Last month I watched the film, Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things, on Netflix. It looks at how life might be different with less. “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” It was then that I realized my own personal journey towards minimalism had started more than three years ago.
I had just ended a 20-year relationship and had that sudden urge to start fresh. Start a new life, as compared to the one I’d been living the past couple decades. But in those 20 years, I had accumulated so many things, so many memories, that I didn’t feel I needed in my life now.
I started with his things. After a request to have everything ready for him to pick up on a certain day, I spent a couple hours packing up boxes and bags of things that were entirely his. Things I definitely would not need going forward. Six boxes and four bags. And apparently a barbecue.
Next came a first round of cleaning. I took a really hard look at things around the house — many items had been broken, not cared for. These were memories I did not want around the house any longer. I remember putting out the maximum amount of garbage bags for the next few weeks, just in order to free ourselves from the junk that had filled our basement. At least 12 bags.
I saw a post on Facebook about a family member collecting pop cans as a fundraiser. For some reason, we had been collecting pop cans for months, all sitting in the backyard in ripped bags. I took the time to re-bag them and ended up donating more than 10 bags full of cans. I then realized that I don’t even drink pop. It not only felt good to help out my family but to see that many bags of ‘stuff’ leaving my house was incredible. I could feel the stress of having too much stuff slowly disappear.
Recycling these cans made me think of all the metal and electronics that had taken up residence in my basement. It was no wonder that my children had rarely even set foot down the stairs during the past few years. I found someone who would drive around the city picking up metal and arranged a date for our pickup. In the days following, I spent hours going through our basement, making piles of more garbage, things I could donate and scrap metal and electronics. I even found that our extra dryer had wires ripped out of it, so it couldn’t be used. But it could be recycled for its metal. With the help of my son, we piled up an amazing amount of scrap metal onto our driveway, and found it all gone the next day. Honestly, it was a relief to come home and see all that stuff had been taken away, never to be seen again.
Over the next year, I worked on clearing out the basement as best I could. Before it ended, I was able to use a free appliance recycling program to come pick up our old fridge and freezer. I had a friend come and load up her van with all the electronics I was never going to use (satellite receivers, TVs, computer parts, printers, etc.) and we dropped it all off at Walmart during an electronics recycling event. I am an avid recycler so knowing these items would never make it to a landfill site felt really great.
I was able to sell a few things online. I would donate things to people who could use them — baseball equipment to our elementary school, school supplies/crafts to a friend who runs a day care, baseball cleats to a sports organization, unopened movies or gifts for raffles. It just felt great to know that the extra things in my house just taking up space would get used or appreciated by others.
And every time Cerebral Palsy or the Canadian Diabetes Association would call when their Clothesline pickup truck would be in the area, I would donate as much as I could. Bags of clothes, boxes of books and movies, kids toys and games. You really don’t know how much stuff you accumulate until you look. And because I wanted to have a new start in life, it was easy to let things go. I didn’t want to look back or remember certain memories. I just wanted to let it all go. Let things go. The less I had, the better I felt.
Just this past week I was able to put together four bags of clothes and board games, as well as six boxes of books and movies. And a picnic basket I had been holding onto for years. Do you know how many picnics I have had in the past 20 years? Zero.
So, during the past three years, I have purged many areas in my house. We no longer have a kitchen or dining room table — we never used it to eat, it was just used to throw things onto. We no longer have living room furniture, except a chair that my son will use once in a while, when he’s not watching Netflix in his bedroom. Our basement is almost empty and I’m extremely happy about that. We stopped using the basement more than five years ago but at least now it’s not full of junk and broken items. My next thoughts are of fixing windows and walls and painting the entire room, before we ready the house for selling.
There is still much to be done before we do sell, but we are definitely on the right track. And I honestly haven’t missed anything I’ve thrown out or donated. But some days I still feel as though I have too much stuff. My journey towards minimalism will continue for years to come and I don’t know if I actually want it to end. Every time I get rid of something or decide against buying something, I feel good about it. I think I am still trying to find exactly what I need (or don’t need) to find happiness and contentment in life. But I believe, for me, less is more.
February 4, 2017