Fill your life with lots of experiences, not lots of things. Have incredible stories to tell, not incredible clutter in your closets. – Marcandangel
While watching the Netflix documentary “Minimalism” recently, I couldn’t help but think back to my Mass Comm Capstone from my senior year at Winona State University. Our team created a transmedia campaign called “Happier You”. Its focus was to encourage and inspire people to buy less and in turn experience their lives more. It started with the idea that humans, and especially Americans, are addicted to online shopping, and a “more is more” approach. We make purchases to fill us with instant gratification, when in the long run we are left overwhelmed and empty. We ran our campaign using social media and guerrilla marketing. We also held a successful clothing drive on campus and were able to donate hundreds of items to a local shelter. I felt passionate about this cause and was excited to see how I carried it with me after graduating.
Fast forward six months after college graduation: I was working multiple jobs looking for my fit and a way to survive the real world. By October I worked simultaneously as a photo intern at the Timberwolves, a marketing specialist, and in retail part-time. I enjoyed the boutique environment and being immersed in fashion and personal styling so much that I made it my full-time job. For two years I worked in and managed shops where merchandise was constantly flowing in, and I needed it all, or so I thought. I had an employee discount, so it didn’t hurt to spend the money here and there…
My closet began overflowing. The decluttering I had worked toward by donating and holding clothing sales diminished. I’d always loved styling myself and others, and now that it was my career, it was a whole new artistry and world. Part of my job was dressing up in different clothes every day. I got to find my own personal style, while having fun trying on the latest trends and teaching others about fabrics, cuts and color palettes to compliment their bodies. I loved helping others evolve their wardrobes while gaining confidence.
Fast forward a few years later: I’m married and have an 18-month-old and a baby on the way. I’m no longer working retail, but am doing photography full time. Our home includes an entire room for my closet. About once a month, I scrounge time to organize my closet room. A couple days later, the downward spiral begins: I rush to get dressed. I throw things to the ground. I run out of time for laundry. I don’t know what’s clean and what’s not. I have too many clothes. I don’t have any clothes. I don’t know what to wear. The mounds of clothes add up until getting dressed has become a major cause of stress every day. I finally find a day to reorganize, but the cycle repeats itself, over and over again. I’m living in clutter and chaos and I don’t want to anymore. I feel greedy and obsessive for owning all of these clothes, and angry at myself for letting it get out of hand.
I maintain my interest in organization and curiosity in living more minimally this whole time. I organize in small ways here and there, but still feel overwhelmed by my consumption of things.
And that brings us to the present…
Cory and I watched “Minimalism” on our couch together about a week ago. We kept exchanging glances, knowing our house was full of too much STUFF. After the movie was over, we knew what we had to do.
We began in the kitchen. The spatula/wooden spoon/random things drawer barely closed because it was plump full of items we were given before our wedding to “get us by” until we got our own. There were doubles of almost everything. I began making piles: Keep, Toss, Donate.
We moved on to the serving bowl cupboard: same story. Keep, Toss, Donate. The mugs: Keep, Toss, Donate. We made our way through the dishes, the tupperware, medicine cabinet, pantry, cookbooks, silverware, measuring cups, and every other cupboard in the kitchen until we had a table and chairs overflowing with goods to donate. We smiled at ourselves in approval and finally decided it was time for bed.
The next day, I was home with Ev. He kept himself occupied (mostly) playing with toys and tupperware, and I moved to the bathroom drawers and closet. How many bottles of shampoo does one home need? How many travel toiletries? How many towels? We donated numerous bathroom items, tossed some, and kept our essentials. It made me sad to see that we had made so many mindless purchases on “stuff” that doesn’t get used, when I know so many people go without. The amount of money and space we were wasting felt mind boggling.
Once things were more organized, I felt refreshed and much better. It was a new start. I’m far from through, but I have made a big dent in sorting through my wardrobe, deciding to donate a copious amount of shoes, purses and other miscellaneous clothing items. I also made a pile to “sell”, or at least attempt to sell.
Looking at all of the clothes remaining, I know I can do better. I love fashion and living out my personal style, but I’m excited to challenge myself to do that with less. It’s going to be a process, but I’m hoping to get down to the best of the best. I also want to continue to focus on shopping locally and the quality and process of the goods. My trips to Ikea, Target, and Home Goods will be fewer and more strategic, with fewer mindless buys.
Since making these small but meaningful recent changes, our home feels bigger. Every space serves a purpose. Like so many Americans, I think we became addicted to the gratification of consumer newness. I know we are far from living as true minimalists, but I think the transitions we have made are a great start.