I started this blog because I feel like, up until fairly recently, I’ve been living a life similar to a lot of people out there—fine on the surface, but ultimately unfulfilling; sensible, safe, but boring. I’m following a path many have taken before me: Corporate desk job where I work 40 hours a week. Car loan. Living in a city geographically close to where I grew up.
My realization that I don’t have to live and die within this cookie-cutter template of a life has come in waves. I started learning about farfetched concepts like budgeting, financial independence, and not buying every shiny new thing screaming at me from a sale rack, and suddenly I was asking myself a lot of dangerous questions:
What if I didn’t have to work a standard 40-year career? What if I could purchase my next car in cash? What if I stopped buying stuff just because all the 15-second ads playing between YouTube videos told me I needed to?
This awakening began roughly two years ago, when I first stumbled upon the concept of minimalism.
I wish I could say that my journey to minimalism began gently, like falling into a downy bed of snowflakes knitted by singing angels, but that would be a lie.
Instead, my journey began with spiders, in a nightmarish event I have since dubbed Spiderpocalypse 2015.
Like many things in life, Spiderpocalypse was not a choice. I love spiders about as much as I love getting set on fire, or carrying one-too-many grocery bags up an ungodly number of stairs. But these unwelcome, multi-legged house guests pushed me headfirst into a new style of living that has changed the course of my life.
In fall of 2015, a few months after I had graduated college, I accepted my first-ever full-time job as a PR representative at a manufacturing company. By my calculations, I had officially entered the first stage of Adult Life. Job—check.
To work at said job, I moved to the modest city of Wichita, Kansas, which is a lovely place except that it ranks sixth for seasonal allergies in the U.S., so springtime makes it feel like your sinuses are being smashed by a very large and vengeful hammer. Conveniently for me, I have several family members native to Wichita, and the timing worked out so that I was able to move in with my older cousin (and his girlfriend) who had just purchased his first home.
Housing—check. Adult Life, here I come.
We moved in at the end of September, and I could not have been more excited. My parents and best friends helped me drive two vehicles, plus a U-Haul trailer, full of my belongings to my new residence. I was downsizing from a 1,000-square-foot apartment to a 200-square-foot bedroom, so it probably goes without saying the space filled up fast. I tossed a few things in a donate box as I unpacked (the wrong time to do that, by the way), but there were still stacks of haphazardly taped cardboard boxes scattered like careless watchtowers around my room by the time my loved ones bid me adieu and headed home. In short, I had fallen into the age-old trap of owning more than I had the space for, which was a common theme in my life up until this time.
Little did I know the eight-legged monsters in my walls were already hard at work, preparing to make my life a living hell and teach me a few good lessons along the way.
You see, my cousin had purchased his beautiful new home from an older couple that, we presume, did not have the patience or physical dexterity required to regularly spray the house for bugs. They also probably didn’t spend much time in the basement—or in my bedroom, located in said basement, with a hole in the Sheetrock big enough for me to fit my fist through and a window well filled with decaying leaves.
Within the first several days, I noticed a few spiders nestled against the baseboards in my bedroom that I anxiously disposed of, still unaware there was a bigger issue at hand. But after the first week, I began to notice something was very wrong. I was discovering more and more spiders—live ones—in my living space each passing day. They were not small. And they were getting bold. Scuttling out from behind the toilet, crawling into my empty shoes, trekking across the open swath of my carpet like adventurous explorers spanning a vast, plushy desert. It became clear to me the spiders were running this show.
At this point, half of my belongings were still strewn across my floor in a disorganized heap, which meant it was fair game for the spiders to claim as their own. It was also at this point in time I learned the unfortunate fact that spiders love cardboard, which, coincidentally, was what half of my room was made up of at the time. The entire area was like a homing beacon for arachnids. If I set anything on the floor for more than four minutes, it was almost a guarantee there would be a spider sitting atop it like a tiny throne by the time I returned. I wish I was exaggerating, but it got to the point where I wouldn’t touch something for fear a spider—or its entire vengeful family—would come flying from the wreckage.
My life descended into chaos. After finding a few spiders hanging out on my comforter before bed, I started having panic attacks while I slept, jerking awake in the pitch black in a fit of terror, screaming and thrashing against enemies that didn’t exist. Any time I was in the basement, my eyes were glued to the floor, hallucinating tiny movements on the dark speckled carpet and telling myself they weren’t real, only to look closer and occasionally be proven wrong. Spiders crawled across my ceiling like multi-legged ninjas, and I had nightmares about them parachuting down in the middle of the night and whispering their way across my body while I slept on, unaware.
My paranoia deepened. The night terrors became more frequent and severe. My initial aversion to spiders had escalated into a full-blown phobia. Some nights I was so terrified of my own space that I pulled my blanket off my bed and slept on the couch—but only after thoroughly checking it for clusters of eight tiny eyes that glinted in the light from my flashlight beam.
Though seemingly infinite, this hellfire period of time in my life only lasted about two or three weeks. Writing it now, it sounds pretty absurd that I was afraid of a few dozen creatures a fraction of my size that were quite easily smashed beneath the weight of a newspaper, and if you pointed a finger and laughed at me for it, I probably couldn’t blame you. But the human mind works in strange ways, and in retrospect, I can see now just how much of a negative impact Spiderpocalypse had on my mental well-being in a way that wasn’t clear to me at the time. Luckily for me, it was during this trying period I discovered a single blog post that would change my life forever.
The post was by Cait Flanders, a financial blogger from Canada, and it was about her completion of a yearlong shopping ban that completely revolutionized the way she approached consumerism. Part of Cait’s no-shopping journey included her decision to embrace minimalism and purge her life of 70 percent of her belongings. I remember lying in bed one night in a puddle of anxiety and frayed nerves, staying up late to read every one of her revolutionary thoughts on the power our stuff has over our lives.
Something clicked into place for me. With every purge post I read, that sentiment grew. And the next day, I set out with the intention to get rid of the spiders—and my clutter that sheltered them—once and for all.
In my next post, I’ll share more dirty details on the what and how of my decluttering efforts, but for now, I can say that I’ve happily sold, donated, recycled, or otherwise gotten rid of more than 50 percent of my previous belongings—and that percentage only continues to grow.
At the same time I was purging my life of everything from throw pillows to puzzles to one-size-too-small studded black boots, my roommates and I launched a vicious offensive against Spiderpocalypse. My cousin sprayed the outside of the house with pesticide—twice. We purchased some materials and patched up the drywall hole in my closet. He was a good sport and crouched amidst the junk piles in my room with a caulk gun, sealing the gaps underneath my windowsill. The three of us even went so far as to crawl down into my window well and clean out the dirt in my window frame, sealing it closed with thin rubber trim.
Within 48 hours, I noticed a difference. The number of spider soldiers traipsing across my bedroom dwindled from several a day, to one every several days, to one every few weeks. Life slowly returned to normal, and I began to feel at home again in my bedroom now that it wasn’t the front lines against the spider epidemic.
But now, I was better off—Because I had eliminated between 40-50 percent of the items that had been cluttering up my life and causing me undue stress. That’s half. Half of my stuff that I kissed goodbye and do not even miss because guess what? I didn’t need it in the first place.
Logically, that means I now spend half as much time doing the following things:
- Cleaning my stuff.
- Moving my stuff around.
- Worrying about my stuff getting lost or damaged.
- Paying money to upgrade my stuff.
Over the course of the past two years, I have completely changed the way I view my possessions and the role they play in my life, and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with you, if you’ll stick around. I spend fewer dollars on material things and put more of them into savings. I’ve started a budget that allows me to track and adjust my spending habits so I can focus on my priorities, like travel and family. I’ve started to ask myself tough questions about who I want to be and what I want to do with my life.
And it’s all thanks to several dozen spiders and an unhealthy dose of human fear.