I grew up in a household that appreciated a good deal. It’s in my genes to take advantage of a good deal. My grandmother saved almost everything. Everything. Empty cereal bags inside the box were saved and reused. Canned goods were never thrown out. When she eventually moved into a nursing home I can remember finding canned goods in the cupboards older than me. I thought it was interesting at the time. My mother and older relatives must’ve found it completely overwhelming.
Four years ago last month my mother passed away. Years of carefully stored but rarely admired collections, heavily invested-in hobbies that never lasted, half-finished sewing projects, and four closets of clothes that mostly didn’t even fit lay waiting for us to determine their fate.
I had always known this stuff was there. A few years prior she had enlisted my help selling a few large items on Craigslist. She prepared for a yard sale that never happened. In the back of my mind, I knew a lot was still there but once she had passed away and I walked through the house again the effect of the sheer accumulation of stuff that had little to no meaning to those left behind to deal with it after her death affected me profoundly.
From Passive Parsing of Possessions to an all-out Purge
While I had already determined to be more intentional about the items brought into my home and had somewhat attempted to keep things minimal after we had our first child. I didn’t buy a lot but it still accumulated. I kept an empty diaper box around to hold unwanted items for donation.
Suddenly the things I was surrounded by stressed and overwhelmed me to no end. It had to go. I spent entire evenings walking through rooms, grabbing excess stuff, and piling it up to donate. I couldn’t get rid of enough fast enough. Three times my SUV was loaded and three times items were driven to the local Goodwill for donation. This was just the start.
Something had to Change
Going forward I determined that when I pass away my children would not be faced with a mountain of stuff. It just doesn’t seem fair. Living with it myself no longer seemed fair.
In her death, my mother taught me some very painful lessons about who I want to be and how I want to parent. I refuse to ignore my health until it is too late. I will not ignore my finances and tell my children our family’s financial situation is not their business. I will not want to try to buy people’s love or smile and put on a brave face and hide the inner turmoil I face from the world. How depressing that must have been. How overwhelming. How lonely.
I learned more about my mom and even my own start in life after she was gone. In the weeks following my son’s birth, I spent a lot of time sitting by his NICU bed talking with my dad and we were both surprised how much I didn’t know. Things she never thought to tell me. Things I never thought to ask. I made a choice to refuse to hide my true feelings or project my own insecurities on my children. I want them to know and understand me just as well as I know and understand them.
New House, New Rules
When I started packing up our belongings for storage before selling our old house I used the opportunity to discard a lot of unnecessary items. Or rather I thought I did. Despite selling or giving away a few items in storage it seemed to have multiplied behind the storage unit door. It was time to take a more minimalist approach.
What had seemed like careful and strategic efforts to simplify things before I packed fell glaringly short; I had not one, but three meat mashers when I usually opt for a wooden spoon to do the job. Into the donate box they went along with countless other items.
Once the storage unit was completely emptied and its contents scrutinized several trips with my car loaded down and even an entire trailer-load of larger items made the trek to donation centers. Each trip we unloaded unwanted items from our life the figurative weight of it all got a little lighter.
Just Getting Started…
As good as this feels I’m just getting started. My massive inclination to purge my life of excess possessions has helped me see the smaller edits needed in my life. When I spend less time focused on maintenance of stuff I have more time to focus people, myself included. That feels pretty good. Less is better, at least for me. I like having a more minimalist approach to life. Less gives me time for more. I’m still a work in progress, but progress sure feels good.
Even now I am not done. There is an ongoing effort to simplify things. The difference is I feel like I have room to breathe. Our kids can find their stuff. They play with the toys they own. Once the excess was gone I was free to focus on who, rather than what is in my house. That is how my more minimalist approach to life feels. Simply put, it feels good.