I am now 3 weeks into my journey to minimalism and I am still just as determined and enthused as I was from the start. As I mentioned in the beginning, once you take inventory of your life and decide to take drastic measures towards minimizing, it can be quite overwhelming. I am here to tell you, it’s still overwhelming. I am the type of person that once I set my mind to something, I accomplish whatever it may be as quick and efficiently as possible. I still have to tell myself that this is a SLOW process that is going to take daily effort and patience.
So far, I have continued to give myself 3 tasks per week (i.e. go through junk in office drawers, hanging clothes, books). Surprisingly, these tasks have been accomplished faster than I would have originally thought. Sure, I have gone through my clothes before (many times actually), but now I am looking at everything I own through new eyes. I have chosen to only keep the items that I LOVE. Therefore, saying “no” to other items is no sweat. I have now said goodbye to about 75% of my clothes AND SHOES! I had kept so many items over the years just in case I thought I might wear them again, and yet they sat in my closet for years mostly untouched. I have many beautiful heels as well and I absolutely NEVER wear them. Again, I am the type of woman to always choose comfort over fashion, so parting ways with these painful devils is easy. What has NOT been easy is deciding what to do with all these clothes and shoes. My first instinct is to get rid of them as soon as possible which would mean donating everything. In my mind, I have enough things to go through and donating is always the kind thing to do. However, I have to remember the goal of this journey is to establish financial freedom. This means I need to always make the extra effort to sell what I can, as much as it pains me. So along with having 3 tasks of things to go through a week, I will also continue to try and sell 1 to 2 items a week. So far, I have sold all my books for $120! The next step will be to sort out my clothes and take them in to a nearby thrift store and/or attempt to sell them online. I’m not sure why I dread this particular chore so much, but I suppose I can’t love every part of this process.
What I have also noticed through this journey is that by taking inventory of all the things I own, I am also becoming more mindful about how I FEEL about my things. I’ll give you an example. A couple years into practice, I found myself in need of a new purse. At the time, I felt the need to reward myself for all of my hard work and maybe upgrade to a $350 Coach purse. It was a large purse in a neutral white color that would “go with everything.” Now looking back on this purchase, I realize how uncomfortable it made me. Certainly, having a Coach purse carries a certain status. One that I thought I had earned. Strangely enough, when I went to work with my new purse, I found myself purposely covering it with my jacket or hiding it in a corner so that no one associated that status with me. I somehow seemed embarrassed and ashamed of my purchase. After doing some self-reflection, I realize that the status it brought was someone I was trying to be and not who I really am (much like the fancier car I’m selling). I still use this purse every day, but have no desire to get another one. Not as long as the straps hold out. I guess what I am trying to say is, I have spent unnecessary money trying to be what I thought I should be or what I thought others wanted me to be.
Piecing together the purchase choices I have made throughout my life, I have noticed other trends as well. I have always been grateful for what I have. However, I still felt pressured to have nicer and fancier things that I equated to self-improvement. I assumed that having a nicer car, a better wardrobe, and a more beautiful home determined my level of success. It is tough to be honest with yourself. For me, that has been one of life’s biggest struggles. If I am honest with myself, I know that I am not valued by what I own or what I wear. So part of this process is giving myself permission to be the happy minimalist that I always have been at my core. Having the support of my husband who is on this journey with me is also a bonus!
I recently read a great book called Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez that gave me even more incredible insight. Vicki explains that by figuring out your hourly wage and applying it to the things you purchase, you can equate that to your hours of life energy spent. Stick with me on this. Say you make $10 an hour. That means that every hour you work, you trade your life energy for $10. Now let’s say you have a bad habit of online shopping that lead you to spend $80 one night. That $10 of hourly wage into your $80 purchase equates to 8 hours of life energy spent. Eight hours that you could have spent “making a living” instead of “making a dying.” That could be a whole work day! Now was it worth it? Luckily, I am a strange girl that doesn’t like to shop. I have always had to work hard for my money, and therefore, have not had a strong desire to be a big spender. My problem is that with all the hard work I have done in my life…. I tell myself that I deserve more luxury. I am a 33 year old veterinarian. I deserve the nice toilet paper. I deserve a fancier car. I DESERVE a house on 3 acres. Well, although I am great at justifying that to myself, all of those things I feel I deserve come at a price. My life’s energy. What resonated the most with me in this book was when Vicki said, “Are your values and life purpose clear? Or are they out of focus buried under a lifestyle that doesn’t seem to fit?” It is definitely the latter for me.
This realization is even more important to grasp for all of those in the veterinary profession. Our profession is in a state of a mental health crisis for many reasons. Burnout is arguably one of the biggest. By adapting a more minimalist lifestyle, burnout is less likely to occur when working less hours and still doing what you love. Like so many of my colleagues, I am trading my hours of life energy to pay off student loans for what feels like the rest of my life. I can’t erase my student loans, but I can take myself out of the game that has pressured me to always want MORE. Instead, I am just changing my definition of more. Now I want more time with family, more traveling, more contributing to my community, more time to do the veterinary work that speaks to my heart. Time is precious. There is no truer statement than that. With that, I will continue to listen to my heart, realize that I am not valued for what I own or spend, and make better use of the time I have here on earth. Which hopefully means seeing more of it.
“I don’t even consider myself a part of society.” — Michael Scott