It starts with a basement, garage and an attic. Unassuming to most, but symbolic in ways that defy words to myself.
We had been married for a mere six months and I was in the basement moaning, bent over a stubbed toe. The same toe I had bashed about 167 times since moving into our first rental. And no, it wasn’t on anything important. It was inconsequential piles of stuff that had gathered in the dark abyss known as my basement. Frustrated, I found stomped up the stairs and dug under my kitchen sink for 2 Hefty heavy duty garbage bags which I brought back downstairs. Into the bag went the culprit of my sore toes. A vintage picnic basket and all its friends hanging out on the floor. An thrifted lamp, an antique typewriter, a box of antique teacups- they all tumbled into the bag.
It filled quickly. In a matter of seconds, I had filled one bag and moved on to the other. Again, a quick fill and away they went- back up the stairs with my fumbling arms, heavy under the weight and legs, limping from a throbbing toe. One of the smallest parts of my body making the boldest of statements.
I managed to get the bags up the stairs, through the living room, kitchen and out the back door. Through the grass I dragged the bags. They were heavy and bulky and stubborn. We made it to the door of our garage which I attempted to fling open in victory.
Victory turned to defeat.
The door swung several inches before its abrupt stop. I threw my head up in the air and breathed for a few seconds to gather my composure. A good shove with my shoulder opened the door and clarification as to why it had stopped.
Boxes- more boxes and bags and furniture and…is that animal in the corner alive? No? Maybe?
I stood there in disbelief. I knew this was the bottom lowest of the lows because the reason why the stuff in the bags was in the basement to begin with was because our attic had already reached capacity. I couldn’t look at the stuff anymore. I could feel my heart start racing and my temperature rising from my feet to my face and I needed fresh air to stop the anxiety.
To the grass I went. Leaning my back against the exterior of the garage, I let my legs, bare under the summer heat rest in the grass. When did this happen? And how? I supposed it started in childhood. I hoarded small collections of useless items, knick-knacks and toys. My bedroom was always at full capacity and I liked it. It made me feel warm and calmed. It was my sanctuary full of all my favorite things. But somewhere along the way, things deteriorated. Somewhere along the way, my quiet security turned to hopeless anxiety and my small hoard that could be confined to an 8’x8′ room in my parents’ home had turned into an entire house, basement, garage and attic overflowing with stuff.
It was that moment that started a shift in me. I won’t call it abrupt because it’s taken three years to grow and is still being nurtured by day by day, but I will say it was dramatic. The very things that I have surrounded myself with to provide comfort were now stealing my breath away in angst. I was losing sleep because all orifices of my house were packed to the brim with plastic bins, bags and piles upon piles of…stuff. Stuff that had promised me happiness but had brought me despair in the middle of the night. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew that things needed to change.
This was before the word “minimalism” was standard on social media, before Marie Kondo was a household name. This was during the spike of Pinterest and subscriber forms from online stores. The popular resources focused on accumulation and consumerism. Promises of happiness were made through interior design books, fashion magazines and catalogs clogging out mailboxes. What I was being told I needed and what I felt I needed were polar opposites and I found myself needing a way out.
Skip forward a few years. David and I moved three times, purchased our own home and established ourselves as homeowners. There’s something to be said about when you make that kind of investment. Suddenly all those closets, corners and cabinets are more than storage places. They are more because you paid for them- because they are more than small crevices in someone else’s property. They belong to you and you alone. I knew when we moved into the house, I needed things to be different. At this point, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up had hit the market and I had read through the small book several times.
While I rolled my eyes are the thought of rolling my socks and whispering “thank you” and “goodnight” to them, I did step away with an understanding of how to proceed when it came to my possessions. For Marie, that means bring nothing along that does not “spark joy”. For William Morris, that means, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. These two concepts are what carried me across the threshold of my new home and into a new lifestyle. It started three years ago in the grassy backyard of our first apartment and amplified in the echoing halls of our first home.
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to minimalism. A lot of people think it means you can only own a suitcase of items and for sure can’t include large, expensive items in that list. That minimalism must include a home free of decoration and a closet that includes nothing more than black and whites t-shirts and jeans. The reality is, it’s none of those things.
Minimalism is about a state of mind. It’s about finding a balance between how many possessions we own and the emotions they bring in owning them. It’s realizing that more isn’t the key to success. It’s understanding that living with less can create space for more in other areas that may need it.
Those realizations and understandings are what bring us to moments of freedom. We no longer find ourselves serving our stuff- no longer slaves to the clearance racks and overflowing storage places. Rather, we find ourselves free to love the possessions we have wholeheartedly and free to spend our time with people we love, books that educate us and hobbies that sustain us.
The goal isn’t an empty house- it’s a free mind. And it’s this journey that I want to share with you all. I’m not sure how long it will take. Since it’s a lifestyle I have chosen, I expect it to always be a part of my life and therefore a part of R&T. I hope it brings some clarity for you as well. I hope watching me on this road will provide some insight towards freedom for you as well.
If you’re interested in reading more about minimalism until my next post, you can read more here.
Until next time!