tales by the unexpected

My story, my tales, my life

Categorie: Minimalism

Essentials

I am active in some minimalist groups on Facebook and a few questions keep coming up. One is how much of your clothing should you throw away to keep the bare minimum.

At the moment I only have 2 long pair of pants, several shorts, a few sweaters (mostly hoodies) and my essentials.

Essentials for me are pieces of clothing I won’t minimize on whatsoever. Black t-shirts are one of these. I have I think close to 30 t-shirts, all black, same brand. This is a concious choice.

First reason is, I’m autistic. I don’t like certain fabrics on me. Ask my girlfriend, She can tell you the story of when she went and surprised me with clothing I didn’t pick. I’m sensitive to this. Same goes for anything on my wrists or neck. I never wear ties or wristbands, and when I have to, I only wear them for when it’s absolutely necessary. Same goes for shoes. I have 4 pairs, one for every occassion, and not more than that.

Apparantly it’s necessary to wear a clean shirt every once and a while, so I bought more so I could survive at least 2 weeks without doing laundry. I also have several sets of jogging pants that fit snuggly to wear at home, as I don’t like to wear normal pants because they don’t feel well.

oh Yeah, for me, it’s always same brand stuff. Once I like something, don’t bring me other stuff, that might be similar, but isn’t. I notice. I won’t always comment on it, but I will notice always. With food I’m easier than with clothing, although I can’t eat certain foods because I’m intolerant to them.

I will never buy a few of my essentials, I need enough of them, and can’t minimize on them.

Don’t underestimate sentimental value

Moving is hard work, especially when you are moving to something smaller than you are used to. My girlfriend and me are now moving to a one bedroom appartment with only so many room for storage space. I have to get rid of a lot of dvd’s and my girlfriend has to dispose of a lot of books, because we both had a huge collection. Before I was thrown out at my mom’s house, I even had more. More stuff to get rid off.

I already have disposed of a lot, just to be able to move to over here. When my mom threw me out the first time and I had to move back, my book collection stayed behind and the previous place I stayed and after a few months, my friends grandparents decided to throw them out, so there went my 300 books.

Now, to be able to have enough room for my stuff, I have to throw out 200 or more dvd’s I collected over the years.

I have learned something in this throwing, and disposing of stuff. The only thing that keeps me from throwing things out, are sentimental value. I had collector’s editions of dvd’s, like Scarface, but that doesn’t mean a thing to me now. I had all the Godfathers and was actually proud of my godfather collection, but never sat down watching part 2 and 3 of the trilogy, so out they went.

I kept a few dvd’s. I kept those that, following Marie Kondo’s advice, brought me joy. I am diagnosed with depression disorder, and I have had severe depression in the past (without taking any medicine for it). I got out of it. I got out of it by watching comedy dvd’s a lot. I have one dvd I know almost on the top of my head, that’s how much I watched it. I watched a movie like Yes man so many times that I still can replay it in my head (I watched it sometimes 5 times a day). Those I kept.

I kept stuff because I got it from a person very dear to me, like my first DVD was one I bought together with my dad. I actually remember my first DVD ever. My first DVD was Batman.

I have difficulty getting rid of some stuff that I got from my ex. I kept it in my hands and all the memories kept flooding back in, all at the same time, overwhelming me, like Pippin touching the palantir.

That’s the crazy thing about my autistic memory. I can when I see an object or touch an object, tell you almost in detail where I got it, how I got it, what it cost, etc. All those details come to me in a split second and I can’t stop it. I can’t filter it out. These are the things I have the hardest getting rid off.

Other stuff, I have no emotional connection with and I can dispose off quite easily, without any regrets.

But this is also a thing that might help me buy less stuff in the future. Do I think it is necessary to buy the thing I want to buy? Will it give me lasting impressions when I have to move and get rid off it? Would I try to salvage it in case a fire breaks out?

Mary Kondo’s question is valid, but I think other questions are more thoughtprovoking like the one I mentioned above: “In case of a fire, would I salvage this or would I just buy another one when I need it?” if you answer No to the first part of the question, throw it out, if it isn’t a necessity.

Necesarry items I don’t minimalise on are black t-shirts, as I wear one everyday, or underwear, for the very same reason. Some things are necessary, other things are luxury, and it’s balancing this line, that is the true challenge of a minimalist.

moving

I’m moving. Moving together with my girlfriend in our own place. Moving as an autistic isn’t easy, and we don’t have such a big place, but I was suprised to see how fast everything was stuffed to the brim with all our stuff. We can hardly move in this new place, thanks to all the boxes and bags with all our trinkets in them.

Once we start unpacking and really start to settle in, as we are still moving our stuff from one place to the other. I plan to minimalize a lot. I will take pictures of the process, and report on it here, as it seems to me a very, very fun project.

But I want to live more minimalistic.

As an autistic, I have an attachment to certain things, like my tablet. I don’t think I could ever live without my tablet. And now my special interest is transitioning from magic and mentalism to electronics, I don’t think I will be throwing away or getting rid of anything electronic anytime soon. I will be downsizing my magic and mentalism collection though, and will probably go to a magic shop and sell some things. It will be an interesting process, and I hope the stress headaches stop soon, as I’m sick of them already. Normally in highly stressful situations, I either run away to a safe space, or I have troubles with my bowels. Now, as I’m moving, it’s my stomach, which gives me reflux and my brain, which gives me headaches, as I have to think of so many stuff, and I can’t stop thinking about all the stuff that needs to get done. Maybe it might help if my girlfriend communicates with me what needs to be done and when she plans on doing them or delegates some stuff to me… which gives me a sense of control, which I don’t feel I have at the moment. So many things are left open and uncared for, which gives me the headaches and doesn’t help my autistic sense of calmness.

cleaning out my closet

Something unusual

This is not about the eminem hit: “Cleaning out my closet”. I did something unusual. I started cleaning. Not that cleaning is so unusual, but this had to happen a lot sooner. It started with cleaning up my digital life. I cleaned up my desk. Than I started cleaning my folders on my computer and I ended with the most daunting task. I cleaned out my mail-account, now I reached zero e-mails in my inbox.

Inbox zero

Inbox zero is a concept coined by productivity people. Here’s a detailed description of inbox zero. Reaching inbox zero can be of use to you as well because:

  • you need less time to find the correct e-mail
  • you can setup your inbox to do specific things for you, without your assistence
  • more clarity
  • less clutter
  • less stress

If my little list above has convinced you. You might try it as well. It might get you less stress that you need in your life. Everybody needs less stress in their life, especially people whom are online often. People like you and me.

How did I achieve my inbox zero?

I took the simple pants-in-seat approach. I went over every e-mail and decide than and there what I was going to do with it. A lot ended up in the thrash, obviously. Some just needed to be sorted out, so learn how to move them to folders, or if you have gmail, learn to setup labels and filters.

Now, everytime I get an e-mail, I decide directly what I want to do with it. Is it a newsletter I no longer enjoy reading, unsubscribe. I do it immediatly. I don’t let it simmer. I’m to proud of my inbox zero to let it sit.

What about e-mails that need to be followed up? Put them in a seperate folder, do the step that needs to be done and put it into your calendar, so you have a dedicated time to follow it up again.

Don’t let your e-mail dictate your life, let yourself dictate your e-mails fate.

What is minimalism? A broad overview

Minimalism in the arts is uses a little elements as possible, to get a certain effect. Artistic minimalism’s period began in de 60’s and 70’s. Most recognizable artists include Donald Judd, Agnes Martin. Minimalism was a reaction against abstract expressionism. One of my personal favorite minimalist artists is Piet Mondriaan.

In music, Philip Glass is notable for his minimalist tendencies. Yves Klein dared to experiment with his 20 minute sustained note followed by a 20 minute silence in his Monotone symphony.

I’m going to talk much more about the lifestyle now, but wanted to show you that it is a broad spectrum, also found in arts.

More people now are looking to becoming minimalists. Recently there has been a documentary, looking at the minimalist culture, mostly in America, called Minimalism: A documentary about the important things.

One of the first minimalists in our western world, was Diogenes, famous for living inside his clay wine jar. He lived the lifestyle he prophessed. He was against money, against all the conventions of the time and he also mocked Alexander the great in public.

Some become minimalist because of religious reason, like Leo Tolstoy and Mohandas Ghandi.

Others become minimalist because life is to overwhelming. Buy this, buy that, conform here, conform there. It seems as if our society is only happy, when it can buy things it doesn’t actually need, to impress people we don’t actually like, with things we can’t actually afford, like something Tyler Durden would say. Tyler Durden prophessed the minimalist lifestyle in the book Fight club. In a way, Elliott from Mr. Robot also is minimalist. His appartment isn’t filled to the brim with stuff. He doesn’t need to conform to society and only has what he needs.

Henry David Thoreau, the notable author of the book Walden, which chronicles his philosophy and lifestyle in a small hut, is considered as one of the bibles of minimalists everywhere. Henry David Thoreau chronicled his two-year experiment next to Walden Pont and made it into one of the best known minimalist books.

Minimalism now is best summarized by Leo Babauta’s quote: “Identify the essential, eliminate the rest.” This can be done with people around you, as you are the average of the people  you surround yourself with. As well as with things you own, owning only the best things that you can buy, and eliminating everything you don’t need, so you don’t need excess space or stuff. Only making place for the things really important in your life.

This article is the introduction to my own struggles with minimalism and how I try to live it. I will make minimalism faux-pas, but it’s a learning process and a journey. Everybody’s minimalism is their own, nobody can tell you how to be a minimalist, except you yourself, as you define your own minimalist ways.

How my 16th birthday gave me a great lesson

It’s a bright summer’s day. I’m sitting at the table, after eating a delicious barbequed meal. It’s my birthday. I will become a boy of 16 now. It’s time for the presents.

My sister and her then boyfriend come forward with a smile on their face. My mom had given me a presents weeks earlier. Something I asked for.

(I must tell you that I really, really hate surprises)

I know my sister had 2 presents then. I just remember one of them. I was so offended that that present etched itself unto my brain. She got me a box of condoms. I really, really didn’t have a girlfriend, not even something close to one. Not that I was ugly, but I wasn’t that social with the other sex. I was quite socially clumsy, so to say. Although in retrospect, there were enough signals that girls liked me though.

I must have done it more diplomatic, but I started ranting about the present. I know that it’s not about the presents, but about the gesture. But I thought that box of condoms, for someone sexually non-active was insulting. I threw the box to her, yelling and I went to sit in my room the rest of the day. My birthday, for me, was ruined.

So the next year, I adapted another practice. I made a list. I gave them the list, and if they didn’t buy me something from the list, I was entitled to be angry. It was better in my eyes, to not give me a gift, than give me something that has no use to me, or is insulting.

Now, my sister has given me gifts, still not from the list, but safer than the condom thing. The gifts she has given me, were shower gels and such, which I never used. I politely accepted them and let them collect dust long enough until I was allowed to throw them out.

Now, I still adapt the list thing, because it was custom to celebrate new years with friends of mine, until they backstabbed me, and I made a list again, which worked out quite good. I never asked for outrageous things. This year I adapted the list thing again, with the parents of my girlfriend, and for the first time, in my list making thing, I got what I asked for. So I was a happy boy, not having to act. Last year my girlfriend gave my wishlist from Amazon to her relatives, so they could get me something from that list as well, and it also helped. so I got books that I liked last year, and now I got a dvd-set from Elementary (which you know now already that I like).

I’m going to be using the list more and more, so I don’t have to act (because I can’t act surprised or happy when I’m really not happy and I really don’t like to be surprised, because I don’t know how to act emotionally).

It’s not that I’m greedy. It’s more an emotional thing. I really don’t like to receive gifts I don’t like, and if someone doesn’t know what to give me, just get me nothing or get me a coupon of a bookstore or something. (not a used bookstore that only specializes in DUTCH books. I can only read in English, rarely in my mothertongue.)

What I learned the last few years

Did I tell you already I tried to commit suicide once? No, this isn’t going to be that kind of article. Absolutely not. This is the start of a journey. How I raised from the ashes and became a new person. Sort off.

The police plucked me of the train tracks. Put me in a cell for an hour I think, and then escorted me to a psychiatric ward. Well, that was actually the best scenario that could have happened.

I spent there a month and a few weeks with only a few bags. I had clothes, food a bed, a closet and a few of my books. My cellphone was confiscated from 9 pm to 2 pm (so I only got my cellphone for 7 hours each day). I didn’t have 3G or 4G at the time and there was a computer, but you only had access to it for a few minutes each day. So I was isolated from the internet.

You have to know me before. I never moved. I used to live in my parents house, until my mom kicked me out late 2016 with a court order. (Actually I don’t care, it gave me time and opportunity to break the abusive relationship).

The time in the psychiatric ward wasn’t ill spend. I got time to think. Think about my life, myself, me, my friends… everything. When I got out, I went back home again at the start of 2015 to live with my sister at my parents house (my mom lived with my stepdad) until my sister was kicked out and I went back in the house (I lived in the shed at the back of the house, my dad’s old toolshed, it had no toilet, no bathroom. I was allowed to go to the toilet in the house, but for the rest, I was banished to my shed, by my sister. To give you an idea what kind of family I have). But I was happy. I only had a few possessions and I was happy. When I moved back in after my sister was kicked out of the house, I had only moved a few of my possession back from my former friends house (where I stayed after my former girlfriend kicked me out, after I had moved with her to an appartment, after my mom kicked us both out together in 2014… are you still following?)

So to recap: I only had a fraction of my former possessions. My bookcollection of 300+ books was left behind, I still had a few books, but not much. I only had my most treasured possessions. Then the news came, that my mom was going to throw me and my new girlfriend out of the house again, and I had to move again.

In therapy, on my own, by myself, I had come to a realisation. I was living there, with only a fraction of the fraction of my possessions, and I was perfectly content. I didn’t need all what I had.

Even now, that I live with the parents of my girlfriend, I only have a few possessions out of the boxes we packed, and I’m perfectly content. I know, at the back of my mind, that I still have the other possessions sitting in the garage, and I wouldn’t throw them out (yet…) but I don’t really need them. I have my most treasured possessions with me already. The things I use most often.

That was my realisation: Do I need all the stuff that I possess? And the answer was a big fat NO. Do you really, really need all the possessions you own?

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