If there's one thing that I hear every time someone comes into my home it's "wow, it's so empty". And I like it that way. But in this day and age it's hard to find a lot of people who really understand what it is to let go of the things they don't need. I'm not going to school you on what minimalism is, because I'm quite certain that you already know, but I will tell you how I found it, and where I'm at with it now.
I guess you could say that it all started when I was 9 or 10; one afternoon my Dad decided that he'd had enough of the knee-deep messes I was creating in my bedroom and it was time for it to go. 90% of it, to be precise. He gave me a moment to salvage the things I really wanted, and after that he shoved everything else into garbage bags, which were promptly added to the growing pile of unwanted things in the basement storage room. That was the first time I learned about letting go.
Over the next few years I began a cycle of accumulating belongings and then disposing of most of them every 6 months or so. This continued into my high school years - long before minimalism became a widely acknowledge trend. I just thought of it as "spring cleaning", and didn't realize how unusual it was until I started going to my friend's houses and realized that their rooms were still full of belongings from a decade earlier.
* I should probably add that my mother did not approve of my getting rid of things so often. She's big on sentimentality. Keeping things for their meanings and leaving them behind for future generations. But I'm big on not having a lot of clutter, and you can imagine that we butt heads more than a few times when she found some relic or other in the trash can that "shouldn't" have been put there. But that never stopped me.. I developed a habit of taking out trash bags full of belongings on Friday mornings, when the dumpster was out on the curb, and my mother couldn't possibly find the bags because they'd be gone before the next time she had a chance to check... maybe it was wrong of me to keep it from her... but I would go back and do it all over again. In my eyes those things were junk, and I've never missed any of them.
How It went from "spring-cleaning" to "minimalism"
I'd like to preface by saying that while the idea of minimalism began to appeal to me around the age of 17, it was not necessarily my intention to become someone who owned THAT little. But it happened anyways. I've found that most of my good habits are born out of necessity, like walking 5 miles every day. It's not that I want to. It's that there is no other way to get from the last stop on the train to where I work. So I walk. The same thing applies to my belongings. Purging my wardrobe and shelves became a sort of therapy. When life got too hectic and overwhelming I could just go through my stuff and dispose of everything I didn't need or want anymore. Removing clutter from my surroundings helped me feel a little less cluttered on the inside, and I grew to love the feeling of throwing things away.
Even when I stopped having spare money and my friends no longer gave me their old clothes i continued disposing of the things that I had. Over time I found that I had fewer and fewer belongings until, eventually, I had practically nothing. A few articles of clothing, a few books, and some necessary textiles... maybe one or two decor items (including my ceramic owl, Henry)... but that was it.
I grew to love the feeling of throwing things away.
My friends began to comment on how clean and bright and open my spaces always were. Telling me that they couldn't possibly live like I do.. but they wish they could. Nearly everyone who comes to my house feels the need to ask why I have no couch.. I guess I understand that. I mean, I have a living room. All that's in it right now is a dresser, a book shelf, and a Christmas tree (yes, I know, it's too early, but it makes me happy. We should all do more of what makes us happy).
Where I'm At Now
I guess I am still not technically a true minimalist. I have a few pieces of wall decor (although they aren't up) and a couple of knickknacks here and there. But I think that minimalism is more about your intention with objects. I don't buy new decor. Everything I have was either a gift or I've had it since I was a teenager... and if i were to lose Henry the owl and the three flower portraits I got for my 13th birthday I would't cry over it. I don't need things.
I'm looking to buy an armchair and a good amount of throw pillows. Maybe just the throw pillows. I refuse to get a couch, but I'd still like to keep myself and my guests comfortable if we opt to watch the TV that I'm finally getting (I can't believe I actually caved on that one). It's a process; finding out what I want.. what I need... where I want to be. But I'm getting there. And may I just say that I keep a damn clean house while I'm at it!