Today I’m writing about simplifying and minimalism. Though I admire clean, simplistic design (free of clutter!), my alter ego loves color, pattern and more, more, more! Social media doesn’t help as I longingly look at style bloggers with the latest clothing, design sites with the best in home décor. Probably worst of all is living literally a stone’s throw away from Target. I can browse the isles for seemingly hours. Every time I go I end up with a cart full of “stuff” and a hundred dollars or more spent. Its mostly little things, like a cute t-shirt, a new toothbrush, a candle on sale, a throw pillow, but it all adds up. (Much to my husband’s dismay).
But buying things doesn’t make me feel better. Instead, the things I have bought often fill me with either regret, or dissatisfaction. The beautiful blouse I just had-to-have that hangs unused in the closet makes me think about how I don’t go out enough to wear it. I’ve started endless new well intentioned “hobbies” (primarily after seeing things on social media and thinking, “I could do that!”) like making sourdough bread with a starter, sewing baby headbands for charity, watercolors, adult coloring books. They all sit idle, and make me feel guilty for buying them and not using them. My stuff tends to hang around my neck like a weight.
Fortunately, I’ve noticed things are changing. Perhaps a side effect of living out of a suitcase traveling, and trying to live more “in the moment”, something interesting has happened. The misalignment of my values vs. my actions bothers me. For example, one of my core values is: “more experiences, not more things”. But I don’t live that way most of the time.
So many of us experience “lifestyle creep.” As our paychecks increase, so does our spending. This is definitely true for me. We’re not wealthy by any means, but we’re comfortable. Despite my shopping habits, in other ways we’re ahead of the game. We have two paid off cars, we have a good, not overly expensive mortgage in a nice area. We don’t have credit card debt. In some ways, because of this I think I’ve shopped even more.
Breaking the Emotional Attachment to Things
I’ve seemed to always associate a lot of emotion with things. Things=memories. The anxious part of me hesitates to part with things that have meaning. Yet, most of my things don’t really have meaning. They are just things. (I’m not talking about the watch your grandmother gave you before she passed), I’m talking about the skirt bought in Thailand that will never get worn again. “But I got it in Thailand and it was fun there, and when will I get back to Thailand?” (Stuffs back in drawer).
Its the books you collect (my husband called them my trophies), its the candles, and all the things you save, because “You might need them one day!” When I started de-cluttering my closet, I have to admit I did it in phases. I did a major clean out. A month later, I did another purge. Finally I was down to the stuff that I actually wear, and all the stuff I was emotionally attached to. Throwing that Thailand skirt into the donate pile admittedly gave me a brief flash of anxiety. But after I tossed it, I realized I still have all my memories of that trip. I don’t need the skirt to remind me of all of the things we did and the fun we had.
Overconsumption and Worrying I Might Run Out
One thing I see clearly now is how concerned I am with having enough. Whether its paper plates, or sandwich meat, I anxiously overbuy to ensure we’re never without. (I’m not sure what the psychology of that is…) We did our first home-exchange this summer and to prepare for our guests I cleaned out my kitchen cupboards and fridge. The amount of expired cake mixes and cereal, bottles of hot sauce and other items I threw in the trash, made me feel sick to my stomach. I am really trying to minimize my shopping, and only purchase items when we need them to avoid the waste.
Setting an Example for my Children
Even more troubling has been my children’s desire to consume. I am not trying to beat myself up, but I know they have seen my shopping habits and see that as “normal” behavior. And, sadly it IS “normal” for so many of us in the United States. Their desire to go to Target, their relentless requests for new toys, their dissatisfaction with what they have says a lot about not only my habits, but also the messages they receive from the world around them. I’m determined to do better in this area for them.
I’m learning more about minimalism and I am excited about having more of a minimalist lifestyle. For me, minimalism is the following:
-Getting rid of unnecessary clutter in my home and my habits
-Being satisfied with what I have and with having less
-Simplifying our life and focusing on relationships and experiences vs. “things”
-Teaching my children about what really matters and limiting our family’s consumerism
-Being a better world-citizen, with less waste and being more conscious about where our clothing and food are sourced from
-Dealing with my issues instead of covering them up with shopping
My minimalism journey is just beginning. I have a lot of de-cluttering to do, but I think its going to be a slow process (mostly because its a lot of work to go through everything!)
One of the first steps for me is doing Project 333
Project 333 is kind of a capsule wardrobe idea that was developed by Courtney Carver on her site Be More with Less
The idea is fairly simple, you go through your clothing, shoes and accessories and select 33 things to wear over a three month period. The rest you either donate or box up and put out of sight.
I did this over the weekend and already I can see the benefits of a simplified wardrobe. It includes only the things that I love and feel good wearing. I have kept things in my closet for years that I don’t wear. Honestly, my closet was so cluttered I couldn’t even see what was in there. It makes getting ready in the morning really easy. (Also, PJs, workout clothes and specialty gear like hiking boots or a wetsuit aren’t included in the 33). I kept some business clothes out separately because I only go on a few business trips a year, but I have to wear fancy stuff I would not ever wear in my working-from-home daily life. Picking the clothes was actually pretty easy. Selecting shoes was harder.
So this is the first step in my minimalist journey.