“Minimalism: the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” — Joshua Becker
My journey toward minimalism began – quite by accident – on a spring day nine years ago. At that time the term “minimalism” had not entered our mainstream vocabulary like it has today. So I did not set out to become a minimalist. I simply had a sudden burst of energy and decided to deep-clean my bedroom. Plus I had read an inspiring article about how any room could be cleaned efficiently in 30 minutes if you had all the right supplies (arranged in a cute and tidy cleaning bucket, of course). So after a trip to Target to get just such a cute and tidy cleaning bucket -and a few fun cleaning tools – I was ready to tackle the job. Or so I thought.
Having written down the basic instructions on a 3×5 card, I read Step 1: Remove knickknacks from all surfaces. Are you kidding me? As I glanced around the room, I suddenly saw all my stuff- pictures in frames, souvenirs, clay candle holders made by my children in first grade – in a whole new light. Determined to push through, I piled all the knickknacks on my bed, ready for Step 2: dust all surfaces, top to bottom and left to right.
Step 2 proved as daunting as Step 1. Who knew that much dust could fit on top of a ceiling fan blade? And of course the ceiling fan is directly over the bed, so all the dust fell on top of the knickknacks I had just placed there. Needless to say, things continued to go downhill as my dream of an efficient 30-minute cleaning plan disappeared. Three hours later, I was finally done – and done in.
I had known for years that I was an inefficient house cleaner. I could make the surface look good, but I knew what was hiding everywhere. What I didn’t know was WHY I was such a bad house cleaner. I had attributed it to lack of a plan, lack of self-discipline, a too-busy schedule, not making my kids help enough…all kinds of reasons. But on that particular day, I saw my house – and myself – in a new light. My not-so-clean house wasn’t entirely due to lack of discipline. It was due to too much stuff. I had to clean before I cleaned. I couldn’t dust until I moved stuff. I couldn’t vacuum until I had picked up stuff. It was exhausting.
On that first day of my journey toward minimalism, I took my initial step to freedom: I looked long and hard at my knickknacks, kept a few significant pictures to put on my dresser, and got rid of the rest. In fact, I took down two shelves on the wall that held those knickknacks so I wouldn’t have to dust those anymore. By the end of the afternoon, my room looked bigger, brighter and more organized. And I felt a greater sense of accomplishment than any dusting job could have given me. I had truly made a difference- small though it seemed at the time – in my room and in my life.
Since that day I have maintained a slow but steady determination to understand and embrace a perspective of minimalism. I continue to learn more about myself and my relationship to things. Some of it has been easy, some of it has been hard. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry. Sometimes I have a plan and sometimes I am caught by surprise, unsure of the right thing to do. But still I press on.
Joshua Becker, on his blog Becoming Minimalist, once shared this quote from Henry David Thoreau: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” Now when I face a decision related to the more-or-less of my life, this quote reminds me there is more to consider than just the actual price tag.