The Space Created

There is a good chance that I’m going to be disappointed with the reality of keeping our house neat, even after I have the number of items down to a manageable level. But there is one thing I’m sure I am underestimating, and that is the psychological repercussions of letting go of all this physical stuff.

I could feel it over this weekend, as I was touching each and every book in my extensive collection. There were so many books, and so many of them were unfinished. The vast majority of them were non-fiction, mostly in the genre of self-improvement. There were dozens of volumes on managing anxiety and depression, and the word “mindfulness” was part of a huge number of titles. It was hard to physically touch each of these books, as each and every one is a reminder of how I’ve struggled over the past decade. In each of those books lay my hopes of escaping from, or at the very least managing, my depression and anxiety and it was hard to see just how desperate I was, and how much faith I had in other people’s written prescriptions.

There were other books that were hard to handle as well; a few linger books on infertility, adoption and living childless/free that I got after my diagnosis. I thought I had gotten rid of all of those but some were hiding in the depths of my built-in book case. There were also a bunch of books on writing for children and publishing a young adult novel, plus some volumes on science fiction and specifically memory loss (which was going to be part of the novel I was trying to write). Later I came across the first draft of the first 50 pages of my novel, with comments from other writers in my class. It was hard to place all of that work, effort, and hope on the top of the recycle pile, but it was even harder to admit to myself that none of it brought me joy.

I also threw out my collection of ggmg magazines; three years worth of issues that I copy edited or contributed to as a writer. I tore out all my articles to save somewhere, which made it easier to pitch the rest, but my hand still hovered for a long time over the recycle pile. I still feel a lot of ambivalence about leaving the magazine, and along with it my mostly dormant hopes of becoming a writer some day.

There was one thing I came across that brought me genuine joy–the children’s book I wrote and illustrated a couple of years ago. It’s been ages since I even looked at it and reading it again made me happy, and proud. For some reason that book is not a symbol of my failure to get published (I sent it to quite a few publishing houses), but my ability to create something I set out to create. I hope to read it to my daughter soon (she hasn’t let me yet)–it’s a gift I only need to share with my children. That feels fulfilling enough.

I’ve thought a lot about why I was suddenly called to minimalism after so many years of struggling with all the obvious things that drove me in that direction (excessive spending, an inability to keep my house in order). I think the space that minimalism is opening inside of me was already there, waiting to be discovered. I think I found this path because it mirrors what I already knew I needed, mentally as much as physically. As the debris that struggle and chaos churned up in my life before and during my family building years has settled, a quiet space opened up inside of me. Minimalism is simply that space manifesting in my external reality. I don’t think minimalism is creating this change, but that it’s a reflection of a change that was already taking place.

I need to let go of all of these things physically, because I’ve already let go of them, in large part, emotionally. I can’t move forward if I’m clinging to the what once was. Dispensing with my past makes space for my future.

Letting go of so many things that I acquired in the pursuit of some creative expression and healing has been difficult. I’m not sure who I am, or more accurately, who I am becoming, and that is a terrifying prospect. Mostly I’m just sitting with this feeling that I don’t really recognize myself or understand what I will be called to create. I have faith that in the aftermath of all this letting go, something amazing will present itself. It may not be next month, it may not be next year, but some day I will be creatively inspired once again.

And it will be wonderful.


  1. Books are the one thing I don’t purge…. And I need to. I could not have gotten rid of some of the things you mentioned here, and I’m so proud of you for letting go. This was a hard post to read, I can’t imagine writing it.

    1. It was hard, but also productive. I am learning so much about myself right now, and while some of it is scary, mostly I am excited for what is to come. Being okay with the uncertainty, that is new for me. It’s leaving a lot of space for other things, and while I’m not quite sure what they are yet, I think I’m ready for them to unveil themselves.

  2. Yes! I don’t *believe* in a lot but I am totally convinced that once you figure out what is really important to you, what truly brings you joy, you will find a way to bring that into the center of your life. It may take a while but it will be worth it.

    1. I am starting to believe that as well. Recently I read a post called “The Intersection of Should and Must” about the need to live your calling, and I felt discouraged reading it, thinking that I had no idea what my calling might be. But then I sat with that feeling and realized that under the anxiety was a belief, however quiet, that if I keep up this hard work, my calling might show itself to me. I’m not sure that it will, but instead of indulging the anxiety that it hasn’t happened yet, I’m accepting the uncertainty. That is the first step.

  3. You are already doing and being wonderful. Your posts are always interesting and thought provoking. Clearing books…. and touching each and every book; important and part of moving forward ~ because inside of us we always carry our past and many many books from our past do not need to move concretely into our future. This opens the walls of boxes about the future and lets in new light, new freedoms, new space.

    1. In the book I read about tidying, the author talks about how a book is meant to be read, and we should set them free so they can fulfill their purpose instead of keeping them for ourselves. I really like that idea and it has helped me to let go of that which I don’t need to move into my future, as you said.

  4. I was thinking about the process of clearing out the stuff to make room for whatever is next and I’m currently conceptualizing it as hatching. It used to be nice and cozy, snuggled in tight with the way things had been, and then I grew and now what was comforting and safe is too small and I need to struggle my way out. It can take hours for a chick to hatch and some, maybe a third or half, don’t ever make it. If anyone helps too much, the chick won’t thrive because they need that struggle to be strong enough to live. It’s good to struggle and then let go of the old because a new world is just beyond what has been.

    1. This is a really interesting way to look at it. Thank you for this perspective.

      I love the idea that you can’t help the chick because it needs to do the hard work for itself. I know that is true in my life, I can’t read something, I have to live it to really learn it. It’s harder that way, but it doesn’t seem to be something I can avoid.

  5. One of the issues I’ve had to come to terms with in living without children is the fact that I won’t have anyone to inherit things from me. But then I realised – after discussions with my MIL – that even if I did, the things that are important to me won’t necessarily be important to anyone else. And it made me think, what do I have that is really really important to me? Very little. The things I’ve inherited, maybe, but not a lot else. (Except my laptop and hard drives, but that’s because of the ideas and work and photos that they hold, not the objects themselves.) It’s made me approach material objects very differently. So I can understand how you can let yours go physically, having detached from them emotionally. And I like the idea you’re cleaning out for what’s next – cleaning out physically always makes me feel better emotionally. I think that’s what I need to do. I know that’s what I need to do. At least I’m not acquiring new stuff, which I guess is a start.

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