A few years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled Less is More, about how saying less and doing less for our children resulted in their stepping up, doing more and taking charge of their lives. Now, I have a variant on this theme to share. By having less, I am feeling more. This broad concept of simplifying and reducing consumption in order to focus on more important undertakings is referred to as Minimalism.
As empty nesters, my husband and I are contemplating our next chapter. We are preparing to sell our house and, in so doing, we are paring down our possessions. We have discovered that, with less stuff around us, we feel lighter and freer.
Over the past few months, we have been de-cluttering room by room. We have gone through hundreds of items– framed photos, photo albums, books, artifacts and knick-knacks amassed over 27 years of marriage. Some were collected from favorite trips. Others were gifts that we appreciated but had no use for and so were stored in what we dubbed our “tag sale room.” (Whether or not we will actually hold a tag sale remains to be seen.) We recently picked through this room, filling plastic bins with school projects, award certificates, sports trophies and various other childhood keepsakes.
This is all very bittersweet, as every memento or photo triggers a wonderful memory. Our children were so sweet, so cute and so innocent… family vacations spent frolicking on the beach, Sunday AYSO soccer games with my husband coaching, camp visiting days, birthday parties… simple, everyday happenings we enjoyed as parents. But getting rid of the trophies and autographed camp pillows won’t obscure those memories. And the pleasure we derive from having a neat, clean and de-cluttered home far outweighs any pangs of guilt we might feel for discarding childhood mementos or storing photos in a box. With fewer possessions in our house, we can fully embrace what we do have and appreciate what is most meaningful.
This philosophy is espoused by authors, bloggers and documentary filmmakers known as The Minimalists who believe in letting go of sentimental items. They tell us that “we are not our stuff– we are more than our possessions. Our memories are within us, not within our things. Holding onto stuff imprisons us, while letting go is freeing. You can take pictures of items you want to remember. Old photographs can be scanned. An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.”
The benefits of Minimalism are well documented by psychology and social work professionals. Our mental state is influenced by our environment, so a cluttered home or office can result in a cluttered mind. Simplifying and minimizing our living space may help us experience greater clarity and tranquility. According to Tamara Levitt, Content Director at the meditation app, Calm:
“Minimalism suggests that most of us spend too much time and energy focused on material things, which distracts us from the relationships and und undertakings that really matter. This lifestyle philosophy invites us to re-assess our values and ask ourselves what will actually bring a lasting sense of well-being. The idea isn’t to get rid of all our personal belongings or to cease consuming altogether, but Minimalism poses we clear out the excess clutter and unnecessary consumption so we can focus on the things in our life that are truly important…”
Friends who have recently moved have shared their joy of purging. Initially, it is difficult to part with prized possessions, but then we start to realize that it’s just stuff. It is not important. When we clean out our closet, parting with clothes we no longer wear; when we clear out furniture that no longer suits our needs and donate it to others who can use it; when we pare down our possessions to the few things that are truly meaningful– we can really feel the authenticity of our lives. When all the extraneous material possessions are stripped away, what remains is the real stuff– family, friends and our health. It is then that we realize how much we really do have.
As my favorite musicians, the Zac Brown Band, sing in their crowd-rousing song, Homegrown:
“It’s the weight that you carry from the things you think you want–I’ve got everything I need and nothing that I don’t.”