Minimalism. Just. Got. Real.

Sad painting

“When I diagnose my depression now, I think it was partially about saying goodbye to these kids that I always expected to have but already knew that I wouldn’t.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Years ago, I had a crazy idea to put most of my things in the attic. I’m still going through them. Since the beginning of this year, I have braved the cold and heat of the storage space to chip away at the pile of boxes and random bags of things I don’t need. Piece by piece, I have lightened my load significantly. I am almost finished. I have only a few boxes left.

So close. Yet so far away.

At first, going up there was fun. Discovering boxes of things I could easily get rid of was thrilling. But now there are few surprises. The boxes that are up there are there because I’ve been putting them off. I know what’s in them. And this is where minimalism and I must get very real with each other.

The box I must face next is plain, average sized, and labeled “baby clothes”.

Minimalism and personal development seem to go hand in hand. Do we choose minimalism because we are ready to start dealing with our emotional inventory? Or does the internal work come with the commitment to minimalism? All I know from my experience so far is that it’s happening at the same time. In committing to dealing with the things from my past – things I don’t need anymore and things I hide from myself – I am committing to deal with the emotions and memories from my past as well. Not an easy task for me.

The baby clothes are mine. My mother saved them for me. I kept them in the past because they reminded me of my fabulous early childhood spent in San Salvador and Naples. I don’t remember but I imagine myself wearing them while scooting around with my parents from place to place where strangers would pinch my cheeks and touch my blond hair. As if holding the fabric would bring all that back to my mind somehow. But there is another reason I still have my old baby clothes.

I kept them in case I had a daughter someday.

Years ago, we tried to have a baby. I’ve always wanted children. Because I worked with kids so much, I reckoned I’d be an awesome mommy. I’ve attended five home births. I’ve studied homeschooling and taught homeschooled children. I’m great with kids, most of my friends have them, my sisters have them, I’m pretty sure it would make my mother’s year if I had them. It’s what women my age do…right?

I didn’t get pregnant. Instead of going through a lot of trouble to “make it happen”, I searched my soul and found something unexpected: I don’t want to have kids. I made the decision (and until my biological clock stops ticking, I continue to make the decision) with eyes wide open. I made it knowing all about the beauty and rewards of being a mother. I made it even though I knew it would disappoint people. I made it because I looked at my life and decided to put everything I could be as a mother into the lives of other women’s children – and into my relationship with my favorite man on the planet.

Getting rid of the box does not mean my decision is final. If I ever change my mind or if Mother Nature has other plans, I can always buy baby clothes. But getting rid of that box feels like a message to the universe. Not a reminder of my regrets but the decision to intentionally disappoint people. The decision to leave a few dreams behind so I can build new ones.

I know I don’t have to get rid of it. I’m not a hardcore minimalist. Not yet. I just don’t want to hide things anymore – things, emotions, or anything else. I don’t want to have things I’m not willing to face. I don’t want a box of beautiful of baby clothes to rot so I can tell my mother I saved them for her someday grandchildren.

Minimalism is not just about things. It’s about facing the past. It’s about facing the future. It’s about getting very real with who we are and what we want out of life. I believe our physical life is a representation of our internal, emotional state. I have a long way to go before I can say I’m a minimalist. But box by box, I’m getting there. I force myself to deal with the things I keep hidden.  With each decision to keep or get rid of something, I decide where I’m going and who I want to be.

A box of baby clothes is not just a box. It’s an opportunity to create my journey and move forward. Nothing hidden. No regrets.

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14 comments

  1. What a beautiful post. Yes, I think there is definitely a deeper psychology involved with sorting through stuff and letting some go, and I do think both things happen together and the activities (internal and external) support each other.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Just having someone come along and agree is so encouraging. I feel a little less isolated (and crazy) as I continue to wade through my life and what I choose to carry with me (or leave behind). I like that you used the word “support”. What a great way to think about it. Thanks again and cheers!

  2. Wonderful post, and so true. I’ve spent 10 years dreaming of minimalism and it’s only now, with the knowledge that I have to accept myself and sort out my emotional baggage that I have finally been able to take the steps I needed to. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

    1. Wow. Ten years. If I get very honest with myself, I’ve probably been dancing around the idea of minimalism for that long too. Just had to get to a place (maturity?, willingness not to care? both?) in my life where it could happen for real. “You’ve given me a lot to think about.” is a high compliment for me. Thank you for your constant encouragement, Rose!

  3. What a profound post; you say some pretty powerful things here…things sometimes hard to hear, but also necessary for those of us truly wanting to pursue and obtain a simple and meaningful existence. God bless you in all your endeavors. 🙂

  4. Oh thank you! I appreciate any blessings sent my way. It’s like getting a bouquet of flowers. I guess to get to a “simple and meaningful existence” you have to eliminate the complicated and meaningless. Not easy but worth it. Thank you for leaving a comment. It keeps me going. 🙂 Blessings backatcha, by the way!

  5. I just re-read this post, and Ginny, this is so profoundly thought-provoking. I applaud your courage – not only for the personal choices you’ve made, but also for your decision to share posts like this with us. You are an inspiration.

    1. Thank you, Nancy for your words. It took me a long time to “approve” this comment because I was so humbled. So honored and taken aback that someone would say something like that about me and my writing. Courage? Wow. I’ve spent too many years “owning” different, much more negative words. But today, I choose to own “courage” and “inspiration.” Thank you – oh thank you – for your comment.

  6. Hey….I guess because I’m a fairly new fan I missed this post but I had to jump in here with my two cents as well…

    I too follow a number of other people who write about minimalism and simplicity and I think you are approaching it (at least for me) in the best way possible. I sort of fell into it after living in alternate realities 🙂 and finding it didn’t satisfy. Of course because my husband is a minimalist by his very nature, it seemed like a very organic way of heading. At my age, mid-life, it adds so many rewards in so many ways that I’m a big fan. But I do it, and promote it, because it is not only good mentally, emotionally and environmentally–my experience of it seems to deepen and grow the more I practice it.

    But with that said, when I hear you write about your experiences I realize that one of the greatest benefits is that emotional honesty and clarity that it brings to people who are willing to express it–and you lady, express it in a lovely and extra-ordinary way.

    I belong to a childfree relationship by choice. Thirty six years ago my husband-to-be told me that he did not want children under any circumstances. It isn’t that he doesn’t like children–he just didn’t see them in his life. I choose him. And all these years later I would do it exactly the same. Of course once or twice in my life I have thought “what if?” But that thought is soon replaced by the depth and quality of my relationship, the freedom to pursue my writing and other passions, and the simple and minimal joys in my life. While I would never tell anyone else to make the same choice I did, I have no regrets.

    Still, it isn’t easy. It’s a LOT easier to talk about getting rid of extra junk in the closet than it is to ask that really hard question–kids or no kids? But I think it’s something every single budding minimalist should ask themselves…and yes, I wrote a blog post about it too! ~Kathy

  7. Thank you, Kathy. For your encouragement and your transparency. It is something that I dearly love about your style.

    I had no idea that going through my things – and writing about the process – could be so healing. I knew I had some baggage but never really thought about how to deal with it. So I stuffed it. In the attic. In cabinets. In drawers. In my soul. My physical life is a reflection of my emotional life. It’s all connected. I didn’t see that before. I think it is so beautiful.

    When I started writing about getting rid of my things, I just knew I wanted to write. I’m happily surprised at the process and the results. I find that I’m producing pieces and developing a style of my own. A bit on the “serious” side for now but I have a feeling that as my load gets lighter, so will my writing and my subjects.

    For now, I’m enjoying the freedom to be honest with myself and with others. I don’t know if I’ve ever done the work to be truly honest and transparent. It’s outside of my comfort zone, that’s for sure. I want to encourage people with my life and my writing. I can’t do that if I’m not honest with my readers. Especially about more “delicate” subjects like the decision not to have kids.

    Thank you for sharing your story with me in your comment. Your posts and your attitude about life are a constant reminder to continue to seek out a deeper life.

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