I started MessyMinimalist.com back in 2016, not long after discovering the idea of minimalism. Like many before me, this idea of “having less” came in slow waves. I had been accumulating copious amounts of possessions my entire life, as I had watched my mother do before me. At 18 years old, I got my first apartment, and from that day forward my walls were filled with decorations, my rooms overflowing with furniture, and my closets always two sizes too small for the sum of their contents.
And yet…there was ALWAYS room for 1 more thing. It would be over a decade before I realized this mentality was detrimental to my wellbeing.
Minimalism didn’t come easy for me. (It still doesn’t). It was back in 2013 when I first realized there was a connection between the material world and my mental health. I was working in New York City, living in a 170sqft apartment, ironically enough), and had been dealing with the progression of my mother’s cancer diagnosis.
She had many ups and downs during that time, causing Dan and I to travel back and forth to Michigan frequently to be with her. In a single 17-hour drive, we went from our world of Manhattan glamour to a very real, raw reality of life and death back home.
Even though we lived in an extremely small space, I coped with my grief by buying more things. (A trip out wasn’t complete unless I splurged on something extra). Looking back now, I must have been chasing the mental high of buying things — How could I feel sad about my mother’s situation when I was consumed with a new “shiny”? Something to fill the void. To give me a new feeling to dull the pain of what was really going on.
We eventually moved back to Michigan to be closer to her, but my material consumption didn’t change. I could feel the weight of my stuff getting heavier, (and my house getting messier), but it didn’t stop me from buying more. After my mother finally passed, I thought the weight would lessen, but it increased. (surprise, surprise). Now I had HER stuff, and my own… and yet I’d never felt more empty. I was suffocating in STUFF – physically and mentally. Unable to grieve with all the clutter, I started looking for help. The problem was, I could hardly think, let alone navigate my own space. Nothing was significant to me, and yet everything was. I was trapped.
Her death was my true catalyst. I’d watched this amazing woman live a life rich in material wealth, yet unable to enjoy any of it, and I was following in her footsteps. For 9 years, she fought for her life – and I’d just made it back to Michigan for her final 6 months. She was only 58 years old when she passed.
I KNEW I wanted to live more simply. I wanted to live with meaning. I wanted to be good to my body – the vessel that allows me to participate in the world we’ve built!
After my mother’s passing, the phrase “Life is short” had all new meaning and I was determined to live mine differently. So I started giving away my things. First I purged my closet (thanks Mari Kondo!), then I went through my kitchen and bathroom, junk drawers, hidden piles, garden sheds, the list goes on. By removing meaningless items and clutter from my life, I’ve been able to focus my attention on the things that mean to most to me.
I’m no where near being done, but my journey continues, and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
I’d love to hear your stories of why or how you got into minimalism. What was your catalyst?