Minimizing

Well…since I don’t write as often as I would like I usually go back and read my last post before submitting another. In doing this I realize that I haven’t come very far from my last post. or maybe I’ve made leaps and bounds. Hard to say.

My point is that I still want to sell the house and buy an Airstream. or more likely a VW bus, because frankly, I don’t want to try to back an Airstream trailer into a campsite. Ever.

And what this led me to is a new pursuit of minimalist lifestyle. Now honestly, who knows how far I’ll take this, but it’s been enlightening in a lot of ways, so I thought I’d share. The truth is, when this process started, about a month ago, it had nothing to do with becoming a minimalist. I just came home one day and felt really…cluttered. Now you should know that I am a pretty organized person. Everything has a place and I’m generally quite good at getting everything back to it’s place. But on the other hand, I live alone in a three bedroom house and nearly every option for storage was full of …something.

I started with drawers and cabinets and just general de-cluttering. This was the easy part. I had a lot of stuff I wasn’t using. Identifying those items was quite simple. Some of them were easy to throw into a “donate” box. I apparently collect a lot of “shwag” which is a fancy word for free shit people give away. I also like to support whichever event I’m attending which usually means another t-shirt purchase.  For the records, I almost never wear t-shirts and when I do, I’m quite picky about cut and fit.  Which brought me to my first step in this process.

1. Stop the Bleeding.  I mean seriously, WTF? As I was tossing these hardly, if ever, used items into the donate box, I mentally tallied up how much money I’d spent on them. Thankfully, many of the items which were purchased went to support a good cause.  That helped me cringe a bit less. Regardless, I realized in that moment that I needed to stop bringing this stuff into my life if I was ever going to get away from it. So new plan… no more free schwag, no more event t-shirts (if I want to donate to the cause, I can always do so by simply donating) and a temporary freeze on all purchases until I figure out what I truly need. I will confess, this is still a new resolution and one that will probably be challenging for me.  I just bought 4 books.

Ok, so that was the easy part. Getting rid of t-shirts I never wear, mugs I never use and at least half of my coozie collectoin was a pretty simple process.  Honestly, how many coozies does one person need?  I threw it all in the donate box and it FELT SO GOOD. I started to look around the house. What else did I have that I wasn’t using? Were there hidden items taking up space (physical and mental, I’ve come to realize) that I could purge? As I opened cabinets and trunks and closets, I started to find item after item and collection after collection that I wasn’t using. So many things that were just taking up space. I pulled them out of the cabinets. And then I put them back. I couldn’t get rid of them, they had sentimental value. Two items (which were actually several items because they were both sets) in particular come to mind. First was a stunning espresso set from Greece, hand made and painted with gold leaf, it was a gift from my aunt. The second, was a sushi serving set from Japan that was a gift from an old friend of the family. I looked at these items for quite some time when I realized that I needed to change something. Which led me to step two.

2. Practicing Detachment. This is a difficult and necessary step. I’ve been reading blog after blog about simplifying and becoming a minimalist and what it means and how to do it and so on and so on. And this discussion of our sentimental attachment to material things is widespread and addressed on nearly every article on the subject. What it really comes down to is … it’s just STUFF. It really doesn’t matter. Getting rid of items for which we have a sentimental attachment changes nothing about the actual sentiment. If the house burned to the ground tomorrow with all those items in it, I would still have the fond memories of the people who gave me those gifts. Now I will confess that this is definitely easier said than done.  I have given the espresso set away to friends, a couple who has a coffee addiction beyond any I’ve ever seen and will put the set to good use, or on display. Knowing it was going to a place where it would be appreciated, instead of tucked away in a cabinet like it was at my house, made detaching from it much easier. Maybe that means I haven’t actually detached from it.  I’m not sure, sounds like a question for a yoga teacher.  Regardless it’s no longer cluttering up my life.

Side note…I have an unhealthy attachment to books, I’m working on it. It may require therapy.

So, I’m sure your assumption at this point is that I’ve made drastic improvements in minimizing my life. I mean, how much stuff can I possibly be emotionally attached to (books aside) and how much space could it possibly take up? Well, let me introduce you to the third and most difficult (so far) step.

3. Removing “Just in Case” Items. This is actually proving to be a bigger challenge for me than practicing detachment was. As it turns out, I have an astronomical amount of “Just in Case” items.  I have a very pretty black dress, “just in case” there is a funeral or a wedding and I need to wear it (by the way, I did not wear that black dress the last time I attended a funeral or a wedding.) I have lots of extra sheets and blankets “just in case” … I don’t even know why… in case something happens to the several blankets I use on a regular basis and I need extras? I have a plethora of cooking and baking items, “just in case” I need to, I don’t know, bake a couple dozen cupcakes randomly (if you don’t know me personally, I can assure you that is NEVER going to happen, the last thing I used my oven for was to heat up pizza.) Oh and of course, I have books.  Lots and lots of books.  “Just in case” someone stops by and is randomly looking for a book to read… “just in case” I ever want to read it again… “just in case” I ever get the urge to finish reading the books that I started, but couldn’t quite get in to.

So here I am.  With a large basket of books in the car to trade in at the book center. Not nearly all of my books have left the premises, but I’d say about half have found new homes (or will once I get over to the book center.) I still have a fully furnished 3 bedroom home.  I still have an enormous amount of paring down to do.  Clothes, glasses (I own an obscene amount of drinking glasses), handbags, jewelry… the list goes on and on.  But each time I remove an item and, address the underlying feelings connected to it, I feel lighter.

I do not know if I will ever be a “true” minimalist, even by my own definition of what I believe a minimalist is. But as I remove the clutter from my home and consequently, my mind, I do feel that I’m moving towards a more peaceful existence. And that feels wonderful.useful and beautiful

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