Today's post is a guest article from Carolyn Morton, one of the Tiny Transition and Downsizing students from "across the pond" (yes, we have quite a few international classmates!). Tiny Transition and Downsizing, the 8-week class that fundamentally changes your relationship with stuff and helps you de-clutter, downsize, and clear out your home and mind, starts today (yay!) and you can join the course by registering here.
Carolyn's story really illuminates the way we go deep in the course. It's so much more than just "de-cluttering tips" and "organizing" (in fact, we banish organizing!). Carolyn mentioned to me earlier, "The post indicates what an unexpectedly life-shifting experience the course has been for me".
I'll let Carolyn take it from here!
When Mariah asked 'how was it for you?' I wanted to share my thoughts and see if they resonate with other 'Tiny Transitioners'. I've been surprised at how significant your messages (the lessons) have been.
I certainly didn't expect that the American cheerleader-style of encouragement and celebration would have such an impact (not with my British reserve and engorged cynical gland).
The kindness of strangers is often the most affecting and whilst we're strangers we share similarities; not only the course or our desire to simplify but, I sense that many of us are adjusting to loss, coping with change and wondering how we got here …
I got to the online course through a chance email forwarded by my housemate (who'd left for 6 weeks of adventure in South America). Subject: “This looks interesting”.
Indeed it did. The next day I emptied my Paypal account and from that first act of 'down-sizing' the momentum has built; practical, tangible progress propelling me from dream to reality.
In Britain we don't have the same planning laws regarding minimum house size, but we do have extortionate land prices. That, coupled with my erratic (subsistence level) income and being considerably older than most first-time mortgage borrowers, means that an affordable home of my own seemed unlikely – until now. But there's something even more exciting and totally unexpected that the course has enabled me to realize ...
My 'transition' started 10 years ago.
After nearly 20 years working as an artist I was creatively and emotionally drained (working with marginalized people using art as a tool in individual and community development projects had taken a toll). I decided to realize a long-held dream to travel around South America, particularly Bolivia. Another motivating factor was seeing my father's deteriorating health and finding out I had cataracts and glaucoma.
If I wanted to see the world, I needed to do it while I could - literally. I began by selling, donating or throwing away 'all' my belongings. What remained was stored at my parents.
12 months around S.E. Asia, South and Central America generated more stories than I have space for here. Suffice it to say that the 2 most powerful experiences reveal much about my attraction to the course; a month meditating in a Thai monastery (practicing non-attachment) and hitch-hiking through Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador with a group of Central Americans, a change of clothes, a toothbrush and a sarong. My Spanish was as basic as my baggage, but it didn't stop me learning to spin fire poi, busking on the streets for beer and empanadas.
They were the richest experiences of my life. I had virtually nothing, totally unencumbered.
Returning to Britain was tough. I couldn't face returning to stressful self-employment and had even less desire to settle.
Commitment felt scary and stifling so I helped friends with projects, took jobs that came with accommodation and traveled whenever possible. Despite this love of freedom, I started to yearn for a home of my own so I trained to teach English as a foreign language and got a job offer in Vietnam. Once again I said goodbye to my ailing father, this time leaving more reluctantly. It was a huge challenge to start a new career in my early 40s, to start at the bottom alongside energetic graduates. And working overseas is definitely not the same as traveling.
I completed my contract and returned in time to say goodbye to my father (or did he 'hold out' for my return?) Either way, he died a few days before Christmas 3 years ago.
For all the challenges of Vietnam I opted to go back for a second year, after all I knew the school, the culture and now had friends there. I worked and saved (and quietly fell apart inside) preparing for a more permanent return to Britain. For the past year I've been in London teaching amazing students from all over the world. But just before Christmas the goalposts of my job changed and I'm now not qualified enough to do that job.
So there I am, back at the start of this year with no income or housemate, just lots of time. In a moment of 'life's too short' I did something within my reach that I've always wanted to do; I dyed my hair electric blue. 4 days later I joined the 'Tiny Transitions' course, quit smoking and got stuck into the practicalities of simplifying my life.
I thought the physical downsizing wouldn't really apply to me, after all I got rid of everything to go traveling. Mmmm … it turned out that I'd got really good at packing a lot of stuff into a little space. It's not the volume of stuff that many of you have written about and wrestled with. But emotional weight is not related to actual weight.
Shedding all those 'costumes' for someone I never was, would or could be; all the equipment and materials for the things I used to do or might, one day; all the books for the knowledge I wanted, but didn't put the effort into acquiring; and so it goes.
It feels so good, so liberating to be free of the possibles and to see the actuals. In the past few weeks I've produced more than in the last few years, including concrete plans for my own home.
My goal is to be living in and working from a van by this time next year. Hopefully one of the jobs I'm applying for will get lucky and employ me. I'll get a van and convert it while developing my blog, prototypes of products and testing out my unique services.
Before the course none of that would have been possible: the knowledge that creative work is fundamentally important to me (lesson 8); satisfaction with 'real actions in the real world' (lesson 1); or the confidence to say and believe that all these things will come to pass.
Somehow, between the lessons and the posts, the course has enabled me to not only find a home but to be at home in myself. I'm not sure if my father would have understood what I'm doing any better than my mother. But he would have seen how alive and happy I am.
I want to thank Carolyn for sharing her story. I can't wait to see her awesome live/work van and follow along with her ongoing travels and adventures in creativity.
If you would like to radically change your relationship with stuff within a supportive group of friends on the ame journey, you can join the next session of the Tiny Transition and Downsizing course.