As many of you know through these blog posts, Kristen Marks identifies as a minimalist. And as her daughter, I completely agree that she embodies this title. My family and I joke with her that my parents’ house sometimes resembles a hospital room! However, whether I like it or not, I have realized this is a trait I also carry, although maybe not to her extreme.
After all, when you’re backpacking, you have no choice but to be a minimalist. I packed a capsule wardrobe for my trip, so for the past few months I’ve had a chance to reflect on what it truly means to live with necessities.
And as much as I hate to say it… it’s freeing.
I haven’t purchased any material items except for postcards since arriving in Europe two and a half months ago, mostly because I have no choice!
When I was packing for the trip, it was extremely hard to narrow down what I needed and what I didn’t. My inner monologue looked a little something like this:
“Is two or three pairs of shorts a better call?”
“I know this tank top is bright green, but it’s super comfortable… maybe I can find a way to squeeze it in my bag?”
“I know I’m already bringing one pair of casual sandals, but this second pair is super cute and I’m sure I’ll find places to wear them!”
News flash reader: less is ALWAYS more in a backpacking situation. I felt like I narrowed down my clothes to the bare minimum before leaving for Europe, but there are still clothing items I haven’t worn and got rid of along the way.
And the second cute pair of sandals that I squeezed in? They’ve only come out of the backpack once, and I realized they aren’t as comfortable as my main pair anyways!
My point here is I’m learning how to live the “less is more” mantra while in Europe. And while I think it’s something everybody can embrace, I know this isn’t the case for everybody.
We stayed with a host who had a lot of miscellaneous things in her apartment (I will refrain from calling it clutter so I don’t sound like my mother, ha ha). The two-bedroom place felt significantly smaller with the number of things she had collected over the years.
However, while it may be a different lifestyle than what I grew up with, I enjoyed talking to her about the things she has collected. In her mind, every single item had a story behind it, and anytime she went to purge her items, she found sentimental value in most things and struggled with getting rid of them.
And I get it. For some people, material items are a preferred way to remember certain trips, milestones, and times in one’s life.
You have to keep in mind that once you pass, somebody is going to be dealing with these things. It’s easier said than done to let go of things that really matter to you, and not everybody is in a place mentally to let go. But if you ever find yourself ready to downsize and make your heirs’ lives easier, here are some tips I have for you.
- Assess Your Sentimental Items: Go through your belongings and identify which items have true sentimental value to you. These are the things that truly evoke meaningful memories or emotions.
- Set Criteria: Establish clear criteria for what you'll keep and what you'll let go of. For example, you might decide to keep items that are directly connected to significant life events or relationships.
- Involve Family: Discuss your intentions with your family members and ask if there are specific items they would like to inherit. This can prevent future disputes and ensure that cherished items go to the right people.
- Digitalize Memories: Consider digitizing sentimental items like old photos, letters, or documents. This way, you can preserve the memories without the physical clutter. There are various apps and services available for this purpose.
- Create a Memory Book: If you can't part with certain items but want to downsize, consider creating a memory book or scrapbook where you can store photographs, clippings, and small keepsakes.
Most importantly, remember that decluttering sentimental items is a personal process, and it's okay to take your time. The goal is not to erase memories but to ensure that your heirs don't feel overwhelmed when dealing with your possessions after you're gone.
Not everybody has to be a minimalist, but even rehoming one item can make your loved ones’ lives easier. It can be overwhelming, but it can also be freeing.
The minimalist lifestyle is one I see myself implementing even after my backpacking journey. But don’t worry, I don’t want my house to look like a hospital room either! 😉
Jill “Scared She’s Turning Into Her Mother” Marks
P.S.- while you’re adding to your to-do list, check out this new DIY option from My Pink Lawyer to create your own Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives.