My pursuit of a simpler life is no secret to my friends and family. They know well that I am an advocate for minimalism and encourage them often to life simpler. But even though I’m not shy about my feelings toward owning less, I don’t often talk about how I found minimalism or how it has helped me grow.
I want to share my story with you. It is something that has become such a defining part of my life; a pivotal moment in my personal growth.
How minimalism found me
I didn’t find minimalism. It found me.
(I know that sounds ridiculous.)
Life change was not something I was looking for. I just wanted a way to keep all my stuff organized. I was stuck in an endless cycle of organizing and reorganizing and organizing again. Nothing seemed to help. The countless organization systems and hacks I tried never seemed to meet my needs. I scoured Pinterest daily for ways to keep my messy house in check but would never use most of them because I was too overwhelmed by how much of a disaster my house had already become.
I was exhausted.
It was on one of my many Pinterest binges that it happened. I was looking for yet another way to organize my stuff and keep my house from turning into a disaster, when a pin showed up that said something about de-cluttering. I ignored it. Stuff wasn’t the problem, organization was. Or so I thought.
More pins, more organization ideas, more things I would have to buy to store all my stuff, and more things I would have to keep up with and keep clean…. It was too much. And when the second minimalism pin showed up, I was just desperate enough to follow the link.
I don’t remember the exact article, I can’t even remember what blog it was on, but I remember that it resonated with me. I wanted to read another. And another. I spent the rest of the night reading blog after blog about minimalism. It seemed too good to be true. But the hope it stirred in me–the hope that I could live a fuller life, in a cleaner house, with less stress–was undeniable.
The great purge of 2015
It didn’t take very long before I’d had my fill of just reading about minimalism — I needed to do something about it. I spent a weekend filling box after box and bag after bag full of stuff. As soon as I had a pile of boxes and bags, I’d fill up my car and take it all away. And I just kept going. Over the course of just a couple days, I’d removed over half the stuff in my house. I can’t even begin to put into words the weight that was lifted off of me.
I felt free.
I’ve made many more trips to the dump and donation center since that day. And I’ve never looked back. That purge was just the beginning. It was the beginning of a life change for me, a change for the better.
Changing my expectations
Since that summer, I’ve kept on my journey to owning less. I’ve become very mindful of anything that enters my house. And yet still I find things I don’t need or use or wear almost everyday. But more than just my home has changed. My whole way of thinking has changed.
I used to have myself convinced that to be productive or to live a fulfilling life meant that I needed to be busy all the time. Even on days off, I’d write myself full to-do lists and make sure I was doing something every minute of the day. Busy is productive and productive is fulfilling… that was my mantra. But it did nothing buy leave me tired and exhausted and stress all the time. If I didn’t check everything off my enormous list of things to do in a day, I was disappointed in myself. It happened all the time. Because my expectations of myself weren’t realistic. That’s no way to live.
Learning to slow down
Since my decision to embrace minimalism, I’ve learned that I don’t need to fill up my days with mindless tasks. I don’t need to say yes to doing things that are going to leave me stressed or exhausted. When I got rid of most of my stuff, it left my days very open. I had less to clean, less to take care of. The urge to fill up all that extra time with more things was almost unbearable at first. But after a few weeks I learned to just let that time remain open. I let myself relax and just be.
Now I try to simply accomplish 1 or 2 things a day. I have very short to-do lists. My house stays cleaner and my head stays clearer. I wouldn’t say that I’m more productive now, but I would say that I’m happier. And that is definitely a good trade off.
Busy isn’t always best.
Lowering my stress level
We all know that some stress is good. But we also know that some stress is bad. Very, very bad. Stress is still part of my life, sadly, but now my home is no longer contributing to it. And the more my minimalist habits spill over into my work place, the less stress I find there as well.
Having fewer possessions means fewer things I need to clean or take care of. There is not a lot of clutter left in my home, which means my whole house can go from being “a mess” to being clean in less than an hour. But it usually never even comes to that. My journey has been all about changing my habits, which I will share with you in later posts. I do little things through the day to make things easier on myself later, like putting things away immediately instead of waiting until later. Little things make all the difference in the world.
I definitely haven’t “arrived” yet. My life isn’t the stress-free paradise I’m striving towards. But it is getting better every day. I’m learning to slow down, take things one day at a time, one task at a time. And it’s helping.
So what does any of this have to do with you? Why is it important for me to tell you my story? The pursuit of minimalism in my life has been one of the greatest life changing decisions of my life, right up there with finding my faith. And those two things for me seem to go hand in hand now. The impact on my life has been so great, that I want to be able to share that with all of you. My hope is that each and every one of you will experience the same freedom, the same sense of fulfillment in pursing a simpler life.
That being said, you need to know that this isn’t a cure all. Minimalism doesn’t magically fix all your problems, but it helps. It gives you room to be able to live the life you want. It gives you room to breathe. I’m still learning and still working at it, but it gets better all the time. It is a journey. It’s a journey I hope that you will one day embark on.