Sack: How minimalism (and a Japanese woman) changed my life

January 30, 2019

I was once a hoarder...well, kind of. My mom used to call me a “packrat,” and, I have to tell you, I didn’t disagree.


I like to think that I learned the hoarder lifestyle from my parents. For instance, my mom is obsessed with seasonal decor, particularly Christmas.


She’d come home from stores with bags upon bags of decorations, but she’d never get rid of anything. Some of her decorations were older than me.


If you look up “packrat” in the dictionary, you’ll see an image of my dad underneath it. I love my dad, but that man will keep anything he can get his hands on.


He keeps every spare part for every piece of furniture and owner’s manuals for every machine. We have at least two dozen boxes from prior moves that are simply labeled “Dad’s junk” because none of us know what his belongings consist of.


The point is, every member of my family is a collector of sorts.

My collector’s item of choice was every odd and end I could find. I would collect toys, rocks, books, coins and basically anything else I could get ahold of. My problem was that my stuff accumulated, and I was too selfish to get rid of anything.


This attitude went on for years, at which point my family made a fairly large move. I ended up having to leave a lot of my belongings behind, but I quickly forgot about the items I lost and started focusing on the things I still had.


I chose not to mourn the things I no longer owned and instead found joy in what I had kept.


I began limiting my shopping experiences and found that I wasn’t acquiring as many material possessions as I once did. This went on for a while, until I stumbled upon a YouTube video of someone “decluttering” her possessions, or weeding out things she no longer wanted.


I found myself falling down the rabbit hole, watching dozens of videos of other people decluttering everything from clothes to makeup to their kitchen cabinets. Simply put, I was hooked.


There seemed to be a common theme amongst these videos: Keep what sparks joy. This idea comes from Japanese professional organizer Marie Kondo.


She developed the KonMari method, which asks individuals what they find the most important in their collections. If a particular item sparks joy, keep it, but if there’s a feeling of dread, then it’s time to discard it.


I knew that if I wanted to properly reduce the amount of things I own I had to purchase her book. So I did.


I went nuts getting rid of things. I donated clothes and books and CDs and everything I could live without. And it felt good.


It was like a rush of dopamine. I felt great knowing that I no longer had so many things cluttering up my life, and I felt even better knowing that someone else would get use out of the items I didn’t want.


I quickly ran out of things to get rid of and found myself revisiting collections that I had already decluttered. I refined everything until I literally could not get rid of anything else.


My mom eventually jumped on the bandwagon and followed suit. I convinced her to slowly start donating decorations and knick-knacks in order to declutter our entire house.

We’ve managed to get rid of boxes of material possessions, and our house feels much less messy.


I’ve also helped my brother to get rid of a lot of his old and worn clothes.


Only one stubborn family member remains: my dad. He’s starting to go through his things to recognize what’s important and what’s not. He’s very reluctant, but every once in a while, I’ll go through one of his “Dad’s junk” boxes for him and get rid of at least 85 percent of its contents. Sorry, Dad.


Regardless of how much I manage to dispose of, I’ll never be a perfect minimalist. The term “minimalism” is very subjective to begin with; there’s no exact stopping point. Some minimalists sleep on the floor of a studio apartment, but I only love my bed and my momma. I’m sorry.


For me, minimalism is a way of life and a new type of cleanliness. It’s about being surrounded only by the things that bring you joy. If it doesn’t make you happy, then you don’t need that type of negativity in your life.


Minimalism has changed my life for the better. It’s helped my finances by challenging me to question what I truly need versus what I simply want.

It’s given me a future. When I’m decluttering, I think about the type of life I want for myself, that being one that has more experiences than possessions. (I also hope to one day be able to freak out when even one piece of mail is on the kitchen counter.)


Overall, it’s been a liberating experience, one that I feel blessed to have discovered at a relatively young age.


If you’re looking to get ahead of your spring cleaning and want to discard some of your unwanted belongings, I recommend researching what materials can be recycled in your area and if any shelters will take your gently used beauty products.


By now you’ve probably heard of the Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” but if you’d like to learn more about the minimalism movement, I suggest reading Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” or simply googling the KonMari method if you’re broke.


Molly Sack is a second-year nursing major.



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