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I’m going to be moving sometime this year. The date isn’t set in stone, and we just recently put an offer on a house, but I have begun the process of getting ready for a yard sale in preparation for ridding myself of certain belongings that I don’t want to make the trip.
I spent an entire Saturday sorting through my clothes, purging what I no longer wanted or needed. In the end, I ended up with six garbage bags.
Throughout the process, I applied the Kon Mari Method to my decision making. If you’re not familiar with the Kon Mari method, it’s from the book, The Magic Process of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.
In the book, Kondo tells you to pick up an object and ask yourself one simple question, ‘does the object you’re contemplating parting with bring you joy?’ If the answer is no, you get rid of it and if the answer is yes, you keep it.
As I sorted, discarded and held an object and asking myself if it brought me joy, I was struck at how much clothing, shoes and accessories I had accumulated over the years. I mean I hardly ever shop now unless it’s for a t-shirt and a pair of yoga pants, my almost daily outfit, so where did all this stuff come from?
Why Minimalism Is Appealing To Me
I had clothing in my closet that was at least ten years old, that I had never parted with. Ten years! So despite curbing my shopaholic tendencies, I clearly had a ways to go when it came to adopting a somewhat minimalistic lifestyle.
And that got me thinking about how much I hated having to sort through all the stuff that didn’t bring me joy, how much I do detest clutter even if it’s out of sight behind a closed closet and how much the older I get, the more minimalism appeals to me.
I grew up with the generation of parents that were of the Great Depression Era. As such, my parents didn’t indulge us kids every whim.
We grew up without a lot. We never went on vacation, wore hand-me-downs, grew our fruits and veggies, rarely if ever ate out, had a small but reasonable amount of toys, and spent most of our days outside exploring. Heck, I didn’t even own a bike!
I owned three pairs of shoes – school, play and church and had one pair of boots and a pair of rubbers (and I don’t mean condoms). I had one coat per season and a pair of gloves. We didn’t have any junk because we just didn’t have that much stuff.
And it wasn’t just because we were broke. Even families that had a bit more money didn’t overindulge their children either. We were a society of less is more, and everyone seemed ok with that.
It wasn’t until my generation grew up that we started being inundated with the notion that somehow we were deprived as children and began down the road of overindulgence. If I think back hard enough, I can almost remember how I old I was when it happened.
I was in high school and the year was 1975 and advertisements began targeting men and women, older in age, with the notion they needed to drive that Mustang, dress in designer clothing and buy this makeup if they wanted to be anyone of importance. They targeted our narcissistic tendencies, and they won!
Of course, advertisements were around well before I noticed them, but I believe they had a profound impact on my age group. Inevitably, we turned into one of the most unrestrained generations of them all.
As I look back on the years between 15 and 45, a full 30 years of my life was spent on acquiring stuff. It didn’t matter what kind of things either. I just wanted what I wanted without regard to the hit I was taking on my personal finances. It didn’t matter what it was; I made sure I got it.
This lead me down a path that created over 50K in credit card debt by the time I was 40 years old. My personal finance habits were so messed up, I almost lost my home. It took a few years to get out of debt but many more years to break my overindulgent ways.
For the next decade, I learned how to control and recover from my shopping addiction. Anyone who tells you that old habits are hard to break isn’t kidding.
When I was struggling with the debt, I gave up quite a few things to pay off the debt and keep my home. Once I got out of debt, and my income started to increase, I picked up where I left off with my spending. The only difference was, this time, I didn’t charge it, I’d pay for it in cash.
One day I realized what I was doing and how easily I could slip back into a shopping coma and end up with another 50K in debt. This time, I took a different approach to shopping – learning what I needed vs. what I wanted and learned ways to deal with the loneliness and emptiness that was inside of me.
Eventually, I started to heal on the inside, and it was reflected in my behavior. I broke my shopping addiction and scaled back immensely.
Now as I get ready to turn 55, I realize the next step in this journey is to part with all the stuff in my life that has cluttered my heart, soul and mind. To only be surrounded by the things that bring me joy. It’s time to move away from the junk and move towards relationships and experiences.
Will I ever be a full fledged minimalist?
I don’t know.
But I do know that the concept of minimalism has helped me give up the struggle of wanting more and more.
I recognize that the insatiable need to own more is primarily a marketing construct that we internalize. It hits those buttons in us that somehow makes us believe we are less than if we don’t own this crap.
My happiness is not connected to what I surround myself with, of this I am sure.
So I’ll continue to encircle myself with the people and experiences that fill my soul and eventually, just maybe I’ll wake up one day and realize I finally arrived at the place not filled with belongings but filled with the memories that warm my heart, soul and mind.