Together with my wife, we are on a continuous journey towards a simpler life through minimalism. In this article, we would like to share what we have learned so far through this journey but before coming to that point, let us begin with how our life was before and how we decided to simplify our life.
We were married in 2015 and used to live an ordinary life at the standards of an average Turkish family. We need to get into the details of these standards for those who are not familiar with Turkish traditions of marriage and setting up a new home. In Turkey, a marrying couple has to buy a lot of stuff just because they are supposed to. Home of the newlyweds has to be “complete”, and the definition of this “completeness” includes a lot of furniture, a lot of kitchen items, a lot of home textile, or long story short, a lot of everything!
Although we tried to limit what we buy, we ended up having too many unnecessary items in our home. For example, we had a 96-piece dinnerware set for guests (which we only used twice in four years) as well as an additional 48-piece one for daily use of two persons (!). Of course, when you have that much stuff, you also have to get more furniture to store them, so it was a self-promoting process forcing us to buy more and more.
Eventually, we found ourselves in the midst of the chaos created by our belongings, most of which we don’t even use, and started to discuss the awkwardness of the situation we were in. However, it is not always easy to downsize. We couldn’t give up most of those stuff at once because they were just new and we paid a lot for them. Therefore, the first solid decision we made was to stop buying more. Then, we left it to time to get rid of the unnecessary items one at a time.
Fortunately, it didn’t take so long to radically give up almost everything we had when we decided to move to Canada in 2018. When it was time, we had 6 large size suitcases to fill, and this experience taught us how to select what we really need. The rest, we donated. On December 30, 2018, we arrived in Canada with less than 200 kgs of luggage in total, and we were ready to make a fresh start and set up a new home but this time in our own way. After spending our first year in our new home by constantly simplifying our life, we decided to list the most important lessons we have learned during this process.
- Having too many belongings is exhausting
Only after leaving almost all of our belongings behind and making a fresh start with less, we realized how complicated and tiring it was to live with them. In our new home, we only have what we really need and get only when we identify a real necessity. With this, we could clearly see how much time and money we wasted on what we used to have. Having less liberated us, and now we can take our time to focus on subjects that really matter. In the past, we used to complain about the lack of time but now we can somehow find enough time to set up our own business and even some more to spend on art projects. Being quite selective about what we will have and making efficient choices with them made our lives a lot easier.
- Biggest challenge: how to decide what we really need
Earlier, we mentioned the importance of identifying what we really need. Now, we will explain how we could make that distinction. Prior to our decision to leave everything behind and move abroad, we agreed to eliminate things that we didn’t need. The tricky part is when you already have that much stuff, it is hard to identify if you really need it or you are made to think that you need it. As a solution for this, we started with a simple formula: WE WOULD GIVE AWAY ANYTHING THAT WE DIDN’T USE AT LEAST 3 TIMES DURING THE PAST 6 MONTHS. It seemed to be a fair way to get rid of most of the unnecessary items but it was too slow.
Luckily, our suffering hadn’t lasted long and we could have the chance of a fresh start. We wanted to make sure that we wouldn’t have anything unnecessary so we began with getting only the essential items including a bed, a table, 2 chairs, a pan, 2 plates, and some cutlery. Then, we started to act on another simple formula which we are still following: WE WILL BUY AN ITEM ONLY IF WE NEED IT MORE THAN TWICE IN A MONTH, OR IT IS NECESSARY FOR OUR HEALTH. For example, we were sitting on our chairs and working in front of our computers most of the time, and it took us three months to decide that we really needed a couch because sitting on the chairs all the time was not good for our backs. Or, we didn’t get any extra chairs until we made some friends here to invite for dinner.
After experimenting both ways, we can say that starting from zero and getting only what we need was definitely easier for us than trying to downsize.
- Functionality matters
One of our key decision parameters for buying something is functionality. First of all, all the things we buy should have a certain function, and if possible, more than only one function. A couch that can turn into a guest bed or a table that could be used for both dining and studying could be some very obvious examples for such multi-functional items. Apart from the tangible functions, there are also aesthetical concerns. We also regard some stuff like a nice painting on the wall or a pot plant as essential to satisfy our emotional and aesthetical needs. However, it is really important to have limits on such items because having more than a couple of them will crowd your sight, your mind, and then your life.
- Quality matters, too
Quality is actually the very essence of living a simple life by having less. As we decided to consume less and limit our belongings to what we need, we had to make our choices wisely in favor of durable and high-quality items so we wouldn’t deal with the hassle of repairing or renewing them frequently. You don’t want to spend your money and time on low-quality items which will definitely not help you live simply.
- Minimalism doesn’t mean deprivation
During this article, we have continuously talked about having less and limiting your belongings. This might give the impression that we are living less of our lives; however, living in a minimalistic way doesn’t mean that we are depriving ourselves. This is not the fact. We actually have all we need but not more. Getting to this point was challenging because it was hard to overcome our consumerism, deciding what we really need and changing our daily habits in this direction. Once we reached a certain point, we realized that we had a lot less than we used to but at the same time, we had everything we need. This enlightening process has shown us that we used to spend our life for the sake of things and having more of them. Now, we know that we live for ourselves and enjoy a life free from thinking about what we have or what we should have.
- What about the deeply penetrated urge to consume more?
Well, being born into a system promoting endless consumption, it is hard to take ourselves out of this deep hole of trying to have everything that we can. To effectively cope with this urge, either you have to be very determined and dedicate yourself to living with less, or you will need people around you to support your effort and even join you. In our case, we were disturbed by having too much and determined to change this but being young humans, we were not always able to resist this urge. At those times, we depended on each other to remind: “Do we really need this?”
Having less has brought a beautiful peace of mind into our life and we feel that we have just started to live the best of our lives. We are now far ahead of where we were in a couple of years ago in terms of having a simpler but more meaningful life. However, we must also admit that we are not there, yet, and considering our life a journey, there will always be a path to walk through and more room for improvement. If you are exhausted and have a feeling of emptiness, we recommend you to give minimalism a shot and try to simplify your life by having less and living more.