People often assume that because of my job, I must be a minimalist. Granted, I advocate, and practise, stripping out excess stuff in order to make room for the things that matter. And I often share on my Facebook page quotes and articles that I find quite inspirational from well-known minimalists, in particular, Courtney Carver and Joshua Becker.
But I don’t like being referred to as a minimalist because of the misconceptions that surround the term and that don’t reflect my life and work philosophy.
Indeed, for many, being a minimalist purely revolves around a numbers game. Brooke McAlary, the author of the book Slow, rightly said that it “so often becomes twisted around the competitive idea of how much we should own, how many items we can live with, how bare the walls are, how tiny the home, how tightly edited the capsule wardrobe.”
I experienced this first-hand when I joined a minimalist group on Facebook hoping to get some inspirational insights into the life of practising minimalists. Not all but many members of the group were looking either to impress or seek approval by sharing how little they own, with some being plainly judgemental on others’ amount of possessions. While it’s certainly true that most of us don’t need as much as we have, I don’t think there should be any benchmark on how much one should own.
This practice of minimalism feels to me like a form of “extremism” that conveys deprivation. It has the same effect on me as the idea of going on a food diet. On the very few occasions I decided to go on a diet, I started obsessing about the forbidden food and ended up stuffing my face when I could no longer stand being deprived of it. Needless to say, I left the group.
For others, there’s the idea that your interior needs to meet a certain form of aesthetics to qualify as minimalist, involving, in particular, the use of neutral colours (commonly white, beige, and grey), stylish storage, specific decorative items such as bowls, crystals, and candles, etc. While I must confess I’m very attracted myself to this type of interior for its soothing aspect, isn’t it counter-intuitive to have to buy something to achieve minimalism? Ironic even when it’s pushed by the likes of Marie Kondo who might not be a minimalist yet encourages you to clear your homes?
While I don’t want to call myself a minimalist based on those standards, I have to say that my home is mostly free of clutter. I’ve trained my decluttering muscle over the years and learned to let go of stuff that we don’t need, use, and love. My main drivers for streamlining my life are efficiency and peace of mind. I feel I’m wasting my time if I have to take care of stuff I don’t really care about. Also seeing clutter prevents me from focusing on what I need to do and makes me feel stressed. But I forgive myself if there are parts of our home where we might be owning a little too much for a minimalist’s standards – my husband likes to remind me of my teas and Japanese bowls collections – as long as things fit into our cupboards.
I’m also very intentional about what I bring into my home. I go for quality over quantity. In particular, I stay away from Fast Fashion and would rather buy one dress of good quality than three of poor quality for the same price. Wherever possible, I borrow or rent things I would be using occasionally instead of buying them. For example, it’s not often these days that I get to attend a wedding ceremony, and it’s been many years since I’ve owned a proper cocktail dress. So this year when I was invited to a friend’s wedding, I decided to rent a dress and a clutch. I got to wear a stylish outfit, probably fancier than what I’d have bought while showing some love to our planet. That was rewarding!
I must say that I enjoy the journey of simplifying my life more than the idea of the destination itself because the journey gives me a chance to do some experiments and to know myself better so I can make lasting changes. On the agenda for me is to do more clothes swapping and to get into furniture upcycling. This is more exciting to me than aiming for xx items of clothing in my wardrobe!
If you want to embrace a more streamlined or intentional lifestyle but are feeling overwhelmed at the idea of doing it right, talk to me. I’ll guide you through the simplification process, providing tips and encouragement, but rest assured I won’t dictate how many and which items you should keep. As Alannah, one of my past clients said, “Nathalie is good at throwing the mental process back to the client to ensure that it’s the client who is questioning the item and focusing on the goal.” This is the only way, in my opinion, to help you create awareness about your possessions and make a sustainable change in your life.
And who knows, our work together may take you further than you anticipate as it turned out to be for my client Manoj and his family who managed to “move from landed 2,500 sqft houses and condos to eventually being able to fit our lives into our own tiny sub 1,000 sqft HDB flat and yet having tons of space.”
Just take the first step now, and let’s see where it takes you. I’d love to be part of your journey.