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Home » Travel light: Declutter your inner and outer world

Travel light: Declutter your inner and outer world

by Bijal Maroo
Travel light
The defining rule of minimalism points out that we use and wear 20% of our things about 80% of the time. In the east, aparigraha asks us to let go of our possessions as well as drop our disempowering mindsets, habits, and beliefs.

Decluttering our homes eases our lives, while decluttering our minds of unwanted thoughts, beliefs and opinions results in abiding peace and calm. The KonMari method of practicing minimalism encourages us to retain only things that bring us joy. The eastern concept of aparigraha or non-greed through right actions, right intent, and right attitude, can help declutter our minds.

Almost one-fourth of adults in the US are embracing minimalism, according to a poll by CivicScience on changing trends in the country. Not just individuals but even professional de-clutterers rely on the 80/20 rule of minimalism to free up living spaces. As per this rule, we use and wear 20% of our things about 80% of the time, which encourages us to discard the 80% part that is serving little purpose.    

The concept of aparigraha or letting go of our possessions and dropping our disempowering mindsets, habits, intentions, and beliefs is inherent in Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.  

Why minimalism?

While letting go of persistent thoughts and the opinions we are married to might seem an uphill task, letting go of unwanted things lying around at home might be a breeze. Well, the 80/20 rule makes it obvious how consumerist a society we are! We keep buying stuff 80% of which we will hardly use. So, minimalism helps people simplify their lives. Firstly, we need to spend less time in shopping. Also, fewer things at home translate into less cleaning to do on weekends. Then we automatically have more free time to direct towards the top priorities in our lives.

The KonMari method of decluttering

Marie Kondo, a Japanese Professional Organizer, is considered an authority on tidying up living spaces. The KonMari method named after her uses the unique criterion of choosing to keep only things that bring you joy. Knowing what to keep seems to be more effective than starting with things that you can let go of.

Marie suggests tidying by category instead of combing through your possessions one room at a time. Start with clothes and then move on to books, papers, miscellaneous items, and finally to sentimental stuff which tugs at your heartstrings. Once you set aside the things you intend to keep (‘To Keep’ category), discard the other stuff first by sincerely thanking each item for having served you well. Finally, lovingly put back the things in the ‘To Keep’ category and bask in the new-found freedom.

Decluttering guru Marie Kondo suggests you should choose to keep only things that bring you joy. Knowing what to keep seems to be more effective than starting with things that you can let go of.

Aparigraha – Cleansing the inner world

Embracing minimalism entails changing your DNA from that of greed to one of contentment. Parigraha means greed and possessiveness. Its antonym, aparigraha, stands for non-greed and non-attachment. Most of us suffer from a mindset of ‘Lack’ wherein we fear that we might not have enough for tomorrow. Hence, we fall prey to the hoarding trap.

Another consequence of this ‘Lack’ mindset is the need to feed the ego as we feel we are not enough. The Jain Guru, Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai, warns in Sadguru Insights (a collection of his lectures), “One may try to fill this emptiness with wealth, name, fame, status and furniture but that vacuum, that hole, that inner poverty remains as it is. External things, outer associations cannot fill this abyss because they all remain outside.”

Right action – Giving is antidote to greed 

Dāna, or giving, is the antidote to greed. Dāna is defined in traditional Hindu texts as any action of relinquishing the ownership of what belongs to us and investing the same in a recipient unconditionally, without any expectations. 

I spoke to Dr Maruthi Ram, a yoga teacher and evaluator approved by the Yoga Certification Board in India. He threw light on how dāna can build the virtue of aparigraha. According to him, “When you are comfortable with only the little that you truly need, you start giving the rest to others. Once you develop the habit of giving you will overcome the habit of hoarding.”

Right intent

When we perform dāna without expectations from the recipient or ambitions of gaining fame in society, we imbibe aparigraha. Such giving reflects the purity of our intent.  In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says: “Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action.”

Jains and Hindus often do penance through fasts. However, we need to examine the hidden intent behind our spirituality. “Do you want to become pure and peaceful like Lord Mahavir or do you have some other goal? Often, there is some other underlying focus, like the desire for heavenly pleasures or the fear of hell.”, says Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshbhai in his book.

The right intent for undertaking any fast is to build inner resolve and reduce cravings. I have a thought for us to brew in: ‘Can we extend the logic of fasting to our possessions? Can we limit the number of things we buy?’

“Detachment isn’t that you own nothing; detachment is that nothing owns you.” teaches the Bhagavad Gita, the most revered scripture of the Hindu religion.

Dr Maruthi Ram

According to yoga teacher Maruthi Ram, “When you are comfortable with only the little that you truly need, you start giving the rest to others. Once you develop the habit of giving you will overcome the habit of hoarding.”

Right attitude – Cultivate non-attachment

Now that we have successfully managed to embrace the new ideology of minimalism, we get attached to this identity of being a minimalist. The ego trips us up and we are vociferous about our beliefs. We try to coerce our dear ones to follow in our footsteps.

The primary reason for most conflicts is that we are strongly attached to our ideologies, our way of life, and our belief system. We look down upon anyone who thinks differently.  

I had a conversation with Sharmila Kannan, a Mudra Therapist specializing in Pregnancy Yoga. She extended aparigraha to relationships. She said, “One must not try to control their spouse or expect total obedience from them. Instead, they should accept their partner as a person with an individual identity. This means understanding that they hail from a different background, respecting their views, and allowing them to express the same.”

We must look back often and remember that we too were gripped by the habit of hoarding and impulse shopping not too long ago. Aparigraha helps us to have a more compassionate view of others who are yet to embark on this journey called minimalism. Non-attachment means not forcing our ideology on any other person, not even our spouse.

(Also, read

Collect moments, not things

The best things in life are free. The myriad hues of the sunset sky, the twinkling blanket of a starlit night, the golden orb moving across the morning sky, the whiff of the season’s first rain, the aroma of the Night Jasmine, the laughter of children, the love in the eyes of your spouse. These are all experiences to be enjoyed in the moment. There will be more sunsets and more memories. Yet, one can never live the same sunset, the same memory again. Like the grains of sand, slowly but surely, these moments slip away.

To quote Karen Salmansohn, a self-help book author and designer, “Collect moments, not things.”

Photos courtesy: Pexels, The Container Store and Dr Maruthi Ram – Instagram

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Bijal Maroo March 6, 2024 - 7:38 am

Thank you very much. Glad you liked it.

PS March 4, 2024 - 3:05 pm

Very well written. Decluteer and minimalist concepts beautifully explained.

Dr. Maruthi Ram March 3, 2024 - 2:21 am

Bijal ji your article on Aparigraha is very nice and very insightful. The concept of astanga yoga is b very nicely portrayed and it reaches all. Well done .

Bijal Maroo March 4, 2024 - 7:20 am

Thank you Dr Maruthi Ram. You are an important contributor and were instrumental in helping me understand this concept of Aparigraha. Also, my editor Mr Parveen Chopra had very wisely added this idea to my brief on an article about letting go and decluttering.

Bijal March 2, 2024 - 3:03 pm

Yes, Aparna. Thank you.

Aparna Dedhia March 2, 2024 - 4:47 am

Aparigraha begins from the mind goes to
the physical- be it wealth or relationships – only to come to the mind teaching us that the eternal truth ‘detachment is the key’ to liberation of the soul.