Meet Meg, a budding minimalist who is sharing her journey with us!
I'm a budding minimalist. I'm 31, and finally ready to get rid of the clutter that has, on occasion, kept me from fully enjoying my home. It has made putting clothes in the closet a nightmare and kept me from opening my coat closet for fear of a shoe avalanche. My husband and I are childfree, so we can't even blame kids for the clutter. It's all us. And by us, I mean me.
I decided a month or so ago that I wanted to start down the minimalist path, and asked HH for help. Lindsay wrote a post on her blog on how to get started, for which I am truly grateful. I read it over and over again, putting off the inevitable. I knew I'd have to start eventually, but I just "wasn't ready yet." Come on, you know exactly why I didn't want to start right away-- IT'S HARD.
You have to face your demons and overcome the emotional side of your posessions. It's true what they say: Possessions possess you, not the other way around. You have (sometimes) irrational emotional connections to the items you own. Maybe your weakness is gifts from family. You can't stand the fact that one day your granny may find out that you got rid of the Christmas sweater she bought your 15 years ago, so you stow it away in your closet forever. Or, maybe, your weakness is clothing, and you just don't want to get rid of those pants that are 2 sizes too big because "one day" you'll have them altered to fit again. Or maybe, like me, your weaknesses are books, shoes and clothes. I apologize for not having any "before" pictures, I didn't think I'd be doing a piece for HH when I started!
Books, shoes, and clothes. Ugh. My kryptonite, if you will. Books are extremely hard for me to part with. I am a librarian, after all. I've always loved books and have always had trouble letting them go. Shoes, well, I don't even know how that one started. As far back as I can remember into my childhood, I've been a collector of shoes. My motto is that I should have a shoe for every occasion (read: every outfit). The clothes, hmmm... that one's harder to decipher. I have always loathed shopping for clothes. I begged my mom to go school shopping without me. I still hate shopping for clothes, and perhaps that is why I hate getting rid of the clothes I already have- I don't want to have to eventually go shopping to replace them with others. Now that I type it out, it makes more sense to me. SO, now that I know my weaknesses, I suppose I have to start dealing with them.
How does one get started minimalizing? Start small. I started with my pantry. I went through my canned and boxed goods, eliminating all those that were expired or within a few weeks of expiring. You know, canned goods are marked for 2-3 years on a shelf. If they are that close to expiring, it means you've had them for at least 1-2 years on your shelf, unopened. Do you really want to eat that stuff? Hell no. Between my small pantry and 2 kitchen cupboards, I threw out a full garbage bag of food. I'm not joking. It was horrific and inspired me to starting buying only what I will need for the week when I go grocery shopping. From here, I moved on to clearing out my fridge. Before I started working full-time again, I did it at least once a week, but I've recently neglected it. The fridge looked full and was backed to the gills, but it was full of stuff I had no deisre to eat (expired, wilted, and yes, moldy). This cleaning out filled 2 grocery bags to the brim. What a waste.
Up next: Shoes. Eek. No! Please don't make me get rid of my dearest shoes! Ack, I feel sick. Maybe we should just move on. No, avoidance is what got me into this situation in the first place. I am not going to tell you how many pairs of shoes I own because I am slightly embarrassed, but I will tell you that I cut my collection by 10 pairs of shoes so far. It will be more, but I'm not quite ready for that yet. Don't push yourself too hard or you'll just regret your choices and give up trying. To combat my shoe collection, I created a new rule: For every new pair of shoes I buy, I have to get rid of at least 2 pair. This is the only way I can think of to get my shoe hoard under control again.
While I was feeling inspired to keep going with the de-clutter effort, I attacked my books with a ferocity. This part took a long time. Days, in fact. While I don't know exactly how many books I've gotten rid of, I know that I gave up 3 big boxes...and the sad part is that I could easily pack up 1-2 more. Like I said, books are my weakness. The criteria I used for parting with the books was that I was only allowing myself to keep books that blew my mind or were written by my favorite authors. This leaves 1 full-size bookcase and 1 smaller one. Everything else had to go. I boxed them up and donated them to the library for the next used booksale. A lot of libraries do this to raise additional funds, so call your local library and ask if they are interested. The books that didn't get donated to my library were given away to friends and even a few of my patrons, when I came across a book that I knew a certain person would love.
Finally, my clothes were left. I waited until last for them because I was scared to even start. I have a walk-in closet that is packed to the gills. I also have a dresser, which is packed. I've been working on the clothes for a few days now and I'm still not done. It's been a long process of trying everything on to see if it even fits. See, my weight has fluctuated a bit since becoming vegan. Hell, it even fluctuates throughout the month...ladies, I know you feel me. So, it's kind of hard to determine what I will wear again and what can go. Once I narrow down the obvious clothing choices, I'll did like Lindsay suggests in her article: turn all of your hangers backward to track what you actually wear. When you wear something, turn the hanger the right way again. What you are left with is a system for seeing what you wear and what you don't. It's a simple solution to an issue that is easily hidden from view every time you close the closet door. Believe me, I know that all too well.
Because I live in a state with 4 distinct seasons, each requiring certain kinds of clothing, I'll never be able to fully minimalize my clothing collection. So, yes, I have a big bin of sweaters and other winter gear in the bottom of my closet. But, at least the good people at the Goodwill will happily take the clothes I no longer wear, regardless of season. If you're a professional, there are many women's shelters that look for dress/business wear to help women get back on their feet and dress well for interviews, new jobs, and court dates. Make your new-found minimalism count!
The path to minimalism after a life of collecting things is hard. Purging items pulled a lot of emotion to the surface that I didn't even know I had. Why did I almost cry when I got rid of a favorite old pair of sneakers? I have no idea. Perhaps it was my version of losing an old friend. There are other areas of my life that could use some de-cluttering, as well, but that will come with time. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm a work in progress. I'm always changing and learning and trying new things. None of us is perfect, and while we may not yet be where we really want to be, we are on our way. Don't give up.