In life, there are so many things that we must deal with, that are non-negotiables. Think about it, there are a lot of things on a day to day basis that you cannot say no to: death and taxes being two of them. I feel a lot of power over my own self-worth and overall mental health, when I can opt out of something.
When I look at my (Shannon) life these days, I am happy to assess many things I have curated as a desirable, joyous life. I feel grateful to be spending life with a wonderful life partner, I have a job that I get excited about in the mornings, I live in a town that I love, and I am so proud of my activism and outspokenness when it comes to the welfare of animals, including our own fur baby, Betty White. Yet, there are still a few things in this world that I cannot opt out of:
- People in power (politics)-though I have a say with my vote, and you can, too!
- Paying bills- though I could opt out if I want to sit in the dark or owe the IRS.
- Witnessing groups of people or animals being hurt or neglected-again voting helps both.
- Death- yeah, there is no escaping that one, unfortunately.
Opting out- I am sure the first thing that comes into your mind is an email or mailing list. Most things you receive, whether it is tangible, or electronic, usually includes a tiny footnote at the bottom that instructs you with the, often not so easy way, to opt out. In the spirit of living minimally, opting out, most definitely includes my email box, as well as our mailbox. I only receive something unsolicited once in the mail, or email, before I am reading the tiny font with instructions to remove myself from their mailing list.
I have also learned that opting out isn’t just limited to unsolicited mail or email, but also media, people, packaging, origin of food… really, anything that pulls my attention into an undesirable state, I opt out. Some may call it a defense mechanism, and guess what?! In some instances, it very well may be a way to protect myself, especially when it comes to people, but that is ok. Yes, it is ok to opt out of things and people in your life who do not bring you joy- that, dear readers, is the heart of minimalism, and why this lifestyle is ideal for us.
When a new season rolls around, and I purge some of the clothes that have trickled in, in the last year. I hold each item in my hand, try it on, look in the mirror, really feel the item and ask, “does this bring me joy?” If the answer is not a resounding, yes, then I opt out. I send it on its way to someone (usually Goodwill, Salvation Army, or ThredUp) who can appreciate it. I do the same for household items, or any other tangible product we may accumulate. Same process for emails- I cannot very well send it somewhere, but I do ask myself if the email brings me joy or contributes to my life in a positive way. If not, I opt out.
Now listen, here is the difficult part that most people don’t like to acknowledge, and most don’t want to act on, and I would say that I have become pretty good at it, but this relates to people, too. No, it isn’t cruel to opt out of relationships. Take a strong assessment of the relationships you have in your life. Do the relationships bring you joy? If it isn’t positive to you in some way, give yourself permission to opt out. I have had to make some difficult decisions in my life when it comes to people and opting out. I learned a long time ago that you can be respectful, diplomatic, and empathetic when it comes to relationships and people in general, and let’s hope you are, but you can safeguard those descriptors as actionable items with how you are in life, and also opt out.
Life is too short to have tangible, non-tangible, people, places, or whatever, in your life if it is not bringing you a sense of peace, happiness, or even contentment.