The Courage to Become a Minimalist


It’s going to take courage to become a minimalist.

Last weekend, I saw a news interview with Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus whose website, theminimalists.com, explains their journey away from a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality and toward a more meaningful life.

I promptly looked up their recommendations for a 21-day journey into minimalism , and ordered their books: Everything that Remains, and Minimalism: Live a meaningful life.

And I wondered: what does “meaningful” mean to me? Answer: the gift of freedom and time. Freedom from stress and debt and the constant pressure our culture places on us to make more money in order to be considered “successful,” and time to live my life making memories with my family and friends, writing, and rebuilding that close, personal relationship with Mother Nature (we’ve been drifting apart).

But the trip, should I set off in this direction, is going to be hard. I’ve saved and stored lots of STUFF over the years. Some of it sounds practical when you say it out loud: files, notes from book projects, samples of magazines that published my articles. But much of it is 50+ years of keepsakes and journals. Granted, true to my Virgo instincts, most of this STUFF is well-organized and sorted into carefully labeled boxes. But it still requires muscle to move it around and valuable real estate to store it.

And let’s be honest – these boxes aren’t time-capsules of treasures for the Smithsonian archives.  I gave my Chatty Cathy doll a pixie haircut about the same time Liza Minelli made it stylish and my train set is no longer in the original box.  I have books and books and books, and marbles, and rocks, and antique typewriters. Oh my.

According to Millburn and Nicodemus, I should must (if you read their 21-day approach, you’ll get it) sort the items into “donate,” “sell,” and “trash” piles and move on with my life. But it’s not that easy. I get mired in the mud on memory lane and feel like I’m throwing away warm, happy memories. The sentimental STUFF is the real sticking point for me.

Along those lines, here’s what they recommend. Because I’m attached to the memory and not the object, a photo of the object may do the trick.  And of course the paper and photos can now be scanned and stored digitally (with multiple backups of course). The challenge will be making the time to scan it all and not stopping to read everything in the meantime. These guys were in their late 20s when they started down this road. I’ve got at least twice as much STUFF to wrestle into pixels.

The weekend is here, and I’m working up the courage to tackle at least one room in the house.

If you’ve done any minimizing, down-sizing, or otherwise reclaimed your life, I’m open to advice and suggestions! Wish me luck, and I’ll keep you posted!

~ Elaine

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