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  • Writer's pictureEmil Tiedemann

How I Accidentally Became a Minimalist

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

From clutter to calm, minimalism for me has incited a significant shift for the better...

I loved my desk and I hated my desk. I loved my desk because it was where I worked on blog posts, stories, websites, editing photos, and where I listened to music. I hated my desk because it had become my own personal hoard of books, magazines, notepads, bills, receipts, notices, reminders, invites, schedules, calendars, application forms, business cards, pens, paperclips, spare change, and scattered Post-it notes scribbled with lists of more shit I needed to buy.

Every few months or so, when the hoard had become unmanageable, I would take the better part of an hour or two to organize and clean the seemingly insurmountable mountain of paper and ink. Honestly, what I didn't discard right then and there would often be simply reassigned to some other heap inside a drawer or cupboard or shoebox until those things needed a good once-over too. And then, just weeks or even days later, the pile would return, and usually spread to other parts of my room, my entire home, my vehicle, and even my own mind, sort of like how a cancer does inside the human body, impairing everything it comes in contact with.

I had known for some time that this process was simply not sustainable - a stopgap solution that would inevitably circle back to the cluttered chaos I had become accustomed to. How the fuck could this keep happening?! Why can't I get this under control, once and for all?! It all seemed like it should be a simple task, to keep my desk (and thus, my life) clear of clutter, right? Well, apparently not.

I absolutely needed to do something about this, because I could feel that it was negatively affecting all facets of my life in some way or another. However, I was drawing a blank on exactly how to fix it.

One day, in May 2016, I went to the book store to grab a copy of Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking (which I have yet to read), and on my way to the cash register a book with a big "sale" sticker on it caught my side-eye. For just $10, I could experience The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Japanese "cleaning consultant" Marie Kondo. I had never heard of the book before, and I immediately thought the title was a tad on the hokey side, but the unassuming book's backside blurb intrigued me.

"Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?" it asked. Yes! Yes, they do! When the book's ambitious synopsis promised me that if I "properly simplify and organize [my] home once, [I'll] never have to do it again," I was all in. I bought both titles and went home to read The Art of Asking. I got bored and anxious just pages in, and so swapped it for The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

It took me two days to finish, which is nothing short of a miracle for me, and I immediately implemented almost every slice of advice Kondo had to offer. I won't get into the details of her simple concepts because I don't want to have to hire a lawyer when she sues me for copyright infringement or something, but her ideas were definitely different, yet not radical, and suddenly and magically transforming my once cluttered, once chaotic, once disorderly life. I know this sounds dramatic and perhaps even a bit silly, using words like "magic" and "transform," but these terms are right on the money. It just was and it just did.

Fast forward a few days and I have discarded at least 30 boxes and trash bags full of unwanted crap, my bed is being made for the first time ever, my closets are free of mayhem, and my desk? Well, you can eat off my desk now! That was nearly two years ago and my closet is still organized, my bed is still made, and you can still eat off of my desk. Oh, and I got a new desk, one that was more fitting of my new lifestyle (see photo at the top of the page).

However, after I had finally found calm in my life with Kondo's book about "tidying up," I was still unaware of the whole minimalism concept. In fact, I didn't even realize that I had essentially and unintentionally become a minimalist practically overnight, tossing away shit I no longer wanted or never really needed, and only bringing new things into my life that either had function or that brought me some sort of joy.


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