Thursday, August 4, 2016

Developing New Habits

Doth suffer a sea change, into something rich and strange.
~ William Shakespeare

A transformation occurred over the past six months, initiated by my involvement in the Uncluttered course, but one that flowered in wonderful ways that I couldn't have imagined. I may have become disconnected during the process of uncluttering specific areas of our house, but I became infected with the desire to change my life by living with less.

There were areas that I uncluttered in an assignment only to return later to continue paring down and cleaning up. Newly uncluttered spaces gave me a strong sense of peace and happiness. I wasn't just getting rid of clutter, I was getting rid of stress. I started to go through sentimental items like slides and photographs, things I previously considered sacred and protected from this scythe I was wielding, and make decisions about what I would keep and what (as it turns out, a lot!) I could jettison.

During all this, I also discovered a whole community of people living variations on the minimalist lifestyle. Two very influential ones were Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, collectively known as The Minimalists. After being tipped off to their podcast, still relatively in its infancy, I became a regular listener. Looking back, I wonder how much this contributed to my willingness to let go of the Uncluttered course for the time being. Here were two guys who had given up high paying corporate jobs in favor of minimalist lifestyles, and they were willing to talk about all aspects of it on a weekly basis. They didn't assign anything and there was no timeline. All I needed to do was listen, be inspired, and act accordingly.

It also turns out that they had created a documentary about minimalism that would debut in select theaters toward the end of May. When I was able, I bought tickets for my wife, daughter, and I to attend. It was excellent! Please watch the trailer...

This, too, was very inspirational and transformative. I may have only completed half the Uncluttered course, but the desire to live more of a life with less had certainly taken a firm hold in my psyche. I was hooked. I am hooked. My wife is hooked. We started sharing Josh & Ryan's book, 'Essential', by reading a few essays together each morning, and have now moved on to Dan Harris' book about meditation, '10% Happier', after we finished. We've had numerous discussions, not only about where we can trim more of life's fat, but about where we see our future. Although we have shared a wonderful rural homestead on which to raise our daughter, we both see ourselves moving to a smaller place, closer to more culture, and with much less maintenance required in our retirement years. I'm not sure we've spent as much time talking about our goals and our future together in all the years we've been married!

Catching Up / Reboot

Let reality be reality.
Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
~ Lao Tzu 

Can it really be six months after my last post here? Did I give up on the course? Have I reverted to my old "maximalist" lifestyle? 

The only (good) habit I quit was the newborn habit of posting. Minimalism has become even more inspiring and incorporated in my life that I could have imagined back in January. I continued with the Uncluttered course through the first two modules, at least at first. The first involved finding our motivation, and encompassed the first two weeks that I wrote about back in January. The second module was a bit more nuts-and-bolts and involved uncluttering various rooms in (and around) our home. Together with my wife, we systematically attacked our cars, our living room, our bedroom, our spare/guest bedroom, our closet(s), and the kitchen. Each of those areas could probably stand to have us go through them again, but we both feel good about the carloads of boxes and bags we donated to Goodwill.

Somewhere around the time we were tackling the kitchen, things got a bit nebulous for me. The kitchen has never been a primary domain of mine, so many of the decisions about what and where to declutter were really not mine to make. In addition, we were both busy with our teaching jobs, and we found our time to collaborate limited. The last week of that module was to get our daughter involved and work on areas that were primarily her domain. Since we have yet to bring her fully on board with this movement, my activity in the course stalled. 

By this time, I had also grown frustrated with the Uncluttered Facebook group, too. What once felt like a small community encouraging each other grew to feel like a much larger community with many people posting long, personal stories. Some were way ahead, some were way behind, some seemed to want to show off their progress more than simply show it. Combine that with a busy work schedule, and I drifted away from the course. I knew that my initial payment guaranteed my access to the material in the future, so I resigned to resign for the time being.

The second run of the course would be in the summer months, which felt like it would work well for both me and my wife. The remaining two modules of the course were more philosophical in nature, although they would certainly include specific assignments. Module 3 was about Developing New Habits and Module 4 had to do with Experimenting With Less.