Learning to Let Go
When I was in college, a friend's spoke to me about minimalism and the benefits it had on her life. I was skeptical because all I saw was her getting rid of so many things. Things her family bought her. Things she bought herself. That was money, time, effort, and love all thrown in the trash. That's how I saw it anyway. It drove me crazy that she would do that and it made me wonder if she valued me or the gifts I'd given her throughout the years. I tried to support her, but it was hard. I would go home and look at everything I had in my room and smile, knowing that these were gifts from those who loved me and those I loved. I was thankful for their sacrifice and thoughtfulness with each item.
Growing up lower/middle class, probably closer to lower class if I'm honest, belongings were hard to come by. We had to shop at second hand stores, or find things that were on sale before we could purchase them. We didn't always get the newest or best stuff, but when we did, we knew it was a sacrifice from our parents. My parents worked so hard to get us what we needed and sometimes get the things we wanted which taught me to value the objects we got and treat them with respect so they could last. It was always a sacrifice and I tried very hard to show my appreciation for each and every thing, no matter how small. So you see, coming from that life, it was hard to just get rid of things. If the clothes still fit, I held on to them. If the decorations or knickknacks were not broken, I would keep them.
It was after several months of talking with my friend that I realized I was already somewhat acting with a minimalist mindset, but only regarding things that were truly mine. Things I made. Things I purchased. Things I collected. It started out small, at the end of a school year, I would throw out all the projects I completed, all the notes I had taken, and all the used pens, pencils and notebooks. My mom would save a few of my projects from the trash can, and would ask if I was certain I wanted to get rid of the rest. Later, I began to get rid of souvenirs that I'd purchase on trips that I didn't like anymore. I would get rid of rocks I collected at the parks, the pictures I would color or paint when I was bored. As I got older, I would put everything that I thought to be cluttering my room into a tote and set the tote it in the garage for a while. If I didn't go back for those items, I would simply tip the tote into the trash can, not looking back at what treasures were stored. This really started happening when I moved into my apartment. I didn’t have space to keep everything, and I didn’t want to get a storage unit, so purging became a necessity. I didn’t think of it as being a minimalist at the time, I just focused on how I wanted my space to be.
In 2015, when I moved 10 hours away from home, I collected all of my belongings and brought them to my new home. I was married now and we were joining our lives. What I realized at this point was that a lot of these belongings were more of a burden. Things I carried with me just so I wouldn't hurt other people's feelings. It finally dawned on me what my friend meant by becoming a minimalist. I'd read the articles she’d share, but it wasn't until I had my own home, that I realized how I wanted it to be filled. I didn't want clutter. I didn't want burdens. I wanted things that were useful, beautiful, and special to me. I wanted things that shared my life's story; but more importantly, I wanted to have space in the home to share mine and my husband's new story together. My apartment was the start, but I was nowhere near as effective as I became after moving in with my husband. The goal changed, and with that, my mentality.
It was at that point that I decided to focus on a minimalist lifestyle. Over the years, I've gained confidence in this lifestyle and have moved from purging items to minimizing my schedule, my routine, and unhealthy relationships. Through this, I also increased the time I spent on things and people that brought me joy, gave me support, and helped me reach my goals. I'm still not perfect with managing these schedules, possessions, and relationships, but I'm working on it. It's been hard these last eight months because when I got pregnant, I wanted to give my baby everything. I wanted to buy him all the clothes, the toys, and all the equipment. It's crazy to me how fast my mindset jumped back to consumerism with little effort. After years of practicing minimalism, it was surprising how quickly I shifted gears. This was a bit disappointing, but I caught this pattern before it became too late.
Fall is the perfect time to reconsider my priorities; watching the leaves change colors and fall, I've again been reminded of the beauty of letting go. It's given me the reminder that I need to breathe before I purchase and really consider if it's useful, needed, beautiful, and of good quality. Does it match what I've worked so hard to do with my life? Does it enrich our home and our lives? Does it help my growing family reach our goals? I suppose it means it's time I go through our home and really take the time to remove items that are not useful or that are redundant. I'm motivated to bring my baby boy into this world with beauty and purpose, with no clutter. I want him to learn the importance of quality, not quantity. I hope to instill in him to realization that less is more. I want to give him the space and opportunity to appreciate boredom and space so he can build his imagination.
It’s so easy to lose focus from time to time. Sometimes I find that my priorities have changed. Sometimes I realize that my minimalist mindset has shifted based on the phase of life I’m in, and as phases change, I appreciate where I am without passing judgment or comparison to others who are living the minimalist lifestyle. I’ve read a book Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff by Myquillyn Smith and really enjoyed the idea that I’m not the “strict minimalist” but rather the type that wants the focus on comfort, purpose, beauty, and simplicity. My focus is to check in with myself and my husband. I see how our lives have been affected by the shift and see if this is what we desire. In this moment, I can honestly say that the increase in purchases have caused stress for myself and James. It’s harder to tidy up at the end of the day, some items do not have a designated spot which means items feel out of place and our rooms feel more cluttered. My hope is over the next few weeks, I can take the time needed to really declutter each space and make our home as efficient and beautiful as possible before the little guy shows up!
Wish me luck!