I’m not a minimalist by nature, anyone that knows me at all would scoff at that idea. But I am slowly becoming a minimalist by force of circumstances and it’s so. damn. liberating.
I guess my path towards minimalism started a couple of years ago when I decided that my little house in downtown Anchorage, the one actually so packed to the brim with stuff that it was suffocating me, had to go. It was unhealthy physically and psychologically and I couldn’t keep subjecting myself to the weight of so many belongings. I was living in a prison of my own creation. I had collected that prison in piecemeal through six years of depression and manic episodes of inspiration in which I thought somehow buying more things to contain my other things would make the things less…overwhelming.
When I moved out of that tiny one bedroom house there were bags full of things intended to hide or organize or contain other things. Bags that had never been unpacked after I brought them home. Bags that maybe had three year old receipts in them because I wanted to return them when I walked in my door and realized how inadequate and ridiculous I was to think this was somehow my solution, or my salvation. Most of the time hopelessness or embarrassment kept me from following through with those returns, so they languished on a shelf or in a closet or in the basement, mouldering with the other forgotten toys of organized homes and neat spaces. Thousands of dollars worth of things that never left the bag they entered the house in.
Getting rid of it all was hard. Not because I still wanted it, I hated it all and if I could have walked away and dropped a match I would have been relieved. It was hard because sorting through things to get rid of them forces you to confront the sadness that brought them into your life. It forces you to acknowledge the mental illness you’ve been denying for so long and all of the things that goes with that suddenly surface, when you’re sitting alone in a heap of crap you don’t want too embarrassed to ask for help. Hoarding has a complicated relationship with isolation and depression. It often begins with depression which can make even basic house keeping and organization seem overwhelming. It quickly spirals into isolation because you’re embarrassed to have people over and you feel guilty if you go out to do things because you should be getting your shit together at home. Once these two things are in place, you’re set up for the real business of hoarding to get underway because people don’t understand it and they are cruel and judgmental about it—usually unintentionally—and it creates an environment which makes asking for help seem impossible and therefore it keeps getting worse. It just keeps snowballing until you break, if you break.
Luckily I did. I got to the point where I couldn’t do it anymore. That rock bottom kind of thing. I knew I wanted so much more in life and my belongings…all that CRAP…was keeping me from doing it. I was 30 years old and living like a goddamn spinster cat lady and it was no longer acceptable, no matter what the cost of breaking free. I’m so glad that I was able to get to that point and get just enough help to get rid of it all and start a new life for myself. I know not everyone is so lucky, but all it took was one friend saying they would be there full of understanding with their work gloves on and no judgment to help me do the heavy lifting. Bless her heart. I was salty to work with because it really is such a difficult thing, but she put up with it like a champ. That’s a real friend.
I moved out of that house two years ago in June. I didn’t get rid of everything, but I got rid of at least 3/4’s of everything I owned. When I moved to Mexico in February, I left some things in storage in Alaska (yet to be purged) and came here with two rubbermade totes, two suitcases, and my dog. In the last month I’ve realized even this is too much for me. I’ve worn less than 1/4 again of the clothing I brought, the desktop iMac and DVD collection has sat unused, the toiletry bag full of my slimmed down makeup collection has not been opened, and my colored art pencils remain in their zippered pouch with factory points intact.
I have added a few things: a pot with a lid to replace my small camping pot, a lounge chair for the balcony, and some plates, bowls and coffee cups.
I have also added to my wardrobe, surprisingly. I bought three spaghetti strap bamboo rayon slip dresses, two wrap skirts, and a pair of leather Mexican sandals called hauraches. These items, in addition to my sports bras, bathing suits, and capri leggings, are literally all I have worn for the last month. Not one other thing from the pile of clothing I brought from Alaska has been touched, and today it is being packed up to go away.
This is a lighter way of life in every way and I feel so lucky to be living it.