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.
Today, we meet Vanessa. After embracing a consumerist lifestyle for many years, she’s now finding freedom by slowly shedding her excess stuff. Visit her blog to read more.
I was never fond of the word minimalism. It connotes want, frugality (another term I hate), lack, and scarcity. I didn’t like the word simple either – it means boring, unattractive, pared down, too retiring, lacking in imagination.
I like having the good things in life, I like pleasurable experiences and a comfortable place to live. And so for a long time I’ve always surrounded myself with things that made me feel complete, that signified abundance, prosperity, and fullness. I like being stimulated, the exhilaration of buying a brand new handbag and satisfaction of wearing a long-coveted piece of clothing. Having anything I wanted, when I wanted was my definition of freedom and liberation. Earning my own keep allowed me to buy the things I wanted, go to places I wanted to explore, eat whatever my palate craved for.
But somewhere along the way, I felt trapped. All the things I accumulated became even more glaring within the confines of the tiny 37 square meter apartment I was living in. I suddenly needed more – more room to store my things in, more money to sustain my lifestyle, more clothes to put up a professional facade at work.
I was running the proverbial rat race. I was living knee deep in stuff, tchotchkes I’ve been holding on to for years, for fear that taking away the things surrounding me would somehow diminish me. Getting rid of things meant letting go of parts of myself that I wanted to preserve – the image of smart, up and coming yuppie who could conquer the corporate world was the ideal that I had in mind. I’d look up to the female VP at the financial firm I was working in and thought that it was an image I should work towards, position to aspire for.
I had officially bought into the consumerist lifestyle, hook line and sinker.
I silenced the sensitive voice deep in my being, the voice that was telling me that this was not what I really wanted to do. I tried to squelch the urge to create something for creativity’s sake. I shushed the part of me that was willing to do noble things without asking for any monetary returns, because those are childish, impractical matters that I should have grown out of a long, long time ago.
Hadn’t I indulged my writing aspirations by spending ten months after graduation working as an editorial assistant for a non-profit cultural organization? I should get my Pollyanna streak out of my system, because that is not how the world works. I beat it out of me by joining a stock market firm, learning as much as I could about finance and other practical things I wasn’t really interested in.
I did it because I thought I had to, if I were to survive and thrive in a dog-eat-dog world.
Fifteen years later, I was on the verge of a breakdown. Everything felt heavy. I suddenly understood what having a burden on your shoulders meant. I was crushing under the weight of all the clutter and baggage that surrounded me, and I only had myself to blame for it.
And so I started to remove some items from my closet. Just a few things at first – the tattered shirt, the faded blouse, the jeans I’ve outgrown. And then I began to clear out more and more things and felt better, lighter, more energized.
But it gets harder as I was left with the things that I still wanted, but no longer served their purpose. I started to get stuck, and abandoned my de-cluttering efforts altogether.
Which brings us to Project Shed. Knowing my attachment issues with stuff, I’ve decided to go slow with the process. This is not fast, easy-peasy process. There are so many resources online that provide guidance on how to effectively get rid of the mess surrounding you, and they do it in an efficient, no-nonsense manner.
My process is more deliberate. I am allowing myself time and space to ruminate on every item I am about to eradicate. Much like ending a long, drawn out relationship that should have ended years ago, I intend to celebrate each item, write about it, contemplate on it before I finally release it.
Sometimes the things I see online jumpstart some long-buried memories that I should have eradicated years ago. Things like a cassette tape, or song, or movie that once defined who I was a long time ago. Those will be included in my little project.
Call me narcissistic, a sentimental fool, melodramatic, or a stay at home mom with way too much time on her hands. But I’m doing this, in the hopes that maybe it might spark a project of your own, too.
As for the words minimalism and simple – I’ve come to terms with identifying myself with them. I’ve aligned myself with others who have decided to redefine those words to connote abundance, plenty, freedom, lightness, and the state of being unencumbered.
Yes, I am a minimalist. Yes, I am simple. I am enough.