A Journey to Minimalism – Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway?

We’re onto Day Six now of this 21 Day journey, nearly a quarter of the way through. The guidance post today was a bit more thought-provoking than the others I’ve read so far. Previously, the Minimalists have spoken mostly of the physicality of Minimalism – the reduction of things, only having to use what you need in the moment, the space you’ll create. But today they’ve moved onto (to me) a much stronger motivator for pursuing this lifestyle. The emotional side. How having less, using what you need and stepping back from a consumerist lifestyle can actually enrich your wellbeing, not just your bank balance. They’ve decided to start on the topic of fear.

Fear is a pertinent theme to start on. I think we are all scared, all the time. It seems to be in-built, part of the human condition, to question ourselves in every action and reaction. There are very few people truly capable of throwing caution to the winds, living life in the moment. Maybe I’m just speaking for myself but I feel that many of us always have a bit of anxiety following us everywhere we go. Much of the time, this is useful. It is a form of self-preservation. Fear stops us from doing stupid or harmful things. By being able to think through the risks and consequences of our actions we hope to prevent future mistakes or poor decision making.

Now, I have always respected my own fear in relation to the above. It has protected me, it has driven me to try and make good decisions, to work harder, to achieve more. But I also recognise that I have let fear and worry take over a huge part of my life. I probably give my fear more respect than is necessary or appropriate. More respect than it deserves. I want to be completely honest. I am too worried too much of the time. My closest friends know this about me – I worry about everything. The big stuff (i.e. exams, relationships, my health and others) – that makes sense to have a bit of concern about. But when those worries relate to the minutiae of my life, that’s when it gets too much. I can be paralysed by decision-making over the most insignificant things.

Take, for example, my decision to follow this 30 Day Challenge, also laid out by the Minimalists. I’m onto the fourth day now and have so far let go of 6 things (1+2+3). I need to get rid of four today. It is not getting any easier – every time I sort through my stuff I’m terrified I’m making some sort of terrible mistake. And it gets ridiculous – my thoughts turn to the extreme as I look over my stuff. But what if I want to show those books to my children? What if I need those earrings later? What if this doesn’t work out? What if? What? What if, what?! It’s all too much. Why do I feel the need to dedicate so much mental time, space and anguish to such simple issues?

If I think rationally, I am fully aware of my own capacity to forget these worries and concerns all too soon. Once the stuff is gone, it is likely also expelled from my mind. Out of sight, out of mind so to speak. Most of the stuff I have got rid of has been hidden away in drawers or under my bed for years anyway, it hasn’t really been part of my life in that time. The only use it has had has been to hold myself slightly closer to the past. I worry by getting rid of the stuff I will lose those links. But letting go the stuff doesn’t mean I have to leave behind who I am too. That’s clearly not how it works. Who we are, who we will be, is fluid anyway and clearly completely unrelated to the stuff around us. We are shaped by other people, our situations, by the completely random movements of the world around us. Who we are is completely chaotic and cannot be put in boxes. By the end of this process, I will still have the fantastic memories of my childhood, my family, my friends – everything I need to keep me supported and happy. And the world will keep turning – so nothing else matters.

To prove this to myself, I took my first big step today and got rid of all the games and electronics that I’d had growing up. I’ve not used them for years, they’ve been sat there, dust gathering over their shiny displays. I’ve moved on but they haven’t. Until recently I regarded my old Wii and the DS with a faint sense of embarrassment – they are not objects of charm or even that personal to me, everyone I knew growing up had one. So why did I let them gain emotional value? Anyhow, I’ve finally faced my fear and sold them on, never to be seen again. And I can’t lie, I feel pretty good about it. That supposed recklessness, the fear of regret – those thoughts are smaller now, only hours on. So yeah, I agree with the Minimalists. In this case, there is nothing to be scared of, so far I have only gained from this experience.

Just wait til I have to sort through my old school stuff though, then there’ll be trouble.

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