Today marks a full year that I’ve been writing this blog. I can’t believe it. I’ve started and dropped so many blogs in the past, so I’m really proud that I’ve stuck with this one, and I’m grateful that it’s given me a place to reflect on this journey.
I have learned so much about myself in this process, and keeping a blog has made me accountable to my goals in ways I never thought it would. There were a lot of times when I was tempted to buy more stuff, or hang on to things, or go my usual lazy route and not bother to declutter something, but my desire to keep an accurate record of what I was doing, coupled with the thought of having to admit that behavior on my blog (even though I wasn’t always successful), did wonders to curb some bad habits.
And I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised by how completely nonjudgmental people’s responses have been. I know there are probably those who do judge me, but they have been nice enough to keep it to themselves. If anything, the feedback I’ve gotten has been wonderfully supportive and often filled with empathy and admissions of similar behavior, which has made me feel less alone.
So I guess the big question is, did I find lagom?
Nope, not yet.
But from what I have learned in a year of focusing on this goal, I think achieving a state of lagom in just 12 months is not really realistic, especially having spent most of my life functioning from a mindset of constant acquisition. I am so proud of what I have accomplished in this year, but as I was noting in a post earlier this week, what I thought was lagom only two months ago continues to change as I continue to change and see my stuff in a new way. Things I thought I loved and couldn’t part with only a month ago suddenly feel superfluous, and letting them go is no big deal. I am more acutely tuned in to what I value, what I actually use, and what I truly love than I have ever been in my life.
The fact I’m not “done” with this journey doesn’t bother me. I remember hearing Marianne Williamson say something once about how the distance between the person she currently was and the person she wanted to be felt less depressing when she considered the distance between the person she currently was and person she had once been. I may be far from my ideal, but compared to a year ago? I’ve come a long way.
So what have I learned? Here are the big things:
- I always believed having tons of options where my possessions were concerned would make me feel happier, fuller, and more secure. But it actually causes me a lot of stress and unhappiness. I feel like I SHOULD be using all my stuff, knowing how much money I spent on it, and not wanting to be wasteful, but it’s very clear that I have my favorite things, and that is what I always want to reach for. Having a smaller set of options, of only things I really love (or sometimes, even just one perfect thing I really love), has made me feel a lot less anxious. This has especially been true where my wardrobe was concerned, which was also the category where I did the most acquiring. I currently have a smaller wardrobe than I’ve had since maybe high school, and while there are some items I would like to replace, and one or two specific things I want to add, I am happier with what I own right now than I’ve ever been.
- Keeping things out of guilt (it was expensive, someone I like gave it to me, I pined for it but once I had it I didn’t love it as much as I felt I should) is stupid. Staring everyday at an item that has guilt attached to it only serves to KEEP YOU FEELING GUILTY. Do any of us need more reasons to feel like that? I don’t think so.
- What you’ve convinced yourself is valuable is in most cases worthless. I have felt foolish more than once this year for hanging on to things that I thought were worth something, only to take them to resale or list them on Ebay and have them go for pennies or be rejected completely. There are less than ten possessions in my life that I know have actual value, and I have insurance on all of them because it’s obvious they’re worth something. Everything else I own? Highly replaceable, with the exception of purely sentimental items.
- Letting go of stuff is synonymous with letting go of fear. Fear that the giver will be angry or hurt, fear you might need something just like it someday, fear that you will find out later it was of great value (see previous point). Trusting the future is scary, but not as scary as all the fear thoughts. I’ve given away a ton of stuff this year, and I don’t regret any of it. And as far as I know, no one has been upset with me for letting it go. In many cases they probably don’t even remember giving it to me.
- Forcing myself to use up large stashes of stuff I already own has made me VERY careful about what I buy now. If I don’t think I’m going to love it and want to use it to the last drop, I’m hesitant to buy it. This is a huge shift for someone who frequently bought stuff out of boredom or mild curiosity.
- I don’t need new things to feel better when I’m upset. Shopping used to be my favorite therapy. I still get a thrill on the occasions when I get to buy something new, but that’s partly because now I have researched and dreamed and thought about the purchase for so long beforehand, it feels really exciting and special. I have mentioned that 2013 was a really horrible year for me, and sometimes I wonder if it felt that way because it really WAS that bad, or because for the first time in my adult life I didn’t deal with my problems by shopping. But I made it out of 2013 all in one piece, and I didn’t rack up my credit card to cope. I’m proud of that.
- I love having some empty space in our house. There aren’t tons of empty spaces yet, but I’m really excited about the few we have. The fact that our guest room closet is now always guest ready is still a huge novelty for me – I sometimes like to just go in and gaze at it. Yes, I know, weird. But it’s true. And you have to celebrate victories like that.
- Selling your unwanted stuff is a pain in the ass. When I was on the fence about buying something in the past, I used to just think, “Oh, if I don’t end up liking it, maybe I can sell it.” And because we’ve needed the money, we haven’t been in a position to just give stuff away. But it is a serious drag to go through the process of standing in line at resale, or listing things on ebay. Now I will actually look at stuff I’m considering buying and think, “If you don’t end up liking it, you are going to have to try to sell it”, and that is often enough to make me reconsider.
- Nothing has been more exciting to me this year than watching our debt steadily go down. We are still not out of the woods, but we have made incredible progress. If we manage to stay on track with our payment plan, and nothing disastrous happens, we should be out of credit card debt by the middle of this year. It has been a really frustrating and often discouraging process, but we are committed to seeing it through. I no longer feel a horrible sick pit in my stomach like I might truly throw up when I see our credit card bill.
- I am lucky to have a partner like Ron who has embraced and in some ways surpassed me in this process – I am amazed at how unattached he can be to his things. If I were trying to do this with someone who was highly resistant and attached to things, I don’t know how much progress I would have made. But Ron has been wonderfully supportive and open to the changes I’ve been making, and as a team, I feel like we’re pretty kickass.
So what’s next? I initially thought I would just keep this blog for a year (if indeed, I even made it that far), but I’ve decided I’m going to keep on writing. I still have a lot I’m continuing to discover, and having done some of the hardest work this year (learning to control my shopaholic urges, getting serious about paying down debt), I’m excited to see what kind of changes I will make. I’m also curious to see if I will backslide when I am out of debt and have some disposable income again. When I started this blog, I said I could never see myself as a minimalist. And I still think that’s probably true, but I’ve also learned that minimalism has a much broader definition than I ever realized, and it doesn’t necessarily mean bare white walls and a single piece of furniture. In fact, I think “lagom” and minimalism are pretty close terms, they just look a little different from person to person. Who know where this path will lead me.
I’m also going to start posting guest blogs this year. People who read Finidng Lagom have contacted me with some great stories about their own struggles with stuff (some resolved, some still unresolved), about getting out of debt, about shopping addiction, and about experiments they’ve decided to try in their own lives based on stuff they’ve read here. I love hearing those stories, and think other readers will too – it’s inspiring to know that there are so many of us puzzling through this issue together.
If you’re a longtime reader, thanks for the support – especially those of you who commented, liked, shared posts, or talked to me about it in person. It’s nice to know you’re out there. I hope 2014 finds everyone happy, healthy, and lagom!