Over the past several weeks, I have begun to seriously attempt to adopt a minimalist mindset as we prepare to reconfigure the basement space of our home. Daily, I read articles by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, and I just finished The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
I read minimalist material daily to keep myself motivated on the quest for less. I read to gain the tools I need to let go of things instead of allowing them to hold on to me. What I have discovered is that there is no shortcut to minimalism. It is a process that I am in the midst of, and my hope is that in offering my perspective from the trenches, you may discover a desire to join me.
Currently, I am working through the KonMari Method written about by Kondo, because I find it is working for me. Here is some of the progress I’ve made this month.
After reading through the first half of the book, I tackled Kondo’s first category on the list: clothes. By simply holding each article of clothing and asking the central question: “Does this item spark joy for me?” I was able to release nearly half of my already sparse wardrobe. Two years ago, I took the 40-Hanger Challenge by Ruth Soukup of Living Well, Spending Less and have lived pretty comfortably with that pared-down wardrobe. However, now when I look in my half of our standard 1950’s closet, which holds all of my clothing for all seasons (including winter coats) with room to spare, I find joy, knowing that I will enjoy wearing any item I pull out.
I stopped holding onto things that almost felt right or almost looked good on me or almost never got worn for one reason or another. I allowed myself to trust my instincts, something I am not very attuned to, as I almost always defer to what others think or suggest. Just because someone else liked something on me, if I didn’t feel good in it, I didn’t need to keep it. To be honest, there are about three or four more items I know I should let go of, but I wear them too often to part with them yet. And that’s okay, too.
My next step is creating a capsule wardrobe. I have several featured on my Pinterest fashion file board, which you can find here.
The next category is books. Oh, how I love books! I would have a wall to wall room of them if I could, but instead I find myself donating what little I have left to free up space, both mentally and physically. A year ago, I ruthlessly trimmed our collection of books, leaving an entire bookcase empty. Still, I have more than I need, and I can always find much of my collection at the library or elsewhere if I really need to read through something again. As Kondo says, if I have already read it, most likely I won’t read it again. If I haven’t read it, chances are that I probably never will. She believes that the time to read a book is immediately upon purchase or possession, otherwise the moment of connection passes, rarely to return. As I reflected on her radical perspective, I found that, with only a few exceptions, she is quite right. And so, I will parse through my books one more time.
A real moment of truth for me came a couple of weeks ago when I gave away all (with the exception of about 15) of my CD’s. Two months prior, I spent time sorting through them all, listening to a few, and checking on-line to make sure I could find my favorite, obscure songs if I decided to let a CD go. I was amazed to find that every song I searched for could be found (and I am talking about fringe Christian artists from the 90’s). Still, I couldn’t quite let go of the majority of them. Each CD held a set of memories from a time or place or book I had read while listening to them. I feared that those memories would be lost without the CD’s to remind me. I needed more time.
Fast forward to early August, and my office was nearly empty, except for a few things, including my bin of precious CD’s. Finally, I was ready. I packed them and a host of other home decor items, clothes, textbooks, etc. into the back of the van and made a beeline for Goodwill. Now, I look at the small stack of CD’s I kept, and they look like clutter to me. I may end up without those soon, too.
I share these experiences to say that becoming minimalist is a process. Rarely have I been able to do a clean sweep of any category of possessions. There is a progression of letting go for me. First, there are those things I know I need to get rid of, whether they be broken, stained, out-dated, un-useful, or unloved. Then, there are the things that hold some meaning for me: a special gift or attached memory or hefty purchase price. For these, I need time to let my heart and/or mind find its release point, and that time can vary from hours to months. I need to be patient with myself (unless my husband imposes a deadline, that is). Finally, there is the freedom that comes from not letting things keep their hold on me. The more I am able to release, the more willing my heart and mind are to continue to releasing, until that magic point of enough.
Kondo’s concept of holding items and determining whether they “spark joy” or not is a little mystical, but it works. By holding and looking at each possession, we can more easily identify which things are presently an integral part of our existence. For example, the purpose of a book is to be read. If I am not reading a book and, by holding it in my hand, I discover I have no real intention of reading it, I need to honor its purpose and my peace of mind by passing it on to someone who will. (Of course, there are exceptions to this rule: reference books, beloved books, etc.)
Minimalism doesn’t happen in a day, and it doesn’t look the same for each person. According to Kondo, the entire process of tidying can take as long as six months (which she calls short!), but when it is done, it is done forever, and you never have to do it again, apart from the daily tidying efforts of putting things away and keeping spaces clean. I look forward to that day, and the freedom it holds.
When things don’t consume our space, our thoughts, our time, our energy, and our emotions, we are free to pursue what our hearts truly long for: the passion and purpose and people that God has called us to.
What step will you take today to get closer to freedom from things?