Seth Barham Design
Minimal and effective design, inspired by culture.

Spartan Wanderer

Ramblings from the road, gear reviews, design trends, and whatever else happens to be on my mind.

What I've Gained From Minimalism

Well guys, we’ve done it. Minimalism is mainstream. Marie Kondo, famous for her minimalist magnum opus The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, has a Netflix show. I started to adopt some minimalist tendencies back in 2010 after falling in love with backpacking. When you hit the trail you hit it light, or you risk not completing your trip at all. I decided to apply that principle on a macro level, reducing my material possessions and moving lightly through life.

What was once viewed as a peculiarity of mine is now being absorbed and implemented by the masses, which has given me a mixture of smug vindication and slight frustration. Does it really take a Netflix documentary for people to recognize how out of control our mindless, insatiable consumption is? Will it make a lasting impact, or will it fall completely to the wayside after its 15 minutes of fame?

It’s hard to say. But what I do know is how much of a positive impact minimalism has had on my life, and I want to share these outcomes with anyone interested in this life-changing magic.

1. I have more freedom.

I’ve split my time between 5 different countries over the last 8 years as well as excursions to several others. You can’t do this comfortably with a load of crap that you don’t even really care about weighing you down. I’ve followed a pattern ever since my first trip abroad: 1) Clear out before I leave and 2) reassess when I return. A year away from whatever you have in storage can really change your perspective on what is necessary. I have no religious inventory of what I own, nor am I a self-proclaimed one-bagger, but I do have significantly less than when I started out. While most of what I own is tucked safe away in my childhood closet, I’m free to roam the world with just the essentials.

2. I have more space.

It’s amazing what a good declutter does to your living space. Depending on how messy you were in the past, it can completely transform your home. Possibilities now occupy the space where that shelf of knick knacks stood, gathering dust. It’s not about making a space more empty, but rather having more room do stuff in that space. Whatever that may be is up to you. My apartment in China is not exactly tiny, but it’s small enough that I need to be thoughtful about how I use the space. At the top of the list is leaving enough space open to exercise indoors when the pollution settles in, which is often.

3. I have more time.

After clearing out the things that don’t really contribute any usefulness or happiness to your life, you’ll quickly notice two major benefits: 1) it’s a hell of a lot easier to clean and 2) you know exactly where everything is. Both of these things work together to free up more time to be productive or to binge Deep Space Nine on Netflix. The choice is yours…the point is you have more time!

4. I have a new appreciation for things.

Once you cut out everything deemed unnecessary, or get rid of everything that doesn’t “spark joy”, to use Kondo’s own words, you really appreciate the things you have left. Now that I’m several years deep into this philosophy, I have become quite choosey whenever I buy something that is a material good. In fact, I spend way more of my disposable income on experiences rather than things. But when I do need something, I consider its form, functionality, durability, and if it’s clothes, its ability to remain relatively timeless.

5. I recognize the line between appreciation and obsession.

Of course, the double-edged sword of this mentality is getting too deep into communities like r/buyitforlife. There is absolutely nothing wrong with subreddits like these, of which I am also a member. However, they do tend to foment a cultish obsession for the perfect (often expensive) item for pretty much any category you can think of. The defense is that it’s “buy it for life” and worth the price. As someone who also fell down that rabbit hole for a while, I’ve realized that almost nothing is truly “buy it for life”, and I often spent too much time tiptoeing around in this expensive gear so I wouldn’t damage it rather than putting it through its paces during my travels. It’s good to appreciate your things, but don’t fall into the trap of replacing a perfectly useful object just because it’s not titanium or merino wool.

6. My digital workflows are decluttered as well.

While decluttering can be addictive, fun, and satisfying, you eventually run out of rooms and closets to clear out. Not to worry, there’s still more useless crap to dispose of yet! Only this time you won’t be taking it to the charity shop or throwing it into the recycling bin. Well, if you have a PC, there may still be a bin involved. I’m talking about your digital clutter, your useless pixelated fluff, your dismal desktop that’s in complete disarray. Not only will you free up some storage on the devices you declutter, but you also increase your efficiency when you don’t need to navigate around several duplicates of the same file or old digital junk that has lived past its usefulness.

7. My life is more streamlined than before.

What do you do once you’ve decluttered all of your material and digital mess? Declutter everything else, of course. A few things under my “everything else” umbrella have included various workflows for my freelance business as well as how I cook and how I clean. Whether I’m decluttering physical mess or streamlining life’s processes, it’s all done with the same goal of increasing time, space, and freedom.

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