As I was standing in my garage a few days ago after we had taken another big step in removing a number of items we no longer used but had been holding onto, I realised that we had finally reached the point where I could count on my hands the number of items left that needed to be donated.
It’s a great feeling to be finally at the point where most things I can see have an immediate purpose and are adding value.
During this latest decluttering effort I noticed that my perspective regarding my possessions had changed. I no longer looked at a once expensive, formerly useful item as something I should keep just in case, because it was expensive when I bought it. I’m fairly sure that this way of thinking has delayed our decluttering efforts for far longer than it should have.
Suddenly I was looking at the things I’ve been holding onto in a different light. Now these things were getting in the way of the path I’ve chosen. It became easy to make the choice to let them go. I stopped seeing things in terms of how much I spent on them, or how an item was useful once and might be again. Things I thought I could not let go of have suddenly become little more than an obstacle on the path to a more intentional life. In the end it’s hard to feel too attached to anything that is getting in the way of your goals.
In many of their podcasts, talks and essays, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists refer to the seasons in our life. What was once important, useful or meaningful in one season becomes less important or even an obstacle in our current reality.
This way of looking at things can become very useful when dealing with items that are sentimental or cost a lot when we first purchased them. It can also help us to move past convention and design a lifestyle that fits with the path we want to be on, not necessarily a path that fits in with the idea of normal as seen by others. For example, why shouldn’t I have a gym in the middle of my living space? It’s not very conventional and might look a bit odd to guests but to be fair, right now I have more workouts in my life than visitors so why be conventional for conventions sake? This is what is right for us in this season of our life,right now. When our children are older or our situation changes it will be time for a new season and maybe even a new path. I’m not saying that I’m immediately going to set up a gym in my living room but my newly found perspective is making me ask “Why Not?”
At the end of the day, my change in perspective has come from relentlessly focusing on my values and beliefs and actively living my priorities. It’s not been a short process. What started over three years ago as a desire to have less to move from one house to another in the pursuit of a simpler life, has developed into an ever growing understanding that a clutter free garage is only one small benefit from the pursuit of minimalism.