Minimalist living—living with fewer items—has become something of a fad. Pinterest infographics, Buzzfeed links, blogs, and even Atlantic articles extol the environmental, personal, and spiritual virtues of tiny houses, small closets, and clutter-free living. I’ve never liked jumping onto fads, but this one resonated with me.
I brought almost everything I owned with me to college, largely because my parents’ house didn’t have much space for me to leave things behind. Through the moving process, I realized I owned a lot more stuff than I realized, and much more stuff than I ever actually used or needed: I found middle school clothes that no longer fit, letters from people I couldn’t remember, Happy Meal toys, Beanie Babies, ninth grade math homework, and more. I thought I had finished purging all the junk by the time I pulled up to the parking lot to my dorm building, but was disappointed to find that even a few trash bags later, all my things still didn’t fit into my tiny new shared room.
I began selling and donating old clothes and extra things in freshman year to save up extra cash, fit more school spirit gear into my wardrobe, and clear space in my cramped dorm room. I also promised myself that I’d only ever buy new things if I didn’t already own something similar. It was hard at first, but I found that the more unnecessary things I got rid of the nicer my life became. It became easier to keep my room clean (ish), which kept my mind clearer and helped me stay focused while studying. It was easier to choose outfits in the morning, since I only kept items I either wore regularly or really liked. Extra pocket money didn’t hurt, either.
I continued getting rid of unnecessary belongings as I moved through my undergraduate career, and was surprised that I kept finding unexpected perks to a more minimalist lifestyle. When increasing rent convinced me to move from a dorm room to an apartment, and then from a double room to a triple room, I had little trouble fitting my things into smaller and smaller spaces, which saved me both money and peace of mind. When I studied and traveled abroad, I left behind fewer things (and therefore didn’t need to spend as much on storage). I stopped thinking of shopping as a pastime, which saved me time and money for more important things like travel and my education. I even began dressing better, since getting rid of things I didn’t need made me think hard about what styles I did and didn’t like.
I don’t know if I’ll keep up with a minimalist lifestyle after college, but it worked wonders for me as an undergraduate, both financially and personally. Hoarding belongings is a hard habit to break, but in my experience there’s no better time to break it than in college!
Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.