My “simple life” adventure…what it comes down to is that I want peace in my life. I’m only on Day 7, and I’m realizing how clutter affects so many aspects of it, because the physical clutter contributes to mental clutter (and vice versa). I’m beginning to see how my physical clutter causes me a great deal of stress and guilt.
Take my bedroom, for instance. HB might hate that I put this out here in a public blog, but for the past month (or so…) our bedroom has been like my personal walk-in closet. While he keeps his stuff confined and tidy on his side of the room, mine is everywhere else. I’ll spare you the details, but I have a lot of clothes stacked, hanging, thrown…you name it, all around our bedroom.
Now, let me take you outside the bedroom for a moment. Think about an area of your home…like the kitchen or the livingroom. When those rooms are filled with clutter and junk, doesn’t it cause a feeling of stress? Or am I the only one who feels this way?Regardless of what you’re doing in them, there is this sense of guilt or something left undone where you can’t truly rest on the inside. I don’t know about you, but I am usually drawn to the area of the house that is cleanest. In fact, I am known to clean my livingroom before we even sit down to have a cup of coffee or watch a movie. While it’s usually the cleanest area of the home, I can’t rest unless the clutter is gone, because once it is, I can really sit and enjoy whatever I’m doing. There’s no guilt or stress from what’s surrounding me.
Same with my kitchen…if the counters are stacked with dishes, glasses, etc., I am less likely to go in there and cook a nice meal. I will either throw something together or suggest we just get take-out (which causes a whole other area of stress). But when my kitchen is dialed in, cleaned and organized, I want to be in it. I usually cook healthier foods when the surrounding feels good.
So let’s go back to the bedroom. Our bedroom is actually very pretty. It’s a light, airy, and peaceful place to be. I have a very pretty wrought iron canopy bed with white gauze curtains that hang around it. My bed linens are also white with a big fluffy white blanket. For pops of color, I have red, turquoise and a little bit of zebra print, strategically placed around the room. HB installed a lovely set of French doors, with white curtains hanging from them. The doors lead to a little private patio that we built, that has a place for sitting as well as our hot tub. Sounds nice and fun, doesn’t it? And it is. It draws us in…that is, when it’s decluttered and clean. But…when it looks the way it does, it is one of the last places I want to be. My lovely bedroom feels chaotic and brings me stress and guilt. I think you get my gist as to the affect this can have on our lives.
The reason I’m even sharing this is to bring home the true connection we have to junk – that is, the positive and negative connection. I believe we all long for more stress-free and simple living…whatever our life circumstances are. But I also believe that we hold the keys to finding contentment and happiness.
On my quest for the Simple Life, I’ve done some Google searches to other’s blogs. I happened across Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, two childhood friends who have taken a radical approach in life by getting rid of “stuff.” (aka – theminimalists.com) The funny thing is, I found their site when I was looking up information about blogging and came across an article that Joshua wrote, which was completely unrelated to minimalism. I ended up going to their site to look up other articles and came across information that I thought tied into what I’m trying to accomplish this month.
But it gets even better than that. I realized they had an “Events” page. It turns out they are touring several states, right now, to chat with people about their radical lifestyle change and, of course, to promote their book. I decided to check out the schedule to see if they were planning to come anywhere close to my town. I literally laughed out loud when I realized they would be RIGHT HERE, within the same week that I found their blogsite…right here in MY town! So HB and I headed over to the bookstore they were speaking at, last night, to glean as much information as we could. Look at us, stepping outside the box and doing something different.
Now, before I go any further…I know that some see Minimalism as a religion; both people who claim to be minimalists and those on the outside looking in. I suppose it’s true that we can claim anything as our religion (just add an “ism” to the end of it), but this was not what these two guys were preaching. In fact, I have no idea what their religious beliefs are, nor was I there to find out, but the message that rang out loud and clear was to get rid of the junk that keeps you from doing the things that you love. That robs you of your valuable time. THAT is something that interests me.
One speaker, traveling with them, gave an analogy that really rang in me. He talked about “the dreaded shirt”…the one where you open the drawer, pull it out, look at it, and say “No, not today” and then you put it back. The dreaded shirt has gone through this ritual for a very long time, because it’s the shirt that you hang on to and can’t part with, yet, you never wear it. Oh…my…goodness….my armoire, closet and room is filled with such “dreaded clothes.” He talked about the freedom he felt when he took that one shirt and tossed it in a bag. It no longer had control over him or his drawer. This led him to go through his entire dresser. He got rid of about 80 percent of the clothing in there, as he said, “We all know what our favorites are – the ones we like to wear all the time.” I had to laugh…because it’s true. With all of the stacks of clothing I have around me, I know which ones are my favorites and which ones are those items I keep saving for another day…but never end up wearing. I have a good idea where I need to get busy.
But there was another thing that struck a chord with me…I realized, last night, that I am an “organized hoarder.” Yep. Someone could come into my home and be really impressed with my DVD collection, the amount of books I have on my shelves in my study (a very nice library), my organized IKEA-contained-years-worth-of magazine-subscriptions, cookbooks on every subject (all grouped together…OCDish tendencies) and think that I’m so organized. Someone could look in my hall closet and see that I have 4 or 5 sets of dishes for various occasions/holidays, 5 crockpots (yes…it’s true) that I use for entertaining, and scads of other organized collections, around my home, and think that I really have my act together; that I must be an amazing hostess.
My friends, this is organized hoarding. Truth is…I could dump half of my DVD’s, books, ALL of my old stacks of magazines, all dish sets except one, and 4 of those crockpots (okay, maybe 3)…and not even miss them because that’s a picture of what I don’t even use. Yet, I allow them to clutter my home and take up valuable space. Space that could just be…empty. Imgagine that!
In some ways, I believe that I am replacing holes in my heart with things. I grew up with very little because my parents survived paycheck to paycheck (and sometimes didn’t). I went without a lot of the cool things that my friends were getting, so, as an adult, I think I’ve been making up for lost time. I know…really deep there, but I believe there’s a lot of truth in that.
I believe the cycle also happens to us when we move into our first home. We usually start out with, pretty much, nothing. We begin taking in items that people no longer need or use to help fill our empty space. A lot of it is definitely valuable and necessary, but a lot of it isn’t. But because we need to fill our home, we just keep taking whatever is given to us. Personally, for me, this has led to a lifetime of taking things that I really don’t need…but just think that I do.
A question that was asked last night was, “How do I get started?” and here were a couple of great ideas:
- Commit to get rid of one item per day. I like the simplicity of this idea. I believe that as we begin, we’d probably start with smaller items, but I can’t help but think that as we move forward, we’d begin to use a very critical eye in what stays and what goes.
- Make it a competition with a friend or with your spouse. This one just sounded fun. The first day you get rid of one item, the second day you get rid of two, the third day you get rid of three…and so on, throughout the end of the month. By the end of the month you will have gotten rid of 496 items (based on 31 days in a month) each. Wow! But, I don’t know that we’d be able to keep up with that. Just like losing weight, I might end up feeling like I failed if I mess up on one day.
The idea that we liked most was to set up a “Garage Sale Room.” I am giggling as I imagine the expression you just made. One of the speakers talked about how he and his wife set up a garage sale room in a spare bedroom when they decided to get rid of their junk. Many items were boxed up and donated to various charities, but some of the things that they thought might be really useful to others went into their garage sale room. Whenever someone came over to visit, they’d ask them if they wanted to visit the garage sale room before they left. I don’t know if they had prices on items or if they just gave it away (I suppose that’s up to the individual), but HB and I loved that idea. Much of the little insignificant clutter that we have will be boxed up and taken to the nearby thrift store. But some of the other stuff, (crockpots, dish sets, etc.) that could be of true value to a friend or family member, will be placed in our garage sale room and given away. I will, of course, encourage my friends and family members to take it ONLY if they truly need it. My goal is to encourage them to declutter, not contribute to their own.
So, I’m going to be better at asking myself, “Why do I need this?” and “What value does this add to my life?” (as suggested last night) before I bring anything into my home – and I’m not just talking about physical items, but anything that clutters life.
Before I end today’s note, I want to reiterate…our purpose in all of this IS NOT some religious experience. We have no intention of removing everything from our home and living off of a selected-skeleton-number of items. In fact, I do not have any desire, at all, to be considered a minimalist. We are just tired of spending our evenings and weekends doing “chores” which includes moving this stuff from one location to another.
This is about simplifying my life…removing “junk” that is getting in the way and holds us down; things that serve no valuable purpose. We want guilt-free, stress-free time to do the things that we value most; spending time with family and friends, serving in areas that we’re passionate…spending more valuable time with God.
We long for freedom and happiness that our clutter seems to steal. Simply put…we are tired of being organized hoarders.
Note: I welcome your input on this topic! Can you relate with this?