17 October 2012

I get it from my mama. Or maybe not.

This one is going to be a bit long, so stay with me.

Growing up, our house was always clean. Always. Mom was a firm believer in "cleanliness is next to godliness" or something. We could make all the mess of strewn toys we wanted throughout the day, but at the end of the day it had to be cleaned up and put away. Properly. None of this stuffing shit under the bed or kicking it in the closet. No sir. There was a place for everything, and everything better be in its place.

Now, my mom was not nasty, or abusive, or all drill-sargeanty about it. She even allowed us to make fun of her a little for CLEANING THE HOUSE THE NIGHT BEFORE THE MAID SERVICE CAME. Who does that shit? My mom. She just taught us to keep things clean, and not just on the surface. Surface clean was for every day. Thursdays? That's when the real cleaning happened (unless it was during the time period when she had a maid service come in on Thursdays, which meant that Wednesday became the day that the real housecleaning got done). I digress. The point is that my mom taught us good things, and admitted that sometimes, she was anal/OCD/extreme about some of them.

Dad was a firefighter, Mom was a SAHM. We always had enough (and then some), but we also took advantage of having such a large extended family. We wore a lot of hand-me-down clothing (we also got new clothes at the start of every school year, at Christmas, etc), and we passed on a lot of clothing when we outgrew it. All this handing down and passing around of clothing meant that we did several closet purges each year. These closet purges extended throughout the house.

The long and short of this reminiscing about my mom is that we never had a shortage of storage space, and the house was always clean.

In many ways, I am much like my mother. I can't stand clutter. I also can't stand a dirty house, although I am not as extreme as she is. See, I don't care which way the lines in the carpet run after I vacuum; my mom not only wants straight-line-vacuuming, she has a specific direction those lines must go in each part of the house.

I think my constant purges are a result of my family life. There is no denying that our childhoods shape us forever. I'm glad my mom tried to shape me well. It isn't her fault that addiction took years from me. It is to her credit that I have some values again now that I am in recovery.

Those values are in evidence when I purge my closet, or gripe at Sunshine for leaving teeshirts stuffed in the couch. Those values are definitely in evidence when Sunshine's stuffs and things start taking over the magic bus.  Those values are evident when I am saying "I need to vacuum the floor" and Sunshine is saying "the floor is OK".

However, I am also different from my mom. Throughout the years, my mom started collecting eggs and Snowbabies. This is where we begin to differ. I don't collect much. I have a number of giraffes, but most of them are carefully stored. I have a number of clothes and shoes, but I am constantly getting rid of the old ones to make way for the new. Somehow, I didn't develop a sentimental attachment to photos and stuffs and things that help people preserve memories and keep them fresh. I have one shoebox filled with mementos and pictures.

I stumbled across something recently that has me on the verge of getting rid of even that box. I found my way to The Minimalists web site and was transfixed. I was fascinated. I found their lifestyle so enticing, so hauntingly beautiful. You should go check it out. Even if you aren't attracted to their extreme version of minimalism, (and there are others who are even more extreme), they'll probably make you think about things a bit differently. Read their essay on Tyler Durden of Fight Club fame. It's eye opening, and has me wanting to download the movie so I can watch it again and again. (Some asshat STOLE my two disc special edition of the movie and I have yet to find a replacement. I quit looking.)

After getting lost in the rabbit hole reading many of The Minimalists' essays yesterday, I began purging my closet. I am also going to undertake the monumental journey towards their style of minimalism. I doubt I'll make it as far as they have; I have found some deep, meaningful connections through The Band that are so easily maintained through the interwebs, and I live too far from any real city to do without my satellite teevee service for entertainment.

Living with Sunshine, and all his stuffs and things, I doubt very seriously I'll ever get my home to look like one of The Minimalists, but I can certainly get my magic bus closer to this ideal than it is now. There is such beauty in this kind of simplicity, and even if Sunshine doesn't choose it for himself, I can still live it for me.

I have often talked about how we are doing more with less, but some of the things I read yesterday made me realize how full of shit I am.

I still have attachments to lots of superfluous things. I still fall into that trap laid by ad-men that tells me I might need this thing, or I might not look 'cool' enough if I eliminate some of my overstock of clothes and shoes. I still have fears and these fears cause me to hold on to stuffs and things.

In some ways, I blame my dear Aunt Becky for this new journey. I talked about simplifying my life for a possible future post for her Life on the Frugal Side site. Somehow, that dear Aunt Becky of mine seems to be a catalyst for some of the most beautiful things in my life (like The Band, and helping me get OK with a rambling thought process, and being OK with not being able to find my pants). It was through some brief google-fingering I was doing for that possible future post that I came across minimalism.

So, folks, today I announce my intention to begin a journey toward minimalism. Today, I begin to really look at each and every thing I own, and start getting rid of the ones that do not enrich my life. Today, I begin to clear up space in my home and my mind. Today, I renounce my attachment to material things and start to get rid of them. Today, I take what my mama taught me and try and take it to a new level. I may not ever reach the level that The Minimalists have inspired me with, but I believe that it is a process, and that we strive for growth--not perfection.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes. It's going to be interesting. It's going to call on all of the spiritual principles I have learned in recovery, because it is going to have me really examining myself in depth. It is going to have me questioning all that secret fear that still hides deep inside, and hopefully I can walk through that fear.

Today, I begin to face the clutter, and the clutter is me.


  1. I will freely admit that I don't think this is something I could do, and I wish you much luck on your journey towards your new lifestyle:)

    1. I will freely admit that my addiction sort of trained me for this sort of lifestyle, too. I gave up so much in my active phase of my disease that I got used to having little.

  2. I feel drawn toward minimalism.

    I think it is partly born out of my years of growing up with a hoarder (there are days when I just want to run through my living space and throw.away.all.the.things). It also stems from the last five years of living in a hotel room - you can't fit too much in one small room that has to hold three people.

    But at the same time, I still have things in a storage space in our old town that I think about, and want to have with me. Mostly sentimental things. Pictures are a big deal, although I have been able to put most of my pictures on discs, so they don't actually take up that much room. I have probably two or three small boxes of "memory stuff" I would like to hold onto even though a lot of it wouldn't hold much value for anyone but me.

    And let me be honest....books and dvds. Especially books. I have far too many books to be allowed into any minimalist club. But I don't honestly see any change there.

    I will say that I watch shows on HGTV, and feel overwhelmed by the amount of space and rooms people are looking to buy for their two or three person families.

    1. Most of those people on HGTV who "need more space" really just need to quit hoarding shit. They also need to learn to get along instead of needing separate spaces for each activity performed by each family member.

      As for books and CDs, we've made the switch to iPods (although I was kind of dragged kicking &I screaming because ai gate compressed audio) and I believe that an ereader is in Sunshine's christmas stocking. He reads and reads, but living in a magic bus means no room for all. The. Books. I can't deny him the reading. Reading is good, reading is beautiful, reading is necessary. So, I'm thinking ereader.

      I personally need some of this clutter, stuffs, and things to be gone. It is a constant physical, mental, and emotional drag. I just hope I can get Sunshine to keet me somewhere in the middle.

  3. I always think I'd like to live Minimalist, but I realize with my hoarding of sentimental things, my love of books and two kids it's never gonna happen. I do frequently purge clothes and such. I try not to buy everything I want, but we have four bookcases in our dining room for all.the.books. It's a disease.
    If I lived in a smaller space, I think it would be simpler. Good luck to you, my friend!

    1. Books? Are not a disease. Books are a meams of educating, of broadening horizons, of opening the world up. I think, for us, though, an e-reader is a good compromise as there REALLY is no room to store the things we read.

  4. I'm not sure I could manage minimalism, my stuff (not that there's much of it) makes me feel safe.

    I grew up in house where if you walked away from the dinner table mid dinner (for any reason) your space was cleared. Which is probably why you'll get a fork through the hand if you take my food these days.

    I grew up in a house where if you were reading the newspaper and you left the room for any reason it was tossed in the trash before you got back.

    More than one member of my family has answer the door/phone clutching a dinner plate/newspaper /assorted other items.

    Even today mom tears out the pages she reads of the newspaper and throws the rest in the recycling bin when the paper arrives in the morning.

    Think that's why my brother always has a backpack and I always have a huge handbag, we need our stuff with us. We're traumatized from our childhood. LOL (sort of)

    1. We are shaped by our childhood, for sure. Keep your things if they comfort you. I will probably always hoard toilet paper, because my aloe plus E tissue comforts me.