Becoming a Minimalist
Have you ever felt like your house was going to bust out at the seams? You immediately start thinking about selling and upgrading to a larger home, right? I’ve been there many times with our home. We moved into our home back in 2005, just 1 week shy of our 1st anniversary. We had just had our first child about 12 days prior to our move. At the time, it felt great, it felt so spacious! Only one child in a 3 bedroom home with an office. It was a wonderful upgrade from our 2 bedroom duplex.
And then baby #2 came 15 months later. It still felt great. Everyone had their own room and we still had the office. But then baby #3 came 22 months later and I started to feel like our home was shrinking. It was around my pregnancy with baby #4 that I started feeling really, really cramped.
Selling our home was out of the question at the time because it was no longer worth what we paid. We had bought our home during the housing peak and a few short years later, the housing market crashed. Adding on to our home was also out of the question. It would require funds that we didn’t have and possibly permit agreements we could not afford (being required to pave the dirt road next to our home).
When you can’t sell or add on, there’s only one choice left if you want to make a change.
I started looking around, taking in each room of our home. I realized a big part of my frustration was not being able to keep my home clean. I can’t spend my day cleaning, homeschool, raise the kids and have a home ready for unexpected guests with minor clean up (my goal as a pastor’s wife). Frustration was starting to bubble over so I talked to my husband and we came up with a plan. It was time to start parting with possessions. Stuff just had to go.
It’s been a process. It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s been several years for us and we’re still working on de-owning clutter. I’m ashamed to say that we’ve taken bag after bag to the Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the local mission. The people at the Goodwill drop off to make comments (they like it when we show up according to them) when they see us now, we’ve been there that many times.
Losing space helps you reevaluate how you use it.
Last year, we had a leak in our laundry room. Our washing machine leaked water that soaked into the underlayment and damaged not only the floor and wall in that room but also in our hall bathroom. There is nothing like suddenly losing the space of two rooms and moving all that stuff somewhere else. I once again realized how much stuff we still had and it was time to renew my effort in parting with things we weren’t using.
Becoming a minimalist family
As we dealt with our home being in chaos from renovation work I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that my idea of what a minimalist was wrong. I fell into the trap of thinking that I needed a couch against a blank wall with nothing around it. I started to feel the pressure that everything we were doing wasn’t enough. And then I realized something. Being a minimalist doesn’t mean we only have the very, very basics to get through a day, it means “…an intentional lifestyle of living with less” (quote from Joshua Becker’s Clutterfree with Kids: Change your thinking. Discover new habits. Free your home).
Being a minimalist isn’t all mindset. You do have to take action. After all, you can’t be a minimalist in your mind while hoarding in your house. You also have to realize it’s a process (did you catch that a couple paragraphs ^ up there?). When I set out on minimizing our possessions, I thought I would ‘be there’ by now. Just pack stuff up, pass it along and be done. But it’s not quite that easy or nor does it happen that quickly. There are things to consider like family members (especially if they aren’t completely on board with you). And I’ve come to realize that’s okay. We are all different and what worked for one person, might not work for our family.
We are surrounded by a mindset where more is better. Changing that mindset in yourself might be easy or it might be hard. It would be silly of me to say one way or the other. I will say, though, that if you become too frustrated with yourself and the time it’s taking, maybe reevaluate your approach or just accept it and keep going but don’t give up. And remember, don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other minimalist standards. I did and I almost gave up.
Another minimalist might not consider my living room an indication of a ‘true’ minimalist living here but it’s more simple than it’s ever been and my hope and goal are that anyone entering our home will immediately feel at comfortable in the coziness of it. I’m no longer comparing my living room to another minimalist living room. The comparison becomes a trap and leads to just as much discontentment as wanting more (apparently, I have to learn things the hard way).
Our family is a work in progress and we might always be a work in progress but that’s okay. We’ve come a long way together and while having even fewer possessions is still one of our goals (hello donation drop offs!), we really just want our children to learn that because we have space doesn’t mean we need to fill it up with something. We’re blessed, but that doesn’t mean we need everything we think we do. There are still days where I look around and feel frustrated about clutter, but those days are fewer and further between.
And let me say this, there is nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with being a minimalist. If you’ve been able to accomplish that, I sincerely admire you. I will just no longer compare myself to you and will be content with what we personally accomplish as a family.
5 Tips to Becoming a Minimalist:
- Pare down on Possessions – Take a box or bag and walk around your home. Look at the things left sitting out and ask yourself if you really need them. Do you need 3 sauce pans, 3 pots, and 3 frying pans? Probably not. Take the things you don’t need or have no place for and toss it into the box or bag. Take it to the donation place of your choice within the next day or two. Don’t let it sit around because you might start questioning your choice.
- Pare down on Food – Let’s face it. Our grocery stores are crowded with options. We have flours made from more than just wheat now, which is great for those with allergies, but if you don’t have allergies, do you really need to purchase the latest trend in food? Do you need to buy 5 different types of cereal or 3 types of lettuce? Obviously, if you deal with food allergies, the varieties of food you’ll need might be more than the average household, but I’m talking about if you don’t need them.
- Pare down on Bills/Debt – Are you spending on 3 or 4 credit cards, plus your bank account? Do you have a lot of bills? When my husband was out of a job for several months, we cut down our bills by selling his car (bye bye second car payment), dropping my cell phone (we had a landline), paying off credit card debit, etc. We’ve tried to maintain that even after he found another job. We did add a cell phone for me later on but dropped our landline.
- Pare down on Clothing – I dislike clothes and shoe shopping. I know, I know. I’m a girl and suppose to have loads of shoes, right? I’ll be honest, my husband has more clothing and shoes than I do. That being said, I still had more than enough in both departments so I bagged some up and donated them. I don’t have to spend more than a couple minutes figuring out what I’m going to wear for the day and most of that time is spent just getting the clothes out of the dresser/closet.
- Pare down on Distractions – This could be social media, internet, games or some other “hobby” that really distracts you from keeping on top of things around the home. This, honestly, has been the hardest for me. Getting rid of things around the house, clothing, spending, etc. have been easier. I do so much on the computer, offline and online, that I tend to get distracted and what should have been a fairly quick task ends up taking an hour (squirrel syndrome anyone?). The more focused I am, the more I get done and quickly.