop. If they were in good condition, and clean, I thought surely someone will want to have them, or they would be sent to people who are not fortunate enough to have comfortable clothes.
Minimalism is a journey, not a destination.
One of the things I try and explain to others who are unfamiliar with minimalism or are misinformed is that minimalism is not a destination. There is no end point with minimalism. It’s not something you go through a process to achieve and then you’re done. It’s something you live and breathe. It is also the reason why counting your things and trying to have as few items as possible is not the right way to go about it. It can certainly help to have a wardrobe of only a hundred clothes (I’ve got less than a hundred as of writing this – yay!), especially when you have hundreds, like I used to. But it’s not ideal to be fixated on the number.
My minimalism journey started in 2012. It was not until 2017 that I felt a little more at peace with the state of my wardrobe and my things. It was easy to swap a handful of my unwanted CDs at the local CD shop for albums I truly loved (I was the person with every Nirvana album known to wo/man). It was easy to bin tarnished and essentially useless costume jewellery, but my wardrobe was the worst of it all. I’d barely counted half of my clothes and stopped at 200 pieces before I started donating them bags at a time. I wanted so desperately for that number to be smaller. But I also wanted the space. I wanted to have a wardrobe of things that I truly liked.
I loved downsizing my belongings. I loved the feeling of realising I had so much, and so much that I didn’t need or could live without. Decluttering became so therapeutic. At the same time, it was quite exhausting.
Stay tuned next month to read episode 4, where I detail more about my decluttering journey in relation to clothes.
🗒 There are 12 parts in this series, and one will be posted on the second Friday of every month until December. (This one was an exception because of my International Women’s Day post last week.)