Minimalism sucks. No, not fundamentally (say, like fascism) but in its ultimate goal. It is an elusive pursuit; a constant work-in-progress. And how could it not be? There are never enough things that you cannot own. Besides, in our consumer-driven, Instagram-obsessed, Pinterest-inspired lives, there is always a new eco-friendly, vegan leather, homegrown brand that has an end-season sale. Buy, you must.
Should you choose to no longer be tangled in this web of things, minimalism can save you. And since it is a journey, you can never really fail. Once you start, the only way is forward. The elusive destination, then, is probably the name of the game. Minimalism is learning to say no—an investment with endless returns. If you are concerned about being too dependent on nondescript things or about the lack of space in your home, then too, is minimalism for you. God bless you if you want to try it because of your carbon footprint (what do I know, people still deny climate change). Regardless of the reason, if you’re here, this minimalist guide to minimalism could perhaps help you minimally.
Resent your belongings. They are not only too many in number but also intrinsically ugly. There’s suddenly too much colour and you must decide that life is better imagined in monochrome. Get rid of all excess. Minimalism experts call this decluttering.
Ironically, decluttering is a clutter-some project. It takes time, too much effort and an unjustified decision-making power. Your brain is muddled; drowning in the sea of things you have accumulated over time. You can’t save you. Even Marie Kondo couldn’t save you. But you must get through anyway. The cupboard will get lighter, drawers emptier and the desk cleaner.
You feel good. You’re on a high. This has been excellent so far. Who cares about that 70 per cent sale? Or the changing season? You are immune. You have everything you could possibly need. To hell with social norms, you’ll set your own—with your capsule wardrobe and unrelenting commitment to a consumption free life.
Suddenly you realise that you did in fact need that pair of pants you’ve had since eighth grade and not worn since. You replace it with an ‘earthy colour’ piece of clothing, one that complements your new-found minimalist aesthetic—bare walls and ruthless heart. You also buy a new bag, some new jewellery and the new iPhone. Anything to fill that void whose erstwhile residents were things that you so unceremoniously threw away.
And now, you’re guilty. The hours you’ve spent scrolling through that e-market are wasted. The high from swiping your card has eroded. You’re none the wiser. You indulge in doom scrolling of another kind: endless hours of decluttering videos on YouTube. A perverse, vicarious pleasure. Watching it eases your guilt. In video after video, people discuss their minimalist aesthetic and the hipster things they buy to replace the ordinary run of the mill things non-minimalists buy. You’re hipster too, right? Isn’t that why you became minimalist?
Now you dream of those over-priced shoes, made so lovingly and sustainably in a village you’ve never heard of before (and can’t pronounce the name of either). And then it starts to seem counterintuitive: is minimalism about owning just luxury?
You go back to the basics now: YouTube content* that actually espouses and exemplifies minimalist living. You take copious notes (no reason to be minimalist there). You dedicate a page to minimalism on Notion. You’re back on track.
You feel really good now. You have systems in place, borrowed from others, developed on your own. You talk about minimalism with others, show off what you know about it. But you’re also no longer fixated on subverting all the rules. Minimalism is a game now, one you feel you’re always losing. Might as well get used to it.
It’s been years since the first declutter. And you continue to find more things to throw away, responsibly.
Congratulations. You’re a minimalist now.
*Matt D’Avella, Nate O’Brien, Ronald L. Banks, The Unlazy Way, Fairyland Cottage, Lana Blakely, Gabe Bult
Aarushi Aggarwal is Associate Editor at ALMA MAG. On most days, she studies foreign investments and writes about India’s economy. She has recently forayed into essay writing.