Two things, actually. One thing is the dayjob. I have two projects in progress, and two proposals awaiting decisions. The other thing is my mad urgent plunge into minimalism. By the layers of epiphanies I have been experiencing I would say that this move has been ripe and ready for a while. I suspect I was just too lost in the visible and invisible clutter to see it.
For the past two to three years I have frequently mentioned about how I have distilled and simplified my life as I focused more into art-making and less on the usual expected pursuits of a modern woman. But while I started out well, I barely scratched the surface of what it really meant to simplify and to minimalise my life down to the essentials. Before, it was driven mainly by need. I needed to reduce my expenses (and sell stuff) so I can extend the period of not having to take on a dayjob project. But now it is more of an integration with my life values. Before it was partly a sacrifice, and I had thought about regaining what I had given up. Now it is about digging through the core of myself and my life, and realigning everything according to what is really important for me and what I want to become. Now it is about keeping my life light, clear, and designed to complement and support the creative life I am nurturing.
Unlike most people who tell a story about minimalism, I am not coming from a position of plenty and explicit excess. I am in fact, coming from a position of relative poverty. The house rent is two months late, the utility bills had to be paid with cash loans. There is money coming in though, enough to catch up with all the payables and still have leftover to let me breathe easy until about November. But my point is, instead of clinging to my possessions in the midst of all the lack, I am re-evaluating them to see if perhaps this lifestyle with its unique set of life accessories and requirements, is in fact one of the things that is keeping me from moving ahead and forward. That perhaps this daily environment is sending the wrong signals to my brain's subconscious, and weighing down my efforts to improve the circumstances.
My mood and disposition are dependent on the lifestyle I am clinging to. Negative energies slow me down and cloud my judgment. Resentment, envy, jealousy -- these are all about not having something. They are about seeing emptiness as a bad thing, as a lack, as missing-ness. They are about not having or being enough. Impatience builds up. Helplessness follows.
I cannot remember now exactly how I turned around. A post somewhere, a trail followed. But I was given a lifeline. And instead of worrying how to refill the emptied spaces I wanted to create empty spaces.
Key is reading the book Everything That Remains by The Minimalists. I translated its first-world context into my third-world reality, and I was on my way.
Minimalising my life is my roundabout road towards getting back into my studio. Right now the studio exists in a different plane of existence. It is dismantled here, but alive elsewhere. I put it away but it also hid itself. And I will only find it again, and be able to enter it, if the paths are clear. And by clear I mean all the traps have been sprung, all the obstacles removed, all that is locked unlocked, all the trick questions answered, all the passages paid for, all the secret passwords spoken, all that is angry appeased, all that is in sorrow comforted. And all these can be done when there are no distractions or disguises. When the room is empty and there is only the elephant in it.
Most people stop at possessions when decluttering or minimalising. Often it begins and ends in the clothes closet where the most obvious accumulation of un-necessities is apparent. I started in my closet and halved it (and I did not have much to begin with). But I didn't stop there. I have gone as far as distilling my precious books, which I thought I would never subtract from again after a previous experience of culling that left me with many regrets. I know so much better now. I will dive through my digital clutter. I will reevaluate all my relationships and the people in my life. I will be more conscious of the experiences I will invest my time and money on.
The process is still on-going. I have set up a secondhand shop here on the website to sell or barter some books, gadgets, and other objects. In the house there is a brewing garage sale of clothes and pieces of furniture.
My expectations from the whole exercise are this: that I would gain a breakthrough (in ideas) into how I can integrate the work I need to do for money and my art-making; that I will gain better insights into how I can truly transition my dayjob into one that is more in accordance with my life values; that I will have a clearer view of what I need to do in order to regain the momentum of my creative journey.
I will post a tally of sorts on how much I have distilled my life when I am done. As of now I have halved my closet, disposed of all stored just-in-case clothes and only kept three types of cold-weather jackets and a couple of summer swimsuits. I halved my bags and shoes. I moved a big pile of books into the to-sell stack, and in the process I freed up two shelves -- one to be sold, the other to be reclaimed by my sister for her own use. It was seeing the piles of to-go stuff that made me think of setting up the secondhand shop.
I'll end this post with my recommended books that are helping me through right now.
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I am an artist-in-progress. I started my creative journey in 2012 and have never stopped taking steps since. Always one step at a time. Always moving forward. It has been an increasingly tough and occasionally rewarding road.
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Emily W. Martin
That Curious Love of Green
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Upward Facing Blog
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