A Lesson from College: the Link Between Minimalism and Purpose


I wish I could show you a picture of my dorm room in college. I think it was about 7 feet wide by about 20 feet long. I may not be the best person to eyeball the dimensions of a room, but just know that it was small. It wouldn't've been bad for one person, but I also had a roommate. Fortunately we got along great.

Each of us had four pieces of furniture: A twin sized bed, a large armoire, a night stand, and a desk with a flip-down writing surface. We  also had a large cork board above each of our beds. The furniture was maximized for storage with several drawers, hooks, towel bars, etc, and housed my clothes, shoes, toiletries, books and the typical college stash of junk food.

And that was it.

I loved my room.

I remember being able to come into my empty room at night while my roommate was working, turn on some music and relax while my lava lamp (I forgot about that!) turned my room an oceanic blue. I felt like I was under water but in a warm, comfortable cocoon surrounded by everything I loved and needed. I wanted for nothing. I had no computer. There were labs with lots of computers. I took notes in spiral notebooks. I had no cell phone. If someone wanted to talk to me, they simply came to my room or called my room phone (which was one of those old school tan phones with the curly cord.) I lived about 50 minutes away from Walmart and 40 minutes from the mall. It was a fun outing to go with friends but I rarely bought anything more than toiletries, snacks and laundry soap.

I felt no need to buy stuff. In fact, I felt liberated because it was COLLEGE. No one cared too much about what they looked like or what each other owned. We were for the most part focused on class, work and socializing. Besides, our campus was so international that there really was no dominant style or status that we were trying to attain.

Reminiscing about those days really got me thinking about the link between minimalism and purpose. I had only what I needed, and I only did things that enriched my life. My sense of purpose was clear: Get your degree, work, hang out with friends. Though I wasn't aware of it, I see now that anything that interfered with my purpose at the time just fell away. Life was so simple because my purpose was so clear.

Nowadays life is considerably more muddled. Between the individual desires of myself and my husband, raising a 3 year old daughter and getting ready to welcome another, the question of purpose and EXACTLY what I should be doing with my time is unclear, and my posessions reflect that. I admit it's considerably more difficult for a married woman with kids to be as minimal as a college student (she's already multiplied the amount of people she has to lug around with her), but I do hold onto things that represent past potential AND future possibilities for myself personally, simply because I'm not sure what belongs in the here and now.

I believe the first step to minimalism is to get clarity. It's a slow work in progress but I'm grateful for this journey.

Has the stuff in your life ever reflected these shifting periods of clarity and uncertainty?