One of the things I'm thinking about now is how to create a simple life. I always go back to my trip to Kenya where the people I met had (in comparison) next to nothing, but were filled with such a tremendous amount of happiness. We tend to associate having an abundance of objects with being happier, but to a certain extent I think it is the opposite.
On this quest for simplicity, last year I started down the journey of removal after continuously struggling with getting dressed (due to having too many options). I got rid of all the clothes in my closet with exception of about 20 pieces of clothing for each season, all of which I love and can (relatively) be paired together. Having fewer choices helped me get ready much faster, and more interestingly, freed up a lot of creative energy for other things.
This got me thinking about the other objects in my house and the weight they might inadvertently be having on my life. I had been listening to the Minimalists pod cast, and heard about the Minimalist Game.
How it works is that on the first day of the month, you [sell/donate/trash/recycle] one item. Then the second day of the month you do two. The third, three. So on, and so forth until the last day we're ridding ourselves of 29 items.
The grand total for the month of February 2016 is 435 items.
To be certain we are all sticking with the challenge we set up a tumblr blog for everyone to post photos of the things they choose for that day.
We live in a 1 bedroom apartment with an attic. It's the attic part of this equation that I learned is tricky. I went through our place space by space, pulled everything out, and only put back things that made the cut of being truly useful or bring us joy. As I was doing this I was so surprised at how many items I really had. I was keeping a lot of them around for just in case situations, or maybe that I used them once or twice a year. I like what the Minimalists say about these types of items:
If it cost less than $20, and you can get it by traveling 20 min or less, get rid of it.
I looked at each item and really only kept it if it brought me happiness. Some examples of the seemingly harmless items that were adding up:
- An spice jar filled with a random spice I only used once.
- Extension Cords
- A handle to my wallet that I was (never) going to fix
- Gifts that I was not using.
- A gigantic suitcase I only used when I moved
- A wine rack that I loved, but was always too nervous to hang up.
Through this process, I learned that gifts are tricky. I found I felt guilty giving away things that others had given me. The part that I wonder about this is how many of these items were just things that people had given me to fulfill a social normality. In the end, I still kept the things I loved, and gave away things I didn't, even if they had been gifted to me. But not without feeling guilty.
I will be handling gifts differently, in the future.
The process of giving gifts, especially around Christmas, brings with it a crazy amount of anxiety. If I am giving someone something, I will be giving them an experience, or something consumable. I don't want other people, (I'm looking at you, Cady.) to feel compelled to keep physical things that I have given them when they may not even enjoy them. I'll also be letting my family members know not to feel the need to give me gifts.
While at first I thought this elimination challenge was going to be difficult, it ended up being embarrassingly effortless. I imagine I could actually do 5 or 6, maybe even 10 more days of this. I loaded up my car and took one gigantic load off to Goodwill, and I will probably have about a half car load more of things to go after the ebay selling wears out. How did all this stuff make it's way into my life? Going on the shopping ban in January, and now getting rid of so many things, I am acutely aware of bringing objects into my life.
I haven't found getting rid of all these items to have immediate life improving effects like I had when I cleared my closet. What I do feel is an overall lightness, and a better understanding of what is essential in my life. From there, I can start to be intentional about the things I bring into my life. Cherishing the items I have left greatly reduces the feeling to constantly seek out more.