Tip 14 – Take photos of the items that are tough to part with

This time, I decided to go into my current box of memorabilia and let go of the easier ones to part with. I am using tip number 14 to help me be minimal, I might say this is a brilliant suggestion. I have discovered it softens the blow of parting with things.

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I am a very sentimental person. I saved letters given to me since kindergarten, all sorts of keepsakes, tokens, somethings-to-remember-me-by, and souvenirs. I saved them all. I didn’t keep them just to keep them. When I was feeling particularly sad or lonely, I would read some of the letters, or look at a particular item, and it would always warm my heart. I cherished them, kept them in a locked cabinet, until I didn’t. I don’t exactly remember how I got rid of them, but for dramatic purposes, I want to say I burned them.

In 2011, I moved here, to the United States. I can’t very well bring all of my things from the Philippines. My dad still lives there and he’s not throwing away anything. But the thought of my most treasured items left in a room, unguarded, uncared for. My secrets, my feelings, my life – they’re who I was and who I am. I felt vulnerable. So I burned them all. Only keeping but a few more recent and most treasured items at that time.

If I read Fumio Sasaki’s book back then, I would have thought to scan or take pictures of the things I let go before I did. I’m actually thankful I didn’t. Yes, currently it is helpful, but that was a different time. I had to move to a foreign country with nothing to get me by. I had to rely on myself, and the lessons I learned from the parts of me I burned. To draw strength, not from the physical things that I held on to, but from what they symbolized. I believed myself to be a stronger person at that time for having thrown those letters away.

I have said goodbye to my things in the past. I had to. It was very difficult, but I already know it’s not impossible.

Once you put your mind to it, there’s nothing you can’t get rid of. And once you start tossing things out, you find yourself wanting to get rid of everything.

Haruki Murakami. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: Man-Eating Cats

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Okay, definitely harder than I thought

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At my fourth attempt, I finally organized the collection of polaroid pictures I have. I saved all of them, even the botched ones. I can even tell you what they are from left to right – me under a pretty cool bridge in Naperville; my mom and her ex-boyfriend; my mom, my sister, and I; and my sister. The last three were taken on the same day. Then there are photos from my instax mini 8. I’m not going to describe them all, but these are the ones that I, after careful thought, don’t really care for. What did I save them for? Who knows. They’re in the trash now.

I know minimalism is not just about throwing things away, but that’s where you would start, right? It turns out, the things I own are 2% furniture/storage, 33% clothing and accessories, 5% decor, all of which are gifts/memorabilia, 7% functional belongings (laptop, camera, etc), 4% actual memorabilia (letters, photos and miscellaneous items), 46% books and art materials I am not ready to part with yet, and only 3% junk (Note: Percentages are a friction of my imagination and not a very accurate estimate). Maybe I have more junk than that but at this time, I don’t consider them as such.

Right now, I can officially say that I have gotten rid of all items in my room clearly labeled junk. I have several more things I know I’m going to have to say goodbye to. Not that I feel forced to because I’m doing this. It’s because I’m doing this that I have to. That didn’t sound clear in my head, not even as I write it down. But I don’t know how else to say it.

I hold on to a lot of thoughts and feelings I shouldn’t. Most of the time for the wrong reasons. It’s like living in the past, when clearly neither past nor future matters. It’s the present that matters. Yes, things that happen in the past shape who you are, and making future plans or goals give us direction, but when everything is over and done with, and before anything else happens, you’re stuck in the here and now. That’s what you need to focus on.

If I start with the mundane, maybe then I will be able to let go of other things holding me back.

Slow and steady, or so I think

I was able to find more junk.

Days two and three were not as easy as the first day of throwing things out. I have said initially, I generally have few belongings. The things I personally own, that I care for the most, fit my room and are stored in an organized manner. I have a very small room, therefore, not very many things fit in it.

I found many items I take, think about throwing, change my mind, and store them again. Nonetheless, I was able to scrape a few things I definitely say I could part with.

Who needs several types of glue anyway? It’s not like I’m in school and have all sorts of art projects I would need it for. Also, that big tube of black acrylic paint? I used it once. Once! The apple logo stickers that come in the box when buying a new iPhone. Yes, I kept them because I think someday I’ll want to stick them on something. I know that someday is never going to arrive.

I never considered myself a hoarder, but if I hadn’t decided to go through this, I think in the future, when I’m an old lady, I would live in an apartment by myself, own maybe three cats (I don’t own any pets, but if I would I think it would be a dog, but for this scenario, a cat is more fitting), a couch, a TV or whatever the future version of this is, a tea set, and everything else would be junk I hoarded over the years.

The junk in my drawer

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Day one of throwing things out, surprisingly easy, I have said before. I went in my art drawer and started throwing away a bunch of things.

  • Thumbsuckers notebook, and labels
  • Small plastic bag with twist ties
  • Sales book
  • Coin purse
  • Apple earphone case
  • Non-working portable charger
  • Empty pill container
  • Garter
  • Balloons
  • A variety of small pouches
  • Cleaning cloths, the one you get when you buy shades or a screen protector
  • Pencil case
  • Acrylic paint
  • Colored pencils
  • Small square cork board
  • Folder tab labels
  • A jar of glitters
  • Confetti stars, and gold circles
  • Ribbon
  • A small old candle holder I used as water for when I would paint
  • Stylus pens

The acrylic paint, and colored pencils I gave to my friend to give to her niece. All other things I threw away. Most of them I bought for one-time uses like DIY projects for several different parties, I used to make chocolate crinkles with a friend and we would sell them. Hence, the “thumbsuckers” items, the bags with the twist ties, and our sales book. Some are free items I got as an extra for buying an item.

I kept all of them “just in case” I would need them again. Some of these items I’ve had for years. My apple earphone case I kept because, “oh, I would always place my earphones back when I’m not using them.” I never did. And I never needed any of these items for the past few years I had them. And I doubt I will ever need them again in the foreseeable future.

It was very refreshing to just throw them away. Like they were a burden I had even if they were just sitting in my drawer. Getting rid of them felt like they were off my shoulders for good.

Tip 9 – Start with things that are clearly junk

While I got rid of my things, I decided that I am going to document my progress. I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish this into completion. However, since there is no set rules in minimalism, then only I determine whether or not my work is done. Nonetheless, maybe this could help me get off my butt and finally start writing on my blog again. Which it did, with this as proof, and my first entry about minimalism called, To be perfectly clear, I’m not trying to be a minimalist. With all things new, I’m excited about this journey. Who knows when it will last. Still, it’s worth actually taking it, wherever that path leads.

The very first things I got rid of, those I did not document, were two shoelaces and three detachable wire handles that you can put around mason jars for DIY projects. I threw them away on Fumio’s suggestion while reading his book. Start now, he said. Close the book and throw away something. So I did.

In the book, Fumio gave 55 tips to help you say goodbye to your things. I finished the book while on my break from work. As soon as I got home, I started getting rid of things with tip number nine in mind. “This is surprisingly easy,” I even thought. I wonder why other people find this so hard to do. Then again, I remember all the things Fumio mentioned, and I say to myself, “oh yes, of course, that’s why.”

I went through my art drawer, as I know I will find all my junk there. An image of what I threw out and the thoughts going through my mind at that time, I will save for next time.

To be perfectly clear, I’m not trying to be a minimalist

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure to come across this book called “Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism” by Fumio Sasaki. The story of how I found this book sounds like a very cheap, wasn’t-given-more-thought advertisement for a phone service, so I’m not going to talk about that. This isn’t a book review either.

Since I’ve read the book, I haven’t been able to shut up about it. It’s 260 pages on minimalism. Not so much a very in depth explanation of what minimalism is or how to be one, though these were tackled of course. But more the process of getting rid of things that paved way for the author to embrace minimalism and the positive things it brought to his life.

As I was reading every page, I was so inspired. Retrospectively, it all makes sense. No, I don’t all of a sudden think it’s the answer to everything. Human beings are far more complex than minimalism alone can solve. But it definitely is worth a try.

To be perfectly clear, I’m not all of a sudden trying to become a minimalist. I would, however, like to try to say goodbye to some of my belongings. Not that I’m very into material possessions to begin with. I generally don’t do shopping. But I do have the occasional impulse buys. I pretend they’re not on impulse by brooding over it for a couple of days, fake-weighing pros and cons of buying vs not buying, while fully knowing I’m buying it in a couple of days anyway. Usually, they end up being cutesy art, writing, or baking materials because I love being artsy or creative, writing, and/or baking… supposedly. As natural, only a fourth, probably even less, of these items end up being used regularly.

So, yes, in conclusion, I would like to apply a bit of the principles of minimalism in my life. For deeper reasons I care to admit to myself or others, and not just for the reason mentioned above. Albeit, definitely helpful.

The Case of the Missing Laundry

I had the day off so I spent it on doing the laundry, obviously.

We lived on the second floor of a three-flat apartment building. The laundry room was located in a common area in the basement. There was one washer, and dryer for the whole building to use. We didn’t make schedule of who can use it when. It’s use when available.

I placed my first load in the dryer, and my second in the washer. Went upstairs, did other chores, watched a little bit of Netflix, then went to get the clothes. However, when I checked there were no more clothes in the dryer, and our basket was missing.

I panicked at first of course. I told my mom. She panicked more than I did, even blamed the neighbors’ teen visitor-friends for taking them.

Anyway, after a couple of hours, our laundry basket was returned to the basement and in it, our clothes. We figured our neighbors were probably doing the laundry prior to and thought it was still theirs. All clothes accounted for.

All is well.

September 7, 2015

Day 198 of PROJECT EFFERVESCENCE