This love affair started for me at around 13 years old, when I finally started making some money of my own, teaching piano lessons. Suddenly, I had caught the shopping bug...each weekend it was a new purse or a new pair of shoes that I most certainly didn't need, and that I would probably only wear a few times before it got shoved to the back of my closet, never to be found again (fast fashion, anyone?).
Sitting here, reflecting on it now, I realize that I have never felt okay without having stuff around me. It wasn't just about the shopping. I can probably count the days as a kid that I could see the floor of my bedroom. My closet was never organized. My clothes were never put away. My bed was never made.
I write this in the past tense, but the truth is this was me up until about a month ago. I've been living alone for almost two years (!!!) and my friends can attest that I needed about a week's notice if I was going to have friends over because it took me about that long to make my apartment even presentable to the outside world. I had to put my clothes away, do maybe a month of laundry, do some dishes, make my bed, vacuum, etc...the list goes on and on.
And then, by some twist of fate/life happening, here came April and suddenly I WAS FORCED INTO BEING ORGANIZED. Basically, I'm moving out of my apartment in August, so my landlord needs to start showing the apartment. And I get one day of notice before a showing. So guess what? This means I have to keep my apartment ready at all times to show to potential renters. No more messy kitchen. No more laundry all over the floor. Time to maybe start making my bed.
Oh, I don't know, maybe start acting like a grown-up.
I took the impending move as a sign to start de-cluttering. I went beyond just washing dishes and hanging up clean clothes. I took the time (with the help of my best friend, of course) to really take a step back and examine all the stuff I had in my apartment, and decide whether or not I really needed it all.
(Spoiler alert: I didn't.)
I still have three more grocery bags of papers to go through, but here is what my bedroom looks like now:
I'm sitting here writing this blog post in my organized, clean, beautiful apartment and I'm realizing something. Having a clean apartment feels good. Like, really , really, really good. And I find myself wanting to keep everything clean and organized. (I hung up a pair of pants today after deciding not to wear them...progress, not perfection!)
And here's what I think it comes down to:
It's no coincidence that at about the same time I started organizing my apartment I experienced self-love for the first time (It was an emotional and life-changing experience, but a blog post for another day). The two things are inextricably linked.
For me, self-love means knowing what I deserve, and accepting nothing less. This discovery was first applied only to my relationships with men and dating, but now, I realize that it's influencing every part of my life. Including my messy apartment.
Before, when I was hoarding stuff, it was because I didn't love myself enough to think I deserved any less. I felt (subconsciously) that if I was stylish, and kept acquiring things, I would somehow be more desirable. To friends, to family members, to significant others. I surrounded myself (literally) with things so that I wouldn't feel so alone. (This of course was all done subconsciously. I truly, consciously believed that being messy just didn't bother me). I didn't love myself enough to recognize my self-worth without stuff, without new purses and shoes and dirty dishes and dusty shelves. I didn't think I deserved anything better.
Now, all of that has changed. Now that I love myself (authentically, deeply, unconditionally) I realize not only that I deserve a clean house, but that I am me without stuff. I don't need the latest pair of shoes to be considered beautiful. I don't need to punish myself for being unlovable by not having a clean apartment. I am worthy of cleanliness, and I am worthy of minimalism.
Once I recognized this, my entire perspective changed. Suddenly, I didn't want to be around stuff all the time. The stuff bothered me. I felt uncomfortable in it. Yucky. Angry. Anxious. So I got rid of it (4 boxes worth, and still counting). I got rid of it and I feel lighter. Happier. More authentically me.
I can feel myself going down the path of having less because I've finally realized that I have all that I need within myself. I am complete regardless of how many sweaters I own.
And it feels WONDERFUL.