sentimental goodbye

I recently put a used shoulder-bag of mine online to sell for a reasonable low price (a price that to me seems respectable for a second-hand object and would be the price that I am willing to pay for today if I was in search of this item). I have this idea that some things should not be given away for free, because it somehow feels wrong; maybe you paid a lot for this and it’s still worth a great deal of money today or in my case: you believe that if you would give this specific thing away for free that a person might take it for granted. I somehow believe that when someone is willing to search for a specific item on-line and is willing to pay some money for it, then this person should be the kind of person to take good care of the item. It’s just a reassuring thought I give myself when letting go of stuff that was very much loved by me.

So when someone contacted me to buy this shoulder-bag, I suddenly experienced an instant panic. It was the fear of letting go. There were two reasons I couldn’t part with this item easily:

  1. I got it as a gift from my mum while we were on vacation in Turkey (that doesn’t happen often, a.k.a it’s a very rare memory)
  2. It got some repair stitches on it that my mum hand-sewed for me because she does it better than I do. (this makes the item particularly personal)

First reaction was an emotional panic, it struck me: I will have to let go of this now. Secondly, I wasn’t sure if I could do this. I needed more time somehow. So I didn’t reply instantly to the potential buyer. I took some time breathing, checking with myself if I was ready for this. The answer was: yes. I was going to let go of this item eventually. I just wasn’t aware of the sentimental value of it, until it was time to let this one go. I knew I wasn’t using this bag any more and I know that it’s only picking up dust now. I know someone would benefit from this more than I can. And I am happy that someone else loves this bag already and that this person would be glad to own this item now. My mind was completely ready to say goodbye, but my heart wasn’t. My head understood ‘you will never use this again’, but my heart feared ‘I will never be able to use this again’. Fear itself is irrational, but still I couldn’t wrap my mind about what has caused this fear. Is it the anxiety of throwing something away that holds a precious memory? or the fear of regretting your choice afterwards?? In times of desperation I gravitate towards inspiration, for me it’s; books, certain blogs, youtubers or podcasts with valuable messages. So I reread this blog  from the minimalists(dot)com  about sentimental stuff and listened to a podcast of theirs. I re-established my inner peace in the meanwhile and regained my confidence. I acknowledged that it is time now, time to say goodbye and let go because I was ready after all. I reminded myself of my goals and why it is important for me to do this eventually: I want to be able to do this. Letting go is much more rewarding than holding on.

The transaction was made. And I took one last photograph of the bag before sending it away. It was a close-up of the stitching, the detail that meant so much for me. I think this photograph reminds me to hold on to the appreciation for my mum’s expression of love and care in these overlooked details. I used to take such things very much for granted. Now I’m glad to be aware of these precious gestures. I’ll try to be more attentive from now on and enjoy such moments mindfully and above all be thankful they (still) exist(ed).

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you will fail at minimalism

I had a mental breakdown today. And I really think we need to talk about these things. Minimalism is something that somehow is mostly portrayed as a result, a goal, an achievement of the perfect life, the stress-free effective life that is focused upon beauty, relaxation, richness, oneness.. Well, for me minimalism was a goal that in my mind looked like ‘getting rid of everything that I don’t use and go live the life you want for yourself, with as little as possible’. Right now I’m still in the decluttering process and no-where near the minimal lifestyle that I crave so much. It’s a long battlefield, a hard struggle within myself and with everyone around me. A while back I was even contemplating discarding my boyfriend, just because it seemed the easiest solution to everything. But it ain’t like that. Getting rid is not the same as overcoming. And I know now that I need to redefine my idea of minimalism. Maybe my goal of getting rid of 70% of my stuff by the end of this year is quite impossible to achieve in such a time-frame and I shouldn’t beat myself up to this. Maybe I should concentrate on my learned lessons, be grateful for who I’ve become instead of ‘measuring my success’ by how little I own now. Minimalism shouldn’t give you more headaches and stress. Yes it will be stressful at times and today was one of those days.. I found myself surrounded by so much  stuff that I actually dreamed of setting everything on fire just to free myself from my responsibilities. There is no easy way out of decluttering, it is a real confrontation with everything you accumulated all those years, unknowingly, even due to the way you were raised. Because I still live at my mother’s place, she comes across my decluttering projects from time to time. And whenever she catches me giving away or selling something that to her seems sentimental, I get even more trouble from her and that isn’t helping either. Somehow people will notice your change and they will find it odd, it might even terrify them. That is at least how my mother sees me, as a cold bitch who gets rid of sentimental stuff that is related to family or my cherished youth. Trying to explain to others my minimalist journey isn’t working, people are busy with other stuff. And my mum is simply not aware of suffocation yet. Anyway, I don’t know where I was going with this all, maybe this is helpful to some of you. For me, writing about these things things is mostly a way to calm myself, let go of my expectations, be real with myself and forgive my imperfections.

Schermafbeelding 2017-04-23 om 16.12.33photograph by Florent Tanet

memories of a writer

Schermafbeelding 2017-07-19 om 02.54.01 oil on canvas – artwork by Daliah L. Ammar

This Sunday I’ve been going through some souvenirs from my teenage-self and I found some short-stories I’ve written back in the days. I’ve totally forgotten about those and I was unaware of how much I already used to write as a child. Writing for me today is still a beneficial way of digging deeper into self-expression and self-reflection, but I forgot how I gravitated towards writing even a young age and with a poor vocabulary. Those old writings reminded me of those actors that say they don’t like to watch themselves perform. Some also claim that they watch their performance just once to see how they have done things and then they never go back there again because it’s sort of awkward, I believe. For me writing is like that in a way. It’s a photograph or snapshot of what my mind and heart wanted to share for myself. And it is a great tool to analyse yourself. I always wrote therapeutically growing-up, but I wasn’t aware of how I wrote stories as a child under the age of 15. So of course I was super curious to read some of those kept and before deciding whether I was going to throw them out afterwards or not, I had to see how this piece of my past made me feel now.. if it did spark joy or not. I knew that the writing wasn’t going to be phenomenal, so I didn’t expect much, but to my surprise it wasn’t that horrible either. I actually could feel a younger person flowing through those pages, the ink and the writings, so poorly written and such a visually displeasing handwriting, but the emotions were real, as real as I could be back then. I analysed the imagination and inspiration I had as a child in contrast to the older-self today, and I find it interesting to have a broader perspective now, knowing a little more about my own psyche and comparing those two. I was reminded of what used to be my biggest struggles as a child. Reliving that vulnerable kid, I felt the torment again of my prohibited romantic relationship and I got to experience again how the impact of my family issues was affecting me at that young age. I understood at that moment of how I used to project those issues in my stories and drawings. It made sense. Creativity let me escape reality but also explain myself to myself. I wrote fairy-tail stories back then that all ended tragically, or had a sad undertone of heartaches and a longing for love and affection. The stories weren’t impressive,  but at least they made me feel again. They made me aware of the creative desire in myself that I’ve been neglecting and postponing for such a long time now.

After reading those, I felt oddly strange. On the one hand I felt sad in see myself crumble as a child that is emerged by her surroundings, and on the other hand I also experienced some slight confusion as if I didn’t know a part of me. I couldn’t grasp how I named my characters, how I came up with those figures, why I chose to write fiction and why was I inspired by richness and poverty, why was tragedy a thread throughout the stories.. I haven’t written a fictional story in a long time, today I prefer to write in documentary-style. But after reading this piece of young fiction, I’m tempted today to create a better story, a story that was inspired by that younger self but that could include more knowledge (like complex real characters, deeper story meaning, symbolism -because I really like that-) and I feel the creative-bug in me, itching.

I don’t know if I should have kept those stories, but at that moment after reading all of it I decided to write this down and tear those few pages. They were in the bin before I knew it. Meanwhile I knew I had to hold on to this motivation for wanting to make things better for myself now instead of holding on to pieces of me that remind me of a sad age. God knows I don’t need to be tied up to the past or to a melancholic self.  Do I need those stories in physical form to keep reminding me and encourage me to write more often? I don’t think so. The fact that I chose to write this afterwards is an actual realisation of awareness that the core message was received and the advice I took for myself will stay with me. The message I got throughout this experience of reliving something so personal made me aware of my progression and gave me even more reason to move forward and redefine myself towards a healthier and more positive human being.

collections are for hoarders

Earlier this year I set myself a goal: to get rid of anything that does not add value or purpose in my life anymore. I envisioned being completely or almost fully clutter-free by the end of the year, keep things that I actually use/like and I motivated myself with a rather fictional possibility of moving-out any time soon. Almost one-third of the year has passed by now, but I feel nowhere nearly my goal yet. I’ve gained so much experience and even gotten better in selecting what I honestly don’t need anymore, it still feels like an endless job. Luckily I’ve been very realistic with my time-plan and I knew I would need more time than most people. I know I tend to be very perfectionistic and the way I approach things are always what I consider the best or most respectful way to handle things: with good care.

I found out now that a good way to completely depart yourself with certain items, is to actually enjoy them for one more/last time. I see this experience as some kind of goodbye. Although Marie Kondo suggested in ‘The Life-changing magic of Tidying-up’ that you should just touch the object (not read it or wear it..) and thank it, in order to say goodbye, but for me that is not enough, especially when it comes to sentimental objects and boy do I have many of those. I honestly couldn’t tell anymore what things aren’t sentimental. I never thought that decluttering would entail such emotional discharge in order to heal myself mentally/spiritually and create physical space in the end. Although I don’t need a long closure-routine with every item I own(ed), when it comes to sentimental items, I try to find a special way to be okay with letting go (unless I don’t want to).

I found out that I have/had the most difficulties with the things that defined me as a younger self. In order to fully embrace the now, I truly need to emotionally say goodbye to the past, thanks to the help of these object. I honestly wasn’t aware that I held on to my Harry Potter collection or my Pokémon collection so tight. Apparently I felt the need to keep identifying myself through my childhood-self by still possessing these tokens of what-seemed-back-then a long period of my lifetime. I wasn’t aware I had so many posters left in that untouched box or other gadgets I held on to like relics and I felt like the right thing to do now is take a picture of every thing that sparked joy back then but doesn’t add value/joy to my life today. Then put these picture online with some information of each product, carefully pack them in their boxes and hopefully come across someone who would actually enjoy these things in her/his life more than I haven’t for years now. When I get to think about it, I believe I’ll still keep a thing or two from that collection after selling most of it and donating the rest. Maybe one day I won’t have anything physically remaining from that time of my life. For now it’s a small step towards minimalism; a giant leap for a (former) hoarder.

sell your dusty guitar, keep the memories

I can only depart with this item if I receive money for it instead. Although I don’t like money just for the sake of owning money, because unused money for me is worth nothing. I prefer to exchange money for new possibilities. Such as selling something old and buying something new instead, investing in something that is worth it today. The idea to exchange something old for something new is how I like to change my life around.

For instance, I own a guitar and it’s quite a sentimental object to me. It has its own guitar-bag, guitar-stand, a footrest and some music books that go along with that one year I took music lessons beside (art-)school. I hated school and needed something to distract me and it worked wonderfully. I gained a new best friend that way and I had an awesome guitar teacher that looked like Johnny Depp.

I don’t know why I was good at it playing music at that time, I heard the teachers gave me one of the highest scores that year and I was shocked knowing that because for me I knew in my heart I wasn’t a natural musician. Everything felt unnatural and awkward (or maybe that was just me); holding the guitar, carrying it, reading the music score, taking care of my nails to a point of reaching perfection. I was obsessed with playing everything immaculately because for me music was black on white and needed to be played as it was written out. I didn’t enjoy rehearsing, I didn’t enjoy playing, I just had to play it right. I was lucky to have a teacher whom I loved very much, if it wasn’t for him I think I would have quit a lot sooner. Anyway, the year after that I moved place and I needed a new music teacher. The new teacher wasn’t my kind of teacher and I didn’t feel at ease with him because the way he taught music wasn’t as I had learned it so I had to basically learn everything from square one. Sadly for my guitar although luckily for me, I had a good excuse to focus upon my photography (at school) entirely and give up on the guitar.

Fast-forward a few years: I can’t read music anymore nor can I play the guitar. Everything I learned at that time is completely lost to me now. Although I want to believe that my subconscious will pick it up quite fast once I refocus upon that skill, I can’t prove it nor do I want to try it out. Because for me it ain’t worth it anymore. It is painful to admit that everything I once put much time, money and effort into, I completely missed memorizing a thing. And it’s quite embarrassing to come across a guitar and know I can’t play anything at all. On the other hand, I am very grateful it gave me the right distraction I needed at that time.

Today I look at this beautiful crafted peace of art and it pains me to let go of it. And every time I decide put the guitar somewhere else away, it procures a small wonderful warm tone that leaves me feeling quite sad about the person I once was. Honestly I know I’m not interested in learning how to play the guitar anymore.

But I can only separate with this item if I can get some money from instead, hopefully meet the new owner in person, exchange the goods, and for me it means I can invest that money in a hobby that is relevant for me today, instead of holding on to the past.

things we give meaning to

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I was in hurry when I found this leaf. It was a very rainy day and I was going through a rough period in my life. Sure as hell I wasn’t expecting anything good to happen that day. While running towards the subway station I noticed a bright green ginkgo leaf soaked in fresh rain water. I stood still and picked it from the ground. To me it couldn’t be a coincidence to come across a ginkgo leaf in the middle of nowhere -a plant that holds a special meaning in my heart-. I held this leaf with both my hands and felt reassured doing so. Finally, I could smile again. This leaf reminded me to stay strong and have faith in me and the universe.  And I knew everything would end up being okay.

While decluttering some of my emotional belongings, I came across this thing. It made me think about the sentimental value we add to stuff. I know it wouldn’t be a sentimental item if I didn’t have add this story to it, because on its own it’s just a simple leaf like any other. And I see now that to us personally many objects aren’t always what they are, but simply what they represent and the stories they hold.

As a striving minimalist, I challenge myself to let go and detach myself emotionally from things that add no value in my life anymore. I aim to use things as tools that can be helpful to me in a practical way and help me grow as a person. I think it’s okay to hold on to some emotional objects, but for me personally I would like to let go of that and let those items rest to the past. And I noticed how writing this story down and taking a photograph of this thing already helped me to let go of it. Letting go isn’t as easy as physically removing it from your life, it takes actual effort to say goodbye to the memories.

what clothes reveal

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I postponed dealing with my clothes for as long as I possibly could. I wasn’t quite ready yet to tackle the core of my cluttering issue, but I knew I would have to come back to my closet eventually. Cleaning my closet had absolutely nothing to do with clothing, instead it was a hard self-confrontational experience that opened my eyes about my self-perception.

Digging into my closet gave me a clear perspective about the way I see myself and the way I carry myself.

Every piece of clothing in my closet had a deeper story than just being clothing. At a moment it felt like looking at a historical museum; reviewing my self-image throughout the years and how that manifested itself through fashion.

what matters

I have found myself in a negative decluttering mind-space: it didn’t do what I had envisioned in mind. After peeling off some layers of what isn’t important to me I found myself questioning where I was going with all of this. Downsizing my stuff made me focus upon what needed to go or what made me so unhappy and I could only see the massive shit everywhere: the stuff that surrounds me, the things/thoughts that suffocate me. I realize now I’ve been doing it wrong. I started with the basic method of decluttering: selecting what I didn’t need anymore, separating it from what I wanted to keep and another pile of things undecided. When I created the pile of what wasn’t working for me, I was instantly distracting myself with the thought of what to do with this mess: sell, donate, recycle or dump?  Therefore I was only focused upon what needed to go. When I looked at the quantity of all things, I lost the confidence of ever ending in a place/time where I felt happy about the things that remained and what was left of me.

I know now I should reverse my strategy: Instead of asking myself ‘what can I get rid of?’, I should ask myself only one question: what do I truly want to keep? Maybe this will save me time and cut right through the bullshit of downsizing and go straight to the minimalist point of view of doing things. I’m far form reaching a more zen state of being, but I am still happy I have found what didn’t work for me. Now I can start with this new approach and see what it does for me. And hopefully this enables me to see what gives me joy instead of what isn’t.