amateurs: regular people who get obsessed by something & spend a ton of time thinking out loud about it. –austin kleon, “show your work!”
i like the idea of being an amateur when we’re talking about minimalism. someone not proficient, certainly, but mildly obsessed with the idea of downsizing, of growing my freedom, of creating more time for what i really love to do. that & i find myself talking about it ALL THE TIME.
for new year’s this year, i resolved to join the 2014 decluttering challenge, among other things. i figured we may as well give it a roll. in the spacious boundaries of a 2500 sq. ft. house, we had acquired a fair heap (understatement.), even after being on somewhat of a downsizing train for awhile. we began bearing down further on the piles, with a future move hovering in our subconscious. we don’t want to move all this C.R.A.P., we kept muttering to each other. & we scribbled our give-aways on a chalkboard wall of the kitchen, as a visual incentive (nothing like a photo of a skinny chick on the fridge to gently nudge a body in the right direction, so to speak.).
yesterday, my poor children were subject to another decluttering project: take everything they own, every lego, hotwheels, or zooble, & move it from the basement into their rooms upstairs. i wanted them to have move through their hands every possession they owned. i notice in my own wares that much lies dormant in the corners, in the closets, in the bottom drawers of my desk & when i pick it up again, i wonder whattheheck i was thinking to let it take up space, in my head & in my life.
today we continued, tromping through drawers of paintbrushes & staples. as always, the kids resisted, just like i do, when asked to consider their stuff. they get daunted by the sheer volume of it. i get it; so do i. but once they get into the throws of skimming the fat, they enjoy the new space they’re creating. it feels amazing to have your margin back. to not have the drawers too full they don’t shut. to not have so darn much to clean up at the end of the day. to not have so many clothes to fold in the laundry basket.
& the fun parts? we found all kinds of things the kids had forgotten they had because it had been jammed in the back of a drawer, down behind something else.
by noon, after we’d said a hundred more times, “plus one it!” (our phrase for “yes, we CAN donate/sell/recycle that thing we thought we loved & needed.”) we were done, the kids were all restored to a peaceful state, we had a full box to donate, & we had contributed sizeably to the recycling bin.
& really, one of the greatest by-products of downsizing is the sense of gratefulness i always come away with after rooting through my stuff. my word, do i have resources! fantastic, i have so many awesome shirts left! i had no idea how many great books i still have! look at my wealth! wahoo!
i think, though i am not certain, the kids caught a whiff of that, too.
we had promised the kids that when we got to 2014 things, we’d celebrate. i didn’t realize we’d hit that mark in march, just three months into the challenge. i should clarify, too: everything that left the house, whether in a box, a recycling bin or a garbage bag (unless it was food related) counted. a broken crayon? plus one it. a straw? plus one it. a filing cabinet, pair of boots, or a blender? plus one it, each one. a 160 sq. ft. antique rug that took up our entire living room? plus one it. the way i see it, the number doesn’t matter at all, but the motivation does. if the kids get excited because they’re counting a drawing recycled, one measly piece of paper, pass the chalk & add it on. we all get jazzed seeing that number inch up every day.
after hitting 2014 things in march, then, we couldn’t stop. we didn’t want to. the margin we were creating felt too good. the piles we weren’t having to put away every night was such a relief. looking into my closet & not being overwhelmed by choices but seeing clothes i actually enjoyed & felt good in was a deep breath every morning.
so we kept going, & yesterday we hit 3000 things.
today’s tally, actually, after the day’s work in the art cabinets.
three thousand things gone warranted another celebration! i promised to make them whatever they wanted to eat again, & we could watch whatever movie they all could agree on. they didn’t want me to cook, though. they wanted sandwiches. (the simple joy of a family who hasn’t eaten many sandwiches in good conscience since going gluten-free-ish in january.) of course, we obliged them, adding apple sodas & chocolate, too. if you’re going to go down, go down big, i say. just kidding. kind of.
we feasted, we watched “brother bear” again on netflix, & we were proud, all of us. maybe they can’t articulate it yet, but the kids are content when they lay down in their beds at night with rooms not overflowing. they are proud of their closets & the tops of their dressers. i am superfantastically proud of them.