My current experience of minimalism has an awful lot of focus on stuff. While I realise this is a short term cost for a long term gain, never the less I’m still very much in the land of “stuff”. What stuff stays, what stuff goes and where the stuff that is staying goes. My time is spent dwelling in the past (“Why on earth do I still have this?”) or the future (“Do I really need to hang on to this just in case?”). Having been away from the vast majority of our “stuff” for a week in Bonny Scotland I’ve realised what is missing (at times) from my journey towards a more mindfully minimal life – the mindfulness.
Mindfulness is paying attention to our moment by moment experience, intentionally and non-judgementally. When approaching life, or minimalism, mindfully, you do not discriminate ‘good’ from ‘bad’. It is as it is. Through our quiet, focused scrutiny the object of our attention (be it external or internal) may appear more nuanced, more detailed, even more present yet it has always been so. What has been lacking was our mindful attention.
My mother in law, in Bonny Scotland, doesn’t have a dishwasher so I have washed dishes several times in the last week. I was not washing dishes thinking, “It must be someone else’s turn to do the dishes!” (judgement) or “I’m looking forward to having my cup of tea” (future thinking)”, or “I wish people would wash there own mugs when they’re finished” (expecting things to be different) or “I really enjoyed building sandcastles with my daughter this morning” (dwelling on the past). Or at least when these thoughts did pop into my head, I noticed them and returned to washing the dishes.
As I washed the dishes, I noticed the crumbs of food and dried sauce. I felt the cloth going over the smooth surface of the plate. I noticed the temperature of the water, the smell of the soap suds and the light coming through the window. I felt the tension in my shoulders and moved them. I became aware of my breath as it rose and fell. I rinsed the sink out carefully, watching the dirty water run down the drain.
Having fewer possessions is less distracting – physically, psychologically and temporally. Our attention is liberated to focus mindfully on what we have chosen to keep in our lives. However the journey needs our attention too. At times I find myself making quick decisions and tossing things out – literally tossing them across the room towards the relevant box. While this is great in terms of speed, especially when I’m feeling time poor, I can’t help but be left with the feeling I’m missing something.
My wife and I love reading and books. We met in a book group, had a book themed wedding and we own lots of books. Yet in the process of removing a guestimated 50% of our books (so far), we got faster and faster. The last book case was sorted in 5 minutes with most of that time being spent removing the books from the shelves to begin with. The decision process was quick and only 20% of those books stayed so they were quick to put back. I have no idea which books left that day (rather telling in itself) and an idea of what remain but I wonder what I missed in the process.
I’m a firm believer in learning from our mistakes, not judging the but definitely learning from them. Behavioural change is hard and yet my reflections (and revelations) of why it was so hard to get rid of my little black dress have helped to cement a new approach to clothes shopping: when I need to replace something, I buy the best quality I can afford and ensure it is fit for purpose (in style, colour and function).
Who knows what lesson my books would have taught me if I’d paid mindful attention to that part of the process. Perhaps they were simply the vehicle to encourage me and reaffirm my commitment to being a present-dweller and to practice mindfulness in the art of de-cluttering.
And in answer to the original question, posed in the title…
Items de-cluttered this week – We came home to a freezer which had been off for a week (thanks Mr Tripped Switch!) Therefore there was an unplanned bin liner of food, four books, a DVDs, two CDs, a wrap (baby sling) and a car seat.
A blog I’ve enjoyed – Being away from home has scuppered my efforts to reduce my internet phone use and I’ve read numerous fantastic blogs. It has been tough to pick one however, a friend asked me ages ago about how to declutter children’s possessions respectfully. Therefore, for her, I’ll share Janie Baran’s post over at Simple…not plain on Minimalist living with children. Janie is a mother of two and while her Simple…not plain blog has only been active for four months each post is packed full of inspiration and instruction on what to do. It’s the first time I’ve come across the idea of a capsule wardrobe for children! It’s a great read.