Identity clutter is a concept I shared in a Simple Saturdays email (make sure to subscribe if you don’t already!) and had such a great response I thought it would be worth expanding on.
I shared the story about how I bought all these fancy flours to make this cool bread from a recipe my baking bestie had sent me. It looked like something I would love to eat, full of mysterious flours and enough seeds to fill up a bird feeder.
These flours were in my baking cupboard for a good 6 months.
I hadn’t made this bread.
I was cleaning out the baking cupboard and got to this collection of special flours. They were special because I had to buy out of town. It took work to get these ingredients together. I wanted to make this bread. BUT . . .. I wasn’t making this bread.
I wanted to be this person who makes bird food bread. But I never made it a priority. I had a choice to make, become that person or let that ‘identity’ go.
So I gave the flours to my baking bestie because she IS that person
Now, this doesn’t mean I will never make dense seedy breads that my kids won’t eat – I just am not that person RIGHT NOW. Minimalism has helped me change my mindset to a point where I can’t warrant spending money and giving space to something that I am not RIGHT NOW.
THE ERA OF BEING A BIT OF EVERYTHING
It seems we live in a culture where we can dip our toe in everything. I think it is magnificent my kids can grow up trying various sports and hobbies and culinary adventures. I think it is wonderful we as moms and women can TRY things and see if they are a fit for us.
BUT, for me, it was a problem when I never TOOK ACTION. If my time, money and space are precious resources to me, then I want to use them mindfully. I want to use them in a way that empowers me to show up every day as the woman I want to be right now.
When we have closets full of clothes we don’t wear (old careers, goal weights, all the trends), closets full of hobbies we never do (cause our moms did, cause we feel like we ‘need something’), rooms full of projects we never finish then we need to consider the burden that causes.
THE BURDEN OF IDENTITY CLUTTER
The physical burden of this ‘stuff’ taking up your home. When we fill up our space with ‘aspirations’ we can’t use our space for actual, present moment LIVING. Minimalism is about making the SPACE for the life we want – space to create, to cook, to play, to relax, to tinker with everything we are interested in TODAY. Instead of our precious space being storage for all the versions of life we think make up who we are.
The mental burden of this stuff is real. Every time we look in a stuffed closet or walk past our unfinished projects we feel stressed, we feel like we have let ourselves down. Seeing these things adds another line to that story in the back our minds that we are failing, don’t have enough time, overwhelmed and unable to live the life we want. If we let these things GO we can reduce that mental chatter and make mental space for the top priorities.
And finally, the emotional burden of identity clutter. When we have ALL these things in our home, all these options of who we were and who we could be, it is overwhelming. Not only does it cause decision fatigue – but it also muddies up our ability to get to know ourselves. This is why I call it IDENTITY CLUTTER. It makes it confusing for me to listen more closely to myself, who I am, what I want and what I’m interested in.
Minimalism isn’t about having less stuff, or depriving yourself – it is about going through the process of getting to know yourself and build up your physical space in line with who you want to be and how you want to feel. It is about getting really clear on what is the MOST important to you RIGHT NOW.
This is why minimalism changes our lives.
SCARCITY VS ABUNDANCE MINDSET
If we let go of things it doesn’t mean they are gone from our lives forever. I gave away my cross country skis to a girlfriend, I donated the beeswax candles I never made (but had the supplies to for 5+ years), I passed on nice work clothes for a career I retired from. It doesn’t mean I can never have/do/wear these things again, it means I am letting the physical, and emotional and mental burden of them go for right now.
I have gotten rid of truckloads of our items, let go of things I ‘might need’ one day, passed on things I ‘could save for my kids’ because it makes space for living life today and maybe one day these things will come back into our life.
I can’t live with a scarcity mindset that there is only so much to go around and I have to hoard it. In my experience, when I live with an abundance mindset that there will always be more, and enough for everyone, then I can let go of the extra, the distractions and be present and show up with all my current life values and visions. I can show up with my CURRENT interests and ideas and know that as I get to the next steps of learning who I am and what I want that the supplies, the clothes, the appliance, the tools, the people, and the opportunities will come into my life. ABUNDANCE OVER SCARCITY!
LETTING GO WHO WE ARE NOT TO BE WHO WE ARE
I used to believe that all these things we brought into our home to HAVE TO stay in our home. We think they hold value and cling onto them. Maybe there is some monetary value, but considering the physical/emotional/mental cost of this clutter, it seems more beneficial to let them go. When we let them go we give them a higher value – the value of passing them on and the value of teaching us something and giving us more awareness and certainty around who we are, who we aren’t, what we want and what we don’t want.
If I think of what I was into at 16, it isn’t the same as what I was into at 26, and now it is different at 36. If I can warrant decluttering my 16-year-old life then I can warrant decluttering the unused and little-loved items I let accumulate over the past ten years. Decluttering the excess ALLOWS us to change and grow.
I also can’t write all this, telling you to get rid of things that you aren’t using and wearing and doing without appreciating how it feels to let go of that identity and aspiration. This is the hard heart work of doing what we know, rationally, makes sense. BUT it is hard because we are separating ourselves from that false identity we have built up to reveal our true selves underneath. I have gone through this work and still am, I know it is a big hurdle but I also know it is rewarding.
I feel ownership over my space. I feel like I am in control of my stuff rather than the other way around. I feel like a very authentic and present version of ME is represented in my whole house. I feel like I am creating space for the vision of the life I have. It is empowering to create a space that truly reflects the life you want for you and your family and let go of the burden of identity clutter.