Starting the Journey Towards Minimalism

For about a year now, I’ve hemmed and hawed over taking the leap towards minimalism. I’ve always loved the idea of it, but I’ve also always been a collector and a treasurer (no, not in the government money sense, but in a “one who treasures items” sort of way.) I swear, when I was little I had a doll collection, a bunny statue collection, a marble collection, a rock collection, a stuffed animal collection- you name it, I probably hoarded it.

So if keeping stuff is in my nature, why change that so completely? Well, my curious friend, that is because I get easily overwhelmed. And clutter in the home (aka my bedroom because I live in my parents’ home) just piles more onto that snowball. The bedroom should be a place where you can let yourself relax. But I’ve been noticing more and more that I enter my room and it adds even more weight onto my shoulders. The pile of old magazines I wanted to go through, the storage boxes stacked to the ceiling in my closet, the little knick-knacks EVERYWHERE, it all adds up and makes me so overwhelmed and anxious.

So, I had to make a choice: do I sacrifice piles and piles of stuff I rarely touch, or do I sacrifice my calm in my own home?

Okay, so it wasn’t that easy a decision. There’s a bunch of sentimental childhood stuff I’m going to have to sort through, and I can’t keep it all. I predict that that will be the hardest category to go through. Luckily for me though, my mom has a “grandchild toy stockpile” already going, that has our (my siblings’ and mine) old favorite toys and books that she’s keeping for when we have kids some day. So I can keep the REALLY special stuff, but I will still have to part with lots of, you guessed it, stuff!

But, honestly, it’s time for me to make the leap. I can’t live like this anymore. Woah, dramatic much, Annie? Really though, I have to do this for my own mental well-being.

And yes, I have read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I will be taking the general message of it (that everything you own should be useful or bring you joy) with me upon this journey. But no, I will not be doing a one-week purge or starting to fold my socks ;).

So, give me your best beginner minimalist tips in the comments! And stay tuned for updates!

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Advice from a Stubborn Person, to a Stubborn Person

I have an addiction to avoidance. Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but it is my unhealthy coping strategy of choice. Also, I have recently learned that I am a quite stubborn person. If I don’t want to do something, it doesn’t get done. The combination of these two traits leads to a lot of, “But I don’t wanna!” thoughts. Then I start to panic because I have to do something I don’t want to do. And the avoidance is telling me, “All this anxiety would disappear if you just escape.” (But it won’t, it’ll just add guilt into the mix.)

My therapist knows better than anyone else how stubborn I can be. But she said something that gave me a lot of comfort. She basically said that I have a whole lot of strength in me that (almost) all goes towards being stubborn. But if I can learn to harness that strength, I can use it to go towards getting shit done.

Of course my next comment was, “HOW CAN I DO THAT, I WANT THAT NOW PLEASE.” And it turns out the solution to harnessing the strength you have inside of you (that goes towards negative habits) is to find a way to work around it so that it goes towards your positive goals. Maybe I can’t make myself compliant to doing things I don’t want to do, but want I can do is work with the stubbornness and find a way to want the things I have to do.

I don’t know if that made any sense, so let me give you an example: I never want to do homework. But what I do want is to feel satisfied and accomplished with the work I’ve done at the end of the day- I’m a sucker for completed to-do lists! So I take that want and work towards it, instead of working towards something I have no desire to do. So, basically, you must use your strength not to oppose something, and instead use it to work towards something, while you’re really working towards the same goal you set out in the first place. It’s all about changing your negative perspective into a more positive one.

To my future, mentally ill child

Dear child with a mental illness,

I am so sorry. And I want you to understand, I know some of what you are feeling. I may not know what it’s like to have your disorder, but I know the stress it carries with it. I am going to try my best to give you tips that have helped me through my battle, which is still going on as I am 16 and is probably still going on as you read this.

You probably have heard the phrase, “you’re not alone” a lot. Like so much that it’s lost its meaning. But it is important to realize that other people have felt this way and have survived. I’m not trying to minimize your struggle here, I’m just trying to remind you that it is 100% okay to reach out for help, because others can sympathize, and more often than you’d think, empathize with you. So please, don’t ever try to convince yourself that this is a road you need to walk alone. While it is true that this suffering is your own, the comfort of having a hand to hold along the journey is indescribable.

One of the turning points in my treatment was the day one of my (many) therapists finally asked me, “Do you want to get better?” I knew I wanted to BE better, so badly, but in that moment I had to address that recovery/treatment/coping is a long, hard journey. Before then, I had always been hoping for a shortcut to getting better, or just to wake up and be better. But I finally had to commit that: I will get better. I will do the sometimes excruciating work to get there. It will be far from easy. I will relapse, I will panic, but most of all I will keep walking. I deserve to be better. You have to want treatment, and it will be the hardest thing you’ll do, but you have to keep working.

I hold onto my dreams to keep me going. I want to fall in love. I want to have kids (yep, you keep me going.) I want a career I love. I want to make a difference. These seem like lofty goals to where I am now- barely leaving the house, anxious all the time. But if you hold onto your dreams (imagine the life you’d want if you weren’t ill), they will keep you going, because I promise you, they are attainable and if you keep working, they will be yours.

Now I must break the news to you, and contradict everything I have been writing: there is no “better.” You will not wake up and never have a bad day again. It’s more like you will wake up and realize that you’ve had more good days than bad days. And that the pain of the bad days is so worth the sweet, sweet good days. That time will come (don’t worry, I’m waiting on it too) and it will be so amazing. I promise. You will look back and realize how strong you were for getting through these dark times.

I’m afraid I’ve been harsh on you, or that maybe I’ve offended you in this letter. That was not my intention. I just want someone to be honest with you, because I wish someone had been honest with me a lot sooner. Maybe that’s what this whole letter has been: writing it for myself instead of for you. I’m sorry.

Feel free to disregard any parts of this letter, if you wish, but if you take nothing else out of this take this: I know how much this sucks. I know you’ve been dealt a crappy hand of cards, I know you must start the race a mile behind everyone else, and I know that this is so unfair. But I also know you have all the strength you need inside of you to beat the game, to win the race, and to overcome. It may not feel like it, but I promise you do. And the memories of starting in last place will make winning first place so sweet. So please, please, please stick around to get there. Life will get better. You will fall in love, you will have adoring fans, you will travel the world, whatever you want WILL come to you. You just have to survive to get past last place. I promise you that the pain you’re feeling will not kill you. You have the strength to survive another day, and the day after that, so do it. I am here for you. I cannot rid you of the pain, but I can promise you I will be right next to you for the whole road forward.

You are so brave and so strong for surviving. I love you no matter what.

Love, your Mama