It’s the beginning of the year and I’m in some kind of place that’s a little hard to describe. I’m trying to figure out my life and my next moves after I quit my new job after only 11 months to focus on my health and to take care of my son. And I’m glad I’m home now because Sebastian just got his first ear infection on account of a lingering cold and I’m here to snuggle him until he’s better.
It was in those quiet morning hours I spent snuggling a snotty baby that I stumbled upon a documentary called Minimalism: A Documentary about Important Things, and it really spoke to me. Since the baby was born, and especially since we started amassing a ton of toys and things for him, I’ve wanted to cut down on the clutter that has collected in my house. I bought the Marie Kondo book a while back with the intention of KonMari-ing my house, but after a few chapters, I became overwhelmed. The practice of keeping only the things that spark joy sounds great in theory, but the practice of holding each and every thing you own, waiting for it to spark joy or not sounds like chaos. I imagine opening every drawer and pulling things out until all my stuff is strewn about, causing more clutter than before, and I can’t handle it. But I suppose that’s the point.
Anyway, one interview in the documentary made the point that we should be making our space accommodate our lifestyles instead of making our lifestyles accommodate our space. For example, if you purchase a house that is bigger than your lifestyle requires, you’ll likely purchase a bunch of unnecessary stuff to fill the empty space in your big house and all that stuff rarely induces happiness. And because we’re not happy with our stuff, we keep wanting to buy more material things to find that happiness we crave.
It also emphasized that when we stop focusing so much on material things, we have more time and energy (and money!) to spend building our experiences and social relationships. I like the sound of that. And what I found MOST surprising (although I’m not sure why) is that fast fashion is the main culprit of this consumer culture we now live in. They said that in our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, they dressed for warm weather and cold weather, whereas now, we have 52 seasons a year. Fifty-two. THAT’S A NEW SEASON EVERY WEEK. And that’s a calculated move because clothing companies want you to feel like you’re out of trend after one week so that you’ll buy something new the next week. That is just crazy.
Even before watching the documentary, I was ready to cut down on all the stuff. A few months ago I started gathering up all the clothes and accessories I don’t wear anymore, which then led to me scouring the rest of my house, identifying everything I was ready to toss. The intention was to make a few extra bucks in a yard sale. But that was months ago and now there’s snow on the ground and a pile of stuff taking up room in the nursery, just waiting to be disposed of in some way.
I still want to get rid of everything that we don’t use and only keep things that spark joy, but I find that actually getting rid of the things is the hardest part. And not because of the emotional connection I have with my things (this used to be a thing for me when I was younger – I once kept an ugly blue chair for YEARS even though we didn’t use it simply because I got it for my first apartment) but because I just don’t know what to do with it. The easiest option is hauling it to the Goodwill down the street, but there are other options, as well, like Habitat for Humanity for my housewares, etc. I’d still like to have a yard sale to see if we can make a few bucks, but I’d have to wait until the spring when folks are more likely to seek out yard sales. That also means the stuff sitting in my house for, like, three more months! Nick has suggested selling things online (FB Market, Ebay, Craigslist, etc.) but that requires taking pictures of each individual item and I don’t have the time nor patience for that. So, unless he wants to do all that, we wait.
But all of this is to say I’ve decided to move toward minimalism. I mean, I’m not ready to sell all of my stuff and move my family into a tiny house (although I would love to have a tiny house in my back yard to use as a guest home for my friends and family who come visit) but I am ready to get rid of the junk in my house and keep only the things I need, the things that spark joy, and the things we use regularly. I want to focus less on things and more on people and experiences. I’m going to consume consciously and follow these last two important lessons from the documentary: before I purchase something new, I will ask myself if it adds value to my life, and I will love people and use things, because the opposite never works.