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It all started with a zippered hoodie that I could no longer zip.
I could see my van life dream fading in the distance due to an inability to let go of things I could no longer use.
My zipper was broken. The hoodie no longer functioned the way it was meant to, and yet I continued to hold on to it.
But why? I wondered…
- Would discarding it make me wasteful?
- Had I really gotten my money’s worth out of it?
- What if I end up needing it again?
- How soon can I replace it with a new one?
Have you ever pondered similar questions?
Why Is It So Hard to Just Let Go?
I’ve never really been a materialistic person.
When it is difficult for me to let go of material things, my reasons are usually sentimental.
Alternatively, I tend to rationalize about value – as if holding on to something I have not used in months will somehow maintain or increase its value by being there on the off chance that I will actually need it at some point.
Re-reading that last sentence is as draining as choosing to rationalize about holding on to things that no longer function.
The Dilemma: Letting Go
Since I want to adopt van life in 2018, I had to put more determined effort towards purging unnecessary objects.
I mean, it would be challenging to transition into van life without fully adopting minimalism.
What would be the point in moving essential items into a van only to become smothered by non-essential objects within a year’s time?
The only distinction between adopting or rejecting minimalist concepts, that I notice, is an aligned heart and mind.
If you know it is something you want to do, and you believe this path will take you closer to being a bit more like yourself, then you can take confident steps towards releasing that which is unnecessary.
I’ve had visions of taking everything I have and just dumping it. I’ve done this in the past, but now I realize that approach stems solely from emotion.
In order to take a more metered approach, I’ve decided that I would:
- Slowly release non-essentials, and
- Make certain that my heart and mind are in agreement
The first point helps me to be patient with myself. Forcing myself to rush through the process makes me feel as though I’m punishing myself for having “stuff” in the first place.
Guilt can not only be paralyzing, but it can also cause me to make desperate choices. And I don’t know about you but not much of any good has come from desperate decision-making.
And the second point prevents me from being either too emotional or too rational.
In this way, I can’t create hundreds of reasons why I would keep something that my heart knows I can do without, and vice versa.
The Solution: Start with the Obvious
Are you thinking, “Great! Lots of revelations, but now what?”
At some point you have to begin to let go. There’s no way to adopt van life while simultaneously clinging to objects. My suggestion? Start small.
I created a two-step process for myself.
The first step was to see what’s really there. And the second was to toss the obvious. Here is what I mean:
1. See what’s really there.
If you are in your own space right now, look around you. Really see what surrounds you. We have a tendency to look at what surrounds us without really seeing what is there.
Begin to take stock of what you use, what has not been used, and what you are highly unlikely to use ever again.
You may want to give yourself a few days or a week to do this. When you take your time, you can allow both your heart and mind to weigh in on the process.
2. Toss the obvious.
Next, let go of what is most obvious.
Tossing out a zippered hoodie that I could no longer zip was the most obvious for me. I recalled that the hoodie was close to seven years old. (You could say I got my money’s worth.) And my heart reminded me that its sentimental value could be replaced by new and better memories.
This hoodie was the first object in my garbage bag. Next I tossed a handful of t-shirts that were ruined by a gel deodorant that I no longer use.
By the time I finished, I had filled half of a thirteen-gallon garbage bag with unnecessary items.
At this stage, I am not donating items. I released what I nor anyone else could use.
How About You?
Are you in the process of letting go of pointless items? What has it been like for you?
Beginning this process was satisfying for me in three ways:
- It aligns with my van life goal, so I am proud of myself for following through.
- It was a small, but mighty step towards helping myself discern my definition of necessity.
- This process is helping me to develop patience.
Sometimes I think we confuse minimalism with asceticism. We might think that if we toss out everything and do it quickly, then that somehow solidifies our level of commitment. Or if we deprive ourselves of “stuff” then that makes us more disciplined or purposeful.
There is no reason why we can’t lovingly release what we no longer need. And there is no reason why we can’t exercise patience throughout this process.
I have never maintained a new habit by guilting myself into it.
Since I want this to be a lifestyle and not a passing phase, I think this new heart/mind/patience approach might work well for me.
What has been working for you?