Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details. (Note: the schedule is now full until December — but if you don’t mind waiting, feel free to send me your submission!)
This week, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Deirdre. In her story, she chronicles how her clutter accumulated, and how she was able to purge it from her life. Please visit her blog for more inspiration on living life simply and slowly.
Like many of the readers and contributors I found my way to consciously minimizing my stuff as an adult (though I do remember as a kid trying hard to have a messy room like my friends, but it was against my inner nature and I could never pull it off…my mother had it easy in that regard!) I moved around a lot as a child and in my teens and then some more in my twenties and as result items would have to be pared down for convenience and often a box or two would get lost in the shuffle. When I moved in with the man who would become my husband, we shared a very small apartment and again as part of my nature, I tried not to fill it up with too much stuff so we could move around comfortably.
Later our daughter was born and with three, we outgrew that tiny space and moved into a house. We joked about how much room we had. Ultimately, we filled it up with our child’s things and after being settled for several years we did begin to accumulate stuff. By the time our second child was born we decided we needed more space. We more than doubled our living area in the new house. This too started filling up with the artifacts of four people, pets and years of birthday, Christmas and miscellaneous gifts from our well-meaning and generous families.
Then something began to shift. I started to feel overwhelmed, claustrophobic. The overwhelming desire to move struck me (was this related to my early life moving around so often and not gathering too much?) Then I began to downsize, slowly…I had a tag sale and unloaded a fair amount of our things. It was hard at first, my head brimming with thoughts like, “what if we need this someday?” I started to sort through my children’s toys and clothes and give away (to friends or donation centers) things that no longer fit or they had outgrown/become disinterested in. Another round of holidays added to what I surmised was an already ridiculous amount of toys and just things. Then I found this blog and others that pointed me to another way of living; one more suited to my inner nature and intended to relieve the pressure of all the clutter.
Last winter I took on the project of going from room to room, pulling everything out of each cabinet, drawer, closet, etc. and did the infamous, three pile strategy: keep, toss, donate. Nothing escaped my scrutiny. My husband joked that one of these days he was going to come home to an empty house…empty of stuff that is. I felt so liberated, years of dust covered, unused things could now be enjoyed by someone who may actually make use of them. We ended up with bags for donation and an entire trailer full to capacity of stuff for another tag sale. This also meant that as a parent and keeper of the house there was less to pick up, clean and organize. Liberated indeed! I got my hands on some books about feng shui and really began to delight in my home with its new found clear counters, tidy closets, entryways, the energy flowing freely through all corners of our home.
This summer, with some time on my hands I began to look for things to sort through with the intention of getting rid of/minimizing more. While that is possible (we could still downsize more) I began to wonder if I had become addicted? (Like Gretchen Rubin jokes about in her book, The Happiness Project- I could relate!) I contemplated this in the comfort of my spacious, airy and simple home. What was the underlying drive behind reducing the number of things we owned? I had more or less accomplished my goals of simplifying and minimizing, what was I missing, what else was there? It dawned on my that not only was it necessary for me to unload the actual, physical baggage I accumulated and carried with me for years, but it was time I also went room to room in my mental house and keep, toss or donate the old memories, guilt and baggage I carried around upstairs. That is my current project, you can take a peek at how I am transforming myself and my life at www.theslowlifeblog.com.