In recent weeks I have discovered a vast minimalist movement whose voice is mainly on blogs and Twitter. Sometimes they are rooted in Zen, other times not, but it all appeals to me and my desire to simplify, de-clutter and focus, so much so that I actually now have a Twitter account, mainly to follow some of the more informative minimalist feeds. (And yes, this does seem to fly in the face of trying to simplify my life, but I liken this to the Buddha’s parable about leaving the raft behind once one has crossed the river — I can see leaving these Twitter feeds behind, eventually.)
One of my favorite minimalist blogs is Becoming Minimalist, by Joshua Becker (I also follow his Twitter feed). It’s a fave because Joshua has a family with two young children, so I can relate a bit more than I can to many other minimalist bloggers who, as far as I can tell, are single and gloriously unencumbered not only by possessions, but by family obligations as well.
As with Zen, I’ve probably been a closet minimalist my whole life. I say “closet” because I’ve been a notorious pack rat, but never really happy about it. This used to result in “binge cleaning” whenever I’d hit the clutter saturation point.
After reading some of these blogs and Joshua’s excellent e-book Simplify, I decided to break the cycle of binge cleaning and make minimalism a part of my Zen practice. I also decided to lead by example and de-clutter just my areas — the home office, my closet, the garage and the basement.
Since I work from home, the office was a natural starting point. I was able to trash quite a bit of paper. Then I did a serious assessment of my books, and e-mailed some friends and relatives with a list of what I was giving away. Anything they haven’t taken will go to the local library or the senior center. I considered ripping all my CDs to iTunes, but I can’t quite make the leap to giving away the discs. Yet.
Clearing out the closet was liberating. It was actually easier than I thought it would be to pull out the clothes I knew I was never going to wear again and give them to a local charity. I’m sure there’ll be another round of this as I try to get down to the essentials.
The basement is a multi-stage project, but is going well. First I compacted and recycled all the empty boxes that I had a habit of keeping in case I needed to send something back or to be repaired. Then I trashed all kinds of old electronics. I also sorted through bags of old homework and assignments from the kids, and saved just a few samples from each grade, which all fit neatly into a portfolio folder. As I go through the rest of the stuff, I’ve found it useful to use the eBay app on my iPod touch to quickly check which of my things might be worth selling. So far, the only prize is my Led Zeppelin concert program from 1977.
The garage will have to wait until Spring.
I’ve been aware of how draining visual clutter can be on my mind and energy. I feel so much better now working in the home office, and I know the key to maintaining this is mindful minimalism, to have this mindset be part of my practice. Every day.
My wife, thankfully, has been predisposed to this thinking all along, so she readily joined me in clearing out another closet. My hope is that my kids will get inspired, but they can see where this is going and have already voiced some resistance.
That’s OK. I’m in it for the long haul.