April 2018: Minimalism (Spring Cleaning!)
It's finally Spring! . . . which means that, here in Portland, there are now smatterings of rain-free (sunny, even) hours here and there to enjoy ( . . . yay.) Even with lingering clouds in the Pacific Northwest, and the typical neighbor's response to that occasional precious sunny day falling along the lines of, "Yeah, wonder how long this one'll last," I really am savoring Spring. One reason is the bright and beautiful flowers now waking up in municipal parks, lining main drags of the city with their fluorescent blooms. Another bonus I can't neglect mentioning is the occasional day that rises up into the 60s. The main point I want to celebrate with you, though, is my newly discovered fondness for Spring cleaning. It's not a seasonal routine in which I'd ever before partaken; my recent move last month just happened to coincide with the turning of seasons, and inspired me to purge a lot of crap that I didn't need but had been schlepping around from temporary housing situation to housing situation for the past five and a half years anyway. I finally rid myself of seven bags of clutter (clothing that I hadn't worn for years . . . books that I had once had some fleeting interest in, but had never gotten around to reading and which, realistically, I finally admitted that I never would . . . and a few random knick-knacks that my mother had sent me from two time zones away for every holiday listed on the Gregorian calendar and which were already living in aforementioned bags, anyway). And (with all due respect to my mother), it felt great. If you're reading this month's newsletter, you are no doubt a resilient soul — you just survived a recent astrological double whammy of Mercury retrograde overlapping a blue full moon, followed by All Fool's Day, followed by a Friday the 13th. And that means that YOU, too, can survive with less clutter in your life. (Which is not to suggest that YOUR life contains an inordinate amount of clutter! — it's just that we could all use a Spring cleaning.) We all owe it to ourselves to determine whether any given thing in our life is helping us, or hurting us just by virtue of being one more thing that we have to keep track of. This goes for material possessions, as well as the more abstract things of which we've claimed ownership. If you choose to accept your mission to declutter material possessions, remember that there's no need for any owner's guilt as you sort through your belongings. (Cut yourself some slack — you've been living in a consumerist society your entire life, and you've managed to accumulate some unnecessary junk in the meanwhile.) Also bear in mind that decluttering doesn't have to be done all at once. You can just keep an eye out as you live your life. (Pause for a moment and ask yourself whether that piece of furniture that never gets used and just sits in the corner is collecting dust is useful, or if it only makes house cleaning more of a tedious task for you. Ask yourself whether that jacket hanging in your closet that you never wear would be better put to use by someone else later to be shopping at Goodwill.) Joshua Becker is an advocate of minimalism whose own family's story has been featured on the CBS Evening News, the WSJ, NPR, and various other news outlets. At his website Becoming Minimalist, Becker provides brilliant ways that the average Jane or Joe can declutter their house. He shares his list of "clutter busting routines", for example, along with insights into unseen benefits of becoming minimalist. His blog posts offer brilliant insights to decluttering in a wide scope of material, as well as intangible, ways — ranging from overcoming habits of excessive consumerism, to rearranging one's kitchen to create a less cluttered home environment, to ridding one's life of superficial gossip, to cutting artificial ingredients out of one's diet. Take note, parents — most impressive is that he shares how he's gone minimalist as a father with young children on the homefront. The most valuable benefits to be gained from simplifying one's lifestyle are undoubtedly abstract. Less stuff leads to less stress; hence, more time and energy for the things that really matter. For most of us, our minds and our thoughts could use a Spring cleaning (our consciousness is how we invest our precious time and energy while on Earth; do you ever overcomplicate/overthink things?) while we endeavor to excavate our homes of any unnecessary material items (the idea behind the money that we spent on any unnecessary material aspects, of course, being that it is a reflection of our investments of our precious time and energy). Quality over quantity.