Discipline

When my mind wanders, I have a little notebook that I scribble down blog post ideas inside the pages. I have this fun new series I want to start called, “Minimalism isn’t.” But this isn’t one of those posts. Ironically, today I wanted to reflect on what minimalism IS and what I’m struggling with.

This is my journey. It’s a chronicle of my pursuit of a more minimal life. And as the title suggests, I have some growing (or shrinking) to do.

There is a lot of discipline involved in minimalism. It’s the discipline to say no to extra things, to continue to clear things out from your head and your life indefinitely, to commit to a habit. They say 21 days makes a habit, and while that may be true, it only takes 3 to break it.

I know – a critic would tell me that once you transition fully to a minimal lifestyle, it’s not the discipline of having to make the choice to say “no,” but that you’re truly not interested in adding those things to your life and “no” is your heartfelt answer. I get that – and I strive to find that place. I truly think I’ve found that place with clothing. While it’s easy to get swept up in a mall or store, I generally don’t find myself shopping for thrills anymore.

I think there are many parallels to draw from my healthy-lifestyle transition to this stage in my life. Many outsiders threw words and opinions about my “diet” or “exercise” levels. The truth was, I wasn’t dieting. I wasn’t forcing myself to exercise. I had discovered that I loved my life more when I ate better – I felt better, had more energy, and looked damn good in the mirror. I enjoyed the taste of the foods I was eating. I loved my endorphin highs after a long run. I was hooked on the feeling of crossing finish line after finish line. I loved how well I slept at night. But if I’m honest – it didn’t always feel that way. It actually hasn’t always felt that way since. Turning down cookies, cakes, bread (that was a mistake), addictively delicious foods –that all hurt. It required discipline. It still requires discipline. It’s not like that pint of ben and jerrys got less delicious while I stopped eating it.

So I’m not going to be hard on myself. It’s part of the reason for my recent radio silence in this space. I felt like I hadn’t done anything to be more minimal. But truthfully, it hasn’t been “nothing.” I have continued to say no to things in life that are of little value to me. I try, little by little, to imagine my home with less in it. To identify trends in my purchase patterns. To really look in my closets, cabinets, floors, drawers, windowsills, bookshelves, and garage: what am I not using?

It’s going to be our one-year anniversary for home ownership soon! I think that to celebrate, we will spend a weekend walking through the house and getting rid of shit we didn’t use once the whole year. That sounds fun.

3 Things I’ve learned about myself since pursuing minimalism

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There is a mix of things I’m learning about myself and my life on this journey. I’m learning maybe I don’t know myself that well. I see tendencies emerge and habits form (or fray). Things I thought I’d love, but actually work against the grain of my natural tendencies.

I thought I’d share a few of those things today. Things that have made me think about this process and what I want to achieve through this.

  1. You’re in or you’re out – this isn’t an experiment you can dip your toes into. While yes, I can be simple and start with my bookshelf, ultimately my bookshelf isn’t what’s going to make me feel figuratively lighter. I need to commit to the big stuff. We hosted brunch for friends the other morning and it was the first time in months my dining room table was 100% clutter free. It felt wonderful walking into my kitchen every day. It’s the bigger, grander actions that are most impactful on this journey.
  2. I love the idea of structure, but I’m stubborn as hell – that two-week deadline scenario of finishing books? I love the idea of it. It seems so sensible and achievable! Except for one small detail. The idea of leaving a book behind in the context of this project is annoying to me. I touched on it before: I’ve never had a problem leaving books half finished. They go back up on my shelf for a day when I’m “more in the right place” to read it. But not finishing a book and sending it on its way into the big bad world, away from me forever? That’s a little terrifying. It hits a little too close to failure for me, and instead I’ll stick it out through some discomfort (or disinterest) to finish the damn book on principal. It’s definitely not constructive – but maybe I need to sort back through my approach.
  3. This steady little adventure keeps me grounded – there has been a lot of swirl in my life lately. Between my “real” job, adulting (hello, taxes?), starting a small business on the side, planning a wedding, training, and maintaining relationships (or not), my time is a little squeezed. You’ll notice – this little blog suffered. But that’s okay. It’s always here for me, waiting. It’s always ready for my words and my ideas. It’s a great listener. And it gives my ideas a place to grow roots. So even though my minimalism journey doesn’t look like other people’s – it definitely looks just right for me.

What keeps you grounded?