Friday, September 3, 2010

6 Steps to Life Change through Minimalism

September has always been my favorite month of the year.  I absolutely love fall, and it's not just for all of the reasons about how beautiful it is, even though the colors make my heart sing. It is a month I have always associated with new beginnings. The beginning of the school year always brought me so much hope when I was younger. The idea of new subjects, new friends, and new experiences was thrilling, but most of all, having a new chance to be the person I wanted to be was like a gift from above. While I was in high school, I was far too concerned with how others perceived me, and I never rose above what was out of my comfort zone. Not so anymore.
Since I started college, autumn still has that flavor, but now it is a much more focused feeling. College has been nothing but a time of change for me, and this year, I want to take that a step further and outline those changes I've always wanted but have never been brave enough to make happen. 
Why does any of this matter to you? Because I want you to do it, too. Why wait for the New Year when you've probably forgotten all of your old goals anyhow? The entire point of minimalism is to reduce the amount of stuff so we have room for the amount of experiences we want. What if we focused on using minimalism as a tool to achieve our goals, as well as express our desire for social change? That is a powerful idea. Where do we begin on this road to life change through minimalism? Here is an outline to get you started. 

1. Make a list of all the things you have ever wanted to do. 

Don't leave anything off, no matter how crazy it sounds to you right now. Places you want to go, things you want to learn, etc. Let the list get as big as you need it to to list every single one.

2. Make a list of everything that is bothering you right now. 

List everything. This may be very uncomfortable, but it is vital for the maximum amount of change to be realized. You may even find yourself writing things down things that don't make any sense. That is just fine. Keep writing.

3. Make a list of what matters to you.

People, possessions, causes, etc. Don't worry about being judged. No one ever has to see these lists.

4. List your top five values.

This was the hardest one for me by far. It takes some serious soul searching; don't merely write what looks good on the page. Think for yourself. This can mean thinking outside your religious and social circles, outside of your family, and outside of your culture. Allow yourself transcend all of these potential obstacles, and let your true values to shine through. 

5. List all of your commitments.

This can be tricky because it can sometimes be difficult to identify what counts as a commitment. Here is what my list looks like to help you out.

Dusti's Current Commitments
101 in 1001
Mom - teach Evie to read, potty training, etc.
Being a bike commuter
Home - cleaning
Keeping connected with those I care about

6. Catalog all of your possessions.

This may be a long one for some of you who are new to minimalism, but this is crucial. Until you realize how much stuff you have that you probably don't need, it will be very difficult for you to let go of it. I'll even give you the liberty of taking one hour right now and speeding through your house with a Goodwill box. Seriously. You have one hour. Go!

Now, take all of your lists and sit down. This is where we hack away at what is in your life taking up space now in order to make room for that which you truly desire. First, we'll start with your values. Think about them carefully, finalize the list, and put it up somewhere conspicuous until you are sure you won't forget them. 
Next, look at what matters to you. Does everything fit within the context of your values? If not, you need to figure out why. For instance, if you find that you really value a particular object that doesn't seem in line with your values, find out why you value it. Is it because it is a social status symbol? A thought you have attached to it? Be harsh when it comes to determining what matters to you, because we are trained from birth in this culture to value things that really don't matter.
You've probably hacked away at a few things already, and that is very good. You should be starting to understand that possessions are not what matters, if you didn't see it coming from the beginning. Now, we'll consider your current commitments. Do they fit into the scheme of your values? Do they all matter to you? If they don't meet this criteria, get rid of them as fast and as painlessly as you can. 
Take the list of everything that is bothering you right now, even the ones that may not have made sense earlier. How many of them are tied in with unwanted commitments? What about the others? Do they involve individuals? Can you find a solution to the problem with the person? If not, can you eliminate that person's presence or influence in your life? Come up with micro-actions (an action you can take right now) to get these bothersome problems solve. Let go of what is bothering you, and I guarantee you are going to feel a huge weight lift from your shoulders.
Remember that list of everything you wanted to do? Go over it, and make everything on it is in line with your values. Make sure everything matters to you. Make a list of micro-actions with something to do for every single item. Now, post this list right next to your values list. This just turned into to your new goal/to-do list. This is what you will have time and energy and space for after everything else is out of the way. 
Now, for the part those of you still holding on to all of that stuff are going to sigh over, it's time to make a list of all of your possessions. I personally have chosen Excel to make lists and categorize everything, but do whatever will be easiest for you. In addition to your list of possessions, start making a list of items that need replaced due to wear or whatever else. Most of all, as you catalog everything, start getting rid of what you don't need or doesn't serve your purposes any longer! Be honest. If you haven't worn or used it in the past 60 days, it's gone. Give it away, post it on Craigslist and earn some money, eBay; it doesn't matter what you do with it, just get it out of there! 
One month ago, my list of commitments and my list list of stuff were a few items longer than they are now. I was working at Starbucks, trying to make someone who wasn't important in my life happy to my own demise, and I was considering participating in something that would have only stressed me out and doesn't really fit with who I am trying to become. Once I determined my values and realized none of these things mattered to me, I tossed them out with the recycling, and I began writing, a choice I am very happy with. 
Don't let society dictate your commitments. You have full control over them, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Make your lists and start making it happen.

The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life The Art of Being Minimalist: How to Stop Consuming and Start Living

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