Chasing Inspiration

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Minimalism and Me

Last week I wanted to lament the time that got away from me due to the busyness that has been my life. Instead of whining and mourning the time I will never get back, I decided to make some changes to my life. Easier said than done.
The first thing I realized is that in order to make positive, lasting change in my life I need to determine what is and isn't working for me and my family right now. I've taken some time to ask my husband some questions about his vision for our future and his expectations of our partnership. Then I had to shut up and listen to some hard truths. What I have walked away with is this:
  1. Less is more
  2. I am not Wonder Woman, I don't have to try to do everything all by myself, I can say no or ask for assistance
  3. When making agreements, write them down, make them actionable and follow through now not later
  4. Less is more
  5. My family doesn't need routines, my family needs meaningful habits
  6. Communication about wants, needs and expectations is crucial 
  7. Less is more
Okay, I really only have five things I walked away with instead of seven, but the "less is more" notion is something that I know in my head but for the last couple of years has been this voice whispering in my mind that simplifying isn't about being organized and building routines/habits. It's about less. Minimalism.

I'm not a minimalist. I have a closet full of clothes. Books everywhere. Cluttered surfaces (mostly paper which I swear breeds overnight!). My kitchen has more items than I'll ever use in a week or even a month. Then there's the crap in the basement. And perhaps this is part of my problem.

The more I have, the more I need to do to keep things in shape and the more time I have to put toward maintaining and/or justifying the things I have. What if I were to let go of the stuff? What would happen then? Would life become simpler because of this new less is more attitude? Or would it cause more stress? Is my stuff really taking away from the things I want to do? Are the activities I clutter my days with getting in the way of my passions and dreams?

I'm going to use books as an example. I love books. When I got married I owned maybe 20 books. I rarely purchased books in the first few years of marriage. I used the library a lot or I borrowed books from friends. Then one day I wanted to read a series the library didn't have and I couldn't get via interlibrary loan. So I started purchasing books. I bought them new or used. I received them as gifts. And my collection started to grow to where it is now at well over 2000 books. Where are all these books? Most of them are in boxes. Why? Because we are in the middle of renovating the house and bookshelves aren't high enough on the list yet. That and I think my husband keeps hoping I'll get rid of most of these books so he doesn't have to build as many bookshelves.

These books give me great joy and cause me great stress. They bring me joy because I love being surrounded by the written word. I love the stories and emotions and thoughts and knowledge books can share.  Given the opportunity, I will sit on my favorite chair with a pot of tea and will read endlessly for hours while the world passes by. Books are a passion.

My books are also a source of stress. I spend money I don't need to on books that often are purchased and then stacked somewhere unread until I have the time or desire to pick up a particular title and read it. Books collect dust, clutter surfaces and can get in the way of my space, time or relationships. My TBR (to be read) piles and boxes continue to grow and sometimes I'm paralyzed because I have so many choices of what to read that I don't get around to reading anything in my TBR piles and instead buy new books to read. You get the picture.

If I went with the "less is more" philosophy with my books, I would only keep books that had meaning and purpose in my life right now. I wouldn't hold on to series I've read and don't intend to read again. I wouldn't keep books because the author signed them or because I happen to know the author and want to support him/her. I would be ruthless about what in my TBR piles I'm actually going to read versus what I'm holding on to out of some meaningless habit to keep the books until they have been read.

After my heart to hear with the husband, I decided that since I had to move all the books being stored in the home office off the shelves while we move a window, I'm going to try some of this "less is more" attitude. It's going to hurt, but I'm going to commit to two shelves of books instead of five. If a book doesn't make it back into the office they don't get to stay in the house. I will find them good homes. I will catalog the books so I know what I used to own, if I ever read it, what purpose it had for me at the time. I need to free up the space so I can free up the office.

Books aren't bad. Stuff isn't bad. I'm not mad at my stuff, but I'm seeing now how some of the things in my life are distracting rather than uplifting. Sure, this less is more thing isn't saving the world, but I'm hoping it's a start to making those necessary and timely changes I need to make to move forward, and to have a happy, healthy family.

1 comment:

  1. I had to share this on my Facebook page as it spoke to me in so many ways, especially the letting go of "things."
    Beautifully written words produced images in my mind....