I preach the message of downsizing and decluttering because I have seen the benefits first-hand. My life has become so much easier by minimizing the number of things I own. But the passion I have for this topic started years ago during the most difficult period of my life. I began the decade of my 20s finishing school, getting a job, marrying a great guy, and buying a big house in the suburbs in preparation for starting a family. I was well on my way to realizing the American dream. But then, in the midst of checking things off my 10-year plan, my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
My dad underwent surgery, chemo, and a lifetime’s worth of radiation which kept his cancer at bay for a couple of years, but eventually it came back with a vengeance and all we could do was make him comfortable and say our goodbyes. Up until that point I had lived an extremely privileged existence and my father dying at the age of 53 was the first real tragedy I experienced. It was a wakeup call about my own mortality, and I began examining everything in my life through the lens of “If I get a brain tumor at 50 will I be happy that I took the path I am currently on?” The answer, sadly, was no.
I ended the decade of my 20s going through a heartbreaking divorce. It was, in some ways, more difficult than losing my dad. At least I didn’t bear any weight of responsibility for my father’s death, but hurting my husband – my best friend – who I was still very much in love with was something I struggled to reconcile for many years.
When we split up I moved out of the big house we had built and I rented a small one bedroom apartment. I took only the basic things I needed to start over. By society’s standards I had taken a big step backward, but, strangely, it didn’t feel that way to me. By paring down the stuff I owned to just the essentials and reducing my living space to 500 square feet I felt free: free from the responsibility of maintaining a large home, free from the weight of too many things, free from a mortgage I could barely afford. Most of all, that period of drastic minimizing gave me the mental and emotional space I needed to mourn my big losses and figure out what I wanted to do next.
In the years following I continued to question everything and it took me about a decade to find some answers. I went back to school to study interior design, a lifelong passion, and I eventually started my own business. I recognized the positive impact simplifying had on me during that difficult time and I knew I wanted to help others who were going through their own life transitions. Today, a major part of my business is sharing what I have learned about the benefits of minimizing and helping others do it, too.
If you are going through a major change and struggling to figure out your next step, I recommend taking a look at your physical possessions. Are the things you own keeping you stuck in the past? Are they literally or figuratively standing in your way, preventing you from moving forward? Is your living space supporting you in creating the life you want? Start with clearing away the clutter and it will be easier for you to find the answers to your big questions, just like it did for me.
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