Actually getting rid of stuff instead of thinking about it...
The nanny came at 7 am this morning as she normally does. By 11, we had dropped off one pickup-truck load of our old stuff. That is a seemingly long time for just one truck load, but there was a lot of dallying and sidetracked tasks and deliberation (read arguing). I read about and study a lot of minimalism, happiness, and freedom literature. Articles and books about getting rid of possessions in order to be more free. It dominates my mind on most days. I love reading and I love watching before and after videos on YouTube and listening to people talk about how much happier they are once they downsize. Amidst all this information intake though is marginal action on my part. Okay, so that's not really fair. I have gotten rid of a lot of stuff, and become a much better steward of my money and where it goes. It has just been a very gradual process for me. I have not completely "Kon-Marie'd" all my stuff at once. And I did read her book, and follow it for a while, but I'm not a folder, I'm a hanger (of clothes), so I had to modify for myself. The changes have been so slow it is almost imperceptible, of course checkered with a few big downsize days spread over the last 6 years.
When we moved from Texas to Florida, I got the first glimpse at what it was like to haul all of my stuff across state lines. We even damaged the moving truck in the storage center parking lot (thankfully we had insurance). But it was a HUGE process. Something about starting over made me want a cleaner slate and though we got rid of some things (because they wouldn't fit in the truck), we still had a lot of things. When we started our business a lot of our things got spread out in the office. We left old things, and got new things. We rented at the beach and managed to keep it mostly minimal for a while. Then we bought a house and had kids and then the explosion of stuff started to really take hold.
I had read a book the year we moved about a woman who sold all her things and built a tiny house on wheels and traveled the US and it was magical (You Can Buy Happiness, and it's cheap too!). This was the planting of the seed for me. I wanted that, simplicity and freedom. But I was newly married and starting a business that was decidedly not minimalist (residential treatment center on 9 acres). There's a lot of stuff that comes with our business. Plus we were new to business and poor and so when people wanted to donate stuff we always said "Yes!! Thank you!!" and our place has continued (until recently) to become a sort of dumping ground for well-meaning people to drop of desks, and patio furniture, and office equipment etc... You see, we have gotten the reputation for taking stuff. It'd be one thing if it were only me making the decisions, but I am not always at work and plenty of staff are also the "yes! thank you!" types.
But I talked to my husband about it and we have finally decided that if we did not choose it ourselves, then it does not come into our lives. At least at work. With gifts, we keep them if we love them, but often we end up donating them quickly if the girls don't play with them or they create clutter after about a month or so. It is so easy to feel bad about this, but gifts are meant to brighten your life, not burden you. I am also lucky our family doesn't live here, so they are not going to notice it in the give-away pile a month later.
Getting rid of stuff is not without it's trials. In the car on the way to the donation center my husband and I had a tiff about the stuff. I said "thank you for being willing to get rid of this stuff with me." And he replied "well, we're just going to have to buy replacements and that will cost more money..." To which, I stayed silent for a while, but ultimately wanted to talk about the money fear. To give some context, we were getting rid of old, ugly lamps, beds and other random decorative items that the previous owner of our new women's treatment center (formerly a yoga training center) had left behind. He's not totally wrong. We will have to buy some side tables and hopefully matching lamps, but it will be uniform and our style. It will be higher quality and better aesthetics. And sometimes this is the case, and maybe that's not minimal at all but minimalism to me is also about choosing the way your life looks. It is about being deliberate and setting clear boundaries around getting rid of or buying stuff as the case may be. But, he is entitled to his view, and I can't say that I'm happy about spending a bunch of money on things to fill up this business, but I am happy that it will be our choices. Free is great, until you could open up your own thrift store with all the free that's been dumped on your doorstep.
The action step, the step where you locate some boxes, or grab some bags and physically carry and drop off the stuff feels so disorienting and weird, almost wrong at times. Of course in our capitalist, consumer driven society, it feels odd to take things you spent your life's energy on and just give it away for free. Like "here, take my effort, hard-work, and money, and throw it away!" That may seem a little tongue in cheek, but it's serious. This is what I do. I take hard-earned money and buy a lot of things I don't need because I saw an ad of a happy family, using whatever it is, and I think it's going to solve my problem. The problem is that I thought a thing was going to solve my problem in the first place. Inviting a bunch of objects into my home has NEVER solved any problems. It has only added to my anxiety, and eventually it is a lot of hard work to get rid of. It feels self-defeating to repeat this process over and over again. Without doing enough inner work to look at the addiction loops and marketing that is swaying my wallet, the cycle will seemingly continue ad infinitum. Inner work for me has led to some action steps externally that look like: getting off of social media (for now, who knows if I'll go back), getting rid of Amazon and Netflix (we still have Disney), Mindfulness and meditation in the morning to discover what my Higher Self would have me do that day (to keep a clear path forward so I can set boundaries accordingly), training for a 50k, focusing my purchases around experience, health and healing (mostly food and supplements) and reading more.
After giving away my stuff I am mostly okay, there's a few stuff hangovers (my wedding dress is still hurting a little), but mostly there is a sense of relief. Especially when I think about moving or being able to move. In those moments, I breathe a little deeper and more peacefully. When I come home, and everything has a place to go, and there are clear countertops and open spaces to dance and roll around with my kids, then it's worth it. When the indoors invite mindfulness and meditative creativity but are also just boring enough to make me want to go outside, it's perfect. Amen