Minimalism in May

Going back to a simpler life is not a step backward.

“Clutter has a way of sucking the energy right out of you and replacing it with feelings of chaos.  Clutter is an often-unrecognized source of stress that prompts feelings of anxiety, frustration, distraction, and even guilt, so give your home and office a clutter makeover, purging it of the excess papers, files, knick knacks and other “stuff” that not only takes up space in your physical environment, but also in your mind.”
— Idk who said this, I saw it on Pinterest

This.  This right here, folks.  This is my personal challenge for May.

Before anyone calls me a special snowflake for feeling like this ?? Clutter is an often-unrecognized source of stress that prompts feelings of anxiety, frustration, distraction, and even guilt ?? consider that not everyone is the same as you.  I am the type of person that sucks up the energy from the people and environments around me.  I have always been this way, and I never knew why, until I discovered some things about my personality and its traits that lead to me being this way.  I am an //INFJ//, I am an //empath//, and I am a //highly sensitive person// (AND I am a Pisces, so I am the way I am to the power of four), and for as long as I can remember, my environment has had a major effect on how I feel on a day to day basis.  It is why, when my house is a mess, I feel angry and anxious and overwhelmed and unable to relax.  It is why I can’t stay at my mom’s house with my entire family there for more than a few hours before becoming “peopled out”.  It is why, in our first apartment in the city, I had a burning sense that I was not where I belonged, that where I was living was not my home.  I was burdened with the sights and sounds of daily city life, feeling like I never had any peace and quiet or a reprieve from the hustle and bustle.  It only worsened when we were living in Northeast Philly for the last 10 years.  Living and working in the city drained me physically, mentally, and emotionally.  There are any number of articles out there that prove I’m not the only one (try //this one// for starters), and SO much evidence that getting ‘back to nature’ is good for the soul.  About five years ago I started jonesing for a simpler life – a house, a barn, a few acres, out of the rat race city life, into the slow living of a rural life.  We worked our asses off and now here we are – and now it’s time to capitalize on it.  It’s time to make it mean something!

The idea of paring down my “stuff” and living a “clutter-free” existence began over a year ago when I started packing up my old house in preparation for selling it and moving into a new house.  I pretty much did this all by myself, which I will say until the day I die (sorry Pookie ?) because I do believe it had a profound effect on me.  Maybe I needed to do it all by myself.  Maybe I needed to see how much I was hanging onto, and ask myself, WTF Cristin, why??  I took this process as an opportunity to lighten our lives a bit.  We were living in a cramped, 1300sqft rowhome at the time, with closets and shelves and rooms brimming with… stuff.  No joke – I packed up my office, and I found a tote bag with knick knacks from my desk at work at my old job – that I had left almost three years prior.  I had literally packed up those knick knacks on my last day and brought them home in a tote bag and never unpacked the tote bag.  I was cleaning out my daughter’s closet and found a board game that someone had given to us, who knows how many years prior, that had never been opened; still sealed with plastic wrap.  Seeing and experiencing all of this made me take a hard look at everything that I was packing into a box to take to the new house.  But even then, I would think about this – I was packing up items to go into storage for an unknown amount of time, and only leaving out our ‘essentials’ that we would need up until the day we settled on the sale of the house and moved out.  It dawned on me then – if I know I won’t need these things for an undetermined amount of time, if they are going to stay in my mom’s garage or a storage unit until we move into a new house, why do I even need to pack these things at all?

But quite frankly, there was so much going on at that time that I was managing by myself, and I couldn’t do it all.  So I donated and tossed what I knew for sure had no place in my new life at my new house, and packed everything else that was significantly questionable, or anything that gave me pause before tossing it into a ‘donate’ box.  I wasn’t sure yet, and I wasn’t in the right head space to make a decision on it.

As a result – fast forward 10-12 months – I am left with quite a few boxes in my barn at my new house.  Not as many as you might guess, maybe 20-30 boxes tops.  My guess is these are mostly items that I found questionable when packing up the old house.  Because everything I NEED has been unpacked and found its place in my new house shortly after moving in last August.  I went on an unpacking binge for a couple months, chipping away at it right up until our housewarming party in October.  I wanted to have some kind of décor in the house for that so I rummaged through boxes to find the things that meant the most to me.  But what’s left?  The only thing I know FOR SURE that I NEED out of my barn, are my mason jars.  Every time I need to make something homemade, I say to myself I need to unpack those friggin’ mason jars already.  I should probably start there.  Or maybe I should start with the massive box of DVDs, which I so eloquently labeled, “DVDs – Living Room – WHY DO WE STILL HAVE THESE?!”.

Other than that, I am not really sure what’s in those boxes out there in my barn.  I have considered the idea of throwing them all away.  But I’m not comfortable with that idea.  What I am comfortable with is taking a hard look at what’s there and asking myself, does this thing bring me joy?  Do I really need this thing if I haven’t needed it in the last year?  Could someone else use this thing?  I know I can spend more time doing that this time around, now that I’m not dealing with realtors and keeping my house clean for showings and coordinating contractors.  So this is what I am aiming to do every weekend in May.  If I finish the barn boxes before the end of May, I will move inside my house and do some minimizing in there as well.  There is actually much less to do there, because as I said, I really only unpacked essentials and most-needed stuff.  So we are in pretty good shape, but I need to get rid of the Piles of Paper that pop up all over my house.  First grade artwork, school worksheets (teachers, PLEASE STOP SENDING THIS STUFF HOME!), flyers from school, bills and invoices and receipts, oh my.

For a lot of this stuff, I need to get my daughter on board.  I can already see she is starting to become the pack rat that I once was.  Unable to part with drawings scribbled on the back of restaurant paper placemats, clinging to the math worksheet she got a 100% on, wanting to keep every. Single. Piece. Of artwork. She has ever. Created.  At the last house, I actually bought her a storage bin and told her she could keep all the artwork she wants, as long as it fits in this one bin.  I am not buying her another bin.  For the rest of her life.  While packing up the last house I realized it was already overflowing, and she needed to part with some stuff.  She did so begrudgingly, but she has a short attention span.

(You may ask, Cristin, why don’t you just go through it and toss what’s not important?  Well, when you attempt to do that and your daughter catches you and asks, horrified, why you are throwing away her artwork, and you say oh oops sorry it was an accident, and you take it out of the trash and wait for her to turn her back and you attempt to throw it away again, and she catches you AGAIN, and races to the trash to pull it out with tears in her eyes that her mother would do such a thing and looks at you like you are a monster… well… you might put the decision on your kid’s shoulders too.)

Anyway, this will be a long process.  And I will need to get the husband and daughter on board.  And I will probably need the husband’s help with getting the daughter on board because she is already starting to take an adversarial stance with me whenever possible, and only her father can sweet-talk her into doing what’s right (which is usually my way, duh).  My goal is to only have to store in my barn the most practical and specialest of things – my daughter’s special dresses and baby clothes, that she wants to keep for her daughter someday; winter gear during the summer; summer gear during the winter; seasonal gear and decorations; etc.  Our barn is bigger than our house.  I am fully mindful of the fact that our barn is not, nor should it become, a gigantic storage shed.  And if we ever move again, the very LAST thing I want to do, AGAIN, is pack up and sort through another house – AND A BARN.

So.  With ALL OF THAT said, this is just the first step in my desire to move towards a more minimalist lifestyle.  In the future this will include letting go of many things – everything from breaking up with my phone to breaking up with my career.  It will not all happen this year, but everything I’m doing is a step towards my ultimate goal – to wake up in the morning and not feel burdened by All The Things.  You know, every morning I wake up at the ass crack of dawn and drag my daughter out of bed, practically kicking and screaming

  1. just so I can drop her off at before-care at 7am
  2. just so I can get to work earlier
  3. just so I can sit at a desk and have about 8 different people tell me how to do my job 8 different ways while hoping my creativity doesn’t die on the vine
  4. just so I can leave earlier
  5. just so I can get to the gym and have some kind of hope of being healthy in my middle age
  6. just so I can rush and get my daughter as soon as possible from after-care
  7. just so I can rush home and make dinner as fast as possible
  8. just so we can eat so we can spend time together before she goes to bed at 7:30-8pm
  9. just so I can collapse into bed exhausted
  10. only to wake up and do it all again the next day

I’m over that life.  And granted, I don’t do every single one of those things every single day, my husband DOES help, and he is a fabulous help, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.  But still.

Ideally?  My life would look like this.

Every morning I wake up and

  1. wake up my daughter
  2. watch her get on the bus
  3. go to work
  4. do something creative and meaningful for maybe 6 hours a day instead of 8
  5. go home
  6. watch my daughter get off the bus
  7. make dinner
  8. have family time
  9. bedtime for kiddo
  10. have spouse time

Don’t those 10 things sound so much better and less stressful than the first 10 things?

I’m working towards it.  Someday, I will get there.