“Organizing is nothing but well-planned hoarding,” says Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. Your home has enough space for all of the things that you need. It’s time to embrace smallness!
When I first looked at the giant pile of all that I owned it was like staring into the face of a monster. The idea of “getting small” did not start off as “joyful”. Wanting less is Western Counterculture. We want things. Hell, it is almost in our DNA.
“Give me my toy!”
“I am going to make a shit ton of money to buy that toy.”
“I am going to make money, buy a house I can’t afford; then I am going to fill it up with a bunch of shit I don’t need.”
Embracing minimalism was a happy accident. Each revelation, each explosion of a bag of my life’s crap landing in a dumpster was the epicenter of a miraculous blast of the many that were occurring in my life.
I had not planned to tidy up my life, yet there I was, chiseling down. I began thinking of possessions as a weight we carry. A stone on our back.
So chisel until you are left with a sculpture where the menacing stone once sat.
Over the course of the last year, I have chiseled my horde down by over half, but I did all of that work before I learned about guys like Joshua and Ryan. My journey to this joy took a more circuitous route. Last year I haphazardly began trashing my shit in an emotional mess of sweat and tears. I was on my own, frustratingly tossing out the several lifetimes worth of crap I had been hauling with me ever since I left home for college. I did not know this pitching process would leave me so happy.
Catharsis. A baptism into minimalism by a scorching fire extinguished by months of tears.
Once I had only those possessions I needed, I felt like I could breathe again.
I should say “close to only those possessions.” It was hard to get rid of everything.
The gathering was a fear response to my memory of being poor. As the collection grew, I rationalized that this was the definition of gratification. At its best, this was counterfactual. I did not, however, realize this until I tried to stuff one hundred pounds of potatoes into a ten-pound sack.
I made my first quick move a few years ago. I moved to Playa Vista, into a beautiful apartment in an amazing area, with a supportive partner. My new nest could only store approximately a quarter of my “precious” but extrinsic trove. It was not immediately evident that many of my treasures were expendable. There was a beautiful forest beyond the mess of felled trees that was my crap. I left most of it behind, stored in boxes in my old garage. I was not sure at that time what “it” was. I just knew it was “mine“.
I did finally realize that my joy did not come from “it“, but from the spirit of the nest itself. It was too late, and the nest fell from the tree. The priorities of that life got fucked up; things had changed, as life often does. When the nest came crashing down, it was not the stuff that I mourned, or even lost. What I lost was the talking, the singing, and the dancing.
When I left Playa Vista, my real journey to minimalism and decluttering began. This move was when I began to feel the anxiety of “owning” diminish.
Almost exactly one year ago, I started over in a small perch. It was the most efficient and lovely little home I could find in a day. It was the first time I lived alone in my forty-five years of life. This move was a big deal.
To fully understand my challenge you should know that I was moving into my new little breath of fresh air with several carelessly (quickly) packed boxes of belongings: clothes, and most of a kitchen. That was it. I had no furniture. On top of that, it was decided that this was a good time for me to start retrieving the boxes I had kept in storage in my estranged husband’s garage for two years.
Day One: Bedroom Furniture. The day that I signed the lease I went and bought bedroom furniture. I had to have it delivered the same day, so I had something to sleep on that night. The Chronically Awesome know that this is an important decision. Simple decisions being small mercies, I selected the same mattress I had been using on my previous bed. I chose my bed, dresser, and nightstand carefully. My decision makes me happy every night when going to bed, every morning upon waking, and those times I have had to spend a day in bed.
My first night in my very own first apartment was, honestly, frightening and lonely.
Day Two: I woke up on August 9, 2015, at 5:41 AM, I made my new bed and started my day. I was anxious and alone, but determined; I set out to furnish the rest of my apartment. I had two goals: Simple and lovable. Loveable? It may sound ridiculous, but when you are Chronically Awesome it is important that your sofa love you as much as you love it. Why should you require that bedroom furniture, or a sofa allow you to dive into them, take a deep breath and make you feel their love? They should because they are yours, and you share a very intimate relationship with those warm places of comfort.
And simple? I knew that my space was small, and that clutter and “stuff” were at the core of my stress, and even some of my anxiety. There was only one way to pull this off.
One word: IKEA
IKEA stuff is simple, clean, and practical. I shopped and perused, picking up whatnots and bibelots. If something made me smile, then it made my house a home. This process gave me a lovely place that made my heart sing. Designed to be clean; there was no room in this nest for clutter.
Then out of the blue I discovered Marie Kondo. Her “KonMari” system, simply stated, is this: “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life transforming.” Unknowingly, as I reread the above and see how I went about my discarding and very careful shopping, I wanted this dramatic reorganization in my life, this new perspective. I wanted to live in a clean, plain sailing manner.
I decided that moving was the best time to tidy. I spent weeks throwing out the leavings of my past and rediscovering the treasures that did, sometimes make me cry. Things I thought forever gone, I carefully placed in my new space to be loved again. More than I kept were the things that went off to donate or the garbage bin.
And paper, the dreg heap of any cluttered household, was scanned and organized along with the photos on my computer. Here is an example of what I did with the images:
All of my Playa Vista photos have a red tag (every file type has a color). I have hundreds of images of the park and my dogs. I have countless shots that are my favorite photographic subjects: those images of people that are unaware they are being photographed.
Once upon a time, in a house that was awesome, I heard, “I take so many pictures of you, you rarely take any of me.” I laughed thinking of the scores of photos of my partner. Stolen moments caught of him smoking on the patio and his continual ganders at his android or laptop. Some I took while watching him turn his face to or ore often, away from the sun. Listening to music, or nodding off on the sofa are other frequent captured poses. The times he would be walking twenty paces ahead of me in the park.
I also have sunrises shot from that balcony through lavender, another through raindrops. There are morning coffee cups and wisps of cigarette smoke. Photos are all I have from that time. Some birdies, a few secrets — no closure, only photos. But, I don’t need the “things” to see them, to remember how they felt, their smell.
I see a photo and the memories come rushing back.
These collected images: Joy, tears, flares, love. Photographs are now the “things” that mean far more than the “stuff”.
There was a time that I would not have been able to write about that. Living alone has made me able to calm the tempest in me. One morning I finally awoke on a shore that is free of the debris from my shipwreck, and full of joy and sunshine. A life that is simple, perhaps even more pure for the experience of purging so much utter nonsense I was dragging with me from place to place.
I have moved again. Now I live in a beautiful, yet smaller container for my stuff. It is more than ample for my needs. I even have a lovely ten-by-twelve alcove I call my library. I was able to decorate all of this to suit my personality: paint, fixtures, etc. So much purple. I even have twinkle lights! My bedroom smells of lavender, and it makes me smile when I enter.
All of this moving with my “stuff” reminds me of George Carlin. Click the image to the right for an hilarious video.
I am amazed by how much I do not need when faced with the challenge of space and the newfound freedom from the bondage of conspicuous consumption.
Just this past weekend I got rid of another five or six trash bags of clothing. I also put into practice the KonMari folding system for hanging and folding my clothes. It took me approximately five hours to contend with the entire process.
I took all of my clothes from the drawers, cupboards, and closet and piled them all on my bed. That included removing everything from their hangers. This was followed by only putting those clothes back that spark joy and make me happy. I followed this KonMari practice:
“… I recommend folding whatever clothes you can. Of course, there are some types of clothing that are better stored on hangers. These include coats, suits, jackets, skirts, and dresses. My standard is this: hang any clothes that look like they would be happier hung up, such as those made with soft materials that flutter in the breeze or highly tailored cuts, which protest at being folded. These we should hang willingly.” -Marie Kondo
My wardrobe makes me smile. My clothes appear to be smiling as well, they are happier, relaxed and rested. They are ready to be worn and to bring me joy. I still have the socks, bras, and panties to do. I can probably do those in less than two hours.
Visit my Facebook page to see photos of some of the mess I made, and the beautiful result.
The Japanese believe that an uncluttered home brings you luck. The Chronically Awesome have so many things to potentially stumble upon in our path, literally and figuratively, that I am not one to be adding to the odds already against me. When I rewrite the tips to being Chronically Awesome, decluttering will be high on that list.
“In Japan, people believe that things like cleaning your room and keeping your bathroom spick-and-span bring good luck, but if your house is cluttered, the effect of polishing the toilet bowl is going to be limited.” Marie Kondo
Lastly, I have even managed to unclutter my medical life. I have enrolled in PillPack.com. My medications are being shipped to me in a spool of packets. No more bottles! No, it does not cost me more, it is covered by insurance. I have also scanned and entered all of my medical information into my iPhone Health Tracking App from Apple as well as Microsoft’s HealthVault. No bottles, no paper, no stress. Deep breath, no weight.
Let me see the photos of how you are doing getting small. Post your photos to my WhatTheJules on Facebook page! I want to share them. Don’t be embarrassed by the before pictures. It is about the progress and the change! I am showing mine; you can show yours.
Now, go get small. Feel the weight of the world lift.
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