The idea of minimalism and getting picked on as a kid.
About a year ago, someone told me about the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In a lot of ways, this book changed the way I view "things". In fact, it is now a running joke in my family that if it doesn't bring me joy, it's out of here (whether it's mine or not). I have even threatened to purge the dog a time or two as there are many a day he fails to bring me joy...
After reading this book, I was able to find a way to detach emotion from an object and get rid of it if it serves no purpose to me. The idea of greeting cards for example was life changing for me. In the book, she says that once the card is given, and it is read, the card has done it's job and no longer provides value. So, before, I used to save cards for a few months until I felt good about letting it go, and these days I am now changed. These days, I read the card, and in the trash it goes. I appreciate it just as much, but the actual card no longer takes on more than its intended purpose, which was to transmit the message inside. Once the message is received, the physicality of the card itself no longer serves a purpose.
It's fascinating what little value so many things in my life had once I really started to look at it all.
Fast forward a year, I still feel really inspired by the idea that I keep something only if it brings me joy. If it does not, it gets purged. Recently however; a friend of mine introduced me to the term minimalism. Though I had read Marie Kondo's book, the idea of minimalism wasn't something I was too familiar with. I had heard the word before, but never gave it much thought until I read about my friend putting it into practice in her own life.
I read one post of hers and now I am hooked. I have since gone through every room in the house. Now, not only am I asking if the item brings me joy, but I am also evaluating what purpose the item serves. I did this once, then I did it again, and then I did it a third time. Getting rid of your stuff isn't always easy but the high I got from doing it the first time led me to each subsequent purge. What an amazing feeling it is to not be bogged down by all of these things. How freeing it is to have so much space and no clutter. Cleaning has become so much easier, putting away laundry takes half as much time, picking out what I want to wear every morning has become a piece of cake and best yet, I feel free. I feel so good in fact, that I plan on going through my home again.
Many of you may be thinking that I am just purging to purge, but that's not it. The more stuff that leaves my home, the better I feel. For years I was consumed by just the opposite. For years, I thought that "things" would add value and meaning to my life, but I was so wrong. The idea of purging if something doesn't bring you joy was one thing, but this idea that "less is more" hit me like a ton of bricks. I have heard it before, but never in the same context of minimalism. And, it wasn't until I watched the documentary "Minimalism", did it really start to sink in... stuff is what I thought made life worth while for so long. Stuff is what made me feel valuable or worthwhile and it was this idea of keeping up with the Joneses that left me feeling so inadequate these last few months.
When I went to bed that night, I started to think back on where my need to consume began, and then it hit me.
Kindergarten through fifth grade, I went to a catholic school and we wore uniforms. When we moved to South Carolina and I started going to a public school it quickly became apparent how much value clothing and "things" had and it was then that I became fixated on fitting in and feeling accepted. When I showed up on day one of 6th grade I was wearing Lee jeans, white sneakers, and a cream crew neck sweatshirt that said "South Carolina" on it. A true fish out of water and obviously new in town as I was nailing the tourist look and seriously lacking any knowledge of what was "in" at the time for kids my age. I remember my dad one day telling me that if I got good grades they would take me to American Eagle and let me pick out a shirt. I picked up a thing or two in the few weeks I had been in school and American Eagle was definitely a place I needed to start shopping. That semester I did really well and so, off we went. I will never forget what the shirt looked like. It was red short sleeved shirt with a blue and white stripe on each sleeve and the words "AMERICAN EAGLE" stitched into the front. I loved that shirt. That Monday, I went to school donning my new shirt and I still remember the confidence I felt walking in that day. After some time though, the kids began noticing how often I wore the shirt and it was at that moment that I realized that it wasn't just about having one "cool" shirt, it was about having lots of cool shirts.
Life was so miserable in South Caroline for my middle school self that I convinced my parents to take me back to Pennsylvania. I knew I was going to be the new kid again but at least I was in my home state and at least I had learned a thing or two down there about what the "cool kids" wear.
Owning a big wardrobe full of the best and most current clothes became a big priority for me. When we moved back to Pennsylvania at the beginning of my ninth grade year, I remembered being determined to not let clothes be a reason that people would make fun of me. I would go months without wearing the same thing and felt the need to look perfect every day. It was something I stressed over so often those days. I woke up every morning two hours before school to shower and do my hair so that I was as perfect as humanly possible. If I was having a bad hair day, look out. It. made. me. so. angry, because inside I felt worthless. If I didn't look good, I wasn't enough.
Being made fun of at such a young age is something I have held on to for a really long time. I laugh it off most days when the stories get retold, but the damage it did to my self-esteem and confidence is undeniable. This year I turned 31 and sadly it has taken me this long to address some of the issues that I have been carrying with me since the 6th grade. Getting rid of all of these things in a small way, frees me from that person I was for a really long time. Getting rid of the stuff, especially when it comes to my wardrobe, acknowledges that I am not that 12 year old girl anymore. In a big way, it allows me to be me, the person underneath the clothes.
Becoming more mindful and self-aware has given me permission to take control back. It has taught me lessons that I should have learned back then about being an individual. It taught me that "fitting in" isn't what is important in life... It taught me that perfection isn't necessary, and clothes don't define a person. Life is about more than things. These are lessons I did not learn back then and they are lessons I will be sure to pass along to my kids.
That's the point right? Being a mother is one of the most humbling things I have ever done. It has this amazing ability to bring out the best and worst in each of us and if we are smart we can learn and grow if we pay close enough attention.
I am not 12. I am 31. I am a mother. I purge to be a better version of myself. I purge to be a better mother to my children. It's as simple as that.