I Am Free

Five years, that’s all it took.

Five years of stuff in a house we were made to believe we may outgrow—but all of it was too much.

Stuff pouring out of every closet, every room, every storage unit purchased to house more of said stuff.

We’d bought more, bigger furniture to make the house feel full and comfortable and lived-in, only we made it worse—drowning in all of our stuff.

Owned by stuff.

It started in preparation for a move to Seattle.

My sister- and brother-in-law live out there and they gave me the “lay of the land”.

Their requirements for waste and recycling and compost, at first, seemed over-the-top.

That’s unrealistic, I thought. To require city occupants all over the city—at home, businesses, restaurants, everywhere—to designate refuse properly.

If your trash exceeds the balance of your recycling and compost output, you’ll get a warning. You do it again and you’ll be fined.

I liked the idea, though. I wanted the move bad enough that I decided to practice a less wasteful lifestyle at home in Florida well before my family of five was thwarted into the change after the already stressful cross-country move.

Naturally, with less waste came less stuff.

The more you buy, the more waste you tend to produce. Simple enough.

I dove into researching minimalism and more on “zero waste living” to help pare down the things we didn’t really need.

I started with the “easy areas” — like the unused or expired products under the bathroom sink and the clear plastic bins in the garage that hadn’t been touched in five years.

Within a month, my stressors regarding “stuff” diminished.

Scouring YouTube for continued inspiration, I thought, maybe, if I cleared off the countertops of all the clutter, I might start to feel less anxiety and more willing (and easier) to clean the house instead of slaving away for simply a tidy-looking home.

And it worked.

Outside of my kids regular messes that irk me (but I have to suck up so they can learn responsibility in cleaning up after themselves), I found things much easier to keep clean and organized.

Because there were no longer loads of stuff everywhere.

I continued paring down in every room, moving onto the kids’s stuff, more of my stuff, unnecessary furnishings and weathered decor and more and more until soon my affection toward stuff lessened further.

It wasn’t the stuff or even the photos that held the good feelings, it was the memories themselves—the experiences.

Some things sparked joyful memories, and other things did not.

But looking at the photographs of these items felt just as good as the physical item itself.

So I boxed sentimental bits and bobs and offered them to family members who looked at me like I was losing my mind.

How can you get rid of this? Their expressions saddled by shock.

It just doesn’t hold the same value as it used to for me. But maybe it does for you.

It was never meant as an insult to others—it was and is, simply, a choice.

The act of decluttering was making me feel lighter, it was making me happier because I had less stuff to care for—less crap to worry about.

My stuff no longer owned me.

Instead, the surviving items actually get used and used often—no more “rainy day” stuff or stacks of sentimental boxes I just couldn’t bring myself to part with.

It started with something easy, something that wouldn’t mean anything to me if it was gone. It was no longer an addiction to stuff, but instead, it grew into a desire for peace — peace of mind and peace of heart.

No more shopping to make myself “feel better”.

No more stacks or storage boxes or drawers crammed full of stuff.

No more full-time job cleaning my own house.

No more junk.

I am free.


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