I have a MAJOR announcement! I have reached nirvana!!! I’m pretty sure all the great gurus go around trumpeting their achievement, right? No?! Haha, ok, I guess I’m not quite there yet, but I did do start something drastic recently that I’d like to share. Some of you may remember that a few years ago, I started a blog series that was inspired by Marie Kondo’s The Magic of Tidying Up. I’ve always thought a lot about stuff and in my job I see people drowning in things and then have to go through the tough process of divestment or at least packing it all up. I’m American too and have my own drowning situation at my house.
Anyway, I recently took the project of culling things one step further after I was inspired by a documentary on Minimalism (find it on Netflix). Check out the Minimalists podcast, too. I’ll TRY to keep this short by telling you here
1) one thing I did differently this month and
2) the difference it made in my life.
Continued from the newsletter
First off, I enjoyed the Kondo book but also found the process to be kind of confusing. Some things don’t spark joy but are needed, and sometimes maybe you’re unclear about what exactly the spark is that you’re feeling when you hold an item. Anyway, I came up with a different system to try; one that would take the guesswork out of things. I realized that a bunch of the house clutter was totally unnecessary but was hard to deal with because it wasn’t the kind of stuff that you just give away. I’m talking about junk drawers, kitchen utensils, SUPPLY type stuff. When I started to look through the drawers and cabinets in my house that hold these types of items I discovered that I:
- Have enough pencils and pens to provide writing instruments for every school child in the US.
- Have a lifetime supply of chapstick, assuming I’ll live to 250.
- Have silverware I don’t even like and have no idea how it got there. Actually, it’s pretty disturbing to have unwanted, alien silverware in your house.
- Have all different kinds of tape scattered around the house as if it rained down from the ceiling overnight.
- ALL OF THE ABOVE.
Yes, E, all of the above is the correct answer.
In fact, the above list of miscellanea that I encountered was just the tip of the iceberg. I discovered countless electronic doodads and random hardware (saving just in case…in case of what?! I don’t even know what it goes to!), dirty erasers, knick knacks that serve no apparent purpose, and enough plastic trinkets to fill 1,000 plastic kid-birthday goodie bags. I find there’s a particular kind of existential angst associated with superfluous plastic. At least for me.
You know what all of this made me realize? That I don’t just have enough, I have MORE than enough. WAY MORE.
I agree with several key premises in the minimalism documentary and podcast, a primary one being that many of us in America consume and buy out of a deep-seated feeling of not being or having enough. Maybe the feeling of lack is in our heritage. The Italian immigrants on one side of my family had a rags-to-riches story; when they amassed wealth after coming from nothing, they wanted to show it…by collecting gaudy china and paintings and trinkets. The other side of my family has members with hoarding tendencies, at least partly influenced by abject poverty.
We often buy to feel fuller, not because we need things. We keep things we don’t need (or even want) because of the fear of being without.
I would buy things (like tape) because I couldn’t find the tape I already had. It was easier sometimes to buy than to just look. And then I’d have a LOT of tape on hand; too much.
I realized, as I surveyed the sea of lotion and hair ties and pencils and tape, that I really could do more with less. I really only needed one lotion, one hair tie, one pencil, etc. at a time, so I set out one of each thing in the junk drawer. I categorized and bagged up all the lotion, hair ties, pencils, etc. I could find and put them away, out of sight, in a cabinet that I thought of as “the store.” Whenever the one thing ran out, there was always more at “the store.”
Two things happened when I did this: first, when I pulled open those drawers, my brain had to make fewer decisions. It was exceedingly clear where the pair of scissors were, and if they weren’t in that drawer, it’s because someone didn’t put them away. When you have just ONE thing available to you to use in a category, you take better care of that one thing. My brain felt so much less cluttered by knowing where the ONE tape dispenser was and by actually being able to see it quickly when needed.
Second, as I started to live with just one thing available to me in each category, I found that I really, truly, didn’t need more than that. It was a refreshing discovery, and engendered a wellspring of generosity. Living with less spearheaded a paradigm shift for me, in that it made me realize that “enoughness” isn’t found in more stuff, and that actually, stuff generates an illusion of enough, ironically sucking away at our energy, time, and resources. Maybe it’s a timeless truth, but one easy way to feel your own, deep “enoughness” is to learn to live with less. It might seem like the act of getting a mountain of pencils out of your sight is trivial stuff, but it started to free up energy and space inside my house…and it gave me more energy and time, too.
Well, it’s not nirvana folks, but it’s a start. More later. For now, you are enough. More than enough!