“Is that all you’ve got?”
I’m standing in a damp, basement room where I’m supposed to be staying for a while, the wallpaper is yellowing, the room full of incense smoke. The woman in front of me is looking at my two bags on the floor, containing everything I need. She looks up at me again, as though I’m somehow hiding a secret suitcase of possessions. I’m familiar with this. The strange, concerned looks. The way that people want to understand why you would live with less, where you’ve put all your things, how you manage to live with so little.
“When I moved here, I had ten boxes shipped at the same time.”
She takes me into her room, where the boxes are still scattered around the room, some are open, being used like storage crates. The room is a large double, but it feels like a cupboard. I want to ask her what’s in here, how she lives with so much, how she manages her things in such a small space. Instead, I make us both a cup of tea and we stand in the small kitchen. For many people, to own less is to be less. It can be difficult for minimalists and non-minimalists alike to realise their similarities, and their reasons for choosing their possessions. Each of us, though, has the desire to connect through some shared bond, it might simply take a little longer to understand someone who doesn’t connect with material goods in the same ways that we do.
“Did someone drive you here?”
For some people, myself included, minimalism is about self-reliance. In a dusty train carriage, there’s only a fraction of room for your belongings. Even the luggage rack is cramped and filled with hard-shell multi-litre cases. Travel with heavy cases is an exhausting flurry of elevators, the rattle of suitcase wheels on the pavement, late taxi journeys when your possessions don’t fit onto the bus. Train travel might feel overwhelming at times (especially at the moment), but not needing to rely on cars is a freeing experience. Though some non-minimalists may see this self-reliance as a lonely experience, it can be invaluable when maintaining control over your travel plans, and gives you the chance to take some nice walks along the way.
“You have a plush frog in your backpack…”
People are always surprised by the things that we choose to KEEP as minimalists. As minimalists, many of us want simple lives, lives full of value and joy in the present. We don’t have to live lives devoid of personal belongings, things which matter to us, or which make any space feel like home. Keeping strange trinkets can and does result in hoarding, but keeping a couple of well-loved, important items can transform your everyday experience. To see that someone knows themselves so well that they keep such specific items, can feel almost intimidating. But we are all navigating life, learning about ourselves, and considering what is of value to us. In a world full of clutter, empty space seems tangible, shocking- even, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when we’re asked about what we do own, amidst that blank space.
What experiences have you had, either as a minimalist, or as a non-minimalist?
Featured image via Pexels.