Beautiful china sitting in the china cabinet unused for the past 10 years. Stacks of games sitting in a hall closet, virtually untouched for the past 4 years. Bags containing bunches of other bags lining the top shelves of closets, some of which have never seen the light of day. Clothes hanging in my closet, unworn for years. Tools and miscellaneous supplies stock piled in garage cabinets having been perhaps never even used. This is just a small sample of how I could have described the contents of my house 2 years ago. When my divorce was finally complete I found myself holding the perverbial bag – while I was fortunate enough to get to keep the house, I also inherited the majority of the stuff in it. It was certainly more stuff than one person needed for one thing. But it was also more stuff than was really necessary to live in general.
My post-divorce world was once of deep contemplation, radical life shifts, and huge changes. And one such major transition was in my thoughts surrounding all the “stuff” in my house. In general, Americans have a lot of stuff – more so than many other cultures. Our stuff often becomes a symbol of who we are, of our success, and our standing in society. We buy stuff because commercials convince us it’s a must have product. We buy things because our neighbors or family members got them and now we want them too. We buy things because they make us feel good or accomplished or special in some way. We buy them because there was a special sale and we got a good price. We buy stuff simply because we can. And then after buying all of that stuff we have to build additions on our houses, get sheds for our back yards, park our car outside so the garage can become a place to put more stuff, or rent storage facilities just so we have room for all our stuff. And what I finally realized was how little I used any of that stuff, how much space it took up, how much of it held no immediate purpose or use, and how much of it provided me with little or no joy or fulfillment in my life.
I know I am not alone in this personal revelation. There’s a bit of a movement out there promoting this idea of minimalism…of downsizing at any age (not just when you become an empty nester or retire). Whether you read material by individuals like the Minimalists, Joshua Becker, Colin Wright, or Leo Babauta or you have gotten hooked watching shows like Tiny House, Big Living, there’s no denying this idea of less is more is gaining momentum in our society today. And given my recent experience and epiphany I can completely understand why.
I will be moving in about a month, and I don’t plan on taking much with me at all. Aside from my bed, dresser, desk, dining room table (which I just bought less than a year ago and which I absolutely love), clothes, some art work I got when I traveled overseas, a few photos albums and a handful other items of significant sentimental value, I am getting rid of everything else. I will go from an 1800 square foot house comfortably full of stuff, to the sum total of materials possessions that could easily fit into less than 400 square foot of space. If I haven’t used it in the past year, if it doesn’t bring my joy, if it has no utilitarian purpose then it is not going with me, plain and simple.
Sounds a bit crazy to some of you I suppose. It does to some of my friends and family too. And I know it is not a way of life for everyone. But I also know minimalism means different things to different people…and to me it just feels incredibly freeing. Living much more minimally will also help me stay clear about what is most important in my life – it’s not the stuff, it’s the people and the experiences. I look forward to living with less stuff and enjoying the amazing people in my life and all the experiences on the horizon.