“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann
I have found myself reflecting more and more about how much excess weight I carry through life. It’s not body fat that’s troubling me (although I do have some of that I could afford to lose too); it’s the weight of too much “stuff” that has increasingly come to feel like a burden. It’s not just a physical burden of things that I have to make space for and take care of, it’s also a mental and emotional weight from the clutter and the responsibility for it all.
It’s the decorations I bought for former homes or former tastes that no longer fit, but I hate to get rid of them. It’s the clothes that I seldom wear because they don’t look good on me or they don’t fit comfortably, but I hold onto them thinking that someday I might want to wear them. It’s the gifts I’ve been given over the years that I no longer need, but I keep because I don’t want to offend the giver. It’s all the things I keep because I “might need it someday.”
There’s many reasons why I do this. I am the child of two parents who both held onto things “just in case” they might be needed. I have personally experienced not having enough, so I have that fear that if I get rid of something and later need it, I may not be able to afford it. I have lots of inherited guilt about never getting rid of any family heirlooms, even though I have no heirs to leave them to. I also have strong streak of nostalgia that likes to hold onto things that represent former times in my life, former interests, former selves that I have outgrown.
The problem is that this need to hold onto all of these things is weighing me down. As I am trying to stretch and grow into the future I dream of, I am stuck carrying around all these artifacts of my past. I must own a home large enough to store all the stuff. I have to clean it all, maintain it all, take care of it all. I am constantly reminded of who I used to be, and this pulls my attention away from where I am going.
It’s time to simplify and let go of everything that is no longer necessary. It’s time to release all those former versions of me to move into the future unencumbered by the past.
I’ve already been slowly working on this process for several months. I have a huge mound of clothes in my closet ready to go to Goodwill. I’ve taken stacks of books to the used book store to sell them back and free up shelf space. I’ve sorted through some of my old craft supplies to release those materials that apply to crafts that I no longer engage in. But there is so much more to do.
The challenge is in determining the difference between those things that I am legitimately likely to need in the future and those for which the possibility of future use is just an excuse that is keeping me stuck. I know myself well enough to know that I tend to engage in some activities in cycles, so the fact that I have not used something recently does not mean that I won’t cycle back around to that hobby in the relatively near future. But there are some activities that I have not engaged in for so long now that I think it’s safe to say that I am unlikely to come back to them. Those may be a good place to start my releasing process.
I’ve already noticed that the more I release, the more encouraged I am to continue releasing. I want to get to the place where everything I own is something that I use and love. No more excess weight “just in case.” No more holding onto things because other people think I should. I may never get to the place of being a minimalist, but I want to head in that direction.
I’ve decided that I at least want to start letting go of one item for each new thing I buy (excluding food and consumable items, like toilet paper). If I buy a new pair of shoes, an old pair needs to go. Each new kitchen gadget means an old one finds a new home. That will make sure the load doesn’t become any heavier than it already is. But I also need to start releasing more than I bring in. To that end, I want to at least find five things to release each week through the end of the year. Although, I suspect that once I get going, I’ll probably do much more than that before I know it.
I’m looking forward to this. I suspect that it’s going to open up more than just physical space around me. I think it will open the door for all kinds of other patterns to shift more easily as well without the weight holding them in place. I anticipate much more adventure ahead!
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