By Heather Morehouse
Consider it a journey and not a quick fix.
I was always a minimalist, though I never had a definition until I started reading about it a few years ago. I always travelled and lived lightly, preferring not to have to worry about my things, but rather enjoy the life experience. I also am not one who is attached too much in life. We recently survived a battery of tornadoes in our area. Hubster and I thought about making bug out bags, just in case. We used one huge tote bag and other than 2 days of clothing, important papers, meds, wallets, phones, little man’s dog and our laptop, we didn’t care about much else. It could all be replaced.
Things you must understand about me. I am a gypsy at heart and I love to travel and explore. I have no attachment to anything other than my little family, our pets and my laptop. I am quickly losing my previous dream of owning a house, instead looking at alternatives. I have lived in just about every situation from a brand spanking new condo to being homeless and everything in between. I am a pretty overly happy person and darn happy to be overly happy. I smile a lot. My family thinks I am nuts and once staged an intervention because of my “lifestyle.” Dead serious here. I once considered becoming a nun or something on the religious side of life just so I could experiment with less stuff, as I had seen a fantastic documentary about the lifestyles of various religious sects around the world. In fact, I may still dabble in that in the future, in a more spiritual, travel the world kind of way and not so much in the habit kind of way. Oh, and I call it like it is. I am very honest and this might come off as a brute but I am not one to beat around the bush.
Ok, now that that is out of the way. I am sure your first question will be how do I get started? Well, put down the boxes and organizing tools and get yourself a pen and paper. Holy crap Heather, really??? How does this help me declutter and find my Zen??? Please be patient grasshopper. Quick…write down the top 5 things in your life that you would consider a priority. Ok…now declutter anything in your home that is not helping you accomplish these goals. See? That was easy.
I will back up a bit. Often, even the most spirited aspiring minimalist will think it best to just start purging stuff. I am all about travelling the world without a map but I believe this is the one time you should have plan of action. It does go back to planning. When you see your priorities in life, the rest is gravy and might just make it easier for you to cull clutter. You are trying to keep the things that honor you and your priorities. Remember, minimalism transcends all planes, not just the stuff, but spiritual, emotional, physical and many other smaller planes. Now stay with me, don’t become afraid or paralyzed. Remember, this is not temporary; it is allowing change to embrace you. That list is going to be your best friend because it tells you all you need to own to live your live happily. But dear Heather, I am staring at a scrap of paper with 15 words or so on it and I don’t see how this moves the junk out of my life? Have you lost your mind? Well, yes but that is another post. No, this is the blueprint to the rest of your life. The life you talk about and say you are going to do something about and then organize your closet thinking it will be life altering, only to realize you have barely scratched the surface. So you sit in disgust that you can’t take control of your life and choose to ignore it and be miserable and blame the world for your problems and…well, I will stop there. I think you understand what I am getting at. (Reference the brute comment.)
Once you can accept where you are at, in the present, you will be able to move on. The next step is to give yourself permission, free yourself of any guilt or attachment because of how or what others might think, say, do, react or otherwise to your new found freedom. Trust me, you will receive some backlash so be prepared.
Next comes the fun part, the doing. I choose to do one room at a time and I started with my bedroom, since it’s the last place I lay my head and the first place I wake up to. I wanted to feel calm each day. I removed everything out of every drawer, closet, nook and cranny and piled it on the bed. Makes you work harder and faster when you know sleep time is coming. Prepare a large trash bag/can, a box for keep, and a bag for donate. Here is where you also decide how long you are going to work on this. I can go for hours without hesitation but maybe just 30 minutes works for you. Find your balance. My rule for purging is to lay my hands on each item and make a choice right then and there. If you can’t, work around the item but you will probably find it just staring at you and you will be able to deal with immediately once you are on a roll. If you are feeling adventurous, you could designate maybe only 3 bins for all of your keep, to challenge yourself. This is completely up to you but I found this make me conscience of the choices I am making. I am kind of a challenge myself kind of girl, so again this works for me. Work diligently, work smart and work uninterrupted. If you have kids, get them involved. Older kids can do the same in their space, younger kids can help carry out trash or make them walk around the room and gather up like items.
Once you have completed the whole room, remove the trash to the garbage bins, take the donated and load up your vehicle or make a space in your garage, back porch, wherever, just have a spot and look at what you have kept. Nope, not ready to organize yet. It’s time to clean. Wipe down all surfaces, mop the floor or vacuum, clean the windows, take down drapery to clean, give the bedding a good wash. While you are at it, take a good look at your room. Do you want to move things around or remove some furniture? Go ahead and do this now.
Ok…time to get a drink and be proud of all you have done. Let’s label some more boxes with other room items, maybe marking them with designated rooms, as we are now going to go through your keep piles. It’s important to get stuff out that doesn’t belong in that room or area. Start grouping like items together, t-shirts, shoes, lotions, books, pictures, etc. This helps you organize faster and also, realize what you do have. Sometimes it can be a real eye opener. BE PREPARED.
So now you have some nice piles and a clean room. You may have purged some more items as you put like items together, so put them in their designated areas and start to put things back in an organized manner. You may even purge further as you go. And remember, this is just round one. Once you get things under control, you may find yourself doing a monthly once-over to purge and weed out. It is absolutely normal.
Side notes* If you are dealing with other people’s clutter along with your own, you may want to add designated box for their stuff so they can sort it later, if you are not comfortable with doing so. Also, if you have a massive project to undertake, divide the room up into quarters and work each quarter zone until finished. I did this with my grandparent’s house and it worked better than getting overwhelmed with all the stuff and not knowing where to start first.
Remember, this is just a loose rough draft of how I accomplished my minimalist life. It took me 3 weekends to do the whole house. I wasn’t a packrat and I was super motivated. It may take you longer and that is ok, as long as you are doing. You are not just dealing with the stuff; you will also be dealing with the emotional, physical and spiritual side of things as well. Honor those feelings.
This is usually the hardest area to cull, next to books and mementos. I have changed my style over the years and I tend to lean to plainer, simple clothing now. I don’t do much patterns, except for maybe in a dress or 2 that I own. I like plain, comfortable clothing that I can add a pretty scarf and a cuff too and make it a wow outfit. This also keeps the number of items I have down to a minimum. Now, I have to have a professional wardrobe. I work in a business professional environment, no casual wear for me. So I have to maintain my sanity with having enough to wear to work without feeling boring. At home, I have been leaning towards simple linen dresses. You must understand I live in Texas, so my wardrobe is warmer weather friendly. I do own a winter jacket and boots and even a heavier scarf but otherwise, I just layer or walk really fast. I tend to stick to black/charcoal, navy, red, pure white and some khaki. I have one scarf that is hot pink and one infinity scarf that is blue/beige stripe.
Things I do not wear- anything clingy or see through, jeans (nope, I wear yoga pants to clean around the house or when I am just hanging out at home- jeans make me too hot), large patterned items (still own a few dresses- I am working on it), full lycra items (just too darn hot), printed t-shirts (just prefer plain).
If you are having a hard time, pick a style icon, browse the web, and find some inspiration for how you would like to dress. One of mine is Audrey Hepburn- simplistic style at its best, throughout her entire life. Even at home, she wore plain pants and a simple top. Lovely. I also draw inspiration from other minimalist bloggers. Just do a search and see what you can come up with. The one’s who seem to inspire me the most are the one’s who were not known for their wardrobe but for their passion and heart. And remember, hair and jewelry help set the tone to. They are your frame. You can get as simple or as wild and funky with your bad self as you like. Remember, this is about the authentic you. For most jewelry, I have 4 large necklaces, 3 cuffs/watch and 4-5 sets of earrings. I have my wedding ring and it’s the only ring I wear. I usually pick one statement piece and that is all I wear.
A few quotes to ponder and motivate you:
Take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints.
If ones life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: Satisfaction with just enough food, clothing and shelter. - Dalai Lama
“Too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner.”
My final thought- own nothing you do not honor with absolute impeccable care and that in return, honors who you are.
Heather has been an inspiration to me ever since I saw her posts on Facebook about hauling loads of stuff to Goodwill. It was something that I have wanted to do forever but didn't have the motivation or guts to start on. That was two years ago, I think, and here I am taking her advice and starting my journey!