For the past two and a half years, I have been moving toward a minimalist lifestyle. I thought I was making solid progress. Until I moved out of my apartment at the beginning of this year and realized how much crap I still have in my life.
Moving out is a wake-up call to the true volume of your possessions. There was so much stuff I had crammed into nook and crannies or shoved into boxes and forgotten about. Piles of paper I didn’t have a clue what to do with. Sentimental nick knacks from ex boyfriends, friends, coworkers and bosses. Clothes I was emotionally attached to that didn’t fit me or my current style. The sheer volume of items to go through, sell or get rid of was absolutely overwhelming. One evening, while packing things up, I got so frustrated with making Goodwill trips and figuring out what to sell that I started dragging stuff to the curb in the hopes that some blessed soul would take it off my hands. Luckily, I was able to get rid of a ton of stuff this way.
It made me realize how much I hate the clutter in my life. I literally felt choked by everything around me, especially since so much of the stuff wasn’t even stuff I loved or felt I needed for my ideal lifestyle. I became very angry. Angry, most of all, at myself, for allowing my possessions to overrun my life. I had wanted a minimalist life before, but this was a real lightbulb moment for me where I realized what was at stake. All of this stuff isn’t just an annoyance. It is literally a huge roadblock to me getting what I want out of life, and it’s just not acceptable to me anymore.
In the process of moving I got rid of a lot. And I’m really happy about that. But I still have a lot to go through. Here’s one example. Up until a few days ago, I hadn’t yet unpacked from SXSW. Wow. It took me over a week to unpack from a short trip! That’s kind of crazy. But I know exactly why I procrastinated on doing it. It’s because my tiny closet is stuffed to the brim and it can’t fit all of my stuff. I’ve taken bags aplenty to Goodwill, but I still need to get rid of about half of my closet to get it to a manageable size.
Funnily enough, my paper clutter has been the most difficult to deal with. I’m working on scanning all but sensitive documents, but right now I have a backlog of nearly 15 years-worth of paperwork to process, scan, shred or file. The most recent documents are scattered about my apartment in little piles.
It takes forever to go through all of them, scan them, and shred or file them. I already have a great filing system in place, but I’m still searching for the perfect filing cabinet. Until then, files are temporarily housed in small plastic file boxes from Container Store.
This year, 2011, will be a year about really purging anything that doesn’t fit into my lifestyle. Ideally, I’d like to know every single possession I own, where it lives, and why it is important to keep it. I’d also like to reevaluate my possessions on a regular basis to make sure I never get overrun like this again. It’s going to take a while. But I’m taking baby steps and working toward my goal.