Minimize Me, Maximize Me
I’m in the midst of a ginormous purge, and the growing To-Go pile of stuff in my dining room is becoming something of an epic monument, symbolic of an evolution, impending freedom. Think, Lady Liberty. Think, ahhhhhhh!
I began this purge a week ago, in honour of a vow my husband and I made together as we spent the last days of 2016 in Mexico.
2017 will be different, we said. Our focus will be changed, mindset tweaked: Simple, joyful, grateful. Pared down. Light. And, really, it’s the light. This is about that light.
2016 was abysmal, cast perpetually dark by fear and sadness and worry that spread like a cancer, metastasizing, paralyzing: Work and money, or lack thereof; diminished motivation, little adventure; death and grieving; hopelessness and loss of faith, in the seemingly imploding entire world, our world, ourselves.
Dramatic? Perhaps. Truth? Absolutely. Abysmal can be a runaway train.
But, who wants abysmal when by nature your outlook is that of an optimistic dreamer who closes her eyes in the quiet, and through rose-coloured glasses views this world, her world, with endless possibility and goodness, a playground in which to entertain her wanderlust? Not I. Not I.
Stuff, what is stuff?
The Macmillan Dictionary defines the word stuff as: a variety of objects or things (things being an item). Very benign, very inanimate. Kind of.
Stuff has never really mattered to me, not in a consumeristic, have-to-have sort of way. I’m not a shopper. Au contraire. In fact, most days I would rather visit the dentist than the mall, the gynecologist than any big box store. Still, there is stuff. It’s emotional, accumulated over a lifetime, from this and that, him and her, gifts, treasures, memories. Things you need, things you want. Stuff you believe serves a purpose, fills you up, says “This is me,” is you.
Until you think about it. Really think about it, feel its weight. Stuff becomes a problem, becomes clutter. It clutters your mind, weighs you down. Stuff becomes a life force of its very own that is heavy, draining, demanding, noisy, exhausting. It turns dark, becomes a shackle. It blocks your path ahead until you wake up and one day realize the Macmillan Dictionary’s alternative definition of stuff: things that are not important.
Does it add value to your life?
Last week, exhausted by procrastination, I was scrolling through Netflix looking for a documentary to watch before bed, when I came across The Minimalists: A Documentary. It’s an inspiring and insightful account of two millennials, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, who radically changed their lives for the better after having achieved the “American Dream,” yet were unhappy and unfulfilled, depressed, deceived and depleted.
It was A-HA! It was I-can’t-wait-to-go-to-sleep-so-I-can-wake-up-and-get-started. To. Wake. Up. It was seven words that have potentially exorcized me, gifted forward momentum, changed my life: “Does it add value to your life?”
Do the ‘good dishes’ in your dust-filled china hutch add value to your life?
Does that lamp that you have literally never turned on in two years, sitting on that table in the middle of nowhere, add value to your life?
Do the bags of maybe 100 shampoos, conditioners and lotions you’ve collected from hotel rooms, store under your bathroom sink and never use, add value to your life?
Does the packet of (not embarrassed to say this) your daughter’s wisdom teeth, which she had removed roughly three years ago, sitting in your desk drawer, add value to your life?
What about that Chantilly Body Lotion and Oscar perfume, from 1984, buried in the basket in your bedside table drawer, do they add value to your life?
Or those barely dented bulk packs of 10 Multigrain Rice, Organic Ancient Grains and Black Bean Pasta sitting in your pantry? Despite how righteous purchasing them two years ago made you feel, do they add value to your life?
And those boxes in your garage, black-markered Childhood Memories, sealed shut for years, lugged along with you for some 20-some moves just in your adult life, do they add value to your life?
Those unread books piled high on your nightstand? The clothes from 10 pounds and 20 years ago stuffed in the back of your closet? The knick-knacky thingies all over the place? The boxes of old writing? The framed photo you took in Mexico 5 years ago of two kids you don’t even know? Get the picture? Value?
Not at all. Which is why all of the above now provide a solid foundation for the growing To-Go pile in the middle of my dining room. And I can’t wait to complete this glorious task and escort it all out the door.
It’s about time and about me. It’s about living one’s truth, not the Joneses. And that truth is I’ve never coveted stuff to begin with. I’ve never wanted for anything. I’d much rather do than have: be, than be had. And that’s what my stuff has done: It’s had me.
Now, as I travel from room-to-room, closet-to-closet, drawer-to-drawer, considering value and adding to my pile, I feel untethered, free, un-had. I feel simple, joyful, grateful. Pared down. Light.
I feel light. And this, this is about the light.