Spring Cleaning Inspired by the Perpetual Pursuit of Minimalism - & What's In My Way

Monday, April 10, 2017

I read Marie Kondo's cult-favorite Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last January, & like so many people, I had mixed feelings about it (which I wrote about back then). I found the author's tone deeply annoying & stilted, which I chalked up to a bad Japanese-to-English translating job, & some of her advice felt truly absurd. I'm never, for example, going to fold a perfect underwear drawer - but I did find some elements of her "tidy" lifestyle to be really appealing.

I've moved so many times that I don't have a ton of extra stuff, really. When you move approximately once a year, you learn pretty quickly to pare down your possessions, keeping only what matters - & yet, there always seems to be too much. Still. 

I have too many clothes, things I liked at the time of purchase but that don't fit me quite right or don't flatter me as well as I'd like & rarely get worn.

I have too many shoes, too, pairs that, as much as I like them, only come out of the closet when I want to switch it up from my usual go-to style - which, admittedly, isn't often.

I have too much food in my pantry, cans of stuff I probably won't make & don't even really like, & bags of quinoa & walnuts that I've over-purchased because I forget I've already got plenty.

I have too many tchotchkes on my shelves, items that don't necessarily make me happy & sometimes even annoy me just to look at, but they maintain their spots because, well, they go there, right?

I have too many books, ones I picked up at Little Free Libraries or library fundraisers, ones I'd like to read but will likely never get around to because they're not at the top of my list.

I have too many beauty items, Sephora samples that are probably already expired & expensive full-size products I got in subscription boxes but never even opened.

I'm not bad at getting rid of stuff - but I'm all too good at bringing in more stuff, at wanting & buying & recreating the problem all over again. It's hard on my shelves & on my wallet.

I have too much of everything, yet somehow, I catch myself wanting more. Why is that?

I've been thinking about it, & I think the answer, at least for me, is simple: Instagram.

When it's just me, in my home, looking around at my space, I recognize that I've got all I need - & sometimes more. But when I'm scrolling through social media, looking at all the beautiful ways other people have styled their lives? Their homes, their clothing, & their food, & even their damn bookshelves? That's when I start to want more than what I have, when I feel the urge to buy, buy, buy.

When I'm scrolling through Instagram or watching Insta-stories, I want lives that aren't mine. I want an apartment with more sunlight so I can take better photos. I want to eat tastier-looking food, own prettier home decor, wear more stylish clothes, learn to do my makeup better, organize my bookshelves in rainbow order... Of all the social media platforms, Instagram is my favorite, but it also makes it too damn easy to compare my life to others'. When I do that, I start to want things that are out of character for me - things I don't need, a life I don't need or even really want. A life with more stuff. "Better" stuff. Even as I'm trying to own less stuff!

The Jewish holiday of Passover starts tonight, & one of the traditions of in the lead-up to the holiday is, basically, spring cleaning - purging our homes of chametz, which literally means "leaven" but figuratively translates into anything oppressive in our personal environment. This times up nicely with my desire to do some good old spring cleaning anyway, & it feels especially pressing in advance of the big move.

So I'm throwing stuff out - & vowing not to replace it with a bunch of new crap that I'll eventually want to throw out, too. I will pursue minimalism, even if I know I'm always likely to be a person who likes & desires stuff. Passover is all about freedom, & in the modern day, that can be interpreted in lots of ways. For me, this year, the holiday is a reminder not to be beholden to my desire for more stuff, which is, in part, directly tied to my tendency to compare my life to the lives of others, especially those I can only see via the Internet.

In going through my belongings & trying to scale back, I keep telling myself: Life wasn't made to look good on the Internet. If it happens to look pretty on there, well, so be it - & I will keep trying for that because I enjoy it, within the confines of my normal, existing life. But I am not going to live for the likes, & I'm certainly not going to add more baggage to my life - literally - just so I can arrange it into a square shot for display on the Internet.

P.S.: Still wouldn't hate it if you wanted to follow me on Instagram. You can find me at @heyescapist.

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