(RECORD ON PHONE, USE FOR TIKTOK)
“What went wrong? What went wrong?” I remember thinking this over and over again, replaying these types of thoughts in my head.
After we moved into our DREAM house in our DREAM neighborhood, the one we drove by over and over and over again and said how perfect it would be to live there…to have a house there. I truly believed it would feel like a giant wave of satisfaction like “I had made it.”
I believed it would bring me this sense of home, of completion, and that for the rest of my life I would feel certainty and stability because I had secured a stable, beautiful home in a good neighborhood.
This all makes sense – being a girl who grew up partially in a trailer park and bounced between homes and parents for most of my life.
All I ever wanted was stability and family and a solid home and I just felt this deep knowing in my heart that if I got this house, I would get all of that too. That’s why when we finally got the house, we were finally all moved in, we had all the furniture in place and everyone who came to see us loved the house, they would do the oo’s and ahh’s, I couldn’t figure out why I felt deeply unsatisfied….
I started reading books on spirituality by accident. Mainly because Tom and I were barely speaking shortly after we moved into our dream home. He felt pressured into buying the house – which I would say was partially his own guilt not wanting to own up to his part in it all and partially that man in him that felt the requirement to provide for us, for me…and kind of blamed me for it.
Since I wasn’t really talking to him anymore and we used to spend most of our free time together, I didn’t really know what to do with myself.
By some seriously crazy twists of fate I found myself looking up Wayne Dyer books at the library and reading them because I had seen a Broadway performer, Sierra Boggess, say that HE changed HER life – and I wanted what she had. She just seemed always glowing, always happy, so I was willing to do whatever she said to make it work for me too.
One common theme that seemed to emerge throughout all the books I read, even if they weren’t centered around minimalism, was releasing our attachment to things – detaching ourselves from our stuff. How we are bigger than our items, bigger than the image that we project to the world and I realized in that moment – those many tiny moments – that I had been desperately using stuff to portray a better image of me to the world.
What I had been inadvertently doing was trying to be a version of me that I believed was better than who I actually was.
I realized that a thought I had – a thought that was probably so quick in the moment that I didn’t even realize I had it – was “This house will make me seem more legit. People will believe me more as a photographer if they come to this house.”
People would say things like, “This house has perfect stairs for prom photos.” and it was like, “YES, finally, I am the mom with the good location for prom pictures.”
The clothes I wore – again without realizing it – because our thoughts move so fast…I would buy those chunky necklaces that were trendy back in the 2010’s – I actually hate these necklaces… but other people who I liked and admired and had deemed BETTER than myself – they were wearing them, so I bought them. I bought those trendy scarves that made me feel like I was drowning because other beautiful women wore them.
So, here I sit, in my big, olive colored, over-sized reading chair with a book in my hand that I believe was Wayne Dyer and I shut the book, went upstairs and grabbed a garbage bag on the way.
I went into the closet, and looked up at the rows of clothing I had, and asked myself, “What are the items I always reach for but never let myself wear?”
You see I lived by that mindset that so many of us women live by. “Oh, I just wore that recently.” “I really should wear this shirt – it’s newer and I haven’t worn it yet.”
Instead of making up bulshit excuses I asked myself, “Self, what are the things you always WANT to wear.”
I grabbed those items, it was mostly black and white, loose fitting, open necked shirts and American Eagle jeans – I at least knew my jean style at this point. Thank you to my flat butt for making me hunt for good jeans in my teen years.
Then I did one more round through my closet asking, “OK, what goes with these items? Like I kept a zip up hoodie, i have to make sure I have a tank top that goes under it”…that type of thing.
After that i just started stuffing, I started stuffing everything else into the garbage bag and I KNOW I still hung onto some stuff - like maybe my favorite scarf – the one I didn’t absolutely hate wearing – and one chunky necklace – the one that matched one of the dresses I kept. Things like that.
The reason I did this wasn’t because I had read a book that said cleaning my house would be so relieving or because I bought into one more organizational blog post about how to keep things clean – I had tried all that shit and none of it worked for me anyway.
What I was doing here was trying to get rid of any fake images I had been conveying to the world - I was on a hunt to find myself.
And I kept at this, I kept at this so long, for so many years.
I’ve told the story a thousand times about how after my grandma died, I went to my mom’s house to declutter HER stuff which I later realized just gave me something to do to distract myself from my inner pain.
Well, more hurt just kept coming – My step dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Tom’s uncle passed away, my step dad died from his cancer after a 3 year battle – and I cared for him in his final days and I’m telling you when you are helping the 6 foot plus tall man who raised you from ages 2 to 10 is suddenly weak and you’re feeding him and you’re helping him go to the bathroom – everything just feels wrong. AND YOU’RE YOUNG and he’s YOUNG – and when you got there he was eating CANDY and 3 days later he’s not talking anymore and you’re listening to him breathe instead of sleep because you don’t know if he’s going to stop.
That shit hurts – and you know what…when you come home….and you’ve already decluttered all your shit and you’ve cleaned the entire house and there is nothing left to distract you – well, I sunk into the deepest depression I have ever experienced in my life.
And I’m so thankful for it.
I can look back now on hard times in my life and see where I shoved my feelings down, where I powered on instead of feeling in…where I distracted myself with shopping instead of asking why the hell I was so unhappy.
In the letting go of my stuff, I did a lot of letting go of those shoved down feelings, I faced them head on, I learned to see why I held onto certain things, what things I held onto for the wrong reasons and why….
And then there was nothing else to let go of, nothing to donate and no choice but to just feel because I refused to distract with something new. No shopping - no drinking…
Losing my step dad broke me open – and it felt like every last piece of junk stuck inside of me was released – slowly and steadily – but released none the less.
Now I feel everything – and I don’t have highs and lows. I’m just genuinely content 99.9% of the time. And it all started by letting go.
Letting go and letting God – that was something I heard so much growing up but didn’t know how to do it.
My basic idea was ok, I’ll just like speak a prayer toward the sky, hope God hears and then I’ll just keep stressing and panicking down here like we mortals do.
No, it’s actually letting go. Letting go of the stuff you don’t want to let go of.
Whether that be a pair of shoes or the anger and resentment you have toward your parents. It’s letting go of the belief that worrying enough will somehow help you shape your own destiny or that carrying around bitterness forever will somehow punish those that wronged you.
It’s letting go of the clothes that you wear for other people. It’s letting go of the belief that you need to be anything for anyone else.
It’s letting go.
And it is mother f-ing hard.
But I quite literally could never go back.
People might hear this and think, “OH my gosh, that sounds like so much work. No way, that’s too scary. That’s too hard.”
And I get it. It is all of those things – but I’m realizing now how conditional my happiness was before I learned to let go. I could only be happy if all the conditions were perfect, if the weather was perfect, if no one said anything wrong or looked at me weird.
Happiness was conditional on a THING on a house, on PEOPLE and now happiness just is.
You couldn't pay me to go backward to a place where I might fit in better because I could casually laugh with a group of women about the obscene amounts of money I spent on Amazon and fit in with all of them all while panicking about the credit card debt I was wracking up.
You couldn’t pay me to go back to a place where I stored up all my anger so well that it wound up being spewed out at the people I love the most – although I still struggle with this from time to time #stillhuman
This is why minimalism for me. I’ve recently decided it’s spiritual minimalism. It’s healing. It’s therapy. It’s self realization – and self detachment. So when I say it’s not about the stuff – this is what I mean.