I’ve been reading quite a bit of Courtney Carver’s Be More with Less blog lately, and it’s reaffirming the decisions Andrew and I have been making to rid ourselves of all kinds of excess. A particular post titled, “Why You Should Give Away 50% of Your Stuff,” really speaks to me.
In the past month, I’ve quit a freelance project that was taking up an entire day every single week, and made a move across town in an effort to alleviate burdens, and simplify my life with Andrew. Immediately following this move, we hosted a yard sale to get rid of a solid chunk of our belongings, as step one of cutting what we own in half.
To say that the changes that have transpired in the last month are freeing is a profound understatement. We now have less physical space to take care of, less physical belongings weighing us down, less stresses in our lives, and more freedom to live.
Here is a quick look at some of the steps we’ve taken recently (and are continuing to take) to simplify. If you are finding yourself bogged down by physical belongings, or mental clutter in this current season of life, I invite you to consider any one (or all) of the following challenges.
1. Eliminate Your Stuff
The premise is simple. If you could live without it, don’t keep it. Let go of your belongings and let someone else breathe new life into them. How do you decide what to get rid of, so you don’t get rid of too much, and then force yourself to make follow up purchases? This was a question I asked myself while looking through everything I have with me here in St. Augustine. As for clothing, in addition to the few items I wear on repeat, I’ve selected to only keep a handful of dresses, sentimental items, and rotating pieces that could serve as professional wear. All other clothing has been sold via yard sale and consignment, or donated.
For all non-clothing items, if it doesn’t have an active function, it’s going or already gone. When deciding what to keep, we ask ourselves, “Would we take this with us if/when moving into a tiny house?” If the answer is no, it goes.
Challenge: Choose 25-50 things in your house that you aren’t using right now, and either list for sale online, place them in a yard sale, take them to a consignment shop, or donate to local organizations in need. I can’t tell you how much joy I’ve experienced within the last couple of weeks researching local thrift shops and outreach centers to donate our belongings to. If you feel more comfortable doing this gradually, make an effort to choose 10-15 things a week, and at the end of the month, once you’ve collected around 50 items, box them up to sell or donate.
Heartfelt Request: Please do not (under any circumstances) throw reusable items away when there are people in need. I recently rescued an entire pile of practically new clothing just after it was thrown into a trash can and took it to a homeless center. The center was beyond grateful for the donation. Sadly the person who threw it in the trash can might never realize the positive impact their belongings now have on another life. All it would have taken on their end was a little more effort and thoughtful consideration. This experience ultimately made me realize that there are so many people out there, even people I know personally, who have been raised to think that everything is disposable. This mindset kills me. Thank you for raising me to think otherwise mom.
2. Streamline Your Ideas
If you’re like me, chances are you might struggle with placing boundaries on your creative mind. You might find yourself with the urge to start multiple creative projects at once. Try making a list of all that you have on your plate currently. Prioritize these items, and then make an effort to see each idea or project through to completion before you move on to the next. A recent piece by Brian Gardner, on No Sidebar, titled “Why Idea Overload Can Keep You From Growing,” speaks to the struggle of the creative mind. Brian poses the suggestion of keeping an ideas folder. Filing your ideas helps you ensure a brilliant spark doesn’t go to waste, while compartmentalizing creative distractions that pose a threat of competing with your productive flow.
3. Clear Your Schedule
Since deciding to forgo Nashville, and making the commitment to lace up with Andrew this season, I now look at my life, work, and race schedule for the next month, and see blanks and question marks. Initially this caused relief. Then I realized that my immediate inclination is to fill each day with something big, which is, well, an issue I need to deal with. Now, every time I feel led to go over to the white board and fill in blanks, I stop myself and leave them be. Allowing yourself to not be bound by plans and resisting the urge to refill your schedule with everything you’ve cleared off is the most unsettling, yet freeing challenge.
Challenge: Are there upcoming items on your schedule that you’ve willingly put there that you realize you can’t afford, or that you wake up at night stressed over? If so, clear them off. Push the bail button. Explain to anyone who is depending on you the struggle you’re facing, and don’t look back. Now for the more difficult challenge. Going forward, before you add something new to your schedule, ask yourself, “Is this something I can financially, emotionally, and physically handle at the present?” If the answer is no, go ahead and be honest with yourself and whoever else is asking. It’s better to say no initially, than after you’ve already said yes.
4. Reset Your Routine
My work routine has felt like it’s been in transition mode for the past year since stepping out on my own. During this transition, I’ve learned how to better embrace the ups and downs and disruption of flow that stem from operating out of so many different locales and situations that change regularly.
Despite the transitionary state I’ve been living in, I realize, there will always be some sort of transition happening in life at any given time. It’s up to us to ground ourselves regardless of outside forces. That said, there are distractions I’ve willingly added to my routine that only serve to set me back, or slow me down. For one, I’ve developed the habit of driving 20 minutes many mornings to cruise through the comfort of Starbucks Drive Thru. While the drive is an inspirational time to myself, the time, gas and monetary suck prove to be anti-productive. Instead of waking up and getting into things, I push them off before I even start. By simply scaling this act back and only allowing myself to drive out there one or two days a week, I’ve been able to simplify my morning routine, and make room for my productive flow to start sooner (plus save some dollars).
Challenge: Maybe it’s scrolling through social media first thing in the morning, immediately falling into an email wormhole, or spending time driving somewhere unnecessarily like I’ve been doing. Either way, pick one thing that’s derailing the start of your daily routine, and stop doing it. If this is easy for you, pick another, and another.
5. Free Your Mind
As much as physical possessions can bind us and become burdens, our minds can weigh us down even more so than our tangible belongings. You can sell everything you own, and still feel the weight of your worries.
Through the past several weeks spent moving, rearranging, and continuing to shift, shape and shake things up, the hamsters in the wheel in my head have been sprinting with few rest breaks. I’ve had to take countless deep breaths and make an intention to see beyond my worries.
Andrew recently created the above study, during a time of quiet prayer and reflection in his studio. This one speaks to me in a powerful way, because it was directly inspired by the frantic state of worry I was facing on that day—worry that broke me down to my knees in tears. Now it’s displayed in the house as a constant reminder for me to free my mind from the mental clutter that leads to unnecessary worry and fear. It’s a reminder I need every single day, as soon as a new worry tries to break down my thought pattern.
Challenge: If you have time to read this, you have time to spend 5-15 minutes quieting your mind and meditating. Before whatever task, work project, or leisure activity you are undertaking next today, dump out the negative thought patterns or worries that could be holding you back before taking your next step. Nothing is more crucial than this.
As for me, I’m dropping to the yoga mat for a quiet 15, then heading out the door for my first run in a week.