Shedding labels and the minimalist purge
Tue, 05 Apr 2022 05:29:29 +0000
I recently did a digital declutter and unfollowed a lot of Instagram and YouTube accounts.
I went in head first with just one rule: Don’t overthink it. Be ruthless. If they don’t add anything useful to your life, unfollow them. If they no longer serve you, unfollow them.
It took me almost a week, but eventually I did it. I drastically reduced the amount of accounts I’m following to only ones that are useful, inspiring, and nourishing to my mind and soul.
(If you want to know more about my digital decluttering process, this is my wrap-up post on Instagram)
As it turned out, both on Instagram and on YouTube, I mostly unfollowed minimalist accounts.
I’m not sure whether I should say this was surprising or not, since I have been making a conscious effort to shed my labels in the last few months, and “Minimalist” is the one that’s been bringing about the most guilt and anxiety.
I remember being in Edinburgh in 2007 with my friend Claudia, who always wore the same outfit, day in day out. Her room was bare: nothing on the walls, no plants or decorations, only a few spare tops hanging in the wardrobe. While I was shopping every weekend, lured by shops and brands I had never seen before, and getting to know charity shops for the first time, Claudia never bought anything. Towards the end of our nine-month stay, when she finally confessed she had got herself a t-shirt, I was shocked - and struck by guilt.
My partner is a minimalist, but he would never tell you. He, just like Claudia, just owns very few, very meaningful things. That’s just how he lives. He also hardly ever buys anything new, especially clothes: everything in his wardrobe is second hand.
Since I can remember, I have always envied people who just live their life without the need to label everything they do.
But me - I love labels. I love telling people what I’m up to.
It keeps me accountable. If everyone knows I’m vegan, it will help me not order meat when I’m out for dinner, even if I really want it. If my friends know I’m a minimalist, I will remember that when I’m tempted to buy something new, in case they ever comment on how much stuff I own.
But you know what also happens? GUILT. If I’m craving cheese or bacon, I will have it in secret. If I buy something in plastic, I will dispose of the packaging outside of my house, so no one knows.
Is this how I want to live? Fuelled by self-inflicted fear and guilt?
I’ve been calling myself a vegan for 10 years now, yet slaking and eating fish in the last 3. I’ve been calling myself a Zero Waster since 2016, yet falling off track in 2020 and struggling to get back to perfection. I’ve been wanting to call myself a minimalist for the longest time, and only when I moved into a bus it felt right to do so. But the moment I moved out, I started acquiring stuff.
It’s time to say: no more. No more of this self-imposed rules and self-inflicted shame.
This is clearly not the first time I have been thinking about this. But now I’m ready. Goodbye, labels! I’m shedding you. I’m done feeling guilty and only having myself to blame. From now on, I’m going to listen to myself, my body and my desires. I will buy stuff if I want to. I will eat a steak if that’s what I’m craving. I will stretch my self-imposed limitations and step over the lines I’ve created for myself.
Having said this, I don’t mean I’m going to throw all my principles and beliefs out the window. It’s too late now. This is how I live: intentionally. This is the only term that still truly resonates with me. I like it because it leaves room for change. It’s flexible, and I can adapt it to whatever it means for me.
I will probably still eat mostly plant based. I’m very unlikely to go on a shopping spree, and if I do, it’s probably gonna be at SaveMart. I will still refill my jars at Hopper and get my groceries at the farmers market.
But I will not beat myself up if I mess up sometimes. In fact, I will not even consider it a mess up. I am human, I change my mind, my proprieties shift: and I am accepting that.
I had a burger yesterday and it was delish. Since I had Covid my energy levels have been extremely low, and I’ve been waking up every day for two weeks craving a burger. So I went and ate a burger. Now I’m all good. I am going to a clothes swap soon and I’m not going to force myself to get rid of as many items as I acquire. A friend is bringing me takeaway tonight and instead of getting upset because she might not have her own containers, I will be grateful for her company and the fact that she’s bringing me food.
Simple living remains very prevalent for me, but this has also shifted meaning over time (you can read more about it here).
All I want is to live with intention. Since I first stepped away from my religious upbringing, I have questioned everything I’ve done: food, waste, possessions, but also relationships, boundaries, spirituality. I want to live the best life I possibly can, and I don’t think that needs to have a name anymore.