A Lesson in Accidental Minimalism


Emma Andrus

If there is one thing my first semester of college has taught me, it’s the valuable lesson of “less is more.” 

I first came to campus bright-eyed and seemingly unprepared, and I noticed it right away. From having hardly enough clothes hangers to finding myself frustrated by the presence of things I didn’t see myself needing, I knew from very early on that I would have to evaluate what was worth having in my tiny slice of northeast Ohio campus life and what wasn’t. 

The first item of business I set about accomplishing was a complete dorm overhaul. I cleaned and carefully placed every little possession and by the time I was finished, I was exhausted by the amount of time I had put into my organization and purging of items only for it to feel so fruitless just a few days of college mess later. That’s what drove me to the “less is more” mentality. Because even after all my efforts, I still found myself holding onto less of what I needed and more of what I wanted, rather than finding a healthy balance between both.

In about a week’s time, I got an aloe plant. I paid essentially a penny to print photos of my dearest friends to string up. And I filled a box full of extra supplies, clothes and room items that didn’t feel necessary anymore. It took me almost the entire semester to really process my understanding of minimalism; when I began with my overhaul and reorganization steps, I didn’t view what I was doing as “minimalism” in the slightest. The difference between the individual I was at the start of the semester versus at the close was made obvious by my change in mentality and outlook.

When I have read about “minimalism,” it is described as being intentional, deliberate and done out of passion and on purpose. Quite oppositely, I’d say coming to college made me an accidental minimalist. 

When people picture the textbook definition and the foundations of minimalism, I’d assume they envision stark white walls and barely anything at all. For me, that understanding has changed, as I have come to find that minimalism is the personal satisfaction in knowing that while I may not have a dorm stocked with millions of pillows, decor, an overflowing wardrobe and items intended for single use, what I do have is exactly what I need. Nothing more, nothing less.

I found comfort through the ups and downs of my first semester of college in the people who helped me understand that material items don’t carry nearly as much weight or sentimental value as do your choices, your deliberateness and your feelings during times of togetherness or solitude.

“Fewer” really can mean more: fewer belongings, fewer worries and a closer circle made up of the people and ideas that hold the greatest amount of weight in your heart.

Follow Emma on her minimalist journey here.