Becoming an Accidental Minimalist

I’ll start by saying I’m not a minimalist. Like many people, I am plagued by an addiction that causes me to crave new dresses and add to my growing collection of lipstick colors, a carnal desire I sometimes give in to but have otherwise trained myself to ignore, if only because of my very empty wallet. I like the idea of minimalism but have never found the will to follow through with a lifestyle that encourages so few personal belongings, probably because, well, I love my personal belongings. I always have been a capitalist’s dream. The rush of gaining something new is still a truly rewarding high.

But things have changed a bit in the last few months. I’m not a minimalist, but I’ve learned there’s a certain freedom to owning just enough stuff to fit snugly in a singular suitcase. It’s mostly because I’ve become what one friend has classified as a “vagabond,” having no set place where I belong and no set plan of sticking around anywhere. Moving around a lot makes it difficult to keep a lot of personal possessions on hand, especially when my main mode of transportation seems to be airplane.

But this accidental lifestyle has taught me a lot more than I imagined it would. Originally, when I was forced to decide which belongings to take with me to my two-month stay in Italy, I was left with a headache. Of course, clothes and makeup were at the top of my list, since they were what I would need on a day-to-day basis. Which dresses did I really love the most? Which were the most flexible for different occasions? And, once that was decided, which shades of lipstick complimented the winners the best? Once my suitcase was filled with the necessities, I had to decide which book I would carry along in my purse and which electronics were vital. That’s all I could afford to bring, and as I zipped up my suitcase, I could only grimace at the rest of my room, at all the belongings that would have to stay behind. I wished them a good life and gave them a heartfelt goodbye.

But the surprising part of living out of a suitcase is that you realize how easy and convenient it is if you’re given the right tools. I lived in an apartment that came equipped with most of the necessary kitchen tools and a bed, which I came to realize was all I really needed. In college, I loved filling my walls and my shelves with random things I collected over time. I always imagined it made my box room feel homier, though it made moving out a living nightmare. However, I never felt less at home living in places that weren’t filled to the brim with useless crap. If anything, it made cleaning a whole lot easier. In the end, I didn’t end up missing — or wanting — the things I left overseas. Instead, I found myself itching to get rid of most of it upon my return.

That’s what made my indefinite move to Philadelphia so much easier. This time, I only packed a few hours in advance, and when I had to decide what was worthy enough to put in my suitcase, my only real dilemma was whether to bring more summer or winter clothes. I had learned it’s easy to make due with what you have as long as the basics are covered. That’s not to say I haven’t accumulated anything since I moved — I guiltily gave up $10 for a Christmas sweater boasting a pug with antlers, enthusiastically purchased a succulent and candle to add some color to my otherwise empty room, and collected a few books people were nice enough to donate to me. But even as I set them in their rightful places in my room, I never really felt like I needed them. They simply added a little extra flair to my surroundings (and, in the case of the sweater, my mounting Christmas spirit).

So maybe I’ll never be a true minimalist. I’m too fond of certain belongings, like the trinkets I picked up during my travels or that friends gifted me during theirs, the sweet little notes from loved ones, my beloved book collection and the pasta maker that I am still astoundingly infatuated with. I will probably always feel pulled toward the cute shoes at the mall or bestselling books at the market, but on second thought I’m less inclined to buy them. I like the idea of having so little that I can pick up and leave easily. I like the idea that I don’t have to spend money to feel satisfied. That’s the rad thing about living out of a suitcase — maybe you do start to become a bit of a minimalist, because you’re suddenly aware of how little you need to be truly happy.

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