Minimalist Reflections from 2016

Air France Poster

New York to Paris

I know most bloggers have already written their reflections of 2016, but with the events of the last month, it has sometimes been difficult to find time and space to sit and write. As we head back to France and at the beginning of a new year, I feel it is important to reflect on the past in order to project on the future our wishes and desires. Without reflection, I really don’t know how I would reach out and experience something new, something that I haven’t done before. How would I expand my mind, enrich my spirit and have the energy to touch others? Reflection is necessary for me in my every day life. Here on myspoclife, I believe it is important too, because after all, I am writing about my life as a minimalist, single parent and a world traveler. It all goes hand in hand.

There were three ways in which minimalism deeply affected my life in 2016:

1. Death and Minimalism

Coming back to the United States for the funeral of my aunt, my main objective was to be of service to my family during this difficult time. When my cousin died almost two years ago, I grieved harder than with the passing of my aunt. I knew that I could be here to provide assistance in cleaning out her apartment, since she was single and everyone else had more obligations than I. Working together with family to decide what should stay and what should go, actually proved to be more difficult than I had imagined.

As a minimalist, I went into the process thinking that my memories of my aunt were the most important things that I have from her. I was thinking that there was nothing that I could save that would be a substitute for her physical presence. My life is rich and full because of the time that I spent with her and the things that we did together. However, it was not so for other members of the family.

I know that everyone grieves differently, so when I was told to save items as banal as quotes from tea bags, I realized that my thinking varies greatly from many people. There is no one who wants expired coupons, outdated work manuals, or shoes two sizes too big. Why do we keep these things from our relatives who are no longer physically with us? They didn’t get rid of these things because they probably forgot they were there and didn’t have the time or energy to declutter.

I have a few older friends who say that they are in the process of getting rid of their material possessions because they know that their children do not want these things, so why make them deal with it when they are grieving? I agree. Death is a fact that we must all face. In facing it, I am thankful that my memories are all that my family will have to sort through. They can keep the good ones and discard the uncomfortable ones as they choose. Moving forward in life, that is what I choose to take from the ones whom I love.

2. Extended Travel and Minimalism-

When I first got on the road, six months ago, I had three large bags that we had to take up and downs stairs, in and out of cars and from house to house. Around the middle of summer, I realized that the big bag of toys and stuffed animals I was keeping for Bean, so that she would not be unhappy on the road, was unnecessary. I downsized and discard many items, giving them to people who will play with them, as I tell Bean. On the road, just as in Chicago, Bean plays with only a few preferred items. She is more interested in seeing what other children have to play with, or visiting the local attractions and playgrounds, than she is in playing with her excess amount of toys. So, thanks to minimalism, I pass them on to someone who can love them more and we travel with only two bags.

When I began travelling, our wardrobe was in a state of flux. Bean’s was easier to figure out. Instead of buying dresses and other items of clothing that had growing room, I quickly discovered it was best to buy for the current season only. Bean quickly outgrew everything that I bought at the beginning of the summer and somehow, we made it to September with what she had, but barely. I have always been of the mindset that you should stock up and buy things for children that will last a while, saving some things for the next year. I thought it would save money. Being on the road makes this impossible. Somehow though, it costs exactly as much to buy in advance as it does to buy only what we need for the season. Maybe even less, because we are not buying things that we don’t need at this present time. Sales lose their attraction if you have all you need and have nowhere to put anything new.

My wardrobe took a little longer to figure out. If you remember, I had a moment when I couldn’t decide if I should be wearing what I loved or what I had. Gradually, I was able to exchange the things that I didn’t really like,but were serving their purpose, for items that I love. The change of seasons helped tremendously with that. If it was still warm outside, I might still be walking around in serviceable clothing that look nice on me but that I really don’t care for. Winter allowed me to discard pieces of clothing that I no longer liked. I have a suitcase full of clothes that I can wear every day and be happy to put on. Head to toe, I am happy with what I have. Everything is interchangeable. I have not yet been too cold on account of not being dressed appropriately for the weather. I can put on more layers or take them off and my suitcase stays the same. I am thankful that minimalism has helped this single mom get her wardrobe together. I am carrying a couple of dresses that I haven’t worn in the last six months. Honestly, I don’t know when I will wear them again, but I like them. So I will keep them. I know that I might have a little more room in my bag without them, but they bring me joy. When they no longer give me pleasure, I will let them go into the life of someone who can appreciate them.

3. Minimalism and Life Changes

Perhaps, practicing minimalism affects me the most in this single category alone. Life Changes. Life is always changing. That is if you are truly living. There will always be something to overcome, to welcome or reject as we live our life. I have found that since clearing out the clutter from my home, my mind,my life, I am able to be clear on what is really important. It becomes easier to experience smooth sailing because if life brings a storm my way, I can stop and recalibrate. I can get back to what is the most important thing in my life. I can feel at liberty to live my values, in spite of what others may feel or say. This, to me is the most important gift of minimalism as I try to be the best single parent to Bean and travel the world at the same time. I am grateful to have found such a positive direction for our future.

What about you? Do you engage in reflection at the beginning of a new year or new season? Why? Do you find it a beneficial practice or just another chore? I love to hear your thoughts.

3 Comments on “Minimalist Reflections from 2016

  1. My thoughts about death & minimalism… I am now in my 50’s, married, no kids. I have a niece, nephews, & great nephews, so when I declutter the gauge I use is, would they want to be dealing with this when I’m dead & they have to clean out my house? Most of the time the answer in my head is “NO” so I have no trouble donating most items. Some things, such as a wooden clock, jewelry box, lamp, etc. made my father are questionable & I would hope that they would want to keep a few of those items, but I won’t know by that point, so it doesn’t really matter.
    Loved the points you made about finding a wardrobe that you really loved wearing…I still working on that!!

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