Declare Your Independence

minimalist, minimalism, materialism, independence, declutter, clearingIt’s July 4th, Independence Day, and 2016 is officially half over. The “year of clearing” has proven to be just that thus far.

My journey toward minimalism is still underway. Although it seems strange and satisfying at the same time that I’ve stuck with it this long. Often new ideas that strike ebb after only a few weeks.  Six months have come and gone and I’m still feeling highly motivated.

I have been consistent with my weekly decluttering habits each month. My hired motivation came every Friday to help and we tackled the dragon together.

Some days we scrubbed out cupboards in the kitchen.  Some days we vacuumed spiders out of the basement. Other days she only listened to me ramble about memories while I sorted through and released old letters and photographs.

I filled my car almost every week with boxes and bags for donation.  I anxiously watched through the window on trash days to see if the garbage men would refuse to take everything I’d put out on the curb.

Week by week, I emptied every square foot of my house of things.  I touched every single item and I made a decision about each one.

Trash. Donate. Keep.

With each decision I declared my independence from stuff.

I had to get clear about the truth about me. Who I really am and what I’m really about.  I realized with more clarity that much of what I owned was for the sake of a false identity.

  • Books to prove I was a philosopher, artist, musician.
  • Photos to prove I’d been here and there or met this person or accomplished that.
  • Duplicates for “just-in-case.”
  • Dishes for “if” the occasion arose.
  • Complete collections of this and that to prove I had it all, even though I never used it.

When I realized none of those things made me anymore of who I am, it was easy to let go of all the stuff that was weighing me down. All that stuff was causing me to believe falsehoods about who I was. A fantasy self.

Now that it’s gone, I can just be me.

Minimalism isn’t about having nothing.  Minimalism is about declaring your independence from the lies your stuff tells about you.  Creating space where you’re free to be yourself.

Minimalism is also about pledging allegiance to that which is most important to you. People and passions. Suddenly you have time and energy to invest in relationships and meaningful work.

My house isn’t empty by any stretch.  We still have plenty. More than enough, even.

I’m much more aware, however, of what we use, what we love, and what really matters. And I’m excited to see what my life will look like when I finish whittling down what doesn’t belong and polish up what remains.

Miranda Signature (1)

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The More of Less

minimalist, minimalism, more, less, spaciousness, white space, content

I dream of white spaces.

Imagine a home of simplicity, with bright white walls, clean lines, comfy furniture, and a few vibrant green houseplants. Imagine clear counters, one or two beautiful pieces of art, and sun filled rooms. That’s my dream home.

When setting goals, we’re often encouraged to imagine what it would be like to have already achieved that goal. When we visualize the end result, it gives us focus for what direction we need to move in.  Is each new step taking you toward or away from your desired result?  Having clarity on the goal becomes the best guide.

How would your life be better with less?

I had bought into consumerism. Even though I tried to convince myself it wasn’t true.

I didn’t spend copious amounts of money on shoes, purses, or designer clothes. I was thrifty and hated to pay full price for anything. Yet, when I looked around my house, I could see all the things I had acquired because I thought it would make me feel better.

Books that would make me smarter, even though I couldn’t possibly read everything on my shelves. Wall decor with inspirational sayings to help me feel at peace with my circumstances. Dishes that were never used because they were rare, making me feel like I had something that few other people owned.

All things.  Things with no real purpose. But things that I had somehow entangled my emotions in.

With an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia in my own home, a visualization of my dream home, and a burning question, “How would my life be better with less?” I set out to make a change.

The Game.

The Minimalists have a game they play to help people ease into minimalism.  It starts at the beginning of a month and on the first day, the participant gets rid of 1 item. On the second day, the participant gets rid of 2 items and so on through the month. By the end of the month, nearly 500 items have been removed from the home.

That sounded good to me, but I wanted to jump in with both feet. So I did the challenge backwards. On day one, I got rid of 31 items. On day two, I got rid of 30 items and so on.

The challenge was freeing. It was hard. And it was strangely emotional.

Emotional Baggage

I found I could justify keeping just about everything. Which is what I had been doing all along. There were feelings of guilt, anxiety, and loss along the way.

  • I felt guilty about getting rid of things that were barely used or gifts that didn’t fit in my dream home.
  • I felt anxiety over wondering if I’d regret getting rid of some things or wondering if I’d ever need it again.
  • And mostly, I felt a great loss over my identity that I’d wrapped up in those things.

Most of the items were donated to the local thrift shop. Some items went into the trash. And a few went into the attic until I could decide if I really wanted to let go and sell them.

At the end of the challenge, I felt lighter and more spacious. The house looked tidier. And the process of decluttering things was only just beginning, as my eye had been trained to pick out things that didn’t serve a purpose or add value.

The More of Less

The funny thing about this process is, as I’m clearing out more spaces in my home, I’m discovering that I am living in my dream home. Even if the architecture, building materials, or structure aren’t exactly what I would chose.

However, I am uncovering bright white walls, clearing counters, and letting the sunshine in. I can relax and enjoy the few pieces of art that are really meaningful and get value from the items that are used in daily tasks.

Perhaps your goals of living a more meaningful and contented life aren’t so distant.  Perhaps they’re buried under the clutter you’ve been sitting in for so long.  Maybe all it takes is removing the useless to find the valuable.

I challenge you to find out.

Miranda Signature

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Start With Something Simple

minimalism, clearing, closet, 333 challenge

When I realized that I didn’t have to have some life-changing goal to propel me into the new year, I decided I would just go about doing little things that were in my best interest.  Things like spring cleaning, decluttering, reading more, building better relationships, and contributing to others.  These activities would bring more space and calm to my life.

Something simple

One of the first things I did to begin the process of making space in my life was to go through my closet.  I think, comparatively speaking, I had fewer clothes than most women, however, I still had more than I had the space for.  I also had many items that I didn’t wear regularly, if at all. It seemed like the easiest place to start clearing excess.

Often, when people start exploring minimalism they immediately go to the things that will be the hardest to let go.  Things like books, photographs, or heirlooms.  That’s a great way to stop before you ever get started.

Clothing, however, is simple.  Either you wear a garment or you don’t.  Either they fit of they don’t.  Either you like it or you don’t.  Sentimentality rarely shows up in your wardrobe.  At least in the majority of it. And we know that, on average, we wear only 20-30% of the garments we own.  The rest is just baggage.

The 333 Challenge

I had come across this thing called the 333 Challenge.  It’s a challenge to pair down your wardrobe to 33 items for 3 months.  You donate or box up the rest.  Even if you don’t get rid of them, you box it up and store it away.  After three months you pull out the items you missed and donate the rest.

33 is an arbitrary number, however, it’s small enough to cause you to be very selective about what you choose to keep in your wardrobe.  It forces you to pull out a capsule wardrobe.  A few multi-functional garments that you can wear over and over at a variety of events and in many kinds of weather.

Items like undergarments, loungewear, and workout clothes aren’t counted.  Although, you can include them in the count if you decide you want the extra challenge.

Soon after starting the challenge, I realized that I wasn’t even wearing all the clothes I had kept out.  So I continued to weed out during the challenge.  I was also very disciplined about not buying anything new unless it was to replace something that had worn out.  (How often do we actually wear out an article of clothing?)

At the end of three months, I pulled out three or four items to add back into my wardrobe and donated several garments I had originally thought I’d miss for sure.

The benefits

  • Number one was having so much space!  My hanging clothes had plenty of air flow in my closet.  No more crammed, wrinkled clothes.  My drawers were mostly empty.
  • The second benefit was picking out an outfit was super easy and stress free.  I didn’t have to worry about what matched or how I looked.  The clothes I’d kept in my wardrobe were all my favorites.  I knew they fit well, were comfortable, and flattering.
  • The third benefit of clearing my wardrobe was having less laundry.  A lot less.  Many of my sweaters and skirts I was able to wear several times before they needed to be laundered.  Folding and putting away took no time at all.

Not only did I get more space but I got my time back and had less stress. Those are some highly valuable advantages to living with less. It also got the ball rolling on doing some more clearing in other areas of my home and life.

I learned that clearing and letting go doesn’t have to be painful.  It can be freeing, spacious, and refreshing.  The alternative of being cramped, stuck, and stressed is not an option.  I want so much more from life.  How about you?

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