One of the hardest things for me to do is get rid of things that, I believe, hold sentimental value and make me feel safe. As a young foster kid, I had my things stolen, broken, spit on, drawn on, torn a part, or made fun of. You would think this would harden me, make me want to get rid of everything, own nothing, feel nothing.
A Minimalist by happenstance.
That’s not what happened. The few things I was able to keep safe, mainly books – because no one else loved reading like I did – were suddenly the most precious things. I hid them everywhere. In the back of my little closet. In drawers. Under my mattress. In the pillowcases. I even found places around the foster home (because despite the fact I eventually got adopted, I still lived in a foster home) that were covered in dust. It meant that no one would find the things I hid there. And when that worked I began to hide other things.
Things to hide:
Small pieces of paper.
Notebooks and Journals (because I thought “one day I’ll write about my life”)
Keys (I was obsessed with keys for some reason)
The older I got this didn’t change. If anything it became stronger. I carted boxes of things from one apartment to another, often times without opening any of them first. I took my baggage everywhere and it weighed me down mentally and physically.
When I moved from Missouri to Florida I finally started over. People didn’t believe that I was driving cross country and not coming back. Even my own parents tried to make plans with me when I had already told then I was leaving. It was crazy to me, the amount of people that said ‘no one in our family has ever left…’ or ‘you’ll be back because…’. That was the exact negativity I wanted to get away from. I thought I was suffocating. I didn’t know what was going to happen in Florida but I knew SOMETHING had to change. I had to change.
So I got rid of almost everything. I threw away my furniture. At the time, I lived by myself in a two bedroom apartment. EVERYTHING MUST GO. I stored things that I absolutely loved, but couldn’t take, in my parent’s attic. In favor of my books, I threw away more and more. I then packed only what I could fit in my compact car, with a friend in the passenger seat, and I drove 9 hours to Chattanooga, TN. We stayed the night in a hotel and the next morning drove the 10 hours to Florida.
Any minimalist reading this would say “GREAT! Only a car’s worth of possessions? That’s a great start!” and you would be wrong. That car’s worth quickly doubled after I settled in. My inner sentimentalist out to play. When I moved to my next apartment, just 8 months later, it took 3.5 packed-to-the-brim trips in order to get all of the things I had accumulated in that time. This was despite the fact that I didn’t even have my own room and lived with three men.
It was very emotional and so, of course, the amount of things I owned grew. They were MINE. I was in control and, because I was an adult, no one could take them away from me. At that time I was escaping a toxic home life in that packed apartment and my guy pressed me to get out. Knowing I couldn’t leave right away put me in a bad spot and I held my items tighter. Eventually my guy helped me find a new place and I took my baggage, physical and emotional, with me to the next apartment.
Fast forward a year to me moving in with my guy, Tony, and things only went downhill from there. I now had more space and it was all mine. As ever my supporter, my guy helped me feed my book habit, I bought more bookshelves and my count went up to over 3,000 books. I felt happy. I felt safe amongst my paper friends. Everything that happened in my life had culminated into a HOME filled with things that were mine and a man that I loved. It was heaven.
My wake up moment:
Years, and an apartment switch, later and things were riding smoothly. I thought. Then we moved to our current apartment in 2018. Finally fed up with carting unopened boxes, my guy told me over, and over, and over, and over again that I needed to get rid of my nonsense. I fought him so hard. I was upset that he wanted to take my books from me. Even though I knew he was right, I wasn’t ready. I likened him to the people in my youth who wanted to control me and my things. I was angry and said things I regretted. Once I even told him ‘my stuff isn’t bothering you, why the hell do you care?’ and I’m pretty sure that divided us in a way I didn’t notice. At the time. Now it’s funny because as it was early in my fourth (and only successful) pregnancy, and so I wasn’t the one out there carting heavy boxes. HE was. It was hurting him and I was blind by my own hoarding.
In April 2019, I gave birth to my rainbow baby. This is what you would call a baby born after a pregnancy or infant loss. I’ve had three losses. Naomi is my rainbow after the storm. I love her with all my heart. I will never do anything to hurt her but I was not yet ready to get rid of “my nonsense”.
Once, when I was walking about the apartment I was holding Naomi in my arms. I needed to go into the bathroom – for something I don’t remember now – and there was a pile of clothes thrown on the floor next to the bed. I was never one to do laundry the same day that I wash it, something I’m sure a lot of you understand, and so the apartment was usually littered with clean clothes.
I slipped. While holding Naomi. I slipped on a pile of tank tops and, as I was falling, I could feel my body grow hot. It was adrenaline, it was. I was terrified, as a mom. The wall between the master bedroom and bathroom comes to a sharp point in the place where I slipped, and I held her in front of my body. I was so sure she would crack her head open and I screamed under my breath. Trying my best to twist my torso, I took the brunt of the fall on my shoulder. Naomi screamed out because I held her so tight against my belly. There was also a box sitting next to the wall and I hit my shin on the corner of it on my way down to the floor. I lowered Naomi slowly to lay in the crook of my knee and leaned forward to kiss her face. She sobered quickly, not actually hurt, and looked up at me with a cheeky smile.
It didn’t surprise me when a tear dripped from my cheek to her face. I had never been so terrified in my life. She looked at me with joy and trust, and here I was, unable to protect her because of my own messiness. I sat there for at least an hour, weeping into Naomi’s onsie. My back burning from where it hit the corner. My shin stinging from the box blow. I could see a bit of skin pulled back. I couldn’t believe that all of this ‘unnecessary bullshit’ almost made me crack my head open, or Naomi’s.
I had to let it go. I had to let it all go.
Things to let go:
The stacks of books that wouldn’t fit in the bookshelf that Naomi could knock over.
The piles of clean clothes that we could, and have, trip over.
The box of random things that sits by master bathroom wall.
The random things lining the counters in the kitchen that we don’t even use.
The boxes of crap in the closets that I take from apartment to apartment without opening.
The stacks of notebooks that were unused (I kept the journals from my childhood as they are perfect for refreshing my memory for my creative non-fiction pieces).
So here I am. An emotional hoarder that wants to be a minimalist. Let me get it straight. That IS a minimalist. I’m two months in and it hasn’t been easy. I want to buy things. I want to hold on to the things that keep me safe. I want to shop online. OH, HOW I WANT TO SHOP ONLINE but I know that I can’t go back.
I’m doing this for me, in mindset, for my daughter, in safety, for my guy, in partnership.
Follow my minimalist journey to watch me grow.