There are a lot of views on what minimalism is.
Some people think it is a disappointing form of depriving yourself of ‘stuff’, and shopping, and having things that you like.
Some people think it is a stark clear space where you live with this zen approach to less is more…maybe even making the state of ‘less’ as the superior option.
We hear various approaches to how to ‘be a minimalist’ and the interesting thing we also hear is that it is life-changing for those who have brought it into their lives. No matter how you approach minimalism you will see that it changes almost everyone who starts and sticks it out for the long run.
Every person has the space to define what minimalism looks like to them, but a general definition is ‘letting go of the things you don’t want, use or find beautiful’.
I started out with this definition. In my case, it looked like letting go of craft supplies I will never use, the oversupply of t-shirts I couldn’t possibly wear in a reasonable time frame, the blouses that I wore to work because I had to have something ‘professional’, the cheesy home decor I bought to fill the space, the extra 7 mugs I actually didn’t enjoy looking at….the list goes on (truckloads were taken from my home).
But if you come to my home you WILL see a kitchen with lots of appliances, a ton of legos, lots of art supplies, and an en-suite full of makeup and face creams.
I’m still a minimalist, but this is the stuff I loved the most and wanted to keep. I think I would now define minimalism as owning the things that support the life I want to live and the person I intend to be TODAY.
Can you already see the power of minimalism to change your life?
It is important to reflect on where we start out.
Before I decluttered I had one (or two) of everything. I kept accumulating, shopping was a form of entertainment. It was easy for me to spend money every time I was out: things were a good deal (my rationale of choice), I could always rationalize that ‘needed’ it (Lord forbid I ever go WITHOUT something!), and most of all – it felt good to bring something new home.
I never gave much thought about what I bought and even less thought to what I kept in my home. Once it was in here I just found a place for it, even if it was in the sea of boxes in the basement. It never occurred to me that I could just get rid of it.
Then I had this dramatic moment where I suddenly realized I had permission to get rid of stuff. So I went to the basement and started the slow and emotional decluttering process.
The reason it was emotional was that I was face to face with all these decisions about what would stay and what would go and I was at a loss because I had no darn clue how to decide.
I had no clue how to decide because I had muddied the waters of who I was.
I was so out of touch with myself and what I liked, and the life I longed for that I had no stable way to make decluttering decisions. I was surrounded by all this stuff I had brought into my home over the years and I couldn’t pull out my identity from these items in a sensible way.
This was before Marie Kondo was hot on the scene and I think her ‘does it spark joy?’ criteria would have saved me a lot of time and energy trying to make these elementary decisions.
I have shared before that I had built up a lot of my adult life based on how I learned to define ‘success’ from my upbringing and interpretation of the culture around me. The definition I had was both stunted and insatiable. It would never be enough, there would always be more to consume and buy and have. Yet it would never satisfy because it wasn’t a full and life-giving concept that’s was rooted in the life I truly wanted.
I had already felt the discomfort of shifting into a new definition of a ‘successful life’ because I had left my career as an Environmental Health Officer to be a stay at home mom to my three kids. But now, here I was, spending hours sorting through boxes of my life and I could see that this definition still wasn’t expressed in a way that was really aligned with who I was and what I wanted.
I still had never thought about who I was or what I wanted out of life.
It was easy to purge the obvious things that didn’t belong – they were broken or a bad purchase from a decade ago. It was harder to wade through the things I wanted to keep ‘just in case’, or ‘it’s worth something’. Even harder to differentiate what would stay because ‘maybe I will actually do/wear/try/make this thing’ these are the things I have come to call IDENTITY CLUTTER.
As I purged through my home, item by item, I came face to face with a lot of the ways I had mindlessly accumulated things. I had to sit with them and really start to find the separation of what this item was to me and who I was to me. I had to start to listen to that deep part of my heart that had been smothered with stuff. I had a cluttered heart, a cluttered mind, and a cluttered home.
Decluttering my home left me in tears from time to time as I was unearthing this sleeping part of me that longed to be vibrant and creative and passionate and unburdened.
The unearthing was physical and emotional.
This is the power of minimalism: learning who you were before you accumulated the supplies for who you thought you should be.
It is done by being face to face with the life you have accumulated around yourself and hearing the muffled cries of the person you are underneath all that. Listening close to those heart cries on what stays, and letting yourself put the rest of the items in the box and waving goodbye to them from the driveway.
If I could sum it all in one sentence it would be this:
‘you have to simplify in order to learn who you truly are,
and you have to learn who you are in order to truly simplify’
This is what I have learned from decluttering my home. It sunk deep into me questioning who I am and what I was about. It helped me to put this lens onto the rest of my life too. It helped me to pursue LIFE ON PURPOSE. How did I want to live in my space? How did I want to use my time? How did I want to show up for myself?
When we commit to minimalism, when we simplify, we remove the distractions and the false identities and are left with OURSELVES.
Minimalism is a tool to bring you even closer to uncovering the life you DO WANT and making space to help you LIVE IT.
AND SO! To continue on this lesson, I want to share with you a very special reader story. This reader emailed me her story about how minimalism changed her life and I asked if she would be willing to share it. You can continue on and read it here>