The Magic of Minimalism

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I have never been one to hold onto things especially due to sentimentality. Or so I believed. See, most of my family are hoarders to varying degrees and I’ve always strove to not be anything like them.

During my separation and divorce, there was a lot of dividing going on and, in the process, I got rid of a lot of stuff.

The majority stayed in boxes and totes while I lived with my sister. When I moved in with Ian, however, I was overwhelmed by the number of things I still owned.

It took me an exhausting week straight to put everything away. I felt frustrated to have so much stuff and nowhere to put it. I reasoned that the apartment was just too small.

In January of 2017, I watched the documentary, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”, by The Minimalists. It inspired me to do a general sweep of my things and get rid of what I no longer needed. I ended up with a bag full and felt pretty proud of myself but shortly after, I still felt I had too much clutter.

The following month I came across this blog post. The writer had read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo and documented her journey following the KonMari Method.

The KonMari Method groups all of one’s belongings by category. Then the person touches each item, keeping only those that spark joy and then designating a home for those items.

After learning about this book, I checked it out from my local library. I devoured it in less than a week. (You’re supposed to follow the KonMari method while reading it, but it is in such high demand that I couldn’t keep it for very long.)

The book stoked a fire in me and I decided to try her method. I wrote down the cliff notes, returned the book, and started with the first category which is clothing and worked my way through the rest over the course of a month and a half. Ian joined me in the categories he owned things in which were only clothing, old school related papers, and DVDs.

Most of it was easy to do, a lot of it were things I wanted to get rid of for a long time. I went through photos surprisingly well. I saved cards and letters for later which when it came time for them, was easy as well. The more I got rid of (especially so-called sentimental items) the easier it was to get rid of other things that invoked a stronger emotional response.

I found it especially liberating while ridding myself of things I was holding onto due to fear, guilt, and obligation. It’s as if the book gave me permission to let go of things.
While I was on my KonMari journey, I told Ian stories behind objects. Some inspired tears and anger.

There were so many “gifts” I had gotten over the years that weren’t gifts at all. They all came with some sort of clause attached. Some demand. Some form of control. Gifts that should have been given freely and with love and no demand to have them back if I didn’t want them or instructions on how I use them or feel about them.

I had so many things, that when I touched them and waited, there was no spark of joy. Only a deep well of anger, repression, and resentment.

What awakened a visceral emotional response the most was going through all of my Hanson memorabilia.

It wasn’t because of the band but everything that happened during my 20 years of being a fan. All those memories behind the posters, magazines, albums, concert souvenirs, and t-shirts released a torrent of tears.

My sisters were Hanson fans too, so it was something we could share. My sister, Melissa, (who is closer in age) and I weren’t always close, and this helped us slowly to do so. We also travelled to a lot of other states to attend concerts.

Growing up, I had stayed within a 200-mile radius of southeast Kentucky, only going into Virginia and Tennessee, which isn’t hard to do since those two states border the county I lived in. Traveling as a teenager helped open my eyes to life outside of my small Appalachian town.

When Hanson broke onto the music scene in 1997, I was only 13. It was such a pivotal time in my life. It was my coming of age. I was a teenager getting to know myself. And I thought of the girl I was, what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be. Wondering if any part of me was still that girl. Wondering if I had ever wanted to be that girl.

But now I was at another pivotal point in my life. I was somewhere in life where I was truly moving on. All those old things had only weighed me down. For too long, I was surrounded by things which sparked many painful memories. Even the ones which reminded me of happy, fun moments still had painful ones interwoven into them.

I was more than ready to let go. I was starting anew with a clean slate. Without all the stuff, it was just me, stripped down and bare boned. It’s freeing but boy is it terrifying.

It leaves a wide-open space to ask the really important questions: Who do I want to be? What kind of life do I want to have? What are my values and priorities now that I don’t have to focus only on making money to buy things I think I need?

I was able to take a job I really wanted even though it paid less. Both Ian and I realized we didn’t want to be so close to Nashville. I took a job in Gallatin and that’s where we moved to. It’s calmer and quieter. There are still rolling hills and some farmland left.

The biggest impact for me was realizing how long I had bought into consumerism. Always pining for the latest and greatest. Envying those who seem to always have the perfect home, the perfect wardrobe, seemingly the perfect life.

But in reality, at my core, I didn’t even want all those things, yet I had allowed myself to believe that I needed them. Either as a badge of success and happiness or to solidify my position as what we’re told an adult is supposed to be and look like.

I don’t give a shit if I don’t have the latest iPhone or those boots that everyone else is wearing or having my home look as if Joanna Gaines decorated it.

For me, having a lot of things is meaningless. There are so many gadgets and gizmos and knick-knacks in homes right now that we do not need. It’s only getting in the way. And it’s this idea that if we have less than our neighbor, we are somehow less than, less rich, less popular, less happy, and therefore less worthy.

I only have to live by my own standards and those can be anything I choose. Whether I’m bucking trends or choose to follow some, what really matters is if I’m happy, not going into debt or tying my worth to empty objects, and I don’t feel like I’m only trying to impress others.

Starting in February and into early April 2017, I donated and sold about 80% of my things. After moving into a new apartment and over the course of an additional 6 months or so, I got rid of even more things.

Eliminating clutter gave me room to focus on what is important and narrowed down how I want to spend my time. Now, when I purchase something, I do so mindfully. I choose quality of quantity and things which will make my life easier. Ridding my life of so much stuff is freeing in a way I have never encountered before. Not only do I have more physical space but mental, emotional, and spiritual space as well.

I recommend others to take a look around. Are there things which do not bring you joy? Are you better off without them? Tune out the rest of the world and ask yourself: What do I like? What do I want? What do I need? And then ask yourself if all the stuff in your home is helping or hindering you in finding out.

 

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