"When walking, walk. When eating, eat."
Thich Nhat Hanh
A post about minimalism, or why I think possessions are too heavy (and maybe even prisons)
I'm writing "this post the day after what would have been my Mom's 90th birthday. She died suddenly at the end of the summer in 2005, just about the time Hurricane Katrina was making landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi. I hardly remember that devastating storm. I only mention it as a metaphor for the storm my family lived through losing my mom so quickly.
In the aftermath of my mom's death, my siblings and I were left with a 2000+ square foot house that had been our family home for almost 40 years. As mom’s funeral week came to an end, a family from town approached a neighbor to pass a message to us: they wanted to buy my parent's house. It turned out to be a blessing because it fast-tracked us moving out of the house.
One morning about six months after my mom's death as I was having coffee and watching a morning news show, I saw an interview with a woman named Dee Williams. Williams is famous for living in a tiny house. At the time, I had never heard of tiny houses, but here was this smiling, positive woman living in a house about the size of parking space with her dog and 98 things (she took 100 things with her counting her truck and her dog). I sat mesmerized listening to Williams talk, and suddenly I felt the weight of all my possessions and all my mother's possessions (still packed in boxes), and I didn’t like it. Dee Williams was my proverbial epiphany, my ah ha moment.
I started to walk through my own 2000+ square foot house, and I wondered how she had done it. But I was determined to downsize and bring my life into a more manageable size. I was determined to guarantee that my sons would not have to face what my siblings and I had faced when we lost our mom. I was also determined to have more than just possessions to show at the end of my journey.
As I researched minimalism and tiny house living online, I discovered many other people around the country who were doing what Williams was doing: trading big living spaces and lots of possessions for smaller spaces and bigger lives.
This is how my adventure towards minimalism began. In increments I downsized, giving away possessions to family mostly and other things to thrift stores. For the past five years I’ve lived in a 465 square foot apartment. The experience has been some of the best years of my life. While the whole process of downsizing was a challenge, it has been mostly liberating.
I suppose this kind of life is not for everyone, but I certainly am happier since I left the big life behind.