Last night Blake and I watched the documentary, ‘Minimalism’ on Netflix.
We’d discussed watching it before, and like all good documentaries usually seem to provoke, I felt a pang of ‘great, another thing to feel guilty about’, *rolls eyes*, etc. preferring instead to watch something a bit more mind-numbing after a long, hard day at work, as per my own habit. To me, the idea of minimalism always seemed like some sort of unrealistic ideal, peddled by the eccentric who lived in big houses without furniture and wore the same thing every day (ie. Steve Jobs) – for someone who likes to express themselves through the creativity of the things I wear and share, I had never been able to get my head around the concept of getting rid of the things that brought so much fun to my life. But of course, whenever I feel guilt and go to my avoid-at-all-costs mode, I know it’s because there is something there that I should probably explore.
You see, last year while we saved up money for our big trip to South East Asia, we worked a lot. I was working at my job, building up my business, working on my guest appearance at a yoga retreat, organising a workshop and working for Blake on the side, so with all that busy-ness I’d created around me, I convinced myself that I was too tired to do anything else at night than watch TV and completely switch off (oftentimes opting for the mind-numbing stuff that when you finish watching it, you can literally feel your brain rotting).
TV has been quite a habit for me over the years. My school holidays were often spent on the couch in front of Mum’s Austar/Foxtel (something we didn’t have at home) all day long. When Dad had a big exam coming up, he’d take us to the video store and get us to hire videos in one of those 5x weekly + 1x new release deals, and we’d spend the entire weekend watching movies while he studied. By the time I’d started uni and unlimited internet was something I possessed, I spent most of the time I was supposed to be studying, downloading and binge-watching just about every show I could get my hands on. TV helped me to understand the world, who I was, who I could be, how to process the things going on in my life and some semblance of what I thought it could be like to grow up with a ‘real’ family. I truly was a child raised on TV, and so, when times get tough, TV is often where I instinctually turn to. With TV I can switch off from whatever difficult or painful thing is going on and truly immerse myself within the world in which I am watching, to forget about whatever it was I wanted to avoid.
My TV habit has been something I’ve been concerned about for a number of years. While I don’t see a problem with (very) occasionally having a lazy day in front of the TV, I am ashamed to admit there have been many years of my life where most days were a lazy day in front of the TV. I’ve consumed TV and movies, completely absorbed in the stories of lives both true and make-believe instead of going out and actually living my own. Part of this, I believe is due to my own fear. Because I can sit there and out-of-body realise that I am completely wasting my time again, avoiding doing the things I both had to and wanted to do, because I was afraid.
I’ve told myself for too many years that I ‘don’t know how to be a grown up/to actually get things done/to live’, when in reality, I can and I do. I’ve pulled myself through incredibly difficult times; lived through abuse, shitty housemates, long-term unemployment, depression, anxiety, an entire Bachelor degree, financial hardship and loneliness. Despite my beliefs of not being enough, when it has mattered, I made the difficult decisions, put in the hard yards, believed in myself.
So what, you ask, does all this have to do with minimalism? Well for me, my mindless consumption of products is mostly TV and social media. I knew before I got home from work last night, that if Blake and I decided to watch TV, I wanted to watch something that mattered, and that I didn’t come away from with a throbbing, melted brain.
Watching ‘Minimalism’ I realised that, while on a purely physical product level, my life is already more minimalist than most – I only invest my money things that I know I love, I don’t go shopping unless I actually need something and I’ve purged myself (just over a year ago) of 7 garbage bags worth of stuff that I was unnecessarily holding onto – what truly damages my happiness on a daily basis is my frequent conscious and unconscious consumption of media. Each time I switch on the Netflix or scroll through my Facebook for no particular reason other than habit, I rob myself of the ability to be present in my life, instead giving my energy to an inanimate object.
Despite my original feelings of guilt at the thought of it, the documentary was more about letting go of objects that have no meaning, and only purchasing things that you need and love, and bring meaning to your life. Minimalism looks different to everyone. You could feel happy with the bare basics in your life, blank walls and plain furniture, or you might feel happy with items you frequently share (such as my record collection, beautiful food, your book library) because doing so brings meaning and joy to your life. These concepts I first touched on when I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Condo, so it wasn’t too hard for me to understand where these guys were coming from. In fact, I’m really keen to read their book now, Everything That Remains: A Memoir.
All in all, the documentary just solidified to me something that I have known for a long time and had been already making more of an effort to cultivate in my life; I thrive when I am present.
While I don’t expect an overnight, perfect change, Blake and I have already been back to our ‘no TV on school nights rule’ since we’ve been back in the country, and spending more time with one another, with a record on in the background and something we are passionate about in our laps. Every night that we’ve done this I have slept more soundly than usual, and I even got to learn something new about Blake that I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn in any other circumstance. I am practising my presence and have already found so much joy.
Me writing again is definitely a good sign, in my book. I haven’t felt good about my writing in so long.
So while I sit in my house full of pot plants, my vinyl collection, a slowly growing pile of books to read, engaging myself in new hobbies, tending to my garden, writing from the heart and being present with my puppy and my boyfriend, this mindfulness and presence away from constant consumption, to me, is the true definition of minimalism.