How To Minimise the Past And Maximise the Future

Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash

If I told you minimalism and self-growth is straight-forward and easy, I would be lying. 

Minimalism requires lots of hard decision-making, consistency, and dealing with memories both good and bad. 

Self-growth requires confronting and accepting hard truths about ourselves and our situations and learning to move forwards while becoming better people in the process. 

Because that’s what it all is. A process. A journey. And a bumpy one at that with twists, turns and long stretches of smoothness.  

I used to be what I call a tidy hoarder (although I didn’t realise I was a hoarder at the time). Candles, mugs, trinkets and figurines lined shelves and window sills while cupboards and drawers were bursting at the seams and collapsing under the weight. Boxes hid under my bed collecting dust and the top of my wardrobe towered with boxes, storage containers, and soft toys. 

My hoarding habits were a source of frequent arguments and discussions about my ‘trash’ in the home.

I kept all sorts. Masses of keyrings collected over the years, old party invitations, old school work, old defunct cables, those little badges you can get with rebellious statements on, old jewellery, old stationary, little notebooks and relics I’d got from cereal boxes as a kid (including a Rugrats flip book). 

I’d even kept a ring from when I was seven years old, simply because I’d worn it at primary school.

As a person I was angry, unfulfilled, lost, and confused, with severe identity issues which caused massive problems in my relationships. Until I discovered minimalism, I didn’t realise that the state of my stuff reflected the state of my mind, and my past. 

Just like with my drawers and cupboards, I kept parts of myself hidden away in dark dusty corners of my psyche, and every so often, bits would burst out and everyone around me would be left picking up the mess, only for it to end up back in the box it all burst from. 

I’d grown up with such a turbulent school life among other things, that by the time I got to college and made the life-long friends I have now, I’d become a master of wearing a mask of silliness and extreme cheer. I was so skilled at this it became a genuine part of who I am today. 

The first time I got confronted with my hoard was a wakeup call for me. I was renting a house with the man who is now my husband, when mum brought over all my old stuff from their attic. Bags and bags of stuff. Bin liners stretching with the weight of the memories inside them I’d carelessly stowed away. 

Photo by Onur Bahçıvancılar on Unsplash

At first, I just saw it as a monumental physical task I needed to work through. I couldn’t escape it because there was nowhere else for it to go. The attic was already rammed with game consoles, Christmas decorations, old memories, and other paraphernalia I’d just shoved up there when we moved in. 

But as I emptied the bags and started to work my way through them, I felt all kinds of emotions, even over innocent things like soft toys.

Sadness, grief, nostalgia, warmth… such a mixed bag of feelings all attached to these objects, many of which I’d owned since I was a child. There were several piles of old school work, even my old school planner, complete with sad, angry scribbles. 

To the people around me, that was all junk. Why hadn’t I put it in the bin ages ago? Why was I storing all that garbage? But to me, they were feelings and parts of me.

That school planner represented the part of me that expressed my feelings when nobody else would listen; proof that I experienced those feelings.

My school work was a trove of teacher praise, writing, and essays which I’d poured my soul into. I’d even kept hilarious pieces where it was clear I hadn’t understood the task or concept. 

I found gifts from people who’d long since left my life, and a tower of children’s books I used to treasure.

By the end of the day, I charity-shopped about 90% of the bag’s contents, and I felt so light that I could have floated a metre above the ground. It was as if those bags had never been stowed in the attic but been tied to me the whole time. 

I also felt emotionally drained. 

That was my first step into self-growth and into what would later reveal itself to be the path to minimalism, but it took a long time for the universe to make me and the concept cross paths. 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Since discovering minimalism, I’ve not only unearthed many parts of myself that I didn’t realise existed, I’ve discovered and reignited my dreams, and have worked persistently to accept the past and make way for who I’m becoming.

Clearing the clutter in my life was the same as clearing out the drawers of my heart and the closets of my mind. It took a lot of soul searching, confronting parts of myself and re-discovering where I wanted to go.

I had spent a lifetime living in the past, believing that I was worthless, and that the feelings I had were nothing but a lie if I got rid of the stuff I associated with them.

Without going into too much detail, this is because I grew up unable to express my feelings. It was taboo. It was wrong. It was weird. So I ended up attaching them to tangible objects. 

When my heart got too heavy and full, it got emptied into cupboards and boxes, instead. 

Of course, minimalism isn’t a cure-all and I’ve had to do a great deal of self-growth. Self-growth is something which never stops and should never plateau because people are forever experiencing life and taking on new beliefs and values. 

For me, minimalism is the foundation to grow a new successful self. One not weighed down by stuff, the past, and outdated subconscious beliefs. 

It’s my hope to help you on your journey, too, whatever your values or your past may be. It’s deep, hard work, but you can get there.  

Remember, just as you don’t grow from toddler to adult in a day, you won’t change and grow your core values and beliefs overnight, either. 

Since we’re entering the festive season, let’s consider Scrooge from ‘A Christmas Carol’. He changes from a lifetime of being cruel, miserable, greedy and selfish, to jolly, charitable, fun, and caring. All in one night. 

While the story is great and has a powerful message, in reality, Scrooge would have taken years to change because his persona would result from various factors throughout his life; beliefs instilled into him by his parents, the people around him, his circumstances, and his environment. 

Every single person has their own story, background, and beliefs. You can’t change a lifetime of beliefs and behaviours overnight, no matter how much you want to. And while throwing them out with the trash is freeing, you still need to do the emotional work to prevent returning to old habits and circumstances. 

With consistent action, you can and will get to where you want to be!

Photo by Ev on Unsplash

Minimalism: The Path to Self Discovery, and How It Helped Me To Find My Worth

I know that I said my next post was going to be about bedrooms (it is), but this morning I’ve been thinking about the other ways minimalism has helped me, which doesn’t just involve the physical stuff in my life. It is of utmost importance to share this because so many people think of minimalism as just being an extreme form of decluttering, when it is about so much more than that. What follows is a deeply personal post which I feel could help those of you who have struggled all your lives with your possessions, with the people in your lives, and/or with yourselves.

I was bullied all through school from the day I started to the day I left, had terribly destructive relationships with some of the most important people in my life, and grew up with horrendous self-esteem. This manifested itself in a myriad of ways, including: over-the-top anger, being quick to defend myself in innocent conversations, allowing others to verbally abuse me (and feeling I deserved it), not having a true sense of identity or purpose (which caused a lot of issues in intimate adult relationships), inadvertently hurting others, and clinging onto people much like I did the stuff I continued to surround myself with.

By the time I went to college, a few years after leaving school, I had made a handful of real friends, entered a relationship, and perfected a mask of being happy-go-lucky, which eventually became a genuine part of myself. I’ve always loved helping others and it didn’t matter how others treated me, so long as they were there in my life. Just like I thought that owning more cool stuff would make me happy, I thought that the more people I had in my life, the more worthy a person I was.

As I went through life, I struggled to hold down jobs due to long-term health issues, fought with my identity, and exhibited inappropriate and negative behaviours which caused friction with the people I loved. Eventually, I got diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum ,which gave me answers as to why I struggled so much at school, as well as having chronic illnesses Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia. Many years later, I learnt to manage all of those things, but I still had major issues with accumulating and hoarding possessions, with the people in my life, and with who I was as a person. Even after landing a stable job and having a beautiful son with my lovely fiance, I was a mess. I wanted to be the best parent I could possibly be, as well as being a reliable partner, friend, and co-worker. I wanted to inspire my son, and others. I didn’t like who I was, but I couldn’t see the light illuminating my path , for all my possessions were hiding it.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com

There were several factors which propelled me towards discovering minimalism; the fateful day where my mum brought all the anchors from my past down from her attic and over to my house, and the deaths of some people I knew. I haven’t spoken about those deaths but I started to think about how people were remembering them and I wondered if they had any regrets in the ways they lived their lives. If they could go back in time, would they do things any differently? Would they have followed their true passions in life? My passion has always been writing, my ultimate dream to be an author of several books, yet everything I had written was hidden away in the attic and on Google Docs. I was too under confident to share my writing, even though I so desperately wanted to help and entertain others.

Thinking deeply about my own life, and about how I wanted zero regrets, I started on a journey of rapid self-growth, reading every self-help book I could get my hands on and completing all the exercises, consistently applying the concepts to my life the best I could. I read books about how to be confident,how to talk to other people, how to heal from the past, how to achieve my goals, how to recover from toxic relationships, how to heal my inner child, how to discover my purpose in life, and how to handle my emotions in a more positive manner. While all of the books I read certainly helped me to a degree, nothing helped me grow as a person half as much as when I discovered and started practicing minimalism. I devoured every book and website I could on the subject, as well as discovering for myself, the amazing long-term benefits of the lifestyle.

As I dramatically reduced my possessions and started to think deeply about what was important to me and why, my true self started to emerge. My true values, my true beliefs, the false beliefs that had been keeping me chained. Once I was satisfied with my new environment, I began true self-growth which was far more rapid than before. I looked at everything from my job, to my writing passion, to my beliefs, to the people in my life, and I started to intensely evaluate those things just like with my physical stuff. Instead of trying to change the people around me, or hoping they would change, I started to change myself. Because, ultimately, the person I was least happy with was myself. I was giving off a negative self-image, and I certainly wasn’t inspiring to others. By being so ashamed of myself, I was allowing others to treat me how I was feeling, so the solution was to start treating myself with and believing myself to be worthy of love and respect, just like everyone else on this planet.

As my confidence and self-esteem grew, I worked on some of my closer relationships, and cut off some which were bringing me down. Cutting off the toxic ones was even more freeing than decluttering my belongings, because suddenly there was more room, and far more time and energy for the relationships that mattered. I was also able to look at the toxic relationships for what they were, and why I was clinging onto them in the first place. The most amazing thing? I felt no guilt for doing so. Because cultivating my self-respect and self-worth, and putting more energy into the positive relationships is far more rewarding. I’ve since, also taken my writing far more seriously and began working towards achieving my dream of being an author and inspiring others.

Without minimalism, I never would have been able to do that.

A good while ago, I took a photo of this sunny path in a park. Now it is perfectly apt for how much clearer and lighter my journey has become.

I still have a ways to go, for true self-growth is continuous, never stopping, even for a moment. Just like the image above, life continues to be blotched with the shadows of challenging times, but I am far more equipped to take those challenges head on, and learn from them. As I continue on the minimalist path, I hope to continue growing and helping others to do the same.