Minimalism, Take 2

It has been suggested here that I am prone to falling in love with an movement or lifestyle, jumping in with both feet, pursing it enthusiastically, and then abruptly abandoning it for the next best thing. While I will admit that isn’t an entirely inaccurate assessment of my tendencies, I would also argue that many things I’ve embraced over the years still play important roles in my life, and some I hope to embrace more fully in the future. While we don’t follow the no-additives diet as strictly as we did before, we’re still eating much of the same foods and taking many of the supplements we felt were having a positive impact on our daughter’s behavior. And while meditation is something that I’ve never embraced in the ways I think I want to, I absolutely believe it would be a hugely positive force in my life and I hope to make it a daily staple at some point.

So yes, there are lots of things I embrace enthusiastically, write about a lot, and then let falter. I’m sure I’m not the only one, though I am probably looking for that one “thing” that will make everything “better” with greater fervor than most. Just because I stop writing about something, doesn’t mean it has left my life completely.

One thing that I really do feel made a lasting positive impact in my life was the pursuit of minimalism. The only other thing that I believe has had such an important impact on my life is regular exercise, which I re-embraced after a years-long hiatus when I was pregnant with my son. Exercise is absolutely essential to my mental well-being, of that I am absolutely sure. I am just as convinced that having fewer possessions makes me a happier person. I would go so far as to say that having dramatically fewer possessions would make me a dramatically happier person.

It’s ironic to me that I figured out owning less would make me happier after an entire lifetime of compulsive consumption. All that time I thought buying more would fill some hole inside me I didn’t even recognize, when it was jettisoning those very things I was buying that would ultimately make me happier. It’s even more frustrating to me that the habit of buying more has become so engrained, that even now, when I know that more stuff ultimately feels suffocating, I still struggle not to buy more.

Minimalism seems to be almost a cure-all for my dissatisfaction. If we owned (and purchased) less, our house would feel big enough (and be aesthetically pleasing), our income would feel sufficient, our time would be freed, and our priorities would become apparent. I am 100% convinced that I NEED to embrace minimalism to attain lasting happiness.

So why haven’t I? Well, I’ve tried. And then, when I didn’t do it like some of the blogs and books said I should, I felt like I failed. And then it felt like my family wasn’t on board and so I couldn’t manage it anyway. And then life happened and I more or less abandoned my attempts at achieving some ideal expression of minimalism.

But I never forgot how good it felt when I was really trying, when I drastically reduced the articles of clothing I owned or the books I kept, when we purged enough of our belongs to get rid of three large book cases and everything they held. For the first time in my life I felt like I had some control over my stuff. Finally I didn’t feel so completely overwhelmed by all the shit I owned. It absolutely felt like we were on the right track, but when I suspected we may never be true minimalists, at least according some people, I started to worry that it wasn’t worth even trying.

In the year since we purged so much of our stuff, I’ve read a lot more about minimalism and I’ve come to understand that there is no ultimate ideal one has to achieve. Minimalism means something different to each person who pursues it. And while it may be true that even when we’ve gotten rid of all we feel we’re able to, we still won’t have achieve the ideal of “minimalism” to which so many prescribe, I still believe we’ll be at a much more positive place than we ever were before.

My son is growing swiftly out of the final “baby” accoutrements and I’m taking these few days to pack them up so I can hand them off to someone else. We’ll still have so many more toys and books than we really need, but I’m recognizing that my family has different comfort levels when it comes to jettisoning these things and I need to respect their boundaries. While I’d LOVE to get rid of more of the stuff I don’t feel like we really use, I’m sensitive to the needs and wants of my husband and children. Right now I’m trying to simplify, and streamline, with the hopes that as we move forward we can get rid of more while acquiring less. Hopefully, by the time the kids have graduated from the toy-heavy years, we’ll have all become accustomed to owning less, and we won’t struggle so much with getting rid of that which we don’t need.

We still have a long, loooooong way to go, but I KNOW this is worthy endeavor, and I believe a continued pursuit of our own unique brand of minimalism will provide significant returns, especially as it evolves over time to help us live intentionally and in line with our values.

What is one thing that you need to ensure your happiness?

9 Comments

  1. I feel like we are very similarly situated with all of this. Consistent exercise helps me mentally, physically, AND emotionally. Embracing minimalism (even just steps at a time) always makes me feel lighter and happier, and getting finances under control makes life easier in a multitude of ways. It’s all interconnected IMO. 🙂

    1. Same here, 100%! I felt the best I’ve felt in years last year at this time as I was purging stuff from my house and working my ass off with exercise. I am itching to purge again…

  2. I cleaned out my shoe basket (which is only a huge laundry basket) over the weekend. I went down to shoes I wear more than twice & wear for work. Can I tell you how f-ing awesome it felt? Not to mention, how much more room I have in my closet? But I didn’t get to actually cleaning out my clothes. My point is, it made me happy knowing that I’m doing something to get rid of the clutter around my house, eventually trying, painfully, getting down to only what we need. I’ll get there…someday. But I’ll get there knowing, I’m happy doing it & not getting overwhelmed. Go you!

    1. Yay! Doesn’t it feel great to get rid of stuff?! I have seven paper grocery bags filled to the brim, ready to give to my colleague who is pregnant, I just dumped three big garbage bags and I have three more garbage bags of clothes and kitchen stuff to donate. It feels so get to get rid of it all.

  3. I love this post so much! I love the acknowledgement that something that isn’t 100% “success” or purity still finds a way into your life, still impacts how you do things, still has a positive effect. Thank you!

  4. I need to embrace budgeting. I don’t do it well and we have months of huge overspending followed by a month of keeping it tight only to push off some purchases to the next month. Basically, we aren’t really being consistent.

    As far as what you said, it sounds like you get frustrated when you aren’t doing it perfectly. Except perfection is unattainable. Just keep at it and I’ll bet you’ll find the balance that works for you.

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