I used to say, "I have a high stuff tolerance." My home tours that have been posted on the blog over the years bear witness to that. It's been a mix of (mostly free!) furniture finds that speak to me, knick knacks picked up on trips, and random bits and bobs that I kept "just because."
I had an overflow of stuff and I didn't know what to do with it, so I sorted it, re-arranged it, and tidied it up. And then I got on a plane with a few suitcases, leaving poor JR to deal with all the stuff, and flew thousands of miles away for a year long adventure, the kind I've been wanting since I was fifteen and determined to live somewhere else that would grow me as a person!
And grown I have! I've grown in little ways and in big ways but one of the most acute difference is that I've been forced into minimalism by suitcase limits and I love it. I thought I would hate it. This was unexpected.
I don't get to stay here. I get one year and that's it. It's kind of like a sabbatical for me, so it's been useless to decorate, to invest in things I'll just have to leave behind unless they are truly, truly useful or so beautiful I can't resist buying them and shipping them home at the end.
I wanted to list the three most important things I've learned since I've moved here about being minimalist. These three values will totally transfer over to my life in Detroit once I return because JR's two week foray into life here in Korea earlier this month helped convince him that there was something good here. And here's what's good:
1) Owning fewer things means I spend less time managing these things and more time doing what I want and building relationships with people.
I don't have to dig through piles of stuff to find that one thing I want. I don't have to re-arrange or arrange sixty things just to fit one new thing into my life. Cleaning and tidying only takes a few minutes and everything has a home so it just goes there at a certain time throughout the day. Because I spend so little time on tidying up and cleaning I have lots of time to do other things I want, like shoot street style photographs, write articles, or talk to friends, both here and at home.
When I get home I want to make sure I remember that owning less stuff has a direct correlation between valuing my, and other people's time and creating relationships with other people. I never realized that before but now I know!
2) I am more focused on what I really want and have been able to define grown up, adult style for myself.
This has to do with the amount of clothes I have here. I have, simply put, a capsule wardrobe. I own about 40 things per season (sounds like a lot but this includes shoes, jewelry, hats, and so on...) and I rotate some things in and out as the seasons change. I've just gone into my second iteration of a capsule wardrobe here in Korea and getting dressed has become really simple. Like, five minutes simple.
To accomplish this. I worked through into-mind's guide on defining your personal style and creating a capsule wardrobe. The initial investment per season is larger than before (I spend about 300 dollars per season either replacing things or adding new pieces) I don't shop for three months once the buying is done and I only buy what's on my list. Inspired by un-fancy, when I'm getting the urge to shop I try a new makeup tutorial or learn how to style my hair.
I used to walk into my enormous closet and say, "who do you want to be today?" and dress accordingly. Getting dressed was a process that took between an hour and an hour and a half including hair and makeup. That's too much time for me. Now, I wake up and I just am who I am. I feel prettier and more collected on a daily basis but I'm definitely lower maintenance.
When I get home I want to make sure I give myself a thorough closet clean out, but also the luxury of buying what I really, really want instead of a dozen pieces that are "just okay." I also want to stay away from shopping as a group activity and do more coffee, dinner, or movie dates with my friends. I get to have two closets in my new house back home and I think it'll be great if one could be "archival" and the other "functional." I'm not willing to give up my carefully curated antique clothing collection because I am a textile enthusiast at heart, but having a functional wardrobe of modern clothes (now that I rarely wear vintage) is a great thing!
3) I have to make fewer decisions throughout the day so life is simpler.
This is the most profound thing I've noticed but also the most difficult for me to articulate. My options for what to do with my time are limited because what I own is limited: I can play my guitar. I can read. I can journal. I can sit on the internet. I can go out and do something in Seoul. I can exercise. When I cook I make simple things using my simple kitchen tools (though I will never overlook the importance of a garlic press again! I was given one and there's no turning back, y'all!). There's not a lot to do. So when I do it it's high quality and focused.
I also know what I like to do now and what I really miss. I know I'll be keeping my sewing stuff. I actually ache to create things, and I profoundly miss that feeling of self-sufficiency that I've always had because when I want something I typically make it. I have no tools here and it's not meaningful to re-buy just to have it for another six months. I have a feeling I'll be buried in my sewing room binge-crafting when I get home working on curtains and slipcovers and such. I have a wallet pattern and a tote bag pattern I want to perfect that I've developed here so I'll be leather working, too.
But in general, with fewer things comes fewer decisions. Less spending of money for maintenance and upkeep. And what I do have I use well and lovingly and carefully. And I like that.