My Path to Minimalism

Auryn Engel
7 min readMar 24, 2023

I would call myself a minimalist. This wasn’t the case 10 years ago. So I want to share my story of becoming a minimalist and what it means for me. Maybe you can find some inspiration here yourself.

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

How it began

For me, it began around 6 to 7 years ago, when I first watched the documentary Minimalism. The documentary was a really easy way of getting into the topic with two young and inspiring men. They talk a lot about themselves and their journey. Back then I enjoyed the idea and the way they presented their easy and fulfilled life. Later they also released a second documentary and a book. But to be honest, I didn’t like it as much as the first one. The first one felt quite honest and open, the following things were more of an obsession with owning less but making capital out of it. But all in all, they are still the origin of getting into minimalism for me.

So I started with the 30-Day Minimalism Game. This changed a lot. This was the first time I started letting go of stuff, I don’t need. This was the first time I gave stuff away, that was totally fine and I could need some day again. I started with easy things, that I was sure I won’t miss it. Like a broken pair of headphones, I planned to fix or other smaller things.

Then I moved from one shared apartment to another and I still had so many things. The room was just 15m², and I managed to fill it up with stuff so fast. There were so many items, I owned, that I don’t need. So I kept the momentum and decluttered. And decluttered. And decluttered.

But it filled up fast. I owned less, sure, but still a lot. I throw out 2 things and bought 1 new thing.

After my second move, I had less. Maybe 10 to 12 moving boxes. And since I moved into a furnished apartment, I threw away all my old furniture.

So I started questioning my approach to minimalism and the understanding of it. It is not only throwing away stuff. It just made space for new stuff I bought and also didn’t need.

What it means to me

The main idea was quite good. Own less to worry less and feel free. But it didn’t work for me in the beginning. Throwing away stuff got easier and easier. But new stuff came along even as easily.

Back then I started travelling a lot for work and I saw, that most of the stuff I owned, I didn’t need. I had to pack for a week of being not at home into one backpack and one small suitcase. And then it started clicking for me. I had everything I needed with me. Sure, some things I missed. But most of my items at home, were fine where they are. Not with me.

So this was the first point where it started making sense to me. Before that, I just kept everything, that was still fine, if I thought, maybe I need it one day.

Somewhere I read something like this:

If you don’t need it anymore and it costs less than 20€, let it go and get it new, if you need it.

This stick with me. So I gave it a try and applied the rule. If I was not sure if I need this ever again, and it is less than 20€, I am fine with letting it go and organising it again, if I need it. And surprise surprise, this happened maybe 2 or 3 times, that I had to buy it again. Most of the time it was fine, that I sold it or throw it away.

Difference to frugalism

There is a huge difference between minimalism and frugalism. For example, I own an iPad. Sure, had a phone before, but I am enjoying an iPad if I am on a train or a plane or on the couch to consume stuff.

Do I need one? No, not really.

The same goes for my phone. I had a phone before and still bought a new one. Then I let go of the old one and I am fine. So I don’t do it for the money.

A frugal person wouldn’t buy a new pair of headphones if the old ones still work, just because they sound better. A frugalist wouldn’t buy a premium membership in a gym, since the less expensive gym offers the same equipment.

So I am by far no frugalist.

Do I save money?

Even if I am no frugalist, I save money and I would recommend this to everyone. But this is not the post for that. My recommendations here are finanzfluss or similar videos in your country.

Rules I like to follow

I love rules. They give me easy instructions to work with. But I don’t like rules, that make no sense. So for me, rules must be clear and logical and I have to see the benefit. I like to question rules a lot. And I encourage you to do the same. So question the rules, and try them out. See what works for you and what does not and apply them for you.

  1. If you have the urge to buy something, put it into the basket and wait at least 1 to 3 days before buying. This stopped impulse buying a lot and saved me a ton of money.
  2. Don’t hold onto items, just because you paid a lot. (see Endowment effect)
  3. Think about the item, does it brings a benefit to your life?
  4. If you have this already, is the new item better than the old one and worth the spend? If yes, replace instead of adding.
  5. If you didn’t use the item for a year, you probably won’t for the next years.
  6. If you enjoy it, it is fine to own. Don’t be restrictive in your hobby!
  7. If you have something physical like a letter from a friend, take a photo before throwing it away. I like letters and love to see them, but to be honest, most of the time, you look at them, when you move or declutter. So why not store an image, look at it from time to time and remove the physical clutter?

General thoughts on minimalism

Often I hear, I already own this item, so it is for free to keep it. This is unfortunately only partly true. Yes, it is free to hold on to the item, but the room you have to store it in is not free. You pay rent for things you don’t need. You have to heat the room and keep it organized. But most importantly, you have to clean it. It is so much easier to clean a room that is free of clutter than a room filled with items, you only touch for cleaning.

I rebuild my apartment half a year ago. So everything was built by myself. But first of all, I modelled everything in a 3D online tool. This was the result:

After the redesign and remodelling, the room cleaning was done in less than half the time.

Progress

I already wrote a post about One Bag Work Travel and I hope, I can realize the same for holiday one day. I still remember holidays, when I was unpacking stuff, half of the clothes were never worn the whole travel. This is stuff, that flew around the world in my backpack, I carried it through the jungle in India and was still fresh after a 3 week’s trip. What a waste.

Minimalism is not a thing that you can start from one day to another. It is a process and will be a process for the rest of your life. I am by far not at the end and probably never will be. There are still so many items, that I am not sure if I should keep them. But for my hobby, I will always keep more items than necessary since I enjoy them.

Resources

  • Matt D’Avella -> amazing channel with good bits of advice
  • A to Zen Life -> she shared her story with a lot of tips and has an amazing channel
  • OneBagTravels -> interesting if you travel a lot
  • Daniel Titchener -> he has some amazing tips on furniture and how to have a clean and functional but pleasing flat
  • NEVER TOO SMALL -> astonishing and inspiring flats from different people who live in small spaces
  • and of course reddit: r/minimalism

Conclusion

Minimalism is an idea of life, that made my life so much easier and less cluttered. It saved me a ton of time in my life. The journey is by far not over. I would love to have so little stuff, that I can move with just one small car. But at the same time, I would never reduce my hobby.

If you have a lot of books, but you enjoy them day by day, this is fine. If you have a lot of plants and love to take care of them, don’t remove them!

Minimalism is about removing clutter, not removing things you like or enjoy or need for your life. It is about being thoughtful about the things you own.

I hope you liked the post and maybe learned something new.

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Originally published at https://blog.auryn.dev. (08.03.2023)

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