“Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” — William Morris.
I just emptied an apartment full of furniture, things, stories, and stuff. I carried couches, desks, and pieces of furniture up and down (and up and down) many flights of stairs across hilly San Francisco. I donated 600 books and gifted them to friends across the city.
Moving is so freeing and yet so hard.
And I wrapped up a life living in this beautiful home, this beautiful city, with so many good friends.
“We’re making space for new adventures,” my husband reminded me. “Don’t keep anything you don’t remember you had in the first place.”
But it’s so hard. The labor of moving everything. The memories.
Moving is exhausting. The energy of lifting, analyzing, purging, and letting go — it’s no small task. When I got overwhelmed recently in the pile of stuff that somehow accumulates around one’s home, I went online in a desperate plea to my minimalist friends — “Help!” I said, “How do I do this?”
Joshua wrote back a simple truth — and it made me laugh:
“You are not your dishtowel.” — Joshua Fields Millburn
I am not my things.
I get to keep the stories, the memories, the transformation. My life is not a couch. My memories are not held inside of a sofa.
When I got back to New York this weekend, I decided to continue the cleansing: we piled up four more bags of books and clothes and cleaned out our home. More and more, I’m inspired by lightness, ease, minimalism, and letting go — letting go of past stories, details, habits, and junk.
Why do we each need to keep our own personal bookshelves? If I need a book in the future, I’ll borrow it or get a digital copy. I trust that the world will have this information, regardless of whether or not I house the words within my own tiny square-foot home. I do not need to own hundreds of books to continue to thirst for knowledge.
“There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.” — Jackie French Koller.
“Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual.” — Linda Breen Pierce
What is the weight of holding on to all these “things”?
Plus: what is the weight of carrying around a hundred books I haven’t read yet? The oppressive weight of “should” on my shelf must hold substantial weight in my mind, pinning me down to past wishes, thoughts, and dreams.
What if I free up that shelf space — mental, physical, karmic? Send those books to places they will be loved and cherished, rather than collecting dust in my own life? Root to rise, my yoga mantra. My roots come from my community, my connections, my spirit. My rise comes from weightlessness, expansiveness, ease. If I hold on to unread books, I hold on to unfinished committments. A bookcase full of shoulds and one-days and look at what you haven’t done staring down at me in my morning meditation.
“Any half-awake materialist well knows – that which you hold holds you.” — Tom Robbins.
The sadness of leaving + the freedom of space.
As I prepared to leave San Francisco, my home — my only permanent residence for most of my waking life — I kept tearing up about the friends and the people I would miss. Would giving up my home and apartment mean I could never come back? And then my friend Leah reminded me that I’ll always be back. The cool whispers of San Francisco’s foggy oceans will also be one of my homes.
“You’re family here. We’ll have space for you whenever you return. It’s not about the couch. Just come, whenever you want. It can be easy.”
And I remember that I get to keep all the stories, all the memories. I so grateful to this beautiful coastal city and to the rich community of people I have met over the years. I love it here.
And I love what’s next, even if I have no idea what it is.
Let go of what’s not serving you, even if it’s as innocuous as books. Make space for your future self.
To adventure, creative living, the sharing economy, and change.
And as Carol Pearson writes, to a new story, to a new narrative:
“Most of us are slaves of the stories we unconsciously tell ourselves about our lives. Freedom begins the moment we become conscious of the plot line we are living and, with this insight, recognize that we can step into another story altogether.” —Carol S. Pearson, The Hero Within
To an adventure. To freedom.
For more quotes on simplicity and minimalism, check out Joshua Becker’s list of inspiring quotes on minimalism — many of which I used as part of this essay.—