The Bleeding of Minimalism

It began like a first friendship, a little uncertainty, a bit of hesitancy, and even a tad distrust. Yet, once I opened the door to my new friend Minimalism, she wouldn’t leave, and the deeper she bled into my life, the less I wanted her to go.

True friends do that, seep into your life, comfort, hold your hand, even push when all you want to do is quit.

Minimalism took my shoe one day, and tossed it out the door, then helped me bend over to pick up the other. I cringed, and growled. I held it tight in my fist.

She smiled. “You’ll feel better,” she said, prying the shoe from my fingers. Just like a true friend, always knowing what’s best for you.

She led me to my closet, held my hand as I chose clothes I no longer wore, picking out torn shirts and ratty jeans.

“Really?” I asked. “I have to let go of these?”

“Feel the joy of less,” she said, dropping shirts and pants inside a big black bag.

She led me to the coat closet, turned her nose up as I tried on coat after coat, nodding at the ones that fit nice and looked good on me.

“Only wear what you love,” she told me.

Minimalism helped me pull old boxes from a closet, sort through ornaments once owned by little boys now grown and gone. She wiped tears from my cheeks, and stayed by my side as I sorted through cards and old letters.

“It’s okay to let go,” she reminded me. “Memories are inside you. But sometimes, it’s okay to hang on, too.” I placed most everything in a bag, putting the remainder back in the drawer.

Together we sorted through utensils and old dishes.

“See how easy cooking will be? See how quickly you will get done?”

She taught me the art of simple meals, and creating whole, healthy foods.

Minimalism remained as I placed candles and knick-knacks in a box.

“Did you ever use those?” she asked.

She didn’t leave my side as I hung on to craft items till the very end. Because a friend never leaves. They want to see you change and grow. And she was there the day I finally did.

Minimalism exercised with me, taught me simple routines that made me stronger than before.

She opened my checkbook, showed me a simple way to budget, and how to save even more.

“Look, without all that extra shopping, your savings is growing,” she said.

Minimalism went to the store with me, and helped me quickly pick what I needed.

“Shopping is fast now!” she exclaimed.

She unfriended my ‘friends’ on social media who weren’t ‘friends’ at all, and cleansed that which no longer served me. She helped me find time I didn’t know I had.

Minimalism opened my eyes to useless television and movie watching, to doing things that didn’t make me a better me. She handed me a book, and brought me to the library. She taught me to read more, and look at media less. She showed me how much there was to learn in this world, and how I could find it.

My friend Minimalism taught me to appreciate what I have, and not long for more.

She reminded me of who I once was, and who I am today, and that, in many ways, we are still the same. Creativity that once lived is still there, the desire for a simple life remains. The outdoors is a step away, walking along a brook, dipping toes in the sea, another friend, just waiting for me.

My friend bleeds from one part of my life to the next. I never know where I will see her, but I know she will never leave.

She bleeds,
And she bleeds.

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What Makes Us Happy?

When I was little, I wondered where happiness lived. I thought it might be at my friend’s house, hidden in her pile of dolls. Or maybe in one of their many large rooms filled with curios, cabinets, and a grand piano. It might possibly have been in the bottom of the toy chest I’d always wanted to explore.

I was certain happiness didn’t live with me. My family’s house was modest compared to many I knew, and I was certain the more others had, the happier they were. I made it my goal to be like them, which meant, when I grew up, I needed a lot of ‘stuff.’

One day, I rented a tiny apartment, filled it with a sofa rescued from a friend, an old stand from a dumpster, and a little metal table I pressed against the kitchen wall. At the thrift store, I bought a set of dishes, a few pieces of silverware, a pot, a pan, and a couple utensils.

I met my future husband while living in that apartment. We acquired our first real collection of ‘stuff’- bowls and serving sets we’d never use, gifts from everyone we knew.

The gifts became an anchor in our lives that we dragged from apartment to apartment. Our family grew, our toys and kitchen supplies got bigger. Our apartment was cluttered, our storage closet stuffed. We did the only thing we could – we bought a house.

Our new home was barren, so we bought, and we bought, and filled each corner and crevice with furniture, tables, decorations. We loved our home, but it wasn’t long before it was a source of tension, a string of work to be done.

We were always a happy family, but sometimes, I wonder if we always knew real joy. We were so busy working on a home, taking time for material possessions, we didn’t always really live. Not until the day we moved 1900 miles away.

Much of what we owned was sold before we moved. And in our new place, we bought only what we needed. We were happy and excited. We had time to explore, time as a family. Our lives were not centered around our things.

Time wore on, and we again became like the squirrel – always hunting, always gathering, never satisfied with what we had.

We grew a collection of movies, a library of books. We bought shoes and dishes, too many glasses, too many things to decorate our home.

After my accident, I’d had enough. I could no longer take care of what we owned, and no longer wanted to. I was tired, and overwhelmed.

My husband and I purged, and what we have remaining is all we want, all we need. We are truly, truly happy. And filled with joy beyond belief.

Have a Little Faith:

I recently read, “Have a Little Faith,” by Mitch Albom. In the book, Mitch asks his rabbi, “What makes a man happy?” Here is the rabbi’s response:

“The things society tells us we must have to be happy – a new this or that, a bigger house, a better job. I know the falsity of it. I have counseled many people who have all these things, and I can tell you they are not happy because of them.”

Think about that, just for a moment . . .

The rabbi continues, “The number of marriages that have disintegrated when they had all the stuff in the world. The families who fought and argued all the time, when they had money and health. Having more does not keep you from wanting more. And if you always want more – to be richer, more beautiful, more well-known – you are missing the bigger picture, and I can tell you from experience, happiness will never come.”

Wise words to live by.

Does all your stuff really make you happy? Maybe it’s time to let go, of one thing, or two, or three.

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Should a Minimalist Have Hobbies?

Are you a hobby hoarder? I was. I owned so many craft items, I had a room dedicated just to my hobbies. Kind of crazy, huh?

My craft room was filled from end to end with three desks, easels, canvases, paints of every color, brushes and accessories; a sewing machine with baskets of material, threads and needles, all placed neatly on a shelf; creamy-colored beads, bright, shiny baubles, ribbons and wire and string, bins full of jewelry-making supplies.

But that wasn’t all. Oh, no, because once I started crafting, it became an addiction, and I couldn’t get enough. I bought a leather-punching kit, a hammer, glue gun, thick wire to bend. I tried embroidery, stamping, and bought everything possible to make greeting cards. And of course, the many journals with ideas piled high on my desk.

But you know what? I rarely used my crafts. After work, I’d run by the room, longing to go inside, but usually didn’t. My crafts were time-consuming, and with so many choices, I never knew where to begin.

My crafts became a stress, something I felt guilty about. It seemed like there was too much to do, and never enough time to do them. I had once longed for a craft room, and when I had it, I was overwhelmed. It didn’t get better.

After my brain injury, the stress magnified. The craft room blurred into a wild kaleidoscope of colors that made me nauseous when I walked by. I couldn’t focus on anything, and would slam the door in frustration. Too many pieces, too many things. The room sat untouched until we moved.

Four years ago, my husband and I arrived in our new home. We brought every piece of my hobby room with us, but still, I didn’t use them. It wasn’t until my journey into minimalism that I saw hobbies in a whole new way.

I released many items from our home – old shoes, knick-knacks, books, a flag, kitchen utensils, and even furniture – when one day, I opened a closet door. Inside were my craft items, neatly displayed.

Just thinking about it now stresses me out. All those things I never used, so much time, energy, money, lost. I think how my stomach ached each time I saw them, how anxious I became when they entered my thoughts. I think of how I thought I was supposed to have all those crafts, though I never knew why.

I knew it was time to let go. I released it all, every last jar of paint, every spool of thread, every bead and bauble, every glue and hole punch. Even the sewing machine was given away. And for the first time in a long, long time, I could breathe. Stress was gone from my closet, no longer in my home. Guilt didn’t sit in an unopened box.

Hobbies are a necessity, I truly believe that. They bring out our creative side, give us a way to release. But when hobbies themselves become the stress, it’s time to let them go.

I still have hobbies, but they are few, requiring little space, time, equipment- exactly what my brain needs. A couple sketch pads sit nearby, a little leather pouch with my pencils. I read, do yoga, and walk.

Should a minimalist have hobbies? Absolutely. But only if they truly bring joy.

What are your hobbies?

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Lessons from a Two-Year-Old

I’ve been watching little children lately, and got to wondering . . .

Don’t you sometimes wish you were a two-year old? You could scream whenever you want, giggle at anything, and make faces and no one would look at you funny?

Okay, I don’t really want to be a two-year-old (though there are times I have wanted to stand in the middle of a store and scream), but sometimes I’m jealous at how much more together they seem than me, and how they relish in the simple act of living.

These are some lessons I learned from a two-year-old:

Giggle. Two-year-old’s giggle when they are happy. They giggle at simple things. Loud, continuous, contagious giggles. Giggles keep us young and make us happier. When was the last time you laughed like that? Find a funny show, or a two-year-old, and giggle till it hurts.

Scream. They scream when they are sad. Okay, the screaming part might not make you any friends. But you can go in the quiet of your home and scream (into a pillow). The thing here is that their emotions are real. They hide nothing. Hidden emotions cause stress. And stress causes, well, all kinds of disease. If you can’t scream, find a way to release your frustration – like running, or punching a bag.

Eat. They eat when they are hungry . . .no less, no more. And they know when to stop.

Have One Thing. They cling to one simple object. Or two or three. A blanket, a doll, a big old stuffed bear. Give them one thing, and they are content. As adults, we surround ourselves with hundreds of objects, many of which we don’t even like. And why? So we can say we have them, so we can place them on shelves and show off how much money we spent, or where we like to shop? Maybe we should be like the two-year-old who picks his favorites, and keeps only what he loves.

Easy Entertainment.
They are easily entertained. A box, a crayon and paper, a little toy car. They have fun with what they own and aren’t always looking to get something new.

Go Outside. They love the outdoors. Nature mesmerizes them. They explore. Their world is new every day.

Create. They are creative. They see new ways of doing things. (Not always good – like sandwiches shoved into a DVD player, but they are creative.)

Exercise. No one forces them to exercise. It’s just what they do. And it’s all so simple. Run. Jump. Play.

Do What You Want. They know what they want and when they want it. No guessing games. If they want to sleep, they do. If they want to play, they will. They aren’t wishy-washy.

Just Say No. They are never afraid to say ‘no.’ I know, we usually wish most children didn’t say ‘no’ so often. But I wish I had learned that word as a young adult. ‘No’ can save us from being over-worked and over-extended.

Nap. They take a nap. Naps have been shown to help us live longer and be more productive.

Simple Foods. They like simple meals, sandwiches, fruit, or mac-and-cheese. They don’t the need the fancy stuff.

I don’t really want to be a two-year-old again, but I do wonder, what happens when we turn into adults? How do we lose the simplicity of childhood? How do we throw away simple pleasures for such a complicated life?

Just something to think about . . .

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