A friend recently asked me “where do I start?” She was specifically referring to minimizing possessions, but I have a tendency to ponder in a meandering way. Where does one start? Is the answer different for someone who works full-time while raising young children than for an empty-nester homemaker?
I don’t think so.
You start by looking within yourself. If you are like me, there is a chance Western-guided prioritizing has prevented you from taking a good look at yourself in a long time.
What do you want from life? If that question is too broad, ask yourself what you would want written on your tombstone. Will “Driver of Great Automobiles” be engraved on your memorial? Possibly, but highly unlikely.
It sounds cheesy, but I aim for the standard “Beloved Wife and Mother” on my tombstone. Perhaps even “grandmother”. Once I realized this, it became easier and easier to let physical things go in order to attain a simpler life with family at the center.
As you may know from reading my first blog post, I did not come to this conclusion without a few winding roads and speed bumps. It was while shopping for a house that would be big enough for our expanding family that I realized the irony of what was happening. If D and I purchased a “big enough” home, we would never have the family life we envisioned. We would both be tethered to full-time jobs for the next thirty years in order to pay for a huge house rather than travelling or taking time off during the critical years. Furthermore, once the house would be really and truly ours, the family would be long gone.
My next step was a practical one: staying in our ‘50s-era home means we need to fit in it. One room or area at a time, we have been chiseling away at the clutter. Once my head was in the right place, it was easy to spot the stuff in the house that was keeping me from achieving my primary lifelong goal, which is to be a wife and mother who is present.
I started with the obvious stuff: duplicates, expired medicines, clutter that was constantly shoved from one countertop to another. As I built up momentum, I dug in deeper. Furniture, books, even family “heirlooms” were put on the chopping block. If the object in question is neither useful nor beautiful, then why the heck use finite real estate to store it?
I’m not there yet as far as minimizing goes. By now I have methodically gone through a room-by-room rotation to comb out another layer of clutter many times over. My definition of excess continues to evolve and it is easy to purge something now that was an object of sentiment a year ago. On top of the purging I have learned to do a much better job of not bringing the clutter into the house in the first place.
Keep in mind minimizing has many facets and looks differently for each person. D and I disconnected our television four years ago, but that may be unthinkable for some to even consider. I own 12 pairs of shoes, but there are others out there who are happy with one (or none). This is not a competition. This is about doing what makes sense to you so that when you look back on your precious life you know you did not place too much priority on the things you cannot take with you.
Where did you start? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!