How China Introduced me to Minimalism
I’m aware that the newsletter title sounds like an oxymoron. China = minimalism, that doesn’t really make sense, does it? But let me explain. I didn’t realize that I was living the life of a minimalist while living in China until recently when I watched the hour-long Netflix documentary by Matt D'Avella called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. This documentary really focused on the idea that American culture has been brainwashed into believing that the secret to happiness is accumulating more money in order to buy more things. Although this documentary focused specifically on American culture, this is a concept that is held in high regard throughout many other countries in the world.
I remember prior to leaving for China, a good friend of mine expressed to me that China was the world's factory. Although I knew that the majority of the items I owned were made in China, this wasn’t something I actively thought about on a daily basis. As I landed in the place where almost everything I owned at home was made, I became cognizant that this meant I had the ability to get almost anything I wanted for a cheaper price.
When I arrived at my apartment, I was excited to go shopping and fill my little space with cute items to personalize my place. After a few days of scoping out my new home, which by the way was already furnished, I quickly realized that I already had everything I needed.
one spoon, one knife, one cup and a pair of chopsticks, 2 spatulas, one bowl, a bed, a pillow, a microwave, a wok, a rice cooker, a washing machine, a closet, a fridge and one plate.
I had the basics and quickly realized that I really didn’t need much to survive.
If you haven’t seen my video called “My Super Tiny Chinese Apartment Tour” you can check it out here.
When my sister and my friend Kristeen came to visit, that was when I actually went out and bought a few more things, and I really mean it when I say a few. I bought a fork, another cup, and another plate.
When I spent money in China, 96% of the time it was for needs rather than wants. I needed food, soap, and toilet paper but I didn’t need to get my nails done or to get eyelash extensions. My wants were things I spent money on because they made me feel good. I mean, when was I ever going to get my nails done for 8 dollars or my eyelashes done for 20 dollars again? In Canada, it costs at least 4 times that amount to get them professionally done.
This also meant I spent money on things that mattered to me, like traveling. It was traveling and eating and capturing those moments with my camera that made me the happiest. If I had spent money on more clothes, more shoes, and just more stuff, I would have most likely not been traveling and eating as much as I did.
When I came home from China and entered my room, almost immediately my heart rate increased. I had way too many things. My wall was lined with shoe boxes, and my closet was filled with clothes I hadn’t worn in years. A few days after my return home, I filled several garbage bags with my stuff and rolled them down the stairs to get them ready to be donated. I even had one of my best friends, Natasha come by and help me with this daunting task. Afterward, I felt so much better. It’s a bit hard to describe but I no longer felt this heaviness on my shoulders, and I was able to complete tasks like getting ready 5x faster than before.
Fast forward a few years and now I find myself, along with my husband and dog, five months into a brand new journey abroad. We left Canada for Belize with two suitcases and two carry-ons of clothing, technology, and a few personal items. It’s safe to say that despite shedding a large number of our “things” prior to our relocation, we brought down more than we needed. Living in a developing country, on a small island no less, you realize how few material items you really need to live a happy, fulfilling life.
Similarly to when I lived in China, the majority of our money spent here in Belize goes towards food, necessities, travel, and experiences. To us, these things are far more important than a closet full of name-brand clothing and shoes.
I still wouldn’t give myself the title of a minimalist because I still have an abundance of things that I still hold onto that I probably don’t need but it’s a work in progress. I’m also pretty lucky to have a husband who also supports this idea of living a more minimalist life and believes in the concept that material items don’t necessarily equate to happiness.
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