When the idea of exploring Minimalism first sprouted, I was going to dazzle you with startling numbers and statistics. They were meant to win you over by illustrating how pervasive consumption and clutter had become throughout our society. And yes, the costs in time and money are staggering and mind-blowing. But it is the mental and psychological toll of dealing with the burden of all this extra stuff, that interests me the most.
I am slowly beginning to realize that I have been in rock-solid denial for most of my life where my relationship with belongings is concerned. Hoarding is in my DNA, I could argue, but that would just be another excuse.
You see, I don’t believe that we are so “hardwired” that we are resistant or flat out incapable of change. We are not puppets on strings. But stuff, at times, the lack of it, has played a fairly prominent role in my life, much more than I was willing to admit.
Recently, I began digging a little deeper. Concepts like Konmari, Hygge, Lagom even something so severe sounding as “Swedish Death Cleaning” are popping up everywhere it seems. A merry go round of organizing trends and philosophies. Was one of them ever going to work for me?
This past year has been fraught with setbacks that have left me feeling as though my feet were encased in concrete blocks. The loss of several dear people, and most heart-wrenchingly my best friend, set me on a path of deep soul searching. Why was I so incapable of achieving my goals? Was I not good enough, worthy, smart, deserving? How was it that everyone else was passing me on the road to success while I was left running in a perpetual circle? What was wrong with me?
Why were none of my efforts rewarding me in the way I thought they should have?
I decided to dig deep. The Christmas season came barreling down at me. When I was a kid I LOVED Christmas. Sadly, now I dread it more than anything else all year. Honestly, it’s worse than tax season. Why is that? It’s the stuff.
Nearing the end of another year, suddenly I realized that I had achieved very few of my decluttering goals. And what is Christmas all about in our consumption-driven society? Black Friday sales and brawls over popular toys?
Stuff, namely the adding of more stuff to our already cramped homes. It’s a double insult, really. You wind up having to spend a bunch of money on things you really don’t want to buy because you already have so much you don’t know what to do with it.
The Holidays came and went. Yes, stuff was bought and added to our house, but thankfully not too much. Now it is the middle of January and I am staring down a whole basement full of stuff again, still.
Let me make something perfectly clear: I am not a hoarder.
I AM NOT A HOARDER. I'm not a hoarder...
This morning I took a look around this eyesore of a basement that has been such a thorn in my side for so long. I mean, I didn’t just walk through with my usual blinders on. It was more of a deliberate exercise in really looking at what was so important that it had to stay no matter what.
Slowly, I took it all in. My glance landed on a bookshelf just outside my studio. There, alongside a bunch of other meaningless items lay my cat’s collar, next to a pencil sharpener that really never worked. My cat Angel died nearly SEVEN years ago.
This was as “AHA” of a moment as they get. Tears filled my eyes. How could this happen? How could I be so blind, let things get out of hand like this? Why am I hanging on to this stuff? I don’t need Angel’s collar to remember him. Why would I choose to keep a useless, nonworking pencil sharpener? To remind me that I was not good enough to deserve one that works? That I was stupid and wasteful when I spent money on something that didn’t work?
Worse yet, I have been dreaming of converting the basement into a wonderful work area for myself, with all the space I need to create. But I haven’t been able to do it. Because of the stuff.
Hi, my name is Karin and I AM A HOARDER (sort of).
Not the kind worthy of being featured on TV, but hoarding nonetheless. And there are no dead flat cats in dresser drawers or bugs swarming the house. Clean and cluttered. But this is my cluttered basement and I wanted you to see it in all its “glory”. I’m all about keeping it real. How am I doing with that?
As far as organizing books go, I may not have read them all, but I have read my share. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was the first one to resonate deep within me. Finally, I seemed to understand how unhealthy my attachment to things was, intellectually anyway, and why I had to let go of it.
It helped me get my closet and wardrobe in better shape than it has ever been (it still is!). Proud of myself after this initial success, I quickly got lazy. Now that I knew how it worked, I could continue at any time. It’s just that I didn’t. Once again, no still, I am finding myself in familiar territory, ready to shed the shackles of stuff.
The concept of Minimalism is not a new one for me. I have been intrigued by it for some time. But I couldn’t seem to picture myself living a minimalist lifestyle until now. Like many, I made the assumption that I had to give it all up. Was living in a stark, bare, uncomfortable, and cold appearing house the measure of success? Well, that’s what I told myself, anyway. I could never do that.
Turns out there is a spectrum of minimalism, as there is with almost anything.
This article on apartmenttherapy.com reignited my interest in the minimalism concept. Written somewhat tongue in cheek, I recognized myself as an Essential Minimalist, a wannabe anyway. I had never considered the possibility that there might be different types of Minimalists or even degrees.
The degrees are what makes this concept workable and achievable for someone like me. There is definitely a school of thought that advocates a spartan approach, but that is something that may not necessarily work for many. No need to go full-on Shaker. Thank God.
A quick Google search brought me to theminimalists.com. Two childhood friends, who, after starting out in what would be considered successful careers, ditched most of their belongings. Their efforts paid off in a big way. No longer tied down by stuff, they found themselves free to pursue their dreams.
I watched and highly recommend their movie on Netflix. Their focus on experiences rather than things makes so much sense to me. It mirrors my own desires. Recently, I had a conversation with someone about a beautiful place my family had visited a couple of times. He told me that he and his wife probably wouldn’t visit because there wasn’t much in the way of shopping. How sad, I thought, that was exactly why we loved it there so much.
Now, motivated by some fresh perspectives, I am ready to free myself of the shackles of stuff. Over the next few weeks and months, I plan to share my progress and would love for you to join me on this journey. I plan to check in frequently on the blog as well as social media. If you’d like to check-in and see how I’m progressing, be sure to follow me on Instagram.
I would absolutely love to hear about your own experiences! Do you struggle with clutter as I do? Or have you gone through a similar experience and conquered it? I hope you’ll take a few moments to share in the comments!
So my tentative answer to the question “Can Minimalism make you happy?” is?
But you have to do the work.
Does the prospect of letting go of the worries about dealing with clutter sound appealing? Are you ready for peace of mind, knowing everything you own is something you truly need or love?
How about being able to live life through meaningful experiences rather than gauging your own worth through things?
My own, final conclusion for today is that Clutter is the Outward Manifestation of Inner Turmoil.
And I am ready to tackle it!