Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been writing many blog posts lately. I have been in a bit of a funk, and I’m having a hard time pulling out of it to get anything done. A couple weeks ago I had a small epiphany as to why that is (at least partially).
When I started on the path to decluttering and downsizing, I wasn’t planning to be a minimalist. Along the way, it just happened. As I let go of long-held possessions, I broke the mental attachment to those things. The more stuff I let go of, the more mental attachments were broken.
Mental attachment is the reason we find it hard to let go of items. Physically, we can toss them in the trash, donate them, or sell them, but mentally, we have to adjust do doing so. I grew up with the “keep it just in case” philosophy. Going from “keep it just in case I might need it someday” to “keep it if it sparks joy or is a necessity” was a huge leap.
That leap doesn’t happen overnight. The initial spark might happen overnight, or with an ‘aha’ moment. My ‘aha’ moment happened on a bike ride when I told my wife that I no longer enjoyed our house and was thinking about downsizing to an apartment. I was shocked that my wife agreed. We had never really discussed our living situation since moving into our house 10 years prior, and it was surprising to hear that she also felt that it was time to move on.
That was the spark that led to a massive decluttering, our Big Purge. During this time I broke mental attachments with stuff, over and over and over again. Clothing, tools, computer parts, nuts and bolts, unused electronics.
During this time my respect for the items I chose to keep and the respect for myself grew. We started using the ‘nice’ dishes and glassware, I started wearing my ‘good’ t-shirts, and I started to take more care in how I dressed and presented myself.
It took us another year until we finally made the leap and put our house on the market. When it finally sold I broke one of my most massive mental attachments. The attachment to a house. A house became a place to live – period. I like to have some comforts in my living space, but I no longer needed the keep up with the McMansion owners.
Throughout the decluttering and downsizing something shifted. That something was my ideals. My standard of excellence had changed from having the biggest / the best / the most to having enough. My life philosophy shifted and I began placing more value in experiences than I did in owning stuff.
Along the path to becoming a minimalist, the question, “Does it spark joy?” shifted from being about stuff to being about life itself. I began asking myself that question in broader terms and I discovered that joy doesn’t come from owing a bunch of stuff, but through experiences and relationships.
After downsizing to an apartment we had more free time and spending money. We started doing more fun stuff. Some were simple things like going to the movies or having a nice dinner out, while others were larger in scale, like Caribbean cruises and weekends at the beach.
I lived those ideals for three years, and everything was going great.
Then, late last year my wife fell in love with a house. It was her dream house. The time since then has been difficult for me, but I had a hard time identifying why it was so difficult. We worked through our differences and I agreed to move ahead with the purchase of the house, but this house has not held any joy for me.
I feel broken in a sense. I mean… what normal person moves into a beautiful new house and doesn’t feel joy? The old me would have loved it, but the new me felt a combination of ambivalence and dissatisfaction.
It’s not completely about the house itself, but all the things that come with it – maintenance work, extra cleaning, the distancing of our family as we have more space to isolate ourselves, and the extra/increased expenses including electricity, water, lawn service, pest control, pool service.
I thought I could go along with it. After all, I had broken my mental attachment to housing, and I felt as though I could live anywhere.
The problem is that our new home doesn’t align with my ideals. This is the small epiphany that came to me. My changing ideals kind of snuck up on me as a side effect of decluttering and downsizing. While the change in ideals occurred slowly over the course of a few years, the resultant change is drastic.
The life I am currently living is not aligned with my ideals. That is the problem I am currently struggling with.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I’m planning to discuss what all this means for our future.