Minimalism — How I’d gone too far!

(Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash)

Minimalism was and still is a style of art, music, architecture, etc. beginning in the 1960s that uses very simple ideas or a very small number of simple elements. However, in typical millennial fashion, we’ve adopted this art movement into a lifestyle trend now featuring YouTubers in bare rooms sleeping on the floor. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a hater, I too identify as a minimalist. But I often wonder, have we as a generation gone too far?

I’m sitting alone in my Pinterest-inspired neutral-toned work in progress of a living room; snowy white rug underneath my bum, leaning up against my ugly brown couch, legs propped up on a recycled cardboard-textured IKEA pouf, with my MacBook balanced perfectly on my lap. I claim to be a minimalist, but if you zoom out just a bit and turn off the Lagos filter, there’s a multicolored pile of folded laundry on the couch, I’ve got two candles burning, a cute ivy plant on the windowsill praying for a bit of sunlight from the wintery gray sky, and a lightly dusted litterbox in the corner with my cat’s green litter bag haphazardly leaning against the window. Zoom out to that wide-angle shot and just a few feet away is a counter with everyday bobs and bits strewn across it: a pile of mail, an empty Sephora bag, papers with scrawled out to-do lists, my second personal laptop in its case, papers with affirmations printed in bold sharpie, my planner and pens, a whiteboard with web design plans half smudged off, a dirty french press with freshly ground coffee beans, a measuring tape, random tupperware, honestly, I can go on. And if with each item I list, you’re raging more and more inside thinking How can you be a minimalist??! Then maybe this anecdote is for you.

My minimalist journey started in 2016, I just graduated from college and was spontaneously moving across the country with my boyfriend to the city of dreams. As I was sitting in my dark dusty apartment wanting more from life, I wondered why it was taking days to clear out this teeny tiny New York studio apartment. From frat coolers half-painted, to my boyfriend’s broken experimental tech, to school books and shallow piles of paper everywhere, to stuffed animals falling perfectly into a pile by the bed, to appliances I’ve used only once, I was slowly losing my mind. After many hours I finally cleared out my apartment and thought to myself, Wow I didn’t realize how much space I had, I guess it wasn’t that tiny after all! I had crap stuffed into every nook and cranny of a 700 sqft apartment, no wonder I was always depressed and anxious in that place. I decided then as I closed the trunk of my dad’s car, never again will I live like that, I would become a minimalist — although, I didn’t know there was a word for it at the time. “I will no longer waste my money and space with frivolous items to weigh me down. I will be free.”

Most minimalists share a similar story. They awoke one day and found that the things surrounding them didn’t make them happy and so they chucked all their possessions away including some things they would soon regret. Little did they know it might not have been just the objects that were holding them back from being happy. Moving to LA was my purge, with only two suitcases — I was too broke to bring anything but the essentials, luckily most of my prized possessions (HP book collection, stuffed animals, high school plaques, and old artwork) were cozying up in my parent's basement waiting for their fate to later be decided upon — I started my new chapter.

Being a minimalist while broke and in a new city was incredibly easy. For two years, my boyfriend and I focused on building our startup. We lived in a small studio half the size of my NY apartment. We had one bed, two stools for the kitchen counter/office (as in the 4ft wide kitchen counter was our office), and a cheap Amazon storage shelf for our clothes. Now, we didn’t live like barbarians, we obviously had the essentials — bathroom things, cooking things, and cleaning things— just nothing more. We didn’t have the money, time, or space for more and we never felt like we needed or wanted more either.

However, I learned an extremely valuable lesson about minimalism when we packed our bags to head back to NY, sick of the neverending sun, desert air, unusable public transportation, and loneliness from being away from our family and friends. This valuable lesson came in the form of a faded yellow and green comforter that was with my family from before I was born. I brought it to LA during one of my holiday trips home to visit family. I didn’t have space in my suitcase to bring it back with me to NY and didn’t think I needed it enough to ship it home, besides I’m a minimalist and I shouldn’t be weighed down by a comforter. So I tragically left it in the apartment for someone else to find. And to this day, I miss it — I still think about how it was there for every chapter of my life from when I was sprawled out upon it as an infant (I have pictures so I “remember”), to my college nights eating dinner in bed wrapped in a cozy burrito watching Netflix, to anxiously planning a business on top of its comfortable support — I took it for granted. Not to mention it was the best comforter practicality wise, the cool feeling against my skin during the hot summer evenings and its magical insulating ability during the freezing cold winter nights can only be described as an accidental discovery of some unique-futuristic tech. The likelihood of it being in a dump somewhere in LA breaks my heart. I still lie awake at night under a less cozy comforter regretting.

To some of you, this might sound oh so dramatic, to others maybe you feel me and are thinking about that one thing you desperately wish you didn’t get rid of. I guess after this seemingly long-winded story about my minimalist journey and an abandoned comforter, what I hope you take away is to not let an ambitious lifestyle trend rob you of the small joys in life. I now allow my space to be a little frivolous and messy with amazon boxes piling up during the holidays, affirmation notes littered across my kitchen counter, and a cute ivy plant catching sunrays on my windowsill to remind me that yes, too many material things can clutter your mind and hinder your life, but it’s also important to keep the items that spark joy — that was probably Marie Kondo’s most important point that most of us missed. I’m speaking to you weird millennial living like a squatter in her own home. (No hate, I’m a millennial too.)

Frankly speaking, if a lot of things spark joy in your home, that long sought after extreme minimalist apartment design might just not be for you and that’s OKAY TOO.

Here’s my realistic minimalist living room. (Photo by Iris Lee.)

I’ll leave you with this: Think before you end up in an empty apartment with just your thoughts, missing all the things that brought you comfort and happiness — making your place a home. Humans are sentimental beings after all.

Product Designer