I have always been organized. Always enjoyed cleaning out my closet and throwing stuff away. Making space.
When I left for the USA in 2009, I gave most of my old clothes, shoes and accessories away. I burned a lot of notebooks, letters, cards and school material. I didn’t need any of that in my new life. I traveled light, one suitcase and one carry-on, and I felt lighter still. I was setting off for a year that would be the beginning of the rest of my life. I needed space and clarity.
Au Pairs made decent money, considering we didn’t have any obligations, and things are cheap there. It would have been easy to fall into the trap, but before buying anything I always asked myself: “Do I really need that?” The answer was often no and most of my money went to trips, events, going out and my bank account back in Brazil.
I packed my bags and moved another four times after that: USA – Brazil, Brazil – Belgium, Belgium – Brazil and finally Brazil – Belgium again. Cleaning up my belongings is a ritual I love. I appreciate the memories, reflect on how I’ve changed and feel great in letting go. I was proud to have everything I owned and needed in a suitcase or two. Such freedom!
Now for the first time in my life I’m living in my own home. It’s a small apartment and we keep it very neat - we recycle everything we can and we’re quite conscious shoppers, but I still believe we could do with a little less.
Less clothes, to start with. I donated two big bags in the end of summer and there are a few items on probation that, if not worn by the end of the year, will definitely find a new owner. It’s much more fun to have selected clothes that I love and look good in than to have a cluttered closet full of what I “don’t really like but might wear one day”. We all know how that goes.
I don’t think I could strictly adopt a capsule wardrobe, but my philosophy is easy and simple to live by: How many pairs of shoes do you possibly need? How many bags? How many dresses? I haven’t bought jewelry in a long time and you’ll often see me wearing the same eye shadow and red nail polish (now thanks to my sister I have So! Many! Colors! Five.)
Less “things” lying around. A good rule for this one is: if it’s not useful or beautiful, get rid of it. I’m pretty merciless in letting go of things, but I can’t say the same for my boyfriend. We’re working on it. We never ever play the wii and I suspect it doesn’t work anymore, but it’s still there. A couple of side tables I don’t really love, tennis rackets we haven't used in two years, cups, candles, magazines and other knick-knacks can certainly find a new fate.
If you’d like to give us awesome gifts, just give us books. Or a bottle of wine. Or a restaurant coupon. We don’t mind those one bit. We’re far from living a minimalist life, but I’ll certainly keep trying.
Less things to do. Saying no is hard sometimes, but it’s essential. I’m learning to skip engagements I don’t really want to go to or activities I don’t love in order to focus on what brings me joy.
Less unhealthy food. We’re cutting soft drinks, packaged treats, processed meat, frozen meals. We’re lucky to have the time and inspiration to cook our own food every day. To avoid waste, we plan what we'll eat the following week and only buy those things (also because of our tiny fridge).
Simplify. It’s calming. It’s good for the environment. Your wallet will appreciate it.
What I've been reading on the subject:
You can choose to want less, Yes and Yes
All you need is less, The Guardian
The 10 Most Important Things to Simplify in Your Life
Simple Living Manifesto: 72 ideas to Simplify Your Life
The Cheapskate Guide: 50 Tips for Frugal Living