wild pomeranians

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." ~Henry David Thoreau

Category: Minimalism

My Journey to Minimalism…

I’ve been thinking a lot about minimalism lately and what it means to me. I’m always fascinated to hear how other people became minimalists, and after a recent string of interesting conversations, I’ve come to a deeper  understanding of my own inclinations and I thought I’d share it with you.

For me, minimalism has mostly been a tool that I’ve used to escape the excess stress in my daily life. I can’t say that I’ve been very moderate in my approach. But it’s more than just that. It evolved, at one point, into something closer to a purification ritual- the getting rid of and stripping bare.

It didn’t started that way, though. 

A little over a year ago, when I was still pregnant with Thunder Thighs, I wasn’t feeling particularly overwhelmed by my possessions. I’ve always been interested in interior design and to some extent architecture, so my surroundings were important, but any dissatisfaction I felt had more to do with not feeling like I had enough art, furniture, etc in my home. However, I was aware that due to all the kid clutter, as well as my own, I spent two-thirds of my day cleaning up messes. At least. So even before all of this minimalism business, I had faint ideas beginning to form around how I spent my time. It was depressing, of course, to realize that most of my daily life centered around the picking up and moving of objects. 

Objects.

Could that be any more meaningless? I tried not to think about it for a while, but increasingly I felt my life lacked purpose. There were days when I struggled to stay in the present moment with my children. I had too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it. But none of the things I had to do were significant in any way.

Then, I stumbled upon Leo Babauta‘s blog.  I’ll never forget that moment. His words were like a beacon of truth ringing out loudly over the dull drone of my life. Everything about the idea of minimalism appealed to me. I’m an extremist by nature. Living with few possessions is an extreme challenge for most people, and I wanted to know if I could do it. It didn’t take long for me to discover that I could do it, but what I didn’t anticipate was the high I felt everytime I got rid of something. I felt almost like an addict, constantly scanning the house for objects to donate. 

The more stressful my daily life became with three children, the more I felt I needed to clear space in my mind and in my house. And in fact, the more physical space I cleared, the easier it became for me to manage the daily stresses. It just makes sense that if I only have 4 plates, 4 bowls, and 4 cups, I will never have a sink filled with dirty dishes. If I don’t have knick-knacks covering every surface, then the kids won’t constantly be playing with, breaking, and generally disrupting the decor. The obvious sense that it all made was irresistible.

Furthermore, I’ve come to feel that it’s the right way for me to live, given my understanding of how most of the rest of the world lives. My minimalism is an outward recognition that most people on this planet don’t have much, and I’m not going to have a ton of stuff just because I can. I’d rather use extra money for charity and life experiences with other human beings.   

So, that is how I came to minimalism.   

I love the austerity of it. The cleanliness of it all. The idea that I have stripped away needless layers of my Self, and am left only with the bare necessities and some loved treasures. For me, this kind of simplicity is exquisitely beautiful.

That being said, I have had moments when I’ve felt genuinely fearful. It’s such an odd thing how not owning things could produce anxiety and fear, especially not owning things I don’t actually need. I’ve felt confronted by an unknown future; one that won’t center around performing meaningless tasks and buying things constantly.

What will that life look like?

To be honest, I still don’t know. And yes, that can be terrifying. But I’ll save that for another day.

How did you become a minimalist? I would love to hear your story.

A Girl Can Dream…

Tomorrow, two of my three children will be in school for part of the day. This is going to be my new normal and honestly my mind is spinning at the prospect. What will I do? Housework? Grocery shopping? Laundry, while happily lugging Thunder Thighs on my hip? Probably.

But do you want to know what I’d really love to do? Shh, don’t tell my husband, okay? He’s had enough of this already and the man is just tired of listening to his silly wife talk about impossibilities. I can’t blame him, either.

Nonetheless…

First, I’d like to find the drill and take apart our gigantic King-size bed and just put the mattress right on the floor. (I’ve always wanted to do this, often for practical reasons like not having to worry about babies falling out of bed in the middle of the night, but also for impractical, just-because reasons like wanting to have as simple a room as possible.)

Considering how expensive the bed was, I could probably sell it on Craigslist for a couple thousand dollars and then I would send the money to an incredible woman and her family who have recently adopted another special-needs baby from Africa and who could use the money right now.

Then, I’d like to take all of my husband’s clothes that are currently piled on the floor of the walk-in closet, and stuff them in some garbage bags and take them to Goodwill. Honestly, I don’t think he’d even miss them given that they’ve sat there untouched for months now. What’s the point of that?!  

Moving on to the kids’ rooms, at least two-thirds of the toys would be on their merry way to Goodwill, as well, leaving only their favorites…the ones they play with endlessly, like the dollhouse, Lego’s, blocks, and crafts.  

Later on in the afternoon, after a café mocha at Starbucks, I’d call our old realtor and inform her that we’d like to put the house on the market. I know we’ve only been here for a bit over a year, I’d explain, but we’re beginning a new adventure and we just can’t be tied down to a mortgage. We’re not looking to make a gigantic profit, just to get it sold quickly and painlessly.

With that taken care of, it would be time to hop back on Craigslist and search for an apartment in San Francisco. Somewhere cozy in the heart of a lovely neighborhood where we could get to most places just walking, or if needed, on the Muni. The move would be a breeze, as anything non-essential would not be making the trip.

The kids are so young, I’d love for them to share a bedroom while they still can. A tiny kitchen, a snug living room, lots of natural light and since I’m dreaming, a small space outside for our little garden. No more snow boots, mittens, bulky coats and enough clothing for four separate seasons. Everything would feel lighter. 

Ahhh.  

Now that sure does beat doing housework all morning, doesn’t it?

🙂

 I hope your coming week finds you ever closer to your dreams, too.

 

 

 

 

Epiphany…

A lot has weighed on my mind in the past year or so…namely, why my entire outward life feels contrary to my deepest, innermost desires and inclinations. I’ve been talking with a very wise man regarding it all and tonight I had nothing short of an epiphany that I now feel compelled to write about.

Perhaps a brief rundown of some background information would be helpful first.

Like many people, I didn’t grow up in the happiest of homes. My father was an abusive alcoholic and my mom had her fair share of emotional problems. My sisters and I were dealt a difficult hand, and fortunately, we’ve been able to rise above these harsh beginnings (for the most part) and make decent lives for ourselves. For my sister, this has included a Ph.D and for myself it has been my beautiful children and the ongoing dance of motherhood.

But this is not to say that I haven’t made mistakes. I’ve failed at too many things to count. In fact, apart from my role as  a mother, I can’t honestly say that I’ve done many things right or well. I have an almost pathological tendency to excel in different areas, but in the end, at the moment of commitment, I quit. Jobs, school…other things. And I’ve never known why I do this, except that (apart from my commitment to being the best mother I can be), I can count on this about myself; that I will inevitably quit, in good standing, before I ever have a chance to succeed at something.

So my epiphany, with the help of a truly exceptional psychotherapist, is that much of what I do and have done in my life is a protest. It’s a ‘fuck you’ to the world. And of course, it stems from the anger that I came away with from my difficult childhood, when I was vulnerable and mistreated by the people I should have been able to trust and rely on.

Here are some examples of my ‘protests…’

  • Quitting college after being accepted (based on a manuscript of my poetry) into an elite class that would have allowed me to mentor beneath a celebrated poet.
  • Quitting too many jobs to keep track of, and in every instance to my employer’s shock and dismay.
  • Quitting esthetician school in San Francisco with less than two months to go.
  • Cutting my hair into the shortest, most gamine style possible, despite the fact that my husband dislikes it, as most men would.
  • Getting a fairly conspicuous tattoo on my right arm.
  • Having three children back to back, nursing for six years and attempting to homeschool my kindergartener and preschooler.
  • Perhaps even my recent embrace of a rather extreme form of minimalism?

So there it is. Many little protests. Many ‘fuck you’s.’ And in the case of my children and even minimalism, perhaps a little bit of ‘I will do this…and I’ll do it in spite of the incredible difficulty and self-denial that such a lifestyle requires.

Clearly, I need to spend some time thinking about all of this. I need to somehow transform that energy into something new and better. I’ve played that card, and now that I realize it, it is time to move on. But how? 

I’m curious, how many things in your life are little protests?

I want to…

… go to the ocean

just watch from a distance

understand my daughter

learn arabic

journey somewhere important

feel completely unafraid

hang the risque photograph above the sofa and not care what my in-laws might think

have time to write

be beautiful

own almost nothing

do good in the world

feel differently about my husband