Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Jeff Goins of goinswriter.com.
My son had been born a few weeks before, and I was already struggling to focus. All these responsibilities, all these expectations.
So much to manage and so little time.
Born four and a half weeks early, our little Aiden wasn’t sleeping but a few hours per night before needing to nurse. It was a daily ritual to Google “signs of colic” and wonder if there was anything we could do to make all this a tiny bit easier.
Though I had taken a couple weeks off of work, the iPhone kept buzzing uncontrollably, and the sleeplessness was starting to wear on me. The house was a mess. The laundry pile a small mountain. My email inbox completely out of control.
I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.
That night, my wife was at the stove, cooking something for dinner, and I was in charge of baby-watching. Setting the phone facedown on the kitchen table, I hoisted my son up in the air and stepped outside to enjoy the mid-summer evening air.
As soon as I sat down with him on our back porch, I noticed a beautiful cumulus cloud formation in the sky. Instantly, I wanted to capture it, but my phone wasn’t with me.
Looking back through the glass window inside the messy house, I saw a reflection of myself holding my son. That was on one side of the glass. On the other was my smart phone, my busy life that was messy and complicated and sometimes too stressful to take.
Did I really want to go back there?
I knew I had to make a choice: maintain the busyness while sacrificing my sanity and ability to hold onto those I loved the most — or learn to let go.
Holding my son tightly against my chest, I gazed up at the beautiful blue sky and thought to myself, “Letting go of things helps us hold on to what we love most.”
Phone-less and feeling strangely free, I’d made my choice.
My Own Experiments with Minimalism
“The things you own in life end up owning you.” —Tyler Durden
I have a lot of stuff, more than I need. And some of it I really like. But I’m learning that some things in life, some stuff, isn’t good to hold onto.
Slowly, I’m getting rid of what I’ve held on to for years: outfits I’ll never wear, movies I’ll never watch, even old birthday cards. And as I do, something unusual happens to me. I feel freer than I’ve felt in years. Because somehow, the things I’ve been holding onto have actually been holding on to me.
As my family grows and responsibilities increase, I realize I can only grasp so many things at once. Only so many technology trinkets. Only so many messages to manage. Only so many relationships to enjoy.
And frankly, I’d rather hold on to people than things.
It’s taken some rude awakenings to get to this conclusion. I’ve had to learn these lessons the way most of us learn hard things in life: the hard way. Through countless interruptions and distractions. Through the inconveniences that come when we try to get what we want — and don’t.
My wife and I are in the process of de-cluttering our home. It’s taking longer than we wanted, but the process is good. It feels healthy, like a cleanse of sorts.
Making More Room for What Matters Most
Recently, we cleaned out our “bonus room” above the garage. This room has been full of junk for two years, boxes of stuff we hadn’t used since moving from the apartment we outgrew.
The other day, we cleared it all out, throwing away several garbage bags, donating a couple closets’ worth of clothes to Goodwill, and relocating some things we wanted to keep.
When it was all over, the room was left virtually empty.
The next day, I brought my son, who was now 14 months old, into this room. Because it was so cluttered, he had never been able to really play in it. For hours, he crawled and rolled around in the open space.
And I realized that every area in our life that is full of stuff is crowding out relationships. As we get rid of the things that consume our time and stress, we make room for those we love the most.
How many other spaces, I wondered, are too cluttered to let others in?
Sadly, I am far from leading a clutter-free life. But I get it now, this whole “learning to live with less” thing. The truth is when you learn to let go, you don’t live with less at all. You make room for the things that matter the most, the things that aren’t even “things” at all.
I think we all do. The hard part, though, is letting go. Giving up. But I’m finding this is also the really good part, the part that releases you to live the life you were made to live. The life you dream of.
Many of us are living over-crowded, busy lives that rob us of what really matters. We wait and bide our time, holding out for the “big things” in life, not realizing that the good stuff is happening right now.
If we will just let go.
Jeff Goins is a writer who lives in Nashville. He just released a new book, The In-Between, which is all about slowing down and living more intentionally. You can follow him on Twitter @jeffgoins or connect with him on his blog (goinswriter.com).