I’ve been working from the kitchen, the living room, cafes, and libraries off and on since February 2020 when the pandemic shut the entire world down. It wasn’t ideal, and the quiet I needed when I was working was lacking. So about a month ago, I converted my walk-in closet to my home office.
When I told my co-workers this (they noticed a change in my background on a Zoom call), one exclaimed, “What did you do with all your clothes?” The truth is, I really didn’t have many clothes in my closet, so I just moved the few I had into my son’s closet, and that was that. It was primarily items I wore occasionally, and it’s not inconvenient to walk 57 steps to his room if I need my little black dress. Which, frankly, I’ve only worn once this year, and that was to a funeral.
The point is I don’t have a lot of stuff for the sake of having stuff. I’ve been practicing rational minimalism since 2009 and tend to purge regularly. I would say that the things I have more of than I really need are colored markers, glass jars, and for some dumb reason, exercise thing-a-ma-jigs (hand weights, bands, yoga mats – yes, mats, plural).
I don’t know if minimalism is a matter of choice for me. I need it as a way to control my environment. Seems a bit ironic, though, doesn’t it? To use a concept meant to ‘free’ us as a means of keeping myself from being hostile?
I’ve been thinking a lot about why I like the mental and physical space that minimalism provides for me. I think I’ve got a few I can share with you this morning, so grab a drink and settle in. Let’s talk about childhood trauma, shall we?
I grew up in a home that was full of stuff. My parents kept things around for years and years and years. In 1977 we added a garage onto the house. I can not remember ever having had a car parked in that garage that wasn’t some project car my father was working on. I never saw them get rid of anything – never once did we make a donation trip to Goodwill. By the time my father died, it was literally easier to simply walk away from the house than to even attempt to clean it out. So, that’s what my mother did. I don’t really know what leads people to become hoarders, but I’d say it’s some pretty deep shit, that’s for sure.
In fact, today, I’m even questioning the label “Rational Minimalist” I’ve given myself. What if I’m not really a minimalist but more of an anti-hoarder? That, in and of itself, is therapy-fodder, I’m sure. But some days, it does feel that way. Some days the compulsion to get rid of things is probably as great as the compulsion to hold on to them. I had one too many items in my garage so I recently rented a storage facility (Don’t judge me. It’s a small one. Gosh.) so I could get some things out of my garage. What kind of mess requires a storage facility? you ask. Three totes and a cooler. I know, right? I’m spending $40 a month because I want to look in my garage and see…yup…space. I want a clean – and controlled – environment…for my car.
That’s nuts. Right?
Anyway. No one is judging anyone here. Not on my watch. Here are some of the ways I’ve justified my anti-hoarding/rational minimalism lifestyle. I’ve picked my top five reasons why living a simple life with less stuff makes sense:
1) More time for doing what you love. Less stuff to clean and organize means more time for reading, hiking, knitting (not me…you.), and playing with your kids. Josh Becker once said, “You don’t have to organize what you don’t own.” That makes a lot of sense to me. As a person who will put a label-maker label on anything not moving, this is freeing.
2) More money to do what you love. Honestly, how many dresses does a girl need now that 80% of the world works in their pajamas? I posit one. I own two pairs of jeans. I own three ‘dressy’ shirts. I own way too many dresses for reasons unbeknownst to me. By spending less on clothing and other items I really don’t need, I’ve had the funds to invest in a good vehicle, camping whatnots, and trips.
3) Less stress. Don’t roll your eyes at me. It’s true. Clutter can make us feel stressed, anxious, and depressed. Research from the United States in 2009, for instance, found the levels of the stress hormone cortisol were higher in mothers whose home environment was cluttered. Additionally, The visual distraction of clutter increases cognitive overload and can reduce our working memory. In 2011, neuroscience researchers using functional magnetic resonance imaging and other physiological measurements found clearing clutter from the home and work environment resulted in a better ability to focus and process information, as well as increased productivity. So there.
4) More creativity. I can clean my garage, or I can knit. Frankly, I’d rather clean my garage than knit anything, so maybe I should seek another example. Nonetheless….you can bake. You can paint. You can write. You can color with your kids. I’ve recently started painting rocks and hiding them in parks. It’s a very ‘old lady’ thing to do, but I love it. And it’s something I can do with my son, which is even more fun. Not to mention, it gets a little cultish, and I’m always up for cult-like activities. Don’t believe me? Just search “rock hiding groups” on Facebook or “rock painting” on Pinterest. These folks are serious.
5) More time for relationships. I’d rather spend $25 on a delicious bottle of wine to share with my two besties than spend it on a shirt that hangs in my closet. Minimalism isn’t about frugality – although saving money is a by-product. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve saved more money since I’ve chosen to buy less ‘stuff’ – I’ve just spent it on experiences that bring me more pleasure.
So, my thoughts this Sunday have centered around rather or not to go on a quick hike or stay in bed and watch Pitch Perfect 1, 2, and 3. Either choice would bring me joy.
I know one thing: I won’t be organizing my kitchen. It’s pretty well organized because I only have one skillet.
Oh, AND! If you’ve read this far, can you possibly ‘follow’ by email or share on social media? I have deactivated my primary FB account – another minimalist move – and I’m worried I won’t have a way to promote this blog. I’m trusting the Universe on this.
Here’s your song for the week. It’s by The Weepies, and it’s a bit older. I personally think it’s a great song to which to sip coffee. Enjoy!