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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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.

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From Clutter to Compassion

From Clutter to CompassionIt hits me every spring.  The bug to clean out the stuff in my house and my life.  I start reading minimalism blogs and lusting after the pictures of peaceful living spaces.  Then I look around my house and see a whole lot of unnecessary junk.  I don’t know how we accumulate so much.

One such blog post I read talked about their journey to minimalism by removing the same number of things from their house as the number of the current year.  So in 2015, they will remove 2015 items from their house.  I’m always intrigued by such audacious challenges.

I mentioned the challenge out loud and my kids got this nervous look in their eyes.  They told me I was crazy, but I can see this being an extremely easy challenge to complete.  They know me.  I go on cleaning binges every few months.  Sometimes they help and other times they hide.  The verdict is still out on this one.

I cleaned out my closet and started weeding out my books.  I probably have close to 500 items pulled out already.  I figure if I can get my kids to go through their clothes and books, we can hit 2015 items in two days.

Having too much is overwhelming.  There’s too much to clean, organize and store.  It’s way to easy to make a mess and way too hard to pick it up.  We don’t live extravagantly by any means but we really have more than we can adequately appreciate.


Yesterday, I made a quick run to the store to pick up a few grocery items we had run out of.  Milk and cereal.  Staples in our house.  As an impulse buy, I picked up a large bag of M&Ms to share with the kids.

When we were leaving the parking lot, I saw a man with a cardboard sign standing at the traffic light.  His hair was gray and long and it mingled with his long beard.  I’ve never stopped to give money to beggars before, but I had $3 tucked in the door of my car.  The change from the $25 I had just spent on chocolate marshmallow cereal and M&Ms.

I recently read in the Bible where God told his people to be generous to the poor.  Not to deal harshly or be tightfisted with them.  God promised a blessing to those who gave freely to people in need.  (Deut. 15:7-11)

I rolled my window down as I pulled up next to the man.  I held out the bills to him.  He stepped off the curb to reach for the money and his eyes met mine.  He didn’t say anything, but I could tell he was humbled and ashamed to be standing there.  There was sadness and long stories in those eyes.  All I could say was, “God bless you” before I drove through the intersection.

When I pulled up to the man at the traffic light, I had my blessing in mind.  But as I drove away, my mind was frantically challenging me.  What did this man think of me?  Here I was, driving my paid for car, leaving a store where I had just impulsed on M&Ms, handing him $3 and driving off to visit a friend to laugh and complain about our hard lives.

Of course, he didn’t know what I bought or where I was going, but I did.  He didn’t know that I had just been complaining about having too much, while everything he owned was in the knapsack at his feet.  I had worried aloud about the cost of groceries, yet I had enough money to buy candy.

I feel like my cleaning binge has just become a crusade.  I wish I had gotten that man’s name.  I’d name it after him.  I wish I had given him the M&Ms or bought him a meal.  His simple existence made my abundance look vulgar.  I wish I didn’t have so much useless stuff.

I’m getting rid of it.  All the useless, boxed up accumulations of trivial, meaningless junk.  I probably will never be a minimalist.  I love books too much to let them go.  But if I can empty out enough stuff from my life, maybe I’ll have more room in my heart.  Maybe I’ll fill it up with things that matter like compassion and love in action.

 

What experiences have you had that drastically changed your perspective and put you on a crusade of love and compassion?  Comment here.

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