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.

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Mindful Dirty Dishes

Mindful Dirty DishesYour Spacious Self

I knew that 2016 would be a year of clearing.  I had too much to do, too much stuff, too much mental clutter.  I felt suffocated.  Something had to change.

I had an idea floating around in my mind of intentionally setting time aside to devote to clearing.  A set amount of hours each week, on a set day, where the only focus was getting rid of stuff.

I mentioned the idea to an online group when the topic of the new year, goals and resolutions came up.  Someone in the group offered me the title of a book that she said helped her.

I’m all about books.  And a recommended book, to me, is a piece of gold.  It’s been tried and someone deems it worthy to offer to someone else.

The book was called Your Spacious Self by Stephanie Bennett Vogt. I bought the digital copy right away. (Already trying to reduce clutter.)

The book started with the author talking about her morning routine of putting her clean dishes away.

She said the act of placing each item where it belongs first thing in the morning gives her the feeling of spaciousness.  Each plate is stacked in it’s place.  Each glass has it’s own space in the cabinet. And after everything is put away, her counter is clear and clean.

I can relate. I also have a morning routine of emptying the dish drainer and putting all the clean dishes away.  I often feel I can’t really start my day until the dishes are put away and the counters wiped down.

However, the thought had never occurred to me before reading the book of making the task a mindful practice of clearing. I didn’t use the time spent in appreciation of the items or the space devoted to each one. I was often distracted by swirling thoughts of the past, plans for the day, and the constant to-do list.  Cramming utensils into already full drawers while wondering how I was going to make space for all the things I should be doing that day.

Mindfully Washing Dishes

There’s a lot of talk of mindfulness these days.  Some find it a bit woo-woo.  Perhaps too much on the spiritual side. Is it meditation? Do you have to chant or repeat some list of affirmations?  

I think of mindfulness as simply being fully present in the moment.  Being consciously aware of what I’m doing and walking with the thoughts that are associated with it. 

Sometimes mindfulness can lead to epiphanies and new perspectives.

Washing Dishes and a Perspective on Business

Rowena shared with me how applying mindfulness to the act of hand washing dishes led to an epiphany in how she approaches her business life.

Rowena starts by equating washing silverware to the mundane, monotony, and tedious tasks that she must tend to daily in her work. These tasks don’t seem to move the needle much but tend to take up an inordinate amount of valuable time. It’s the daily grind. All work. No play.

Rowena appreciates washing plates and bowls the most.  They open up more counter space when cleaned and don’t have any tiny places for food to get stuck.  They’re like the fun and creative portions of projects. They move quickly, create the feeling of accomplishment and show obvious progress.

Cups and glasses are similar to the occasional awkward project that requires a bit of extra attention or perhaps a special tool.  Rowena says that the usefulness of these projects balance the slight annoyance of the spending the extra time to care for them.

Big projects, daunting tasks, and procrastination remind Rowena of washing pots and pans.  They’re bigger than anything else.  They take the most time and are often the dirtiest.  In the long run, these are the utensils that we use over and over again. They bring the most value to us as we nourish our bodies.  The best way to deal with them is to get to them right away. Add a bit of soap and water immediately and allow them to soak if necessary.

In business, these are the biggest and most valuable clients.  Perhaps the work is daunting. Perhaps it will take a long time to complete. However, procrastinating only prolongs the time needed, makes relations sticky, and dirties more water to see it through to completion. Yet, with a little forethought, planning, and immediate action, these tasks can be broken down into more manageable pieces.

From Mindless to Mindful

Mindfulness takes the mundane and transforms it into something profound.  It allows you to step back from simple, seemingly mindless acts and helps you make space for gratitude without judgment.  There are some things in life that we just have to take care of.  There’s no way around it. But instead of feeling stuck in the situation, just be in the situation. Take part. Be an active participant in your life.

The next time you’re washing your dishes, clearing the counters or making your bed, be mindful. Appreciate the moment and be intentional with your actions. You’ll never know what new insights you might gain in the process.

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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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