When I first came across the concept of minimalism I had to chuckle a bit. This first introduction was about people who were counting their things and in heated debates about what constituted a personal item and what was communal and should/should not be counted. The aim was to keep ones possession under 100 items. Why did I chuckle? Mainly because I live with a minimalist who is not even trying. I have not counted his things, that might be going a bit too far, but I seriously doubt that my husband has 100 personal items. Well, maybe if I counted the nails in his tool belt. But wait, would those be considered communal?
Fast forward a few years and a few moves later and the concept is looking more and more appealing. Not the 100 items part but the idea behind the movement. Like many things, the "movement" has found some balance since my first introduction and there is now a little less talk about the amount of things (in terms of a specific number) and more talk about the quality of things you own. More discussion about the role things play in our lives and the impact they have on both our psyche and the environment. A focus on a life of experiences and learning, instead of consuming and becoming tied to our stuff and in turn overwhelmed with all of our things and where to stuff and store it all.
I cleaned out a few things before our big cross continent move but not nearly as much as I wanted. Boxing up the house seems like a good time to clean out, but a big move is a time filled with so many different emotions adding on the disposal of high school year books and citizenship awards from 6th grade was just not happening. I was paralyzed when it came to decisions about those "keepsakes" and a whole lot more.
Now we have been here for a few months. We are settled in to a house that is even a wee bit bigger than our last and I am feeling the pinch.
The urge to go out and buy more supplies to organizes all this stuff was hit with a resounding WHY? Followed by what, when and how.
Why am I keeping this?
What purpose does it serve?
When am I going to use it?
How is this improving my life?
Followed by lots of other questions about specific items...
Some things have been easy to throw into the donation bin. The books I will never read again and could check out from the library if I ever did want to read them. The abstract fabric that I really know I will never use. No really. Never. Those egg shaped polished rocks we got at the Natural History Museum in L.A. some 10 years ago. The ones that keep rolling around on the shelf threatening to fall off every time I dust. Which is not often enough because there is sadly so much stuff on the shelf it is a real pain to dust. Yes. Lots of stuff like that has been easy to part with and there is a rather large pile of stuff in the middle of the garage waiting for a trip to town for a drop off.
This process has been met with cautious support from my "minimalist" man. He has been through my purges before. They tend to loose steam rather quickly because I become overwhelmed and assure myself that I WILL make, use, do that one of these days... And so the stuff needed to make, use, do that is stashed away... in a bin, in the closet, under the bed... And on it goes.
I can point to many reasons why this time could be different.
The reminders lately of the frail nature of life itself and what I really want to spend my time doing with the finite days I have left, how ever long or short that may be.
The idea of moving again. Moving all of these things. Some that came from California, to Nova Scotia, and now to New Mexico without seeing the light of day. Still keeping sake in their special box!
The simple fact that I don't like the clean and a simple "minimalist" house is much easier to maintain. Extra time cleaning house or extra time for reading, hiking, playing with the kids? Simple choice when put in those terms.
Living true to my values. I believe that all of this stuff is having a huge negative impact on our ability to sustain human life on our planet. Extreme but true in my view. Earth will go on, it is humans and other species we respect and care about who will find it much changed in the coming times. Our consumption is not sustainable and our slow ability to adapt will make it difficult for our species to maintain life as we know it. I don't want to contribute to that.
So I have been reading. I have been assessing. I have been cleaning out. Cleaning space for thoughts, ideas, and just simply making white space in life. Just like the white space needed to see the words on a page, white space needed to see the life I have and live it.