My minimalism journey began in the same way as many others: with decluttering material possessions. There were some relapses every now and then, especially with the arrival of my first baby because I bought a lot of things that I thought would make motherhood an easier journey (haha, the joke is on me! All they really want is mama). Eventually the clutter started to annoy me and I got rid of many of our things again.
When I became a mother, the mental clutter also began to pile up. Aside from the existing concerns, there were new parenthood-related things to think about. I am also an anxious person so there was more going on in my head than should be. It always got to a point wherein I get so stressed and end up releasing the negative emotions at home. Two weekends ago, I finally decided enough was enough. I threw everything out the window. I asked my husband to take care of everything else while I take a break and only do what I needed to do in a day and thankfully he was supportive in that. As the days went on, I realized that I am also able to apply some advice on material decluttering to my mental decluttering process.
1) One of my favorite advice on how to start decluttering is to box up everything you currently own and then just take an item out of the box whenever you are going to use them. For example if you are going to take a shower and dress up for work, you take out the towel, soap, shampoo, a set of clothes for work. If you don’t need socks for that day, you don’t take them out even if you think you’ll need them later on. The following days, you take out more needed items from the boxes.
In my mental decluttering, I listed down everything that was on my mind and cleared my thoughts to get to a blank slate, then I selected the daily needs (eat, bathe, sleep, work, put the baby to sleep) and stuck to those items for a few weeks.
2) If you want to add something, you have to let go of something else. You have to choose which one is more important or meaningful to you right now – the new thing you want to add, or the old thing that you currently have. In my case, I currently have some free time at night. I need to make a choice whether I want to keep that free time for my hobbies or replace it with something else from my list of activities such as exercising.
I decided to stick to my minimal list of activities for at least a week or two in order to get used to it. So far, I’ve noticed that having this list in my mind of basic activities has quieted the noise around me. In the past I would immediately join a lot of technical meetups, trainings, and other career advancement opportunities almost every week. To me they are like the big red SALE signs in stores. Recently though, whenever some event pops up, I first think to myself if it is in alignment with my ultimate goals, if it is something I really need, and if I do – do I really need it now or can it wait? I’ve discovered that many of them can still be achieved later on, some of them are not really in alignment with my goals, and some of them I don’t really need.
I also want to mention that in a stroke of serendipity, I started reading Leo Babauta’s book “The One Skill: How mastering the Art of Letting Go will change your life” the day after I decided to let go of my mental clutter. It helped me realized I was holding on to so many ideals and it was definitely time to let go.