Minimizing Things, Maximizing Life

This week I went through my closet again to see what was in it that was no longer serving me. A few years ago I would’ve never thought that the process of eliminating my belongings would be something I would look forward to or that it would bring me so much joy. Once I realized that how I felt about life manifested in the way I lived, I knew I had only one vision in mind: a simpler life. I wanted my home and mind to both be at peace.

Our relationship to our belongings is passed down from our family culture. My parents immigrated to this country and raised us to work hard and acquire things. Although we didn’t have much money, acquiring things was still an important part of our identity growing up. They signified hard work and progress. My parents had the best intentions. When I got married I thought that filling our home with belongings, decor, furniture, was just what was done. So, filling up space is what we aimed to do. To show our hard work and progress progress, just how our parents had done. We tried to fill the empty areas of our home with something that would fill it, not really being intentional about what was going there or how it could serve us. 10 years and 3 kids later, we filled the largest u-haul truck for our move and still had tons left over.
I saw the light
It was only this last year that after being home alone with two sick girls (my husband was out of the country with my son) that I read Marie Condo’s book about the magic of tidying up, and then a little light was lit inside me. It’s a quirky book and it really spoke to me. It was the concept that we must live our lives with what brings us joy. Suddenly my spiritual life didn’t feel like just the work inside me but like everything around me. I didn’t even read the whole book before I was already eliminating things. First it was 6 garbage bags full of things from the bathroom. There were old containers, expired products, broken electronics, you name it, it was stuffed in our drawers. In the middle of it all I felt worse than better I had started. The reality of the situation was dire, I thought maybe I was in over my head. I remember being up at 2am surrounded by so many things, thinking “how did it get this bad?” And then just trying to not get discouraged but just keep sorting.
The process was accelerated this last summer by our move back to Oregon from California. After getting rid of over 50% of what we owned less than a year ago, Our small walk in closet now holds all of my clothing, my husband’s, and even our youngest daughters. This is something I never imagined would be possible. After everything that we have given away, sold, recycled, and thrown away, we can now honestly say, we miss absolutely none of it. Not one thing. My closet is now full of all the clothes I really love and that easily go well with other items in my closet. The children have toys they actually play with. The kitchen holds what’s essential for us. We appreciate what we have and more easily find what we need. Cleaning the house doesn’t take long. The best part is: our life is actually much happier and simpler. Our family now has a very different relationship to things. Below are 5 perspectives I gained during my experience that altered my view on owning less.
Letting go
I realized my relationship to material things was also connected to my spiritual life. I had a difficult time letting go of the items that I believed held intrinsic value from the last. I thought that if I kept that item then the memory or time in my life would still live on. When I accepted that the present moment is the best moment I am living, I decided what would stay solely based on what was serving me in the present. It made eliminating things so much easier. It also opened my heart to accepting the present.
Things don’t define us
We are much more than what we own. If we believe a label or brand shows us our value, we need to dig deeper. We are valuable by what we give of ourselves and how we offer loving kindness to ourselves and others. Living a life where we try to show others who we are by what we own will inevitably only bring us unhappiness and debt. We are enough, even if we don’t own any possessions.
Take your time-it’s personal
If someone would’ve told me I would only own 20 shoes today, i wouldn’t have believed them (also, this may seem like a lot of too little to some, but everyone’s item numbers are different). Over a year ago I truly believed I needed every one of those heels. I had to take time to really search myself and let go when it was time for me. If someone else does the purging for us, it really doesn’t have the same effect. If we aren’t ready, we’ll just fall into the same habits again. We included the children in the process of eliminated clutter because we wanted them to have a new relationship with their belongings. Our daughter was much more into it than our son, but even if they only take a few items out, Thats fine, the process sometimes takes awhile. We are their best example, so our relationship with our belongings will shape their ideas. I have no desire at all to acquire more shoes at this point, because I did it on my time, and because I feel the joy of the space in my closet.
More space for life
With more space comes a feeling of freedom. We now have areas that don’t have anything at all, and it feels great. Just as we need space inside us to feel free, we also need space around us. My mind feels clearer now that there isn’t something in every drawer and in every corner. It’s very liberating and I wont ever choose to go back to how things were.
More time for what we love
When we decluttered our home we also realized what was essential to us. We started seeing patterns in the items we kept and we saw that those were the things we wanted to invest in. We bought the children more of certain building toys they really enjoyed, while narrowing down our own interests and hobbies. We also saw that creating experiences together was more valuable to us then purchasing things for one another. We started to invest in taking more trips and planning more moments where we can interact and grow together as a family. Suddenly, we had more monetary resources to do what we really wanted in our life, since we didn’t have the need to fill our life with more items.
If you’re inspired to live with less there are a lot of resources! You can email me if your like if you need some more details or a little extra help. I’d be happy to do what I can.
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