I think I was a minimalist at heart long before I knew what minimalism was.
When I was a kid, I always shared a room with at least one of my two sisters, except for a brief period where I got to enjoy my very own space. (With a family of eight living in an 1800 square foot home, that was rare.) While I loved my sisters, they usually did not share my innate desire to keep things tidy. The constant mess drove me crazy, and I wanted nothing more than to take the things that were on the floor and throw them right into the trash, which was, of course, out of the question.
I discovered at a young age that clean spaces made me feel peaceful, disorder created stress in a very real way, and getting rid of stuff in order to eliminate clutter was therapeutic and truly brought me joy.
Then I grew up, got married, and had five children. After several moves, we finally settled down and accumulated a bunch of stuff, because that is what people do when they buy a house that needs to be filled and decorated.
The last time we moved a few years ago, I was appalled at how much we had collected, and how it took the movers two trips with their big truck to move it all – even after I had gotten rid of what felt like a ton of stuff during the packing process. However, I somehow found a place for all of it in our new home, and then it didn’t feel like quite so much anymore. Even though I knew deep down that we did not need all that stuff, I pushed that thought aside and went on with my merry life.
About a year and a half ago, I discovered a blog called Becoming Minimalist, by Joshua Becker. I don’t even remember how I found it, but I was immediately drawn in, and found myself agreeing with just about everything that I read. (Seriously, go check it out…it is fantastic! My favorite blog, hands down.) It was a refreshingly different perspective on life that took me back to the grounded place that I think I had always known was right for me, even back when I was a kid. It reminded me of one simple truth that I had temporarily lost sight of: more stuff does not create more happiness. And, for me, too much stuff (clutter) is a surefire recipe for stress.
I finally had a name for the lifestyle that I wanted: minimalism. And I jumped in headfirst.
Over the past year and a half, I have worked to simplify my life – sometimes in spurts of energy and dedication, and, other times, at a slower, more methodical pace. I still have miles to go until I am where I want to be, but the progress I see is invigorating.
I lost track of how many loads we have taken to our local charity donation center, but I think they are beginning to recognize our van that often approaches stuffed to the gills with items that we no longer need.
We cleaned out our garage, getting rid of box after box of old mementos, text books, college notes, and other things that I have no idea why we kept through eight moves. We installed overhead shelving to store the stuff we kept (mostly Christmas lights…because Greg looks forward to Christmas decorating all year long). There is now nothing on the ground, (except the Christmas light projects that are in the works, of course…) making it possible to park three cars in there with ease.
Over the course of the past year and a half, we have gotten rid of furniture, several shelving units that were finally empty, and countless bags of clothing, toys, games, kitchen stuff, books…you name it. There is now empty space in most of our closets, and that makes me happy.
In the process of getting rid of our excess, I have also discovered more purpose in my own life – purpose that it not tied up in material things. I have taken the time to clearly define the things that are important to me, and am working towards building my life around those things instead of adopting the values (or things) that society deems to be important.
I love this quote from Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (A GREAT read):
It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of accumulating and never being content, because that is what society trains us to do. But I don’t want to adopt those priorities. I want to build a different type of life – a purposeful life – a deliberate life that is not founded in material possessions. That starts with giving myself permission to break free from the hamster wheel of acquisition, and learning to joyfully live with less – less stuff, fewer meaningless commitments, less desire to keep up with the Joneses – which will ultimately lead to less stress and more fulfillment.
Adopting a minimalist lifestyle does not mean that we are planning to get rid of all of our stuff, or that we will stop buying things altogether. We are not entertaining any radical ideas of owning a set number of things, living in a tiny house, or denying ourselves the right to buy anything new for a set amount of time. That is not what minimalism means to us.
It does mean that we are trying to be much more deliberate about the stuff that we own – making sure that we surround ourselves only with things that are truly useful and/or meaningful to us.
This is a journey – one that is evolving as we press forward. We are making it up as we go, but I am loving it so far.
I truly think I was made for this lifestyle. It is a quest that is changing my outlook on a variety of things, and I can’t wait to share my insights with you. Stay tuned.