When I was twenty-four, I sat across from my husband on Navy Pier and fed bread crumbs to the sparrows hopping between our feet. The morning fog still hadn’t lifted, and I admired the sailboats, mere black triangles on the horizon. We had been going to Chicago every year on Labor Day weekend and every year I fell in love with it even more.
Let’s move here.
I couldn’t believe what I’d just said, but at the time it totally made sense. I was a pretty impulsive person. I liked doing spur of the moment things, which was how we’d wound up in Chicago the first time. So I was dead serious. I wanted to move to Chi-Town, get a studio apartment, even transfer to UIC. I had it all planned out.
We could have breakfast on the pier every weekend. We could bike all over town. I wouldn’t have any transportation issues due to my epilepsy because there were plenty of cabs and buses and trains. And I could totally work at some quaint little bookstore and work on my novels at night to the lit buildings.
It sounded amazing.
We acted on it, emailed college advisors, and I began tossing everything in our condo. Everything we didn’t use within the last thirty days was either getting donated or thrown out. Because studio apartments are small and there was no room for our end tables stuffed to the brim with old receipts and textbooks from my first semester of college. We planned on getting rid of all of our furniture and buying a futon and a small table. We gave away a flatscreen we weren’t using. We threw out our big Christmas tree and opted for one of those cute little three-footers.
This was my first taste of the minimalist life.
We didn’t wind up moving to Chicago. Once I began to de-clutter, I began to feel less and less like running away. Instead I fell in love with our condo all over again and gazed longingly into the empty room across the hall from ours. Something was missing. Someone was missing. We decided not to move to Chi-town and had a baby instead.
Fast-forward five years and my house is cluttered with toys and rock collections and cicada shells and dog fur and empty film canisters and movies we don’t watch and art projects gone wrong. Each day is spent cleaning and straightening for the next day. I clean and clean and do laundry and clean and it always seems like something has to be done.
It’s time. Time again to make those “toss” and “donate” piles and find myself at home in my own home again. It took several years to get to this point, so it might actually take a year or two to get to a point where I can sigh with relief.
So why would I want to embark on such a long and tedious journey? Why can’t I just buy a storage shed and dump it all in there? Outta sight, outta mind, right? Right….like that would solve the problem.
I actually wrote ten reasons today why I want to go minimalist, but these are the top five:
1. Less Laundry!
I hate laundry. With every fiber of my being I hate laundry. Sure, having less clothes will mean doing laundry more often, but I’d rather do it more often than fold a mountainous pile of clothes at the end of every streak of procrastination.
2. Cooking will be simpler
My tired brain might deny it sometimes, but I actually love to cook. It’s soothing to chop veggies in front of the window as I listen to Lia Ices and Agnes Obel on Pandora. I love smelling the seasonings and putting new meals together.
But right now my kitchen is stuffed with pots and pans I no longer use–we went green when we got our canary, Apple–and coffee mugs we haven’t touched in years and appliances we may have used only once or twice. I can’t count how many times I’ve been hit with an avalanche every time I was trying to find the strainer.
A minimalist kitchen would mean knowing where absolutely everything is, and having only what I really need.
3. I will appreciate my items more
Why don’t I use those white mugs in the cabinet? Because I like my mug with the pretty birds, and the other mug that looks like a beehive. They are like small artifacts that add flair to my day. Same goes for my cameras and my art easel, which is hiding somewhere in the art closet. Once I’ve de-cluttered, only what I love will remain. Which means everything I own will matter to me in some way, and will actually add something to my day. Even if it’s just a smile.
De-cluttering will also mean Goo will appreciate her toys more: a valuable lesson I think is super important for her to learn.
4. Clean-up will be super easy for Goo
I will knock on wood repeatedly after I write this: Goo is actually very good at cleaning up when told. But right now she has so many toys that one afternoon in her room results in some kind of post-apocalyptic explosion all over her floor. It takes her forever to get everything back to where it belongs.
Less toys will mean more organization, and less time to clean up. It will also mean less clutter all over the floor during the daytime hours.
5. More time for creating!
Clutter drains my creativity. It makes me tired just to look at it. Less junk would mean less time cleaning and more time to do the things I like doing. It might even clear out the room in the basement, currently our “storage area,” and give us a room dedicated solely to our hobbies. I would love to be able to one day sit at my table with my watercolor easel with a fresh breeze blowing in through the window, or develop film in a spider-free and roomy room. Perhaps I could even start to do my own printing. After all, having less means having more money, space, and time for things like film enlargers.
While I’m going through this process–and begging my husband and kid to go through their things–I know it will be important to remember that minimalism isn’t just about de-cluttering, it’s a way of life. So I will also have to pay close attention to how I see material objects, and work on not adding more to the mix as I try to remove. I will work on trying to find the positive in moments and with my family as opposed to things. After all it’s memories, not objects, that we hold dear to our heart when we’re lying on our death beds.
Though I might want to be buried with my Rolleiflex.