I sat staring at my shelf wondering why the hell I needed 10 different pens in 10 different colors.
And for the love of god, I couldn’t find the color black!
I acquired all these pens over the course of a month, without thinking, picking them up from god knows where. If you’re like me, you probably have the same issue—and it might not just be pens.
How many of us acquire things that build up over time?
After staring at my myriad of pens, I began to notice all the other things I have acquired mindlessly. My closet is brimming with jackets, coats, shirts, muscle shirts, dress shirts, pants, jeans and hoodies. Multiples of multiples, like my pens.
Everything in that closet was something I “needed” at one time, or thought I did. The jeans with the holes in the knees? Yeah, I “needed” those. That dress shirt with the sales tags still on it? Yeah, maybe I’ll “need” it someday. The slacks that didn’t quite fit, but you know, after I lose that new daddy weight and slim up a bit—I’ll need that too!
In retrospect, I was kidding myself. I didn’t “need” these things.
It hit me. The real reason I held onto these possessions was the fear of “needing” it someday. As with the pens I held onto, fear kept me from letting go.
I wasn’t going to let fear hold me back.
My quest to declutter all started out as a simple observation of my hoarding “pen” habit, but ended up sparking my interest in minimalism.
Life is funny that way. Minimalism offers the mantra, “more is less, and less is more.”
Minimalists value time versus things, and seek to simplify things to their fullest utility. We all have limited time in this world, but like me, we end up distracted with things that get in our way. More things mean more maintenance. More maintenance means more time. More time lost mean less time in fulfilling one’s goals and dreams.
Ultimately, a cluttered space is a cluttered mind.
With this mindset, everything in my house began to take on a new shape. I started small. The closet was first; that was the easiest for me. I have to have small wins to stay motivated.
I started to boil things down to how much I used them. When it came to my closet, I only really valued five shirts, and wore them almost every day; the others were distractions. I got rid of everything else. I asked myself, “How many times have I worn this? Was it more than three months?” Gone. “Do these even fit?” Gone. It was a freeing experience, embracing the unknown and letting go of fear.
Next was the kitchen. From excess pots and pans, to coffee makers (I had acquired two espresso machines, two coffee pots and two French presses) and coffee grinders (I had three), I set out on a plan to clear my space from excess.
Things are supposed to serve us—not the other way around.
Whenever I felt a hint of anxiety, I thought, “Perhaps somebody else will value this thing more than me. This will bring somebody else happiness.” I also asked myself, “If I find out in the future that I really did need these things is it cheap enough to buy again?” Letting go was freeing. The things I no longer valued I gave away to Goodwill and friends, and that felt even better.
Spring has arrived. It’s the season of renewal. If you’ve been putting off clearing your space because it feels monumental, start small. I’m not even close to clearing out all the things that I have acquired over the years, but I’m working on it.
I learned that starting with the little things is key. If organizing a junk drawer is your starting point, then start there. Little wins keep us motivated to continue. Take it room by room, place by place.
Clearing your space is a process. Embrace the journey.
My journey started with pens and has led me to embrace minimalism. Minimalism means being mindful about what is important. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend time with my wife and son than focusing on maintaining stuff.
P.S. After embracing minimalism, it is now easier to find the color black!
Author: Justin Brown
Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Bench Accounting/Unsplash