I’m a minimalist, I swear.
I repeat this to myself every time I step into our spare bedroom–but that doesn’t convince the bright orange kayak in the middle of the room.
We moved again last September to be closer to my partner’s work and to take advantage of the benefits of her being a city employee. We’d been looking at this area of Houston for a while, so the decision was a simple one to make.
We left behind our one-bed/one-bath apartment with a study, the smallest apartment we had ever shared, and moved into a larger two-bedroom apartment. The layout works well for us and provides ample living space, not to mention an interior staircase to avoid rainy-day climbs to the second floor. Parking is literally right outside our door. There isn’t quite as much light as our previous apartment but plenty of windows nonetheless. Plus a balcony.
What we didn’t consider was how much smaller the kitchen was in comparison to our old apartment–and how much kitchen stuff we own. When I say the kitchen at our last apartment was one of the largest living spaces, I’m not exaggerating. We actually had spare cabinets that sat empty. Looking back, this made it easy for me to assume we didn’t have excess kitchenware simply because we had plenty of storage for it all in our small apartment.
Don’t get me wrong: we sorted through our kitchen items before we packed and considered what all we needed, donating the excess. I thought we had culled our kitchenware to only the necessities, but I was way off.
When we began to unpack and set up shop in our new apartment, we quickly realized that we had a major problem. Our new kitchen was a third of the other kitchen, counterspace and all. We decided to sort out the true necessities and figure out where to put the rest later.
Later never came. The boxes of unused kitchenware and crockery has stayed in our spare room and, as all clutter tends to do, attracted more clutter. With the boxes taking up so much space, I couldn’t setup our bookshelf properly, which meant the large box of books stayed packed as well. As we sorted through other areas of our apartment, unpacking and reconsidering, we began letting go of more items that have collected in piles for donation and items we literally have no use for–bottled waters left over from Hurricane Harvey, an old chair we don’t use, and , ironically, two shelves we replaced to save space. Then Christmas came, which brought about more items to donate. And finally, because life didn’t think the room was complete without something bright to liven it up, our apartment manager asked us to move our bright orange kayak off our balcony because only patio furniture could be stored outside.
Yes, we have a bright orange kayak in the middle of our spare bedroom.
The entire room is frustrating. All the more embarassing is the fact that we’ve been living here for five months. And it’s only gotten worse! When I look at individual items in the room, I know where they need to go or how we need to store them, but it’s like trying to clean out a garage that’s overpacked with tools. Unless stuff starts making it’s way out the door, there’s no room to make any changes.
I’m writing about this experience for two reasons. First, social media has nasty way of making other people’s lives appear perfect. It’s one of the reasons I no longer use Facebook. The urge to compare and compete is easy to catch, and it is terribly unhealthy. When I read others’ posts about minimalism, I am just as inspired by those who look like they have their lives together as those that look like they just started their journeys. It’s refreshing to see different stages of people’s progress. To be more open about my journey, I’m sharing my life as it is. I consider myself a minimalist, but my life can still be messy. And we keep most of the mess in the spare bedroom with the kayak.
Second, I’ve realized that I haven’t been completely honest with myself about my physical space. I mentally shut off that room so I don’t have to deal with the clutter, and that, just like comparison, is an unhealthy habit. When we moved, we had mentally dedicated that room to be a space for healthy activities. We still talk about building a desk so I have a dedicated writing space. We want a space to display and play our guitars and keyboard. I do best when I have a calm area for mediating and breathing exercises. The room has so much utility for our lives, but we leave it full of boxes and donation items. It’s time we own up to it.
This room will be a major project for me in the coming weeks. It will take small steps, a little here and a little there. But the idea of having a clean space with a desk and a bookshelf lined with paperbacks, a room where I can meditate and write, is inspiring enough to keep me moving.
And to know that I have made my physical space as clean and open as I can is a refreshing thought.
Being honest with myself and with you is a good step forward in taking control of my space and embracing minimalist practices. I encourage you to be honest with yourself about how you are practicing minimalism or how minimalism can help you tackle an areas of your life that you have longed to clean out. I know working toward a healthier space will do wonders for the stressors in our lives.
I’d love to hear what steps you can take this week toward a healthier space?