When I graduated university and came back to the room I grew up in, I realised I had the massive job of cleaning ahead of me. I've always been quite a messy person and I used to hate cleaning. I had huge collections of perfume samples, mini shampoos, pencils, and scrap paper.
As I stood there, barely able to walk into my room, I remembered a documentary I watched on Netflix last year about minimalism. I really liked the ideas when I watched it, but didn't make the effort to apply them at the time. So I put it on again to get some motivation.
After watching about 20 minutes, I got kind of excited to start cleaning. I put on some headphones and let the audio keep playing as I started to clean up my closet. I found this very motivational, so as I continued to clean through the week, I would listen to different YouTube videos and audiobooks about minimalism.
I'm far from being a minimalist, but the simple techniques I've learned so far have already improved my outlook on cleaning (and life) so much. It's really about simplifying life and prioritising happiness.
Here are the most useful tips I've learned:
- For every object you own, ask yourself, "Does this bring me joy?" If the answer is no, then donate or throw away the item. If the answer is yes, but you don't have any room for it, thank the item for the good times and then say goodbye. As stupid as this sounds, it actually works! Obviously, if the item brings you lots of joy and you have space for it, then keep it! This is a tip from minimalism master Marie Kondo.
- Start by letting go of the things that you have the least amount of emotional attachment to (your wardrobe is a good place to start).
- If you're having trouble letting go of an item that you love but don't use, think about how it could be enjoyed by someone else rather than sitting alone, all sad and dusty in your closet.
- Enjoy the process of seeing immediate results as you clean!
As I kept cleaning, I started to realise that physical baggage was also emotional baggage. I realised how I was literally going through my past, deciding which memories to keep and which ones to let go of. It was also a time for self-reflection. In my past objects and clothing, I could see who I once was — how I've changed and what's remained the same. In this way, cleaning is fun; you rediscover treasures, learn about yourself, and clear your mind. And really, our environment is just a reflection of our mind — after all, we do create the spaces around us. Minimalism isn't about owning nothing; it is about reflecting on each item you own and its effect on your state of mind.
If you allow it, the principles of minimalism expand far beyond keeping your room clean into every aspect of life. The question "Does this bring me joy?" is so important not only for tidying up, but for everything we do.