It is the most common question I get asked when I talk about minimalism -- whether it's my first time meeting someone or it's one my dearest, oldest friends.
"Did you give anything away that you regret?"
The answer is yes and no.
Yes, there have been a few occasions that I've looked back at old photos and felt a pang of angst when I see myself in an old favorite sweater that I've donated.
But that regret fades in a few seconds. And I instead remember that the sweater didn't fit so well through the shoulders anyways. And I look inside my minimal closet and feel spaciousness, freedom, and creativity emerge because I'm only surrounded by things I love. And I remember that the sweater has a new home now, with a new woman who it hopefully fits just right. And I feel really, really happy again.
Below are the 5 things that seem like they would be especially challenging to donate or release but were actually the most liberating, space-creating experiences of my life. I highly recommend you try out one (or all) yourself!
The 5 things I Released (and Never Regretted for a Second)
1. My wedding dress: This summer I donated my wedding dress. To be honest, this was way easier than even I'd imagined. Here at NM we have a favorite saying, "You are not your stuff." This is basically a call to be objective when looking at the things in your life.
So imagine I said to you, "Here is a huge bag. It's plastic and 6 feet tall and a foot deep. Inside is something that will deteriorate with age and you can never use it again. It was expensive and would be incredibly valuable to other people."
Would you even consider keeping it? Me neither.
2. Cable TV: I declutter because I enjoy the feeling of spaciousness, creativity and freedom that comes from a well-curated space. But for a long time I didn't deal with the biggest clutterer in my life -- TV. For some people TV is not an issue. They watch one episode of The Daily Show and move on with their lives. But for people like me (and the average American who watches 5 hours of TV... A DAY!) it's a profound suck of time freedom.
The past 8 weeks without TV have been liberating and given me the mental space to do the things I've always wanted but never had time for. Things like lighting a candle and snuggling up with a good book as the sun goes down. Things like cooking a delicious meal and then savoring it while actually looking at and talking to Cam.
3. Corporate Power Suits: This was my huge "But what if I need them someday?!?" experience. I am an entrepreneur. Yoga pants are my at home uniform, . The truth is that I hope to never work in a place where I need to wear a power suit. Ever. Ever. Again. So me holding onto those blazers and pencil skirts was like I was saying to myself, "I'm not sure if you can do this. Maybe you aren't good enough to be an entrepreneur. You'll probably never really figure it out. You should be ready to go work for the man at a moments notice when this little dream of yours falls apart."
But I believe in the power of thoughts. In taking a leap and hoping the net appears. And here I am, 4 years later, not owning nor needing a suit in since April 2010.
4. Registry Gifts: Cam and I got married at the tender age of 27. We felt like adults (we were certainly making a very adult decision) but there were many parts of identities as individuals and a couple that we were still growing into. So when a woman at Pottery Barn told me that I needed 8 sets of sheets and 3 sets of towels and at least 2 gravy dishes, I believed her. I zapped a little gun at everything she called, "a must" or "essential" without thinking about what was really essential for our unique lifestyle. Then the people who we love the very most spent their hard earned money to buy us these things. Things that months after owning we'd never used.
At first I felt profoundly guilty even thinking about returning or exchanging these gifts. Until I realized that my Aunt didn't care if I ever used her chip + salsa ceramic platter. What she wanted was for me to be happy and enjoy my new married life. In fact, the last thing she would want is for me to feel burdened our unhappy by a gift. Do yourself a favor and appreciate the act of someone giving you a gift -- the thoughtfulness, the generosity -- but don't worry if you don't like the gift itself. Afterall, it's the thought that counts:)
5. 85% of My Books: I love reading. Like love love it. Cam can tell from a room away when I've gotten into bed with a good book because he says I sigh like I'm having relaxing massage.
For a long time we had two ceiling high bookcases filled with books. Books I'd read, books I wanted to read, books I "should" read, books that proved I was smart for having them in my home.
If I'm being honest, I wanted people to walk in and look at my bookshelves and think to themselves, "Wow, Cary is so intelligent, so well-read. She is fascinating and has amazing values and I like her a lot."
Turns the best way to prove you are fascinating, to share your values and to make people like you is to actually be a thoughtful, present, kind person. It also turns out that books and ideas are way more fun to talk about when shared. So I donated and gave to friends the vast majority of my books, keeping a very small library of books I love and refer to often. The rest I grab from the public library or at a used bookstore so I can enjoy them and pass them on when I'm done.
Have you ever donated anything that surprised people?
Would you be open to trying out one of the 5 steps above?