My scarves were scattered across my bed in a mammoth pile, which stared me in the face and dared me to shrink it. Ash Wednesday 2015. I was not yet an Anglican but was definitely feeling the pull. I had been reading a lot of the book of Luke and had been noticing a theme: give up your stuff. People were constantly asking Jesus what they needed to do, and they kept getting pretty similar responses: Give up your stuff, come follow me. I asked myself if Jesus were to stand right in front of me and tell me to give up all my possessions, could I actually do it? Not that I actually needed to for my salvation, but out of curiosity. If JESUS said I had to, could I? I accepted the challenge. I decided to try to give up half, and started in on the scarves. A well of various (negative) emotions started ravaging my heart and mind. I couldn’t do it. I realized that if I were a Bible story character, I would have been one that went away sad and unable to do what Jesus asked of them. My things, my stuff, the things that I can’t take with me, the things that will all burn up in the end, these things had a tight grip on my heart. And that scared me.
Thus began the slow journey of minimalism. Giving up my possessions, decluttering my life, saying goodbye to objects I don’t need or use has been totally freeing and amazing, and is leading me on the journey to eventually living in a tiny home with my husband. If you ask me why I became a minimalist I would tell you…
1. Because I was living in physical chaos when I needed peace.
Ask my mother. Ask her what my room was like until….like two and a half years ago. Ask any of my roommates. Ask them if I was ever able to keep up with the amount of crap I owned. The answer will always be, “Oh my gosh, no.” Piles were perpetual. Did I ever like living that way? No. I wanted my living space to look like an IKEA room. But the task of dealing with papers and jewelry and clothes and blankets and pillows and pictures and meaningless nick-knacks and…you get the idea. It always seemed like a time-consuming nightmare when there was always something so much more tyrannically urgent like working full time while getting a Master’s degree or teaching and grading a zillion papers a night and lesson planning.
When I got rid of everything, I didn’t have to deal with it anymore.
One day I realized my living space always seemed to mirror my emotional space. Was my room chaos? Guess what? So was my anxiety. So was my stress level. When my room was ordered and clean, things always seemed tranquil, peaceful, and calm. When I got rid of things I don’t use, don’t need, and don’t want, the calm, tranquil space got to stay on a regular basis.
Now our house is clutter-free and it’s a source of respite, peace, and joy.
No more piles. No more chaos.
2. Because moving all time with loads of stuff is a giant nightmare.
2008. 2009. 2012. 2013. 2014. 2017. These were all years that involved me moving, either across town or across continents because I’m a consummate rootless Millennial. Anyone who has had to move across continents will tell you it’s already a headache. Add in tons of stuff and it just became a migraine. When I moved back stateside in 2014, British Airways gave me a “missionary” discount that allowed me to have fives pieces of checked luggage. I ended up with three huge suitcases and two massive boxes, in addition to my two carry on items (which were so out-of-bounds huge that I got yelled at at multiple stops along the way). Imagine for a moment, me in the Chicago airport trying to get ALL that stuff onto a trolley all by myself through customs.
It was laughable and I cried.
Was there even more stuff waiting for me when I got home to my parents house? Yes. There was. And I had to GET RID of a ton just to be able to fit it into my allotted luggage.
It was in the moment when I realized my mammoth burden of belongings had caused me to miss my connecting flight home when I vowed to get rid it.
Now if you were to pack every scrap of my clothing it would all fit into one duffle bag (minus my shoes). All of my make up and jewelry fit into one small box.
No more nightmare.
3. Because my stuff had a disturbing hold on me.
A cold, sinking sensation came over me when I realized that I couldn’t give up my possessions. There were too many memories associated with each thing and a strong but false sense that somehow giving up the thing meant I was being disloyal to the memory or that I would lose the memory if I gave away the thing. They were like vines from the past that stretched out and look hold, twisting around my heart and refusing to let go.
My junk, my useless, joyless, dusty junk was keeping me in the past. I had kept the oddest things, simply because they reminded me of something. T-shirts I’ve worn once from an event I went to, movie stubs, shells from a beach I couldn’t recall, papers from high school. It all needed to go.
While the past plays an important role in making us who we are, and keeping special and treasured items are worthwhile, holding onto things from our past can swallow us whole if we let them.
So friends, thinking about taking the plunge? General rule of thumb: do I use it? Do I like it? Do I need it? Is it beautiful? Is it so special that I will never ever be able to get rid of it, ever ever. If the answer is ,”No!” then guess what? Sell it, donate it, or just recycle it. I’ll post some helpful how-tos, but the Internet is already full of them. Pinterest is a great resource.
Your present is precious. Don’t clog it.