Have you ever read a book that completely enthralled you? You immediately liked the characters, (even the bad guys) and the storyline hooked you from the start. You felt like you were one with the author, seeing all the told action and even the untold action, as you deftly read between the lines. But once the story was over, you find out that the narrator was lying to you; telling you one thing, only to see they pulled a fast one over you. Disappointing, right?
This type of story—when we think the details of the story are one thing but are something else entirely—has an untrustworthy narrator. This narrator is called an unreliable narrator, one that is deliberately deceptive and cannot be trusted; someone who says untruthful things with the intent to lie and entrap (in this case, me, the gullible reader.) I can’t tell you how bamboozled I feel when this happens. On the one hand, it makes me rethink the entire story and how well they deceived me. I’m in awe of their ability to lie to me so well. On the other hand, I’m angry they intentionally misled me. I want to believe what I read! I want to be so immersed in the story believing the actions, the words, and the characters all coordinating as it unfolds. I love truth because I can anchor myself to it. Who doesn’t love that?
Living in a cluttered home is reminiscent of being an unreliable narrator. This was me years ago. I thought I was telling myself the truth daily as I lived and navigated my way through my home and everything in it. Like when I’m in the kitchen, “Of course, I need six spatulas!” Then later, as I perused my closet, “Yes, I wear all twenty pairs of jeans.” Then when I’m looking at my vintage mug collection, “Sure I have 40 mugs, but I use all of them.”
Nope. Nope. And nope. I began to catch my self-told lies. And I finally understood why I was doing it: I was tricking myself into thinking I was speaking truthfully so I didn’t feel bad about my consumerism. Buying and collecting and holding onto more than I need is filling a void that has nothing to do with needing anything. It had to do with insecurity.
I was my own worst enemy.
Here’s how I turned my unreliable narrator heart into a reliable narrator, and it began with uncovering my insecurities and facing them head-on. Here are three pathways I took that led me back to being a reliable narrator to control the chaos and clutter in my home.
Change my focus
I had to stop and ask questions of myself during my assessment, and the most important questions I needed to ask before I bought something were: Why am I buying this? And am I buying this item (for my home or closet or the kids) because they need it or because I’m trying to fill a void? Buying—and the constant consumer cycle—is exhausting. But I bought stuff because it gave me a temporary high. I felt secure. But that high never lasted and only left me longing for more. I’ve had to re-circuit my brain to find a different way to feel that temporary high, something called neuroplasticity; that is how we wire (or rewire) our minds. I’ve switched my high from buying things to not buying things. So, when I buy something that I actually need and will use, I feel pretty good about myself.
Eliminate my poverty mentality
I don’t know if it’s because I’m thrifty or because in the first few years of our marriage, we were extremely frugal (because we had to be), but when I find a good deal, I feel like I have to have it—having more made me feel rich. And yet the stuff I owned was making me poorer, overwhelmed me, and only made me emptier inside. That was the unreliable narrator talking. I didn’t need to worry that I wouldn’t have enough. There are plenty of resources everywhere I turn–like in my own home! So, my goal is to let the things I’m supposed to have come to me without spending much (or anything at all).
Be thankful for everything
Another light bulb moment for me, one that also took me out of my poverty mindset, was learning to be grateful for what I already had, everything from finding a penny on the ground to being gifted a cup of coffee. There is a way to be thankful for what I have without having to buy anything else. When I looked at my closet and eliminated all the clothing I didn’t wear, it allowed me to be thankful for the pieces I did wear.
Having less made me more grateful. I have one favorite spatula that I use all the time, the rest never get used. I have seven pairs of jeans I wear all the time, not the other 13. And of those 40 vintage mugs, I use up to seven regularly. I eliminated the excess.
As a minimalist and a reliable narrator, I feel like my credibility has been restored. I only have what I love and use and only buy what I love and need. I don’t need to own more to feel better about myself. I don’t have to accumulate things I’ll never use because I’m afraid I won’t have enough. I can trust good things will come to me. I’m more thankful for everything I have and can’t wait to share what I own with others. I trust myself with what I have (and don’t have). I can be the real version of myself no matter my circumstances, regardless of what’s happening around me, or what everyone else is doing.
These truthful aspects bring peace and freedom into every area of my home. And that means the story of my life finally has a reliable narrator whom I can trust and believe in… me.