Downsizing a Life

“Evolving involves eliminating.”

– Erykah Badu

I’m a sentimental type of person. If my grandmother signed her name on a card, I kept it forever. If I found a shell at the beach, I would tuck it away in a memory box until long after I’d forgotten the significance of the beach. I even recall refusing to spend a five dollar bill that a guy I liked had given to me.

But here’s the thing about habits like those – after over two decades of life, stuff really starts to pile up. In a way that’s a lot more emotionally draining than sweetly stimulating.

Over the past few years, I have gotten better at trimming the collection. But this week when health complications led to a Thanksgiving spent at home, I found myself in the middle of an all out purge.

Boxes of scrapbooks, filled with pictures of people I barely talk with anymore. Clothes that don’t fit. Critiqued writing excerpts from drafts long forgotten. Notebooks half filled with notes from college courses. ALL GONE.

The relief and joy I felt, ridding myself of these unneeded objects, was palpable. The sheer pounds that exited the apartment either to the dumpster or to Savers for donation – those pounds felt like weights off my heart. I hadn’t even realized how much it had all been weighing me down.

And here’s what I’ve realized: if I want to continue my journey forward in this life, it means leaving some things behind. And that’s a very good thing.

Yes, I’ll always have a few cards signed by my grandparents. Poems I wrote as a teenager, my first novel painstakingly penciled into a spiral notebook, and old journals filled with childhood angst. Pamphlets from graduations, weddings, funerals. All those things that give me pause, and remind me of various perspectives that both myself and others have had.

But in order to appreciate all of those things, I’ve got to weed the garden. How can I see that old poetry if it’s piled beneath things that hold no longer hold importance? What a cleansing feeling, to throw out the weeds and truly appreciate the flowers.

Am I a minimalist? Not yet. But I am definitely on my way to finding my personal “sweet spot” when it comes to the amount of items I own. And I’m excited to go into the coming week with a lot less physical and emotional clutter.

If you’re interested in learning more about organizing your own space and downsizing, check out the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. It’s a short read – I’ve been listening to the audiobook – and it has some great guidelines and ideas.

Here’s to creating spaces that propel us into the future, while still reminding us of all the things that have shaped who we are.


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