My push to Minimalism.
I started small and made my first moves on my closet. Which wasn’t really just my closet. It was three 30in x 20in x10in suitcases, 2 large cardboard boxes, and a closet the size of a small bedroom- full of only clothes. I had over 300 articles of clothing, easily. To be totally honest, I gave up on counting the exact number because it was exhausting. I had moved 9 times between the ages of 19 and 22, and carried all of this with me, every single time. All because of "what if" scenarios in my head- "what if one day I lose all this weight and can fit into this?", "what if there is a costume party?", "well, this shirt has memories to it".
What I didn't see then that I see now,is a lot about my life was wrapped around thinking "what if"-
"What if my past was different"
"What if I had more money"
"What if I could find my passion"
The "ifs" dictated my life more than I ever let myself. Since the what if's seemed too far in my past or too impossible for my future, they kept me stagnant. Pure stillness. It also had become easier for me to humanize, and grow attachments to, inanimate objects like clothes, instead of some real life relationships I had. Refusing to let go of the shirt I wore every week when I was 16, but so quick to drop the friend who I had known since I was that age. Suddenly, for lots of reasons, I made the conscious effort to let go.
It's been almost a year since then and I've now donated well over 40% of my clothes. In addition, I have sold or donated 10% of my total belongings. The best I have to show for this are these images:
I know it's just a closet. The difference between a couple bunches of clothing. But thinking minimally in all aspects of my life has had a noticeable difference on my daily living. I am so much more present in my daily routine than I've ever been before. Monotony is rarely present in my day, and I'm more aware of how the smallest of actions may impact something outside of my life. This new pause between my thoughts and actions has bled into my professional and personal communication too. I evaluate better before speaking, analyze situations more efficiently before acting. After only being a few months deep, I'm excited for what this will lead to.
Early 2017 I was going through on of the rougher patches in my life. I had just wrapped up working on the 2016 Presidential election in Colorado and made an executive decision to return home to Texas rather than pursue a career in West coast politics. There were a lot of reasons for this decision, biggest being; my relationship family and closest friends were back in Texas and the years' election results made me realize how much of a bubble I was living in. The choice came with sacrifice- turning down alluring jobs, an exciting city, and some spectacular new friends but I knew I had so many things I had to figure out before I committed to starting a life out of state.
Even though my move back to Texas was a choice, by no means was it easy. Due to circumstances, I moved back in with my folks and fell into the first job I could find. By the end of February, I was hating my life and regretting coming back. Everyday the first thing I did was bur my faces in news. Before I even got out of bed, I was exasperated by the state of the world. Immediately upon closing out my work day, I was then collapsing into my bed and dedicating hours of my life to scrolling. Scrolling through news. Through amazon links. Through Facebook and Instagram feeds. Every headline I read filled me with gloom. Every product I craved, I couldn't afford. Everyone smiling in a photo with a drink in their hand looked so much happier than I was.... or as if they had more than I did. My internal dialogue repeatedly told me "This is so unfair. You've worked so hard only to end up here. With nothing. As nothing." This was a daily routine for me, for easily 2 months.
I felt like a quitter for leaving my job in politics, and a failure for not pursuing a supremely corporate job. I felt I needed to do “more”. Daily, I considered “I should just give up on doing something I really like so I can make money and buy this, have that, and show this off”. For months, I really began to buy into the idea that rerouting my life passions so that I could have more ‘things’ was the best way to be happy. I just began to want more stuff. More money. More friends. More attention. More. More. More. At the time, I thought this way of thinking was making me feel motivated. In reality it was making me feel unaccomplished and incompetent.
One evening in March, I strayed away from my normal routine of self inflicted loathing and took to Netflix instead. I chose a random documentary; something that I hoped would entice me more than my phone. "Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things"- seems interesting enough, I thought to myself. At the time, I didn't know I had selected something that would later have a significant impact on the way I looked at, and lived, my life.
It made me feel inspired for the first time in months. A bit after the documentary, I discovered Josh and Ryan, the main folks in the doc, had a podcast also. I started at episode 1 and listened everyday on my commute to work. Replacing my daily overindulgence of news media with a podcast of 2 goofy dudes talking about focusing on the things that really matter in life. Their banter was great and the message was soothing rather than my normal overwhelm. Episode 12: Money, was the first episode I made a strong connection too. I started to I take on very "lite" versions of their methods. I was intimidated by the idea of committing to such a lifestyle but was interested in downsizing... just not minimizing. Oh goodness, anything but to minimize! That's when I started with my closet.
I donated about 15% off the bat and put another 10% in a box for 3 months. If I didn't think about it afterwards, I'd donate the whole box without opening. I held on to so many of those items for way, way too long, definitely felt excitement in letting them go. Finally, all my dress-wear fit in the closet- it was a tangible accomplishment.
Right around this time, I was hospitalized for 4 days from a stress related episode.
This was a massive wake up call- to be 23 and in the hospital because I'm too stressed out- WHAT? I really didn't want to see it, but I was actually stressing about a lot
- Family concerns
- Feeling failure for being home
- Strongly disliking a job
- Questioning future career plans
- Lack of fulfillment in personal relationships
- Being away from my partner
- and a crushing fear about my debt
After the hospital, I continued with my normal routines. On my morning drive I was listening to episode 28: Debt by The Minimalists. They shared their stories of getting out of hundreds of dollars of debt and regaining their power over money, and freedom in their life. I took on tens of thousands of dollars in debt before I was even 20 for college. As a new grad (who was not feeling so hot about her life situation) this was a terrifying weight to have on my back. The moment minimizing debt was mentioned, my ears perked. I was excited by the idea of getting it off my back but through their sharing, I saw I had more to gain than I realized.
I really got something from that episode I hadn't gotten before, and it was complete enrollment in their commitment to live a life of value. Value was everything I had to gain by taking on some of these minimal methods. For the first time, I was confronted with the fact that I was not taking that approach to life; and it was very likely it had something to do with my unhappiness and severe self doubt. I had to rework the question I was working with, changing it from:
"What could I put into my life to add value?"
"What do I need to focus on, that's already in my life, feel the value that's there?"
In all honesty, I couldn't even answer that question. It felt impossible to find those areas. For months they'd been darkened by my way of thinking, being, and living. With the exception of a few close relationships, I was feeling so negative about most aspects of my life that I couldn't pull any value from them. I asked myself, "what's getting in the way of being happy in these areas?"
WORRY, STRESS, FEAR OF FAILURE, OVERWHELM, FRUSTRATION, ISOLATION
Getting present to this existing for me helped me plan next steps for my life. I saw that I couldn't get rid of each hurdles, at every section of my life, immediately so I focused on the ones I could:
Getting my own place, finding a new job, and dropping my dead weight belongings
Moving was a perfect opportunity for me to thoroughly sift through my belongings and evaluate what made the cut. The move and making an effort to be more conscious felt so empowering. Just after that move, I started a new job that introduced me to an amazing group of people who got me involved with Landmark. Landmark taught me so many things, and genuine commitment was one of the big takeaways for me. When October came, and I participated in my first forum weekend, I promised to make a real commitment to myself to live a life with more value and less stuff. I gave my word to take on the lifestyle. I had felt the benefits of it in my brief and half-assed efforts- and I wanted that to scale through my life. The only reason I wasn't committing was because I didn't want to have to be held accountable for anything, because being held to account would have made me vulnerable to failing.
So here I am. Taking it on and living a bit more consciously. It's now January of 2018 and I can happily say I'm living my best and easiest life in a while. This is solely due to minimalism, but its been an easy and prominent contributor.
I set a goal for myself this year to decrease my belongings by 30% in July and 20% by end of year. I've chosen to document my tactics and share them with you, so you can follow my journey and maybe even try some things out.