I’m not a hoarder, per se…but…I’m a hoarder.
The funny things is I try to blame it on the nature of my business. I work with kids. Kids need a lot of stuff (in general). We do a TON of crafts. Kid craft materials usually look like trash (let’s be real: sometimes the final product look like trash, too LOL. But I digress).
If I’m being honest, though, the empty egg cartons, paint jars and pipe cleaners we use for our vertebrae projects are not the only things that define me as such.
I have trouble throwing things away.
Magazines I’m going to read “when I have time”. Textbooks from college that I NEVER look at but feel are just “good to have”. Clothes I’m “working hard to get back into” or T-shirts I’ve collected over the years. So. Many. T-shirts. I mean, you should see my Gmail inbox. It’s ridiculous! And we won’t even get started on the coupons I hoard only to forget about since I’m usually headed to the grocery store in a scramble anyway.
Every now and then I think about becoming a minimalist. Life should be simpler. I know it can be, and I want it to be! I really do! But every time I start to get rid of things I get sentimental about the middle school graduation t-shirt we received AGES ago with all my classmates names on them. (Many of which I didn’t know to start…) Or my coins. Thinking about the money I could save if I do buy is the reason why I hang on to those stupid coupons when I KNOW it’s not likely that I’ll spend that money on those products or services anyway.
I’m a mess.
Decluttering is something I’ve always known I need to do with stuff, but it wasn’t until I started tap dancing around the idea of being an entrepreneur that I realized the importance of doing it in so many other areas of life.
Let me explain.
I’ve always been fairly careful and calculated: Carefully follow the road map to get to the destination. Calculate the risk of desired deviations. Enjoy the fruit of your decisions.
What that usually meant, however, was I ALWAYS committed to the safer option and was only okay with taking risks that would allow me just enough slack on my experimental rope to safely come back to the original plan unscathed.
I liked it this way. It allowed me room to play with the idea of controlling my own destiny, but the security of knowing I couldn’t jack my situation up too much. I needed my safety net.
But you know what? It didn’t take too long before the pattern of hitting my head against the same brick wall of misery became a more consistent, recurring thing.
I began to realize that holding on to security was making me emotionally sick. Being safe just left me sorry. The concept of being an entrepreneur and working for myself, envisioning a lifestyle and actually chasing after it became more and more appetizing.
So I sat on idea after idea, year after year, working my 9-5 job, waiting for the “thing” that would allow me to safely transition from a life I despised to the life of my dreams. And after years of trying to make it happen but only being able to experience a morsel here and there of the life I truly desired, it hit me:
Entrepreneurship is not safe.
That was a tough pill to swallow. It was SO against my personality. It was the total opposite of what I felt made me the responsible adult I was always striving to be. It was scary.
But eventually I came to a crossroad: you can either continue down this safe path to entrepreneurship, only to experience a fraction of what you’re hoping to create for yourself down a long road, OR you can buck up, muster up every ounce of courage you can manage at the moment and create space in your life to allow those dreams of yours to become your reality.
It gave me a headache.
I fought to get around it. I tried to make my dreams the best side hustles I could possibly manage. I worked damn near ‘round the clock. I tried to give every moving piece of my life the time it needed and deserved to be what I longed for it to be. But the reality is, in all my efforts, the main thing I accomplished was learning a plant can only grow as big as the pot it’s placed in.
My dreams had reached capacity. My life could not receive anything greater than it had room to. I had to declutter not ONLY my life of physical “things”, but of my obligations, responsibilities AND commitments if I wanted to receive the fullness of what I felt I was working towards.
Choosing to declutter was hard.
It meant I had to ditch the safety of the job I had. I mean, I hated it, so emotionally detaching from the physical location was easy. Emotionally detaching from the consistency of that check? Was not.
Now, I won’t pretend like I was that corporate business woman who was working a 300k salary job, stacking chips and enjoyed end of the year bonuses that matched some other’s annual salary. Nah, that wasn’t me. But all my bills were paid and new stamps in my passport were something I could prepare for. So, knowing that decluttering meant I needed to leave the job that allowed me to be a financially independent adult was not a strong desire.
I quit my job, but only to fill the void with other long term temporary gigs that were not consistent with my dream to soothe my fears. And you guessed it. I was miserable there too. But you know what? That’s okay, because the transition was good for me. It was necessary for my personality because just as it’s tough for a drug addict to go cold turkey, I needed to take baby steps to prove to myself that what I was doing was the right decision for me; to give myself permission that I could if I wanted.
So I opened my mind and schedule up to the possibility of receiving the life I dreamed of.
This part of my life was tricky.
I was in a serious limbo dance between the known and unknown. On one hand, I had a contract with a defined end date that I was glad took care of the expenses of the “right now”. But looking out into the future? I couldn’t tell you what was to come. All I knew was I had a skill set that I hoped and prayed would carry me through to the successful side of entrepreneurship.
So I focused on just putting one foot in front of the other.
This worked, but eventually the moment came where I reached yet ANOTHER fork in the road: either continue pouring all your time into working for someone else’s goals and mask it as “successful contract work” or get serious about you and put yourself first. I knew that if I continued down this route, I would only hinder the transition towards my personal work and aspirations becoming a priority. I knew I had to jump with no net. I had to cut back.
I remember the day I communicated this to my client. All I could think to myself was “you’ve got some nerve, Ashley. Who do you really think you are?!” I can say, I’ve never had a moment quite like that where I truly had to think about my response to something I asked myself.
I had reached a moment where I needed to answer my own question.
So I made some defining decisions: I AM an entrepreneur. I am in control of my career and financial destiny. I am choosing to DO something about that which I long for and I am going to prove to MYSELF that I can.
And I kid you not, just like that, as if a divine intervention was just waiting for ME, the moment I decided to make myself available to the lifestyle I wanted was the minute I found I was able to receive the work that matched that dream.
Duh…so simple, but so not simple.
I had to finally acknowledge that I could not carry the bigger package if my arms were full of the small trinkets. I had to be okay with putting those down to make room for the greater goal, and my goodness, has it been worth it.
Now, I am not the one to sell a dream. Letting go of something of great value in hopes of gaining something that could potentially have more value felt a little crazy, and so far the ride has certainly not been all unicorns and rainbows. There have been plenty of hurdles and clouds. It can be an emotional rollercoaster.
I remember my first summer out of the 9-5 structure. A seasoned entrepreneur would probably just call it being in between contracts. The paranoid me called it unemployed. Every day was a constant fight to remember I was experiencing the ebbs and flows of business and this “unemployed” status I was experiencing was only temporary.
But I am grateful to know that the life I choose to live today is creating the life I am working so hard to enjoy in full tomorrow.
Each day certainly gets a little easier to create space for the life I yearn for. So far I can say it’s totally worth it. I’m very grateful to have arrived to the belief that a life of living boldly holds much more value than living a life in “career fear”.
I’m so thankful for the courage to pursue those dreams deferred, today.