My sister knows what life is about. She is wise and funny and purposeful. She’s my best friend and her advice guides my heart.
Now, I read this book and called my sister (to have the magic call) about two weeks after my dad died. My dad left us quickly and unexpectedly. He lived a wild, passionate life and I do not believe he left with any regrets.
He left behind two girls that love him to no end.
He left two girls, now women, that are just as wild and fiery and passionate and sensitive as he was. My dad gave my sister and I many wonderful memories and gifts and he also left us with very sensitive, nostalgic hearts.
We are so thankful for these tender hearts but we also openly admit that our hearts made us hold onto so much stuff.
Like our dad, we kept everything that reminded us of all the wild and all the wonderful. We felt sentiment for inanimate objects and the way they made us feel. This created apartments full of clutter and competing energies.
So, after reading the tidying book I called my sister to talk this thing through. I sat on my bed and I talked about how amazing the book was. How revolutionary! How exciting!
“But you know what sister, I could never give away my books. Never. Books are so life giving. I’ll never give those away.”
“But Bonnie,” sister said. “think about all the space and energy those books are taking up. Do they truly spark joy? Each and every one?”
No. No way! Most of these books I had already read, planned to read, or never planned to read but liked they way it looked to have tons of books in my apartment.
So, while still on the phone with my sister I piled up all of my books, I held each one and asked if it sparked joy. I gave away 200 books that day.Let me repeat that- TWO. HUNDRED. BOOKS.
What was I doing with all of those books? I’ll tell you what I was doing, I was letting those books say something about me. I liked that the books told people I was a reader. “Hey everyone! Look at all of these books I’ve read!”
I do love reading but in reality I spent more time dusting and organizing those books than I did reading them!
After letting go of those first two hundred books I realized something, I was focusing on the wrong thing. I was letting things and stuff speak for me instead of speaking for myself.
I was wearing clothes that I thought I should wear and surrounded myself with stuff I thought I should have.
We do this because we’re told to do this. Society tells us that to be happy and cool and whole that we have to surround ourselves with things.
They tell us that if we want to be successful we have to look the part. We have to dress a certain way and to own certain things, but you know what I’ve found? The most successful and happy people do not let “stuff” speak for them.
Think of the people we admire: Mother Teresa, Gandhi, The Pope, Jesus, The Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai- I could go on but I think you get the point.
These people are not admired for the stuff they have. They are admired for the life they have lived.
We are told that stuff will make us into the person we are meant to be but, in reality, we all know that to be the person we want to be we have to work from the inside out. Stuff keeps us from doing the internal work we need to become our most true and authentic selves.
I used to let my clothes and my stuff define me. Now that I don’t have that stuff anymore I have been able to be and be with my true self.
I know who I am and what I am here to do more authentically because I am not hiding behind my stuff. I do not let stuff speak for me anymore. When I am gone and remembered by those that love me I do not want them to say, “Oh Bonnie Rae, what great style she had, and what an avid reader she was!” No. Hell no. I want them to say, “Bonnie Rae was so kind. She was a helper. She was a mover and shaker.” The good stuff comes from within.
Minimalism, decluttering, and simplifying have given me the space and the time to get to know myself. When you can’t constantly organize and tidy you have more time to be quiet and to reflect. You end up finding out who you really are, just you, without the stuff.
We don’t want to deal with the discomfort and the messiness of being human, so we shop and we hide in our homes with all of our purchases.
Stop hiding. Let go of your things and step into the light of who you are.
Isn’t it wild that letting go of something as silly as books and clothing can teach us all that? My capsule wardrobes have shown me what my style is, who I am, and they’ve let my personality shine instead of what I’m wearing.
After one whole year of sorting, decluttering, and capsule wardrobes I own just 35 clothing items. This includes shoes, accessories, coats, purses, belts- all of it.
These 35 items carry me through each season, each special event, and every regular day (whether it’s a work day or the weekend). These items are beautiful and they spark joy in my heart, but they do not define me. I define me. The way I treat others defines me, not my clothes.
It took me a while to get here. It took me a year to let go of my stuff and to stop hiding behind it. But now that I am here I have never been more happy, more awake, more alive.
What are you holding onto that defines you? What story is your stuff telling? What is your stuff keeping you from?
Let it go. Step away from your stuff and move toward the person you are. Refine and define your things, don’t let them define you.
Bonnie Rae xx
p.s. I only own two books now. One gardening book from my dad and one vegan cook book from sister. I no longer worry about my possessions, I’m too busy living.