The Last Thing I Threw Away

The Last Thing I Threw Away

For almost as far back as I can remember there has been this box in my life. It was started by my mother, who told me about it when I was young. “I have this box”, she’d say “don’t ever open it until you are ready”. When I moved out on my own, she passed it to me like an unwanted torch, a ball and chain, and it became my responsibility.

It’s not an especially big or small box, it’s a shoe box taped up, a time capsule of court documents, evidence, and filthy little reminders of a time best forgotten. My childhood on a series of brittle, screaming tapes. The family’s dirty little secret folded and yellowed, the truth about who my father was and what I survived.

I always had this idea of what it would be like when I finally opened the box. I’d have to be in a mentally fortified place of some far off tomorrow. I’d make a night of it, just me and the box and I’d break the seal, letting all that pain free and I would do my best to survive it. I’d stay in one piece, and then when the tears were drying on the smeared, typed words of some psychologist of yesterday, some “point to the place on the doll your father touched you” professional, I’d start to write my life story.

This box is a small part of my story, but it isn’t me. In the last month I’ve realised some things. I’m not my past. I’m not a dusty cardboard box filled with legal trinkets. My story isn’t in the box. My story is in me. Because I still have the memories even if I don’t remember the exact date we fled west on a train, or what time he called in a bomb threat to the court house on the day of the custody hearing. I still feel his screaming without having to listen to it through the static of a long ago recorded tape. The truth is this box has been a weight in my life, and even if I reach a point in the future where I feel mentally strong enough to open it, will I want to test that strength?

This month has been about removing things from my life that don’t provide any value or purpose. It’s been about freeing my mind from the accumulated physical clutter. I don’t need what’s in the box because there’s nothing in there that would surprise me. My past is part of my story, but it deserves to hold no physical place in my future.

That’s why the last item I removed from my life during the 30 Day Minimalism Game was the box, still taped shut and heavy in more ways than one.

I feel free. I feel happy.

This Minimalism Thing

This all started a few months ago. I was mentally drained and had been for months. I could have blamed the traditional work/family balance, but it wasn’t just that. I’d spend the majority of my down time pacifying myself with social media, mostly YouTube and Instagram. When I tried to focus on doing something creatively productive, like writing something or working on art, I couldn’t. There was just too much noise, too many distractions, too many easy digital rabbit holes to fall into. So I stepped back. I stepped back from writing, and (mostly) from art. I stepped back from social media, and not just the toxic kind. My mind had been drowning in distraction to a point where my creative process died. I was fatigued, plagued with so much -everything- that I couldn’t focus on -anything-. I started by stepping back digitally so I could just breathe for a bit, then I realised that the digital distractions were only half the picture. When I looked around me, the physical distractions were also plentiful.

Then I found this minimalism thing.

The concept wasn’t completely new to me. I mean, I always somewhat considered myself a minimalist. I purge my belongings twice a year and have no issue removing things from my life. Yet, I stepped back and looked around and just saw a bunch of stuff. Stuff that I couldn’t really find a good reason for owning, or things I bought because they were “on sale” even if I didn’t like it much. I read a few books on minimalism, spent some time in online minimalist communities, and figured it would be worth a shot to try this for real. Then, on April 1st, I started playing The Minimalism Game to start things off, and I convinced my son and partner to play with me.

The goal of the minimalism game is to get rid of items each day equal to the day it is. Day 1 is 1 item, day 2 is 2 items, day 15 is 15 items and so on until you reach 30 days. At the end of the 30 days you will have removed 465 items from your life. 

As of writing this, I’m on day 23 and have so far removed 276 of my belongings and donated them. My son and partner have both done the same. To say that our space has been transformed would be an understatement. We’re not even done yet, and already I find my mind calming. the visual noise that once surrounded me ha decreased. The useless clutter that hung around on shelves has been swept away and passed on. I hope someone else can get some use out of the things I no longer need.

Some of the rules I made for myself:

  1. If it hasn’t been used in a year, it’s gone with the exception of certain sentimental items.
  2. If it has no practical purpose and doesn’t add value to my life, it’s gone.
  3. If it doesn’t fit, or I haven’t worn it in 4 seasons, it’s gone.
  4. If I have multiples of the same item, I keep the best quality one and dump the rest.
  5. If I’m keeping it “just in case”, it’s gone.
  6. If I’m keeping it because I “might need it someday”, it’s gone.

Here are some more things I’ve gotten rid of:

  • Over 75% of my clothes and footwear. I’m working on a post more in depth of my minimalist wardrobe. I have less than 30 items now, including accessories and shoes.
  • Makeup including foundations, eyeliners, eyeshadow palettes, and over 50 lipsticks. All of my makeup now consists of quality items that fit in a tiny box on my dresser.
  • An entire shelf full of dishes that never got used.
  • Numerous kitchen gadgets collecting dust in a cupboard.
  • Countless trinkets that served no practical purpose.
  • Old winter jackets that had been replaced but still remained in my closet.
  • Dried out art supply markers.
  • Nail polish.
  • Books I never liked, or books for hobbies I no longer do.
  • I condensed my knitting hobby into a single plastic bin that fits under my bed.
  • And entire drawer of paperwork digitised and shredded.
  • All my baby/childhood photos.
  • Many other things I can’t even remember, probably because they were things I didn’t need or like anyway.

As I’ve been going through this process, it’s been so incredibly freeing. I thought by this point in the process I’d be losing steam and struggling to throw anything away, but it’s been the opposite. I look forward to finding my items each day and reclaiming some space in my life and in my mind. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about some of the possessions in my life, and why I’ve kept certain things. The more I progress and the more items I shed like skin, the closer I come to one specific item I’ve carried my whole life. At this point, I think I’m going to throw it away. I think I will make it the very last item I discard, like the full stop at the end of the sentence that has been this month of freedom.

Finished Painting: Pennywise

Finished Painting: Pennywise

I started Pennywise right after seeing the new IT movie back in September 2017. I started out strong with it, finishing the outline and most of his head within about a week. Then I stopped. I set him up on top of a bookshelf in my bedroom where he could watch over me while I sleep, or side-eye me for not finishing him. Life happened, NaNoWriMo happened, and he went along untouched. Finally, I pulled him back from abandonment and finished him in three sessions over a few days. I am proud to present to you my finished Pennywise. He’s 11×14 inches watercolour and ink on Strathmore paper. I’m starting a new project in the coming days that I think is going to be fantastic. More details soon.

What I Read in 2017 and Goals for 2018

What I Read in 2017 and Goals for 2018

At the beginning of the year I made a Goodreads pledge to read 25 books in 2017. I crushed my goal this year with the completion of Night by Elie Wiesel on November 10th. In total, the average book I read was 423.07 pages long, with a total page count of 12,269 pages in 2017!

Linked to their appropriate Goodreads pages, here are the 29 books I completed in 2017 in chronological order.

  1. Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
  2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  3. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
  4. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  5. Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
  6. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  7. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  8. Our Numbered Days by Neil Hilborn
  9. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  10. Sekret Machines: Chasing Shadows by Tom Delonge
  11. The Clocks by Agatha Christie
  12. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  13. Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
  14. Company Town by Madeline Ashby 
  15. Song of Susannah by Stephen King
  16. The Dark Tower by Stephen King
  17. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  18. It by Stephen King
  19. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  20. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  21. Hell House by Richard Matheson
  22. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  23. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  24. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  25. Night by Elie Wiesel
  26. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  27. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
  28. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
  29. Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Looking back on all the books I finished this year I’m going to call this The Year of Stephen King. On January 3rd I posted a few specific books I wanted to finish, and many of them were his. Six of them, in fact. I read the remainder of the Dark Tower series, and then I read It and Sleeping Beauties as well. So I guess you could say this wasn’t just the year of Stephen King, but the year of long Stephen King.

This year introduced me to new-to-me authors I’d wanted to read for a while, like Agatha Christie and Neil Gaiman, and authors I’d come across serendipitously like Josh Malerman, whose book Bird Box is actually the one I’m naming my favorite of the year.

Bird Box took me by surprise. Fast paced and incredibly unique, it has a sort of survival horror post-apocalyptic vibe that had the perfect balance for me. While most books rely on visual description to set the story, this one has characters who go through life blindfolded so the description comes from auditory and physical description. This lends itself to being perfect for staging the fear of the unknown, which is crucial for horror. I had so much fun with this book and look forward to more from Josh Malerman.

Goals For 2018

Since I beat my goal this year, I’m setting it a little higher for 2018. Not by much, mind you, but 30 books. As for what books I’ll be reading, I want to focus more on classics. I have a lot of beautiful leather bound books featuring Ernest Hemingway, Jules Verne, H.P. Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, William Shakespeare, Arthur Conan Doyle, and others. I want to put a dent in them this year. I also want to focus some of my attention on longer books this year, like 700+ pages. House of Leaves is on my current TBR list, and Underworld by Don DeLillo has been on that list for a while. I love to read, and I look forward to all that 2018 has coming.

On Not Completing NaNoWriMo and Why I’m Okay With That

On Not Completing NaNoWriMo and Why I’m Okay With That

November started off strong for me. I was getting my words in most days or catching up easily on days I didn’t. As with most creative endeavors, life can get in the way. Unfortunately, that was the case for me this year. I did not win NaNoWriMo, but I gave it my all and I feel good about the progress I did make, which was just under 44,000 words out of the 50,000 goal. I was close.

During the latter half of the month, I got a new job. It’s a job I wanted for a while. The excitement of that sort of took over for a while and I lost focus of my word count goals in order to focus on getting things ready, giving notice to my current workplace, and overall trying not to freak out too badly over a large life change such as this. After the initial swell, I got back on track for my word count. I had a couple of really hardcore writing nights where I spent hours doing word sprints through the NaNoWriMo Sprints Twitter and I got mostly caught up. I thought nothing would stop me from hitting my goal.

But then I got sick the last week of November. Right during the time I should have been writing the most and passing the finish line, I was emptying boxes of tissue and staring out at the world dumbfounded through watery eyes. My head was in such a fog that I couldn’t focus on writing, at least not good writing, so by that point I had resigned myself to the loss.

And I’m okay with that! Sure, I was a little bit disappointed. Winning was certainly my goal. It’s hard to feel too badly about my story at this point though. I made a lot of progress with my characters and the story is one that I think is really unique and interesting. I should be able to have it finished and ready to edit it early next year.

I worked really hard in November, and now that it’s over I want December to be a month of focusing on my new job, and relaxing throughout the holiday season. I have some exciting posts planned for this month including an unboxing and review of The Nocturnal Reader’s Box which should ship out to me any day now.

A huge congratulations to everyone who finished NaNoWriMo this year. I know it was not an easy task, and you should be so proud.

See you next time!