I am not your typical minimalist. I’m just gonna say that right now. If you take a look at the books, notebooks, and knickknacks adorning my shelves you would probably agree with me.
That being said, I love minimalism. I love the space of mind it brings, and the ability to walk into a house that is calm and welcoming. I love being able to look at my walls and shelves and only see things that I love on the walls.
So I wanted to write a post (we’ll see how brief I can be) about how I got here.
To begin with, my mom is a minimalist. Or at least as much as she can be with six kids. From an early age I saw her create a clean, organized house that was comfortable to be in. And my younger, collectible self suffered under her expectation that my room be clean and organized as well. Heh. But I survived, and ended up with a host of habits that lent well to my later home.
I learned how to keep a well organized library, only keeping the books I love and would be willing to read again. I learned how to keep my kitchen clean and how to do laundry in a way that was never overwhelming (Step 1, have less clothes). I learned how to create to do lists for myself which guided my day and week. From her, I learned the basic building blocks of having a well organized life.
However, it took a trip over seas to really start considering minimalism. A couple of years after high school I spent more than a month overseas living out of a suitcase. Everything I owned and used that entire trip could be fit into a couple suitcases, and that included the books I insisted on bringing. And you know what? I didn’t miss anything. There was nothing at home that I desperately needed, nothing I wanted while I was there. I was perfectly happy to live out of a suitcase. After that trip I came back home to my overstuffed room and was immediately uncomfortable. There was just so much stuff. How had I accumulated it all in my oh so short life? That, I think, was my first purge of stuff. I got rid of piles and piles of things that I no longer needed or wanted.
I have had many purges since then. Getting rid of clothes that no longer fit and stuff that I no longer need. Sometimes they are started by another trip and sometimes by a book I read (looking at you Marie Kondo).
And sometimes, by moving out.
Something about taking all of your things out into the light of day really puts perspective on how much you actually have. Moving out of my parents house, and moving boxes and boxes of things that I forgot I had was a humbling experience. I had not realized just how much stuff was crammed into the corners of my room.
During all those purges, one thing bothered me. No matter how many times I did it, I got rid of so much every single time. Where was it all coming from? How did I end up with the exact same size pile every single time I purged?
Really, I was just sick of taking trips to Goodwill.
Finally, I realized that the key to having less stuff was in buying less stuff. Shocker, I know. It meant saying no to free stuff, to stop going shopping on the weekends with no other purpose than to waste time. If I wanted to stop taking trips to Goodwill, I had to stop accumulating stuff.
I am still learning this lesson. Clothes look so pretty on the rack, but do I really need them? Maybe I should just stop looking at them…
The last lesson I learned in the art of minimalism (or maybe just the most recent, because do you ever finish learning this?) was how to let go of who I think I should be. I was keeping piles and drawers of things I never used, never looked at, and didn’t really even like because I wanted to be that person. I wanted to be the kind of woman who made cakes for all her guests (even though I don’t like cake), so I held onto a cake stand that I literally never used. I kept the violin even though I hadn’t played it in so long my fingers had forgotten the strings, because I felt I should be musical (even though I play piano rather well). And those were just a couple of the things scattered around my house because I felt that I should be a specific kind of person.
I’m not going to bake cake because I don’t like it. So I have a cookie sheet instead of a cake pan. I play piano avidly and sing when I can. I don’t need a violin to be musical. I don’t have to read certain books to say I like the classics. So I read the ones I want to and don’t read the ones I don’t want to.
It was in learning about myself and accepting that I don’t have to be a specific person that helped me to let go of clutter that had haunted my drawers and cabinets for years. No one except me thinks I have to be anything else except for myself. When I learned that, when I accepted that, my house shed its clutter, and stayed clutter free (for longer anyway, I have a feeling that around a certain wedding there will be more purging).
Here is my question, and my challenge. Why are you holding onto the clutter in your life? Is it guilt? Is it because just looking at it feels overwhelming? Is it because shopping helps you forget your worries? Or is it, like me, because you feel as if you must be a certain person, and the stuff will help you get there? Find the reason why, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the clutter went away, and stayed away. (not forever though, I swear stuff multiplies all on its own…)