Defining myself without stuff

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”
― Augusten Burroughs

“Who am I?”

“What makes me, me?”

When I first started my minimalist journey I thought I would end up with a nice clean apartment and a bit more savings in my bank account each month. What I ended up with was a challenge to figure out who I am.

I haven’t been on this journey long–a few months at the most–but already my thinning out of possessions has forced me to look at myself in a different way.  I’ve sifted through a large number of my possessions and decided for each one “is this a burden to me, or does it add to my happiness?”  But in order to make a decision like that we have to ask ourselves what makes us happy?

And that’s a very hard question.

It’s hard because it forces us to know ourselves, and I for one have a long way to go on that front.  I have a general idea of what I would like to do for a career, what foods I like, what I typically do on weekends.  But I can’t really define what makes me happy.  Am I supposed to be able to?  Can anyone?  I don’t know.  But it feels like a worthwhile question to ask.

I know it’s at least a little worthwhile, because in trying to find an answer, we force ourselves to separate who we are from what we think we should be and what others want us to be.

When I went through my overflowing closet a little over a month ago, I found that the stuff I was getting rid of fit into one of two categories.  The first one was clothes that had phrases or images on them.  These tried to capture a little bit of who I was.  TV shows I watched, movies I liked, hobbies I had–instead of just letting those things show through in my personality, I had stuff to show it.  Because this is what I should be.  This is what others should see about me.  It’s not enough to just enjoy the hobbies I have, I have to find a way to show other people that I’m an interesting person.  And how ridiculous is that?

The other category was clothes that I never wore specifically because I was not comfortable in them.  Not that they were the wrong size, just that wearing them made me feel like I wasn’t being… me.  All these clothes were in style whenever I bought them, so I figured I should to wear them too.  When I went through my shoes I found all these impossible high-heels that I could never wear while doing anything I enjoyed doing.  I can’t go hiking in 3-inch heels, I can’t wear them sitting at my laptop doing the research I love.  But they look like the kind of things I should want to wear.

In all of my sorting of stuff I could look at almost every item and identify that it was either something I liked using, or that I thought I should like using it.  I should learn sewing, calligraphy, origami, sculpting, pastry-making, and tea-brewing–but when I get home after a tiring day, all I really want to do is draw and read.

And you know what?

That’s fine.

Sure, it’s great to have ambitions to take up new hobbies and learn new skills, but if you try something and it doesn’t make you happy?  Then stop.  It’s not worth it.  Do something that makes you happy instead.  After all, what’s the point of those activities if not to make you happy?

For me, I think this is one of the biggest challenges to my minimalist goals.  I see things I bought in the past, things I thought I should be using or doing, and I think: “If I get rid of this, I will never be able to be the person I’m supposed to be.”

But who cares!

Instead of thinking about my ideal me in terms of what skills I have, what I know, or how I look, why isn’t my ideal me just happy?  After all, isn’t that what’s most important?  And if others don’t think you’re living up to what they think you should be, then they’re not worth your time!

Minimalism is about decluttering your space, your time, your relationships and your expectations so you can do want makes you happy!  So excuse me while I go cuddle up with a good book I’ve been wanting to read all week.  Because that’s what makes me happy. 🙂

Stop. Unwind.


2 thoughts on “Defining myself without stuff

  1. Invisible Ink

    It’s ok to “fail” at the things in life that aren’t the most important to you…sewing, calligraphy, etc. but never fail at the one thing that makes you the happiest. If reading and drawing makes you the happiest girl in the world, then hone in on that and be the best at it!

    I’ve found myself purging my items in the same fashion you have. Typically it’s after a breakup, where I am redefining things for myself, or on milestones (moving to another city, turning 30, etc.) and it does help me a bit. You are going to need to “find yourself” more than once in this lifetime you know…they say it’s typically every four years that we emerge as an upgraded version of our former self 🙂

  2. Anne Lene

    Great post! Kudos to you, having figured out to do the things that makes you happy, rather than all the “should’s” in life. I wish we would all be that enlightened 🙂


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