Since January 2015, when I started my memoir-writing journey, I have typed over 50,000 words on my laptop. I finished my advanced life writing class, and my first draft starts to develop out of a collection of vignettes and stories I have written over the past eight months.
In class, we discussed the danger of being self-indulgent and suffocating the reader under an avalanche of self-pity, whinging, and suffering. While reading through the respective chapter in our workbook, The Memoir Book by Patti Miller, I found the following sentences: “Writing about the self is one of the most demanding journeys you can take. It requires honesty, ruthlessness, and courage.” And because it is such a demanding journey, a lot of people stop along the process. In both my writing courses, there were people pulling out at some stage of the course.
While helping empty nesters, who are planning to downsize to a smaller home, I realised that downsizing your home is similarly demanding.
Empty nesters need to be honest, honest with them, especially when de-cluttering. Why is it so hard to let go of things? If you start thinking about why you bought an item in the first place, you might come across some unpopular truths. Why did you give so much meaning to material possessions? What is it that is truly important in your life? Who do you want to become after downsizing? How do you imagine your future lifestyle?
To de-clutter successfully you need to be ruthless and let go of things. You might also need to be ruthless to your children, who park their stuff in your home because they don’t want to deal with it and because it is comfortable. Ruthless to friends, who envy you because you took the first step towards a new chapter of your life.
You will need courage; courage to let go of things that anchor you in the past; courage to make a decision, even if it is going to inflict negatively on your family; courage to step out of your comfort zone; courage to be open to change and the opportunities that come with it.
From my experience, I can tell you that the benefits you will experience once you stepped out of your comfort zone and demonstrated courage, are extraordinary. Writing about my life has not only connected me further with my family and relatives, but also gave me the opportunity to view it from a bird’s perspective. I could identify a turning point almost 20 years ago that led to another turning point exactly ten years later. I finally learned that my top personal values came from little seeds my mother planted during my childhood and teenage years. After digging deep into my family story, my belief that nothing happens without a reason was reinforced.
I truly enjoy meeting other memoir writers, individuals on the same journey as I am. As a writer, you need like-minded people – members of the same tribe – that lift you up and encourage you to keep going, even if times get tough. And I have made some new friends since I started writing about my life.
If you are still procrastinating your downsizing journey, because you don’t know where to start and believe you can’t let go of things, work on changing your mindset. And be courageous to take the plunge; you might discover exciting opportunities that will change your life.