When my sisters and I were cleaning the living room in time for Eid, I couldn’t help but think of how far we have come.
Eid just happens to be the perfect time to consider how much stuff we have as we all are probably busy with cleaning and refurbishing our living space. It is also a prime time when we tend to consume more and only buy the things that we’d use once a year and sometimes, once a lifetime. And for two years in a row now, refraining myself from shopping relentlessly just before Eid has been one of my biggest achievements in life.
This thought led me to my past. We used to have a full storage room that had even exceeded the space that it could take, so we would just pile everything up on top of one another. It was to a point where I didn’t even want to go into the storage room for the irrational anxiety associated with herpetophobia (fear of lizards and the likes of them). Our closets were full of clothes that we hadn’t used in years, including ones that no longer fit us. It was a shame that we had invested so much time and money into the things that had ended up into the storage room – unused, cluttered and depreciated over time.
And as someone who comes from a large family, material things tend to overwhelm our space more than we get to claim it in order to focus on what was important to us. Even cleaning was a dread because of the amount of decorations and the hidden space that needed to be dusted and cleaned.
After moving out of different houses several times, decluttering has been a huge part of my life and the exhaustion that just goes with packing and unpacking was what drove me to have less stuff. It wasn’t just physically exhausting, it was stressful. It took not once nor twice, but about 5 to 6 times in my life (including 3 years of living abroad) of moving out from one house to another to realise how materialistic I had been.
And how attached I was to these material things.
Usually, stuff accumulates because we simply don’t use them. We use the cheap things because the more expensive ones that we’ve bought are reserved for special occasions. Sometimes, the reason as to why we haven’t even used them is that they are “too pretty to use”. So, it gets accumulated in the closet and even the newest pair of shoes won’t get the second look because there is new stuff coming in. Cheap things break easily, so we buy more and more.
People get attached to their material things as they hold an emotional attachment to them, which can be detrimental to their mental beings and personal values. Sometimes, people hoard to an extreme extent and end up being depressed and anxious over the things that they thought could make them happy.
My mother once told me that the reason behind why she had a hard time giving up the stuff – even those that she didn’t use – was because these things were kind of trophies of her achievements. Coming from a long past of living a hard life, she thought she could compensate the hardships that she went through as a child by treating her a lifetime of material things. Of course, that didn’t work out, nor was it everlasting.
It has been almost a decade since we have decided to stop cluttering more stuff into our homes – or at least I think so – and making use more of what we currently own. We still have a long, long way to go but it has gradually improved over the years. But one thing for sure is that we finally have our priorities straight.
I still have a long way to go towards becoming a minimalist. And I still do have moments where I get defeated by my own desires of consuming more than I should. But I haven’t had too much to an extent where I don’t have enough space for the new things that I bought. It’s a learning process.
Minimalism doesn’t necessarily mean you have a room that echoes when you speak nor does it mean you shouldn’t put your flair into it. It just means you wouldn’t need to stress over the mess you’ve created on your desk or coffee table. It also means that you would need to sacrifice a few unnecessary luxuries.
It doesn’t just have to be about giving up. If you’ve donated something dear (new and usable, of course) to you to someone else, it is like a gift to them.
“On the authority of Abu Hamzah Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) – the servant of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) – that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said : “None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” [Bukhari & Muslim]”
Other than my childhood experience with hoarding, there are so many reasons as to why this lifestyle is attractive to me. Quite frankly, I am sick of being surrounded by stuff and things that I don’t use; I’d get distracted and stressed over why I had even bought them in the first place. I want to leave this world in a state almost empty-handed materialistically and not be overburdened by how and where would my possessions would go.
Of course, minimalism is a personal choice and it is up to us whether we would be able to live that way. Just don’t wait until you have to go through a traumatic experience in order to realise that life is more than just the materials that you have. I personally believe everyone has their own definition of what it means to have a minimalist life. To me, minimalism is about being less extravagant.
At this point, I would consider myself as an aspiring minimalist. Minimalism isn’t just cleaning, decluttering and reclaiming your space back. It is more about the state of the mind when we are consuming and buying stuff. It takes complete mindfulness and awareness of what matters most to us. And usually to me, those shopping trips that I had in the past had never fulfilled me nor had it made my life more meaningful.