The Emotional Importance of Minimalism


Over the last few years, I have been adopting the mindset of minimalism. I’m pretty sure in this day and age I don’t need to explain what that means, but just in case you’ve missed this new hot topic I’ll sum it up quickly:

Minimalism is intentional living.

That means different things to different people. For some, it looks like a small home with white walls and very few furnishings. For others, it’s only keeping what’s most important in your life, whether that’s objects, friends, or hair products. If you search the term you will find a million different people each explaining what it is to them.

While I do want to talk about how and why I downsized my life at some point, today I want to talk about one very specific point. An incident I had which made me realize how much minimalism has changed me emotionally.

When I was young, I was a bit of a hoarder. You would never know that now looking around my RV. While most people I know in their early thirties are working on buying houses, my husband and I have instead fit our entire lives into a motorhome and are still continuously letting things go.

A lot has been reduced in my life. The clothes in my closet, my hobby supplies, the appliances in my kitchen. But the area that has always been the hardest is with sentimental things. I always bonded to my possessions. I treated them as though they had a soul, and was heartbroken anytime I broke or lost an item.

Letting go of sentimental things has been a struggle I’ve been working on for a few years now. It isn’t as simple as saying goodbye to an item. Instead, I’ve had to emotionally disconnect from it. To tell myself that letting go of an item isn’t akin to losing a close friend, despite what my emotions told me.

Part of this came from minimalism, but part of it also came from me trying to combat my anxiety. I have a tendency to have catastrophic thoughts. To constantly be afraid of people dying, or accidents happening. I’m actively working on it, and in the process, I’ve discovered that teaching myself to let go of “things” has helped me learn that it would be ok if I lost them. So if something bad happens, I will still survive without those things.

The recent scenario where I faced this, was with a pair of earrings. These weren’t just any earrings, they were a pair of white gold and diamond studs. A present from my Dad back in 2002. In fact, the last Christmas present he ever gave me, because he passed away a few months later.

Since then, I have almost always worn those earrings. 24/7 they were in my ears, and I only changed them out once in a blue moon for fun, but they went immediately back in my ears after I was done wearing the other pair. I wore them so much, they were almost a part of my identity.

That is, until last week.

My family and I went swimming in a river nearby for the day. A full day of splashing around in potholes, sliding down waterfalls with my niece and nephew, and trying to catch small fish with our hands. It was an amazing day, but on the car ride home I went to adjust my earrings, only to find my right ear bare.

It was gone. One of the two little studs was simply missing. Given the nature of the river, with its millions of rocks and fast current, there would be no way we would ever find a tiny stud in all that.

I was in shock. I sat there for a few moments, dazed, trying to wrap my head around it. In the past, I would have been an absolute mess. I would have cried, sobbed, tried to bargain with some invisible force about why that small piece of my father had to go missing.

That didn’t happen though. A stronger voice in my head told me to just take a deep breath. That earring was NOT my father. It was NOT my memories of him and losing it didn’t mean I lost any piece of him. It was an object, just a small piece of metal and stone, and nothing more. And that, despite what a part of me tried to say, I was not a bad daughter for having lost it.

It still stung of course. I loved those little earrings, but even more, I loved the fact that he gave them to me. But you know what? That fact will never change. There was once a day when a 17-year-old me sat down with my dad and opened my first pair of real earrings (as opposed to the cheap ones I wore from Claire’s).

I don’t need the earrings to remember that day. Losing them will never take that experience away from me. The object is not the day. It is not the memory. Losing or getting rid of a gift from someone does not change the importance of the gift, or the memory you shared together.

So instead, I took a picture of the remaining earring, put it in my jewelry box as a little memento, and went out to buy a new pair of earrings for my Birthday.

Now, I have a lovely little pair of purple Tanzanite studs to wear every day. My husband and I picked them out together, and I get to enjoy both the memory of my Dad giving me my first pair, and of my husband and I choosing my new pair.

So if minimalism has taught me anything, it has taught me that it’s the memories we share that are the most valuable things we carry.