Less > More: My Journey To Minimalism

You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterdays junk.

-Louise Smith

I used to love things. Lots of different things, really. I loved owning a bunch of clothing, shoes and bags; makeup, little trinkets, Halloween costumes, old ticket stubs – the list goes on and on. Not expensive things per say; I just used to love having tons of ‘stuff’ around me. I moved out on my own when I was 18 and left the small town I grew up in as fast as I could to start building a life for myself, basically from scratch. When I got my first apartment I was so excited to start getting things to fill it with; furniture, kitchen appliances, decor, etc – it’s so exciting to gather possessions for the first couple years on your own. I went on to buy my first home at 22, and with so many more rooms in it I continued to build up my things, because I had more space to fill – MORE furniture, MORE dishes, MORE costumes, books, so much clothing etc. – I had worked so hard to get where I was, and needed to fill my home with the fruits of my labor. I never spent outside of my means – I was always extremely financially responsible and loved a bargain, and this also lead to never saying no to free stuff – but it was all quantity over quality for me and before long, by myself and on my own I had filled an entire home with lots and lots of stuff – most of it overkill, and frankly unnecessary.

When I reflect, I think it was for a couple different reasons. We were comfortable financially when I was growing up – hard working, middle class, content, and had everything we needed and were encouraged that if we wanted something extra we could save up and earn it, so it wasn’t from anything like that. Maybe it was because I had worked so hard to get where I was, on my own, and felt like I needed lots of things to validate that? Really, looking back I feel it was another way I felt a sense of control and comfort in my life. If I had a wedding to go to I knew owned 30 formal dresses in various sizes and 60 pairs of shoes waiting for me, so I wouldn’t get stuck. If I needed a set of red hair bows for my Halloween costume or 70’s style gold belt for a production I was in I knew I had it. But 99% of the time I didn’t need any of those things. Holding onto stuff, both emotionally and physically isn’t healthy or helpful for your growth, and you shouldn’t reach for something new if your life is already filled with too much. It’s virtually impossible to properly enjoy it. We’re programmed from the moment we are exposed to the media as kids that we need to have lots of ‘stuff’ to be happy. The latest release of things is urgent to acquire; we have to keep up with the hottest trends, fill our over sized, huge homes with tons of  unnecessary things. Why? Because money, of course. The more anxious, worried and frantic they make us feel about needing to have all of these things, the more chance we will go out and get them, filling their pockets with cash and our lives with more stuff.

So take all that and throw in 18 years on my own, a husband who also likes things, a photography business with props galore and having two kids worth of stuff on top of it? We had acquired so much that our closets were full, our 5 bedroom home had things in every single room, and there were only 4 of us here, two whom are babies. It really hit me when my photography business started taking off and I began to plan the building of a portrait studio in a spare room – I wasn’t sure where to start or how to store things, because there was already so much in there. My closets were busting, as were my husbands and kids, the home office was filled with paperwork, books and years of stuff from our collective 8 years of education… it was seriously so overwhelming, and I didn’t even know how or where to start.

And then it dawned on me. Just like the other situations in my life from the past, I was holding on to a lot of things just because they were what I knew and felt comfortable being around – just in case. I was overwhelmed with the idea of going through them all, analyzing their uses and facing the idea of parting with them. But if I held onto these items I wouldn’t have space for new, beautiful things to come in; there were so many objects from the past I was holding onto, physical things this time, that had absolutely no place in my life now. Also, there is something so beautiful and empowering when you realize how little we actually need to survive – and how powerful we actually are because of that. When we take away the incessant nagging by the world that we need to keep owning things and replace it with focus on what we actually do love, we can start truly enjoying the things we have.

So being the organized person I am, I started working on my own design, a “30 Day Purge Plan”, and although hard to do at first it left me feeling amazing, clear headed, and even lighter afterward (and who doesn’t love that?!). I strongly recommend everyone try it, even if it’s just to clear just a couple things from your space. Why 30 days? Because like myself, over the span of your life you’ve accumulated so many things that you most likely don’t need to have in it anymore, and my method is a slow and gradual process where you do a little bit every day, with a couple of different levels of letting go. I hated the idea of just “grabbing all your crap and dropping it off to Goodwill”. I wanted to not feel rushed and go through my things, making sure I went through a checklist of why I wanted to part with them, have contemplation time, and then feel great about my decision to let them go. I also have a continued maintenance plan I’m working on and preventative measures when making purchases that I will be talking about later, to ensure that I don’t get to this place again. And trust me – if you do this and truly let go, once you start clearing out stuff you won’t want to stop. In the best way possible.

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Less is the new more.

I will be outlining my plan in an upcoming post – listing where I started, how I decided what to keep, donate or toss,  how I justified these choices, and the way I went through my entire house and the process of spending a month clearing my space. For me, ultimately it wasn’t just about getting rid of stuff, but about enjoying the things of value I do have in my life. It’s not like I won’t be buying anymore, or don’t want nice things – it’s about allowing only things in my life that I love. With age I’ve truly learned that quality over quantity is key – with the people in my life, as well as my possessions. Minimalism as a lifestyle is “the art of letting go” – something I am still very much working on. The simplicity and enjoyment of the things that are necessary, and removal of stuff that distracts me from those things is key. When we release the things that don’t matter, we can wholeheartedly realize and appreciate those that do.

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