I didn’t have a great awakening. It happened over time in various ways all pointing to the same fact. We had too much stuff. And the burden became too great. One final straw broke the camel’s back and I couldn’t take it anymore.
I suppose many of our journeys aren’t overly dramatic. There often isn’t just one light bulb moment, but rather a series of events that helps us to see things differently.
Over five years ago, I packed up everything we owned; preparing to leave sunny Southern California for the rainy (but green) Western Washington. We didn’t live in a huge house. Our rental was about 1500 square feet. I had a few different moving companies come to give me estimates. It was a strange feeling to stand there as strangers looked around my house assessing what the literal weight of my belongings would cost me.
Apparently, I somehow hid things well because the company we hired brought the largest truck they had but were surprised to discover they couldn’t fit all our things on it. They ended up arranging for a second truck to come to pick up the remainder of our belongings. Well, that’s awkward.
Interestingly as I was preparing for this move, I had begun reading books on simplifying. Most notably was Joshua Becker’s The More of Less. There was so much in that book that I agreed with and it made me want to change, but I didn’t. At least not then.
You see the house we moved into was bigger than the prior one by about 500 square feet. We also went from a one-car garage to a three-car garage. As we settled in, it no longer felt like we had way too much stuff since we could spread it out more.
I also took up a new hobby of rehabbing furniture. That hobby ended up being the final straw. I filled our new garage with so many pieces of furniture that we no longer could park even one car. Not only did I have the furniture pieces, but I also had various types of paint, stain, and sealers as well as brushes, tools, and scrap wood. I enjoyed doing the furniture for a little while until I didn’t anymore and could no longer stand the amount of stuff that had piled up in my garage.
And so it began. Little by little I began going through my home and decluttering. One drawer and one closet at a time. I unearthed treasures long forgotten and so many things that I questioned why I had been hanging onto them for so many years. I went through my closet and finally parted with clothes I’d had for over a decade that no longer fit my lifestyle.
The process of simplifying my stuff made me deal with some tough thoughts and feelings. Why had I spent money on some of these things? What had I been thinking at the time? I felt careless and foolish for some of the decisions I’d made. I felt the pain of decluttering. In retrospect, I’m grateful to have had those feelings and that experience. While it certainly wasn’t pleasant at the time it has changed how I shop and what I buy going forward.
I began to love decluttering. The rest of my family may not have been excited about this. Some got on board, others didn’t. But I kept working on my things. I felt freer as I let things go. I enjoyed it so much I began helping other people declutter their homes and a couple of years later began writing about it.
Looking back, there are three lessons that stand out to me in my journey to simplify.
1. Simplifying doesn’t have to be a big dramatic change that happened all at once. I didn’t throw out eighty percent of my things in one weekend. It’s been a process of continually evaluating what needs simplifying and continuing to work on it.
2. It isn’t always easy. I had to face past mistakes and choose to let go of guilt and regret. That process didn’t feel simple, but afterward, I did feel lighter. It can also be a challenge to continually work towards living simply in a culture that mostly doesn’t promote that way of living. I’ve gotten comfortable with being different, but initially, that took some adjusting. It’s been important for me to be very clear on my goals and purposes and remind myself of them when things get challenging.
3. Everyone’s journey is different. No two people have the exact same goal or life circumstances. We all move at our own pace. It’s not a race to be won. It’s also wise to not compare my journey to anyone else’s journey. Being inspired by others is great, but feeling like I don’t measure up or am not good enough isn’t helpful. The point in simplifying is to clarify your own values. It’s about constantly working on freeing up space to make room for more of what matters to you. I’ve learned to own my own journey and be proud of what I’ve accomplished. It’s always going to be a work in progress with things hopefully a little simpler each day.
About the Author: Julianna is a professional declutterer and writer at The Simplicity Habit. She writes to encourage and inspire people who want to simplify their homes and their lives.