The Minimalism Process
The minimalism process has its benefits. It all started a little rocky though. Those moments when we were minimizing and I was in tears for every reason and no reason at all and I wanted to burn the house down? Yes, I remember those moments. Where every decision about something I owned became emotionally charged and sentimental? And every time I let go I felt as though I was disappointing someone? Yes, those moments I remember as well. The moments when I was completely lost and I couldn't put it into words and Dane hugged me and told me it was OK to wait? The moments I dragged entire an housefull worth of stuff onto our driveway for pick up by the second-hand store and had to drive away and not look back for fear I'd put it all back in the garage? I recall those moments as well. I did a two-week garage sale, listed multiple items on Craigslist, had goodwill pick up an entire U Haul truckload 5 times, and at the very end, twice filled the driveway and listed it for free pickup. By then I was desensitized from giving so much away that it was amusing watching as the vultures came.
I also remember the intense amount of relief I felt every time I returned home and the driveway was empty. The knowledge that I was looking forward and not behind me. The way I felt lighter and happier when I walked into our home and it wasn't as overwhelming. How glad I was not to feel like a storage unit to a stranger that was squatting in my garage. The way I felt less and less stressed and consumed and overwhelmed with clutter. That I finally after who knows how long I realized I was taking back control over my home, my life, my attitudes. Control I had given away freely with every item I brought home "just in case" or "maybe someday" or "we can make it fit here". There wasn't even anyone I wanted to impress. I dreaded anyone coming to visit because I knew I would project my disdain although I couldn't even put my finger on it. I don't know where all the stuff came from or why or when. It slowly accumulated into an overwhelming amalgam of belongings I really didn't want and then felt guilty about getting rid of.
- I made a list of areas to start working on. I began with my bedroom, my vehicles, social media and the living room. I was able to either get them done quickly (living room and vehicles) or do them in pieces over time. I was less overwhelmed because when I felt overwhelmed in an area, I'd move to a different one. I left the most difficult things and areas for last. When I had seen a difference in my life it became easier to tackle the bigger projects and unload the sentimental items.
- I used numbers. I had nearly 200 pairs of shoes. I wanted to get them under 100, then to 60, etc.... I have 22 now and the number keeps dropping. Now I have under 150 total items including clothing, shoes, scarves, belts, coats and my goal is to hover around 100. I reduced the number of shelves we could fill with books, the number of cupboards and drawers in the kitchen, etc.... Numbers are tangible and quantifiable so feeling successful is easier.
- I turned my hangars backwards. When we moved in June, my hangars were all backwards. I had minimized so much that I have worn nearly everything, but it was one more way to hold myself accountable. I can see what I haven't worn and it's easier to make a decision whether to keep it. It was one more way to assist me in knowing what I was using and what I wasn't. Looking at something in a closet, I can't always remember if it's been worn or not, just that I like it.
- Boxes and Bags. We had boxes and bags with every project. Donate, Sell, Trash, Keep. Keep stuff went back where it belonged, the rest went in designated areas. Donate went into the garage on one side to be brought out a day or two before the van showed up, sell went in a different section that was more easily accessible if people came to buy. Trash went outside to the trash can (which was always overly full). I started getting a process and a rhythm to minimizing. The biggest thing for me was to get things that weren't making the cut out of the house.
- I replaced some social media or TV time with 20 minutes of tackle. I don't watch much TV but I do spend time online and writing. I would set a goal to spend 20 minutes in an area - especially the areas that were more overwhelming - to tackle a shelf, or a closet. Not trying to eat an elephant in one bite makes minimizing much easier. You slowly see the benefits and results but it's a constant motivation to keep going. Sometimes I'd stop after the 20 minutes and sometimes I would go for a couple hours. Not forcing it helped me relax.
- I had a list of items I wanted to replace. The money we earned from garage sales and Craigslist was used for part of our move and to replace some things. We keep a running list - vacuum, new couch set, few more chairs for our table - so that we can eventually replace the things that are wearing out, but there doesn't seem to be a rush (OK, the vacuum maybe).
What's left after "The Purge"? The life you love. The things that mean the most. The knowledge that you don't miss anything that's gone. The ability to let go in every area of your life. The desire to continue downsizing. Owning things that bring joy, have a purpose, make your life happier, easier and less stressed become the goal. Although the process can be difficult, it's so worth it.