Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.
Sometimes, in the journey towards simplicity, time is the missing ingredient.
I discovered minimalism when I was at an incredibly dark point in my life. I was scared, angry and so unsure of my next step. Then I stumbled upon Zen Habits and discovered minimalism. And I clung to it like a life-preserver.
I instinctively knew that living with less stuff, less debt, less clutter and more presence, more joy, more mindfulness was right for me and my young family. I just knew.
Within weeks I had decluttered wardrobes, cupboards, the store-room and garage. I ruthlessly tackled the kitchen, the bedrooms and the office.
Over 10,000 items were given away, recycled or thrown away. We held two garage sales within three months and filled 5 enormous skip bins with stuff.
It was intense. Immediately I began to feel better. Lighter, freer, happier, calmer. I was a better parent, lover, friend, sister and daughter. But something was off. I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I was holding on to a lot, and I knew it, but still I resisted letting go.
I couldn’t let go of:
- Thousands of pieces from my defunct designer jewellery label
- Boxes and boxes of baby clothes
- Piles of childhood memories – school work, awards, trophies
- Sentimental items from my grandparents, aunts and uncles.
And do you know what I did to rid myself of that stuff? Nothing.
I let the rhythm of simplifying take over. Instead of pushing it, stressing over it, making life miserable for myself, I trusted the process.
Whenever I felt that familiar frustration growing, the feeling of overstimulation, I took that as my cue to reassess:
What was feeling cluttered? And I decluttered it.
What was feeling complicated? And I simplified it.
What was nagging me, that was just not quite right? And I addressed it.
I never pushed these things. I understood that all I needed was time. This was no longer a competition with myself to see how much crap I could get rid of in a weekend. In the beginning, approaching it like that was easy. There was just so much stuff. It was now an exercise in mindfulness. In finding balance. In discovering limits and then gently testing them.
And over time, the rhythm played out perfectly.
Those things I couldn’t imagine being without – the jewellery, the baby clothes, the childhood memories, the sentimental items – they became easy to part with.
I learned that they were not my past, my future, my successes or my failures. They were just things. And more specifically, they were things in boxes that I never looked at, never used, never wanted. And over time, they left me.
Now, more than ever, I am closer to where I want to be.
Turns out I just needed time.
Read more from Brooke McAlary at Slow Your Home and read her book Destination: Simple – Rituals and Rhythms for a Simpler Daily Life