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.
This week, The Budding Minimalist tells us how she overcame her shopping and collecting habits, and found the courage to purge the clutter from her life.
The Budding Minimalist writes:
I believe I inherited my “collecting” habits from my father, who loves to keep around Japanese artifacts from his childhood on his desk (in addition to the small trinkets he’s been given over the years) and has a collection of baseball bats, baseballs, and photos (all signed) from the local sports team. When I was younger, I resented the fact that my mother always wanted to throw away my childhood memories; toys I no longer played with or cared for, old clothes, or whatever junk I fancied on keeping.
My father understood how I felt and didn’t see the harm in keeping such things around. He would even offer to squirrel things away in the attic so that my mother wouldn’t complain – out of sight, out of mind.
I began to keep old newspapers and magazines in my late teens. Luckily, that awkward phase didn’t last long. But when I got my first job, I started to collect things I believed I needed for when I moved out on my own. I had access to Asian china, décor, and other knickknacks. And I had an employee discount. When I left that job for another, it was for a major retailer in household goods. Employee discount there as well.
Employee discounts can be a dangerous thing for someone who shops therapeutically and wishfully.
Sometimes I’d de-clutter a bit when I cleaned. Once in a blue moon, I’d look at all my stuff and just feel unnerved and would try to be realistic about whether or not I’d ever use the item – off to donations it went. Most often, I’d keep them in the closet, ready to be taken out for when I might have use of them.
It wasn’t until I watched several episodes of Hoarders non-stop that I truly questioned my shopping habits and the reasons why I was holding onto the items. At this point I already had my impulsive shopping habits mostly under control because I was tired of being overwhelmed and crowded (plus having a sensible significant other helps), but was still holding onto so much junk because of sentimental reasons or guilt – that it would have been a waste an investment or money, or that it was a gift from a friend or family member. I also have a terrible memory, so some of these items served as reminders of days gone by.
But all I really had was an addiction to acquiring items and an obligation to keeping up the museum of me.
I did some purging back then and no longer bought home goods or clothes on impulse, however, it wasn’t until I ran across the Miss Minimalist blog that I would really change my outlook on my consumerist life. After giving the blog a good look, I decided to check out The Joy of Less. I finished it in one sitting last Friday.
As of the time of this writing – Monday – I have purged nearly a dozen boxes of stuff. For a long time, I was afraid to get rid of old gifts or report cards from middle school. No longer! I even gave some items away to my parents, because they were unused and suitable to be gifted out for Christmas. This will save them some money; they can spend a good fortune on presents because my father buys gifts for all his co-workers. They even asked if they could keep two Sybil Shane prints, as an early Christmas gift from me to them.
I’m not done purging, yet I can already feel a lot of pressure lifted off my mind. I do not need to worry about buying certain furniture because “I’m supposed to.” I do not need to worry about keeping track of all the clutter (or cleaning said clutter.) I do not need this and that to enrich my life. I do not need to feel guilty for getting rid of items I have no use for. I do not need to live while being burdened by the past.
In an odd twist, my mother thinks I’m a little crazy for getting rid of all of this stuff. I told her I’m changing my life for the better. Thank you, Miss Minimalist, for freeing me.