Some people live with less than 15 material possessions.
Laura may not be this extreme. However, if I gave her 30 minutes, she could write down everything she and her family own. She describes herself as never really becoming a minimalist but instead being a ‘born minimalist’.
“I remember sitting in front of the Christmas tree and I felt like crying. I was really, really overwhelmed with everything that I got, and I told my parents as well, I didn’t need anything apart from the shoes.” Obviously, Laura was delighted that she had received her yellow Adidas running shoes that she asked for, but she didn’t expect all the other gifts.
Her Hungarian parents nagged her about how hard they and her grandparents had worked to buy her multiple, beautiful Christmas gifts and to think of the children in Africa with nothing. Definitely not the first time we’ve heard that as kids. She hated clutter even then, but didn’t have the word for minimalism.
We leave a substantial amount of waste behind. We buy bananas wrapped in unnecessary packaging and clothes we never wear, but people living a zero waste and minimalist lifestyle are editing out excess materialism and waste.
Self-awareness of the damage humans are doing to the earth is on the news now, more than ever with thanks to Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg and environmental Extinction Rebellion protests. Using a reusable water bottle and cycling to work is a small help but not quite the same as throwing out almost every possession, unless it’s a necessity.
Necessity is something that Laura values now but she did use to feel societal pressure to accumulate things. When she was in University in London, she showed the financial success she thought she should have had through her material success.
“I bought stuff just to display. Just to please other people”. Three women shared the bathroom when she was a university student and her soap and shampoo made her feel inferior. Laura bought toiletries in Boots that she never used, just to display to the other bathroom users.
It took Laura having her first son to truly change to her lifestyle of strict zero waste and minimalism, luckily her husband is also a minimalist. She panicked when her relatives and friends would visit her bare house so she bought things to put around her home, before she had the confidence to go full into this life change.
“Just because I don’t display things doesn’t mean I’m unhappy.” Quite the opposite as many minimalists reveal feelings of wholeness and decreased anxiety after switching to a zero waste life change.
Scientists have conducted research into how much happiness we derive from financial wealth. Financial success may improve your mood short-term however you’ll eventually return to your normal mood before you became rich.
This can put people into a vicious buying cycle that will never manifest into long term joy. There is an interesting link between low self-esteem and materialism.
Spending money on other people can have a more positive impact on your mood than buying something for yourself. But what would you buy a minimalist on their birthday?
Maybe minimalism itself is slightly too extreme for you. With the rise of professional organising and decluttering, Japan’s Marie Kondo is taking the world by storm.
It’s not minimalism. “You can keep everything if it sparks joy in your life”, Vera Keohane reassured me. Vera is a Konmari Consultant; that’s the name given to individuals who have been personally trained by Marie Kondo, Japanese decluttering expert, best selling author and current Netflix sensation.
Based in Kinsale, County Cork, operating country-wide, Vera is the person you call when you know you have to do something about the chaos in your home and you know you need help to do it. Vera was always the person called on by family members and friends when the stuff got too much, so she had decades of de-cluttering experience before undertaking training in New York with Marie Kondo in the Spring of 2018.
“Children thrive on order and routine. The average child has 450 toys but only plays with 12”. It seems like an unbelievable statement but in a consumeristic society(especially leading up to Christmas), we may think showering children with more toys beings happiness but it only brings more clutter which can lead to stress.
Vera has helped numerous clients all over the country declutter their space and spark joy in their lives through the Marie Kondo tidying philosophy. It’s about respecting your home, respecting your belongings and being thankful for what you have.
But why, you might ask, if you’re a natural at de-cluttering and doing it anyway, why would you train in this method? Vera knows why. Because it is different; it requires a shift in your mindset, it’s a process rather than a one-off task, and above all, the Konmari method produces results that last.
Whatever sparks joy in you is what you hold onto you and things that don’t get thrown away. A session usually begins with a blessing of a house to thank the space for everything it has done for you.
Vera will usually open all the windows and light an infuser while helping people all over the country de-clutter. Most of her clients are business women with small children who don’t spend much time in their house.
This feature was originally published in DUB8 magazine.