Becoming Minimalist: Eliminating Junk, Gaining Freedom

Clutter. It tends to creep slowly into our lives, despite our best intentions. Having grown up with a mother who had hoarding tendencies, I developed an aversion to clutter early. This will be a valuable trait while planning our downsizing to tiny house proportions.  When I think about how much “stuff” we’ll need to eliminate to live a tiny lifestyle, I’m relieved we have time on our side, yet I’m anxious to feel free from unneeded possessions.

It’s not that I’m without my own “dirty little secrets” — the armoire that once housed the large TV is now home to an assortment of junk that doesn’t have another place. It seemed like a perfect pairing: an entertainment center that was no longer needed, with junk that didn’t have another place.  Where else would you store 300 or so candles?  Ok, so maybe there’s a little of my mother in me.  To my defense, most of those are tea lights.

Today I was inspired to start getting rid of things I didn’t use. I started in the obvious spot: my own dresser. I realized a while ago that I didn’t know what was at the bottom of my t-shirt drawer. I seemed to be wearing only what was on the top third, but this could be because I live mostly in black t-shirts and denim. (Doesn’t everyone need 15 black t-shirts with varying sleeve lengths and necklines?) I was able to cut my t-shirt inventory in a third at the first pass, and yes, most of what I donated was non-black. I’ll revisit this drawer later, but my strategy for this first pass is to just get rid of the obvious: if it hasn’t been worn in the last year, it goes.  If I forgot I even had it, into the donate pile it went.

The next pass will be more challenging, but it feels great to get rid of the obvious things that are just taking up space. In the first pass, I was able to get rid of 23 t-shirts, and although I wasn’t targeting anything else today, I was on a roll and grabbed 3 sweatshirts, 2 sweaters, and 2 pair of pants. And, to avoid changing my mind, I ran right down to Goodwill and made the donation — 2 paper grocery sacks full of clothes, and that was from only 2 of the 4 drawers of my dresser.  I imagine we’ll be getting to know the Goodwill Donation staff pretty well over the next few months!

MinimalismWhile I feel invigorated by getting rid of just a small amount of unneeded items, I imagine the decisions around paring down will become more difficult as we continue the process of simplification. I’ve challenged myself to look at things with new eyes, and redefine what is a “want” and what is a “need”. I’ve decided it’s ok to want something if it is useful and fills a purpose (black t-shirts), or is simply something of beauty that makes me happy (artwork), but there must be a limit.  We long to live intentionally: to have what we need, and to need what we have.  We will get there, and I’m looking forward to the journey.

Life Lessons

Sometimes, it takes a lifetime to learn the most simple of lessons.  If I could give these as a gift to my children, would I?  The lessons we are placed on this earth to learn are those that can really only be learned though hardship, conflict, and angst.

Today I reflect upon my life.  Somehow, I feel that in my 46 years, I have served my purpose and learned my lessons.  I’ve learned so much, and have come so far, and yet I hope there are many more lessons to learn.  When you stop learning, you stop growing.

For most of my life, I felt so out of touch, so painfully like a puzzle piece that people kept trying to shove into the wrong spot:  I looked like I fit, but I was a little different – not quite right.  Maybe life is about not fitting into the puzzle.  Maybe it’s about being the piece that drops on the floor, never fitting into that pre-defined space, and perhaps finding peace among the dust bunnies (and the occasional dead spider) in the Dyson.  I am at peace, and am thankful I’ve reached this place in my life.

The things I know/rules to live by:

  1. Be kind
  2. Work hard
  3. Live life like everything you do (and think) will eventually be known
  4. Learn to appreciate the beauty in the simplest of things
  5. Love without fear
  6. Listen to your intuition
  7. Be thankful every day
  8. Forgive, and understand everyone has their own journey

I’ve been absent for a while, learning more lessons, applying for re-written job descriptions within my organization.  Thankfully, after two months of upheaval and chaos in the workplace, I will continue to be employed.  Twenty percent (yes, that’s 20%) of my colleagues in IT Operations will cease to be employed.  I wish them luck, and thank them for participating in my journey.  Life will unfold as it should, and though our paths have diverged, we will all end up where we are supposed to be, learning what we should.

A Day of Reflection

Today was amazing – the kind of day you wish every day could be. Nothing earth-shattering or unusually significant happened, but I awoke with a sense of inner peace and joy, and carried it with me throughout the day. This is my intent each and every day, but today it was effortless. Smiles at strangers returned the same, but their faces were filled with such a magnitude of cheer. Today, the world was smiling back at me.

Upon calling my sister (The Gardening Hotline) to find out if my kale starts were too leggy, she reminded me that today was the 19th anniversary of our mother’s death. Maybe I wasn’t alone today.

Though my mother and I were so very different, I have her to thank for me becoming who I am today. She was a boarding-school raised society girl, an extrovert, a sorority sister, and a brilliant intellectual. I spit the silver spoon out at a young age, never felt the need to join a group (and be labeled), and ended up doing things the hard way my entire life. Much to my mother’s chagrin, I learned things by doing, and certainly not by listening. We would find ourselves at odds regularly.

About a month before her death, she shared words that I will never forget: “Karen, I have never worried about you. I worry about your sisters, but never about you.” It was in that moment that I realized that she did know me, as separate and different as we were. She saw me before I even had a clue who I was.

Thank you, Mom. Were it not for the challenges of our relationship, I would not be who I am today. I wish I’d had more insight in my 20s and could have thanked you in person, but I had so far to go before I could appreciate the lessons. Your grandchildren are amazing, and you would also never worry about them. Thank you for your legacy. You were honestly one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to fully appreciate you in your lifetime. At least I’ve learned to in mine.