In August 2018 we decided to buy what would become a self-built campervan, and this sparked a whole host of changes for us. With so many house moves over the years, we had already become serial de-clutterers. But with van life on the horizon, we needed to take the de-cluttering to a whole new level.
Fortunately, I had read a great book by Millburn & Nicodemus named Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists. They introduced to me the concept of possessions possessing you. In other words, the more stuff you have, the more tied to it you become. I get this. All the clothes, the furniture, the gadgets, the accoutrements we believe we need to live our lives… It’s all a big dirty lie really. It’s part of the reason my partner and I wanted to step out of the “matrix” (or the current model of society with its set of beliefs, cultural norms, attitudes, and conditioned states), in the first instance (and now I’m not sure if I can go back to this model).
It was liberating to know what was in my wardrobe before I opened it. Preluding house moves and van life, my wardrobe was a maze where I would walk in (Narnia style) and emerge three days later still without an outfit (often for a night out I didn’t want to go to in the first place).
Still and all, I recognised how easy it could be to shuffle from one box, the consumerist box (buy heaps of shit you don’t need), to yet another box, the minimalist box, a less conspicuous one, but still a box all the same. By deciding to be a minimalist, you follow its ideologies, which could cause it to become just another trap of attempting to fit in. And something hit me: as long as we place ourselves in boxes we can never be free.
I’m more conscious of my actions and the effect of those actions on the planet, however, I also enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant or the purchase of a beautiful barefoot shoe! We are all contradictory in our own way! I would say I’m finally trying to decide by myself for myself what’s right for me, (within the limits of society of course… If walking around a city naked is right for you, you might run into problems at some point). My boxes/labels have now become action statements. Here are a few to whet your appetite. Make sure and contemplate your personal boxes and how they might be affecting your freedom.
I’m a minimalist (label/box)… has become: everything I own has a value and purpose in my life (action statement).
I’m a vegetarian (label/box)… has become: I don’t eat much meat (action statement).
I’m an attachment parent (label/box)… has become: I enjoy creating a close bond with my children (action statement).
I’m a nomad… (a new label for me!) has become: I’m currently traveling with no defined end date (action statement).
I follow a zero-waste lifestyle (label/box)… has become: I take steps to lower my impact on the planet’s resources (action statement).
Subsequently, it was early 2019, and I opened my inbox one morning and looked at the 1,426 old emails I had been holding onto. I’m aware this is negligible compared to the hundreds of thousands some folks have in their inboxes.
My geriatric emails, dating back over a decade (I kid you not), had been retained for three reasons:
- Just in case… for example, I might one day need to know which socks I bought from ASOS 8 years ago
- Laziness… I simply couldn’t be arsed going through them all to delete
- Time… I didn’t have the time to go through everything
Life was busy, I had two young kids, shit to get done, and also a persisting feeling that maybe I would need to know which blimin socks I bought. They were amazing socks. YOU NEVER KNOW right?! In the name of my action statement (which said that everything I own has a value and purpose in my life), I eventually decided they had to go, sock ones and all.
How I did it:
Step 1: I grabbed 6 emails that had important passwords and placed them in a separate folder.
Step 2: I unsubscribed from various personalities, companies, and organisations that served me once upon a time, but not anymore.
Step 3: I got Joel to come and do the rest since I couldn’t figure out how to delete so many at once. (He is the reason you are reading this, by the way, technology is not my strong point.)
Step 4: I panicked a little, remembering I hadn’t kept emails back from when we started dating. But then I realised, it is OK, he is here beside me right now in the PRESENT, so yesterday’s emails are not so important.
After 1,420 email deletions and the closing of 2 email accounts, the job was complete. I had 6 emails in my inbox. And would you believe it felt absolutely great! (Is that sad by the way?)
Looking back over the quotation in the book I’d read, I ascertained that even emails can be classed as possessions that possess you.
How many emails are in your inbox now?
Don’t worry friends, no judgement ……
Check out my related post on saying NO!