After decluttering on and off for years…
One day I decided that most of our stuff had to go. I’m not sure what was different this time but I had a longing desire for less, that I could no longer ignore. I started then and there, throwing away all of the broken things, that I had let inhabit my space. I made towers of throw away, donate and sell piles, balanced carefully on top of one another and they just kept getting bigger.
This went on for months and months and just when I felt like the end was in sight, there was more. Like Mary Poppins bag, the stuff just kept on coming. I couldn’t believe how many things were stuffed into bags, cupboards and drawers. It was mentally and physically draining - that feeling of working so hard but never getting anywhere.
All of my stuff was still ruling me, even though I had sent so much of it away. So many days I felt deflated and disheartened that the decluttering process would never, ever end. It was all taking too long and it often felt like I would never achieve all that I wanted.
And so one day, when we had sold enough stuff to pay for new carpets for our home, we hired a van. A medium sized white van, designed to get rid of our things once and for all. We spent two days separating ourselves from all of the leftover things, that we didn’t need. My husband did tip runs, charity shop runs and giving away to friends runs. We took on every inch of our home with blood, sweat and tears, spurred on by the fact that there was a van sat right outside our window, ready to transport our old life, into a brand new one. It really helped us to get rid of the excess because no matter how much our bodies hurt and no matter how tired we became, we wanted to get it done.
We filled the van two times over and things that were once important to us, now sat on top of one another like sardines in a can. Things that had once brought us supposed joy, were now a burden. And as the white van became more and more weighed down with stuff, our tall rented white house, felt free. It was one of the best decisions we made, hiring that van and I promised myself, that I would never, ever get to the point of needing a van, to get rid of our stuff again.
I’m pretty sure now, that the contents left in our home, our actual belongings - the things that we love and use, would only just fill that van, if we were to fill it again today. And that’s a good feeling. However I still wouldn’t say that we are done and I’m not sure that we ever will be because we are a real family, with differing needs. I know that just from my viewpoint alone, I grow and evolve, ever changing with the wind. In some seasons I may need more and in others I crave less. In this season of young children it is definitely, without doubt less.
I have read a few things lately, of people on the road to minimalism, speaking of the decluttering process and how a simpler life, feels just out of reach. I remember feeling that too so many times and in some ways, I’m sure it would have been easier to give up. I imagine it’s somewhat close, to then feeling that a marathon runner gets - when they hit the metaphorical brick wall. You want to finish the race but wonder how you can physically and mentally, do any more.
The thing is that you can go back to a life full of stuff, or you can decide to keep chipping away at that wall, until you are left with a life full of less. And once you get to that point, where you want to break down that wall once and for all, a stronger force pushes you along - willing this stuff out of your home and out of your life. It is a huge sacrifice, to put all of your time into decluttering, you may even find that you can hardly find the time at all. But anything that you do now, will reward you with so much more, the less that you have. I spent two years on the big declutter. It seemed so long back then and so relentless. I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted due to circumstance but now I’m glad that I didn’t because it gave me time to figure out if all I wanted was a tidy home, or something more. And two years really is nothing, compared to all the time, that I have gained.
When I started simplifying, I was after the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The richness that was promised to me, when I started decluttering all of my stuff. The life that others spoke of - arriving at a place where I would feel finished and free. But it didn’t work quite like that. Because funnily enough, although it is of course, about your stuff - it isn’t really about your stuff at all. It is about you and clearing the space, so that you can focus on how you see yourself in the world and your place in it. It is about realising that you have enough and that you are enough, regardless of the amount of stuff you do or do not own.
You see, the richness is achieved in the journey, rather than the destination. With every bag, skip or van that transports your belongings out of your life, is a step forwards. With every scratch, bruise and stubbed toe that you get, moving boxes from place to place, is a step forwards. And every time that you feel like, you can’t possibly remove anymore but do anyway, is a step forwards.
Because in time, suddenly all of these small steps will lead you to stride and then to run, towards a life of more. It could lead you right back to the life that you already have, just minus the stuff, or maybe it will bring you to a new life, dripping with possibility. It is your choice, as once your focus becomes you and those around you, rather than your focus being on stuff - your world will take on a whole new meaning.
Minimalism isn’t a tangible end goal but rather, a tool used to help you appreciate the rainbow. To witness and make room for the extraordinary within the ordinary. To take the time to bask in the phenomenon of nature - to learn that the sweetest spot, often comes just after the storm. And to know that although we rarely see the end of the rainbow, we still know that it is there.
The pot of gold at the supposed end, is irrelevant. Because if you can live a life being content with the rainbow, of life’s simple pleasures, then you are rich enough, just as you are.
This post is inspired and dedicated to Jenn, over at @seekingminimalism. A fellow minimalist, who is working so hard to declutter and find more time. She posts about letting go of excess and living lightly and I think that she is awesome. We often forget of how far we have come and so this is a reminder; It doesn’t matter if it takes days, weeks, months or years to simplify. What matters is that we started and that every so often, we take the time, to look up.