I’ve been sharing a little on social media about my minimalism journey, and enough people have asked questions that I decided to write some posts about what that has looked like so far for us. So I’ll start at the beginning (which is a very good place to start) with three specific epiphanies I had early on that spurred us to begin down this path.
EPIPHANY #1: WE HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF
About five years ago, I was living in Charleston, SC with my husband and two preschoolers and preparing for a move to Olympia, WA. As military luck would have it, Scott was gone for training for the six months before our move, so it was up to me to get our household goods in order for showing our house. As I prepared for the move, I stored some of our belongings and left. I figured it would be easier to sell the house if we and a lot of our things weren’t in it. The kids and I packed some bags and went to my parents’ house in OK. At their house, the three of us shared a bedroom and a bathroom for four months. We had enough clothes for two weeks and a few toys and books from home.
I was happier in those four months than I’d been in a couple of years. I realized how suffocated by our stuff I’d been feeling. It wasn’t something that happened over night. It was gradual. We gained more and more baby “necessities” with each child along with enough toys to outfit a daycare. Most of them came from other people—gifts and hand me downs—and the vast majority of it rarely got played with.
I specifically remember a conversation I had with my friend, Leigh, about her daughter’s fourth birthday present. She said Celia had asked for a stuffed bear from Costco that cost $20, so that’s what they were getting her. I asked her, “But what are you getting her for her BIG present?” Leigh answered, “Just the bear. That’s all she wants.”
I realize now how stupid my question must have sounded to her in that moment, but I was operating under the assumption that birthdays require something BIG, and BIG meant something expensive or flashy—something that would elicit “oohs and aahs” and photo-worthy clapping and tears from the little consumers I was creating. What a novel idea to honor a child with what she actually wanted even if that thing didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.
Before I start to sound like I’m blaming the mess on my kids, I should say that Scott and I both acquired more and more of our own “toys.” I had art and homeschooling supplies and kitchen gadgets and books and clothes and trinkets. He had tools and Air Force issued gear and awards and souvenirs from trips and piles of who-knows-what that I shoved into drawers, so it wouldn’t be in my face. I knew the first thing I was going to have to do to tackle this problem was stop bringing more stuff into the house.
EPIPHANY #2: WE HAVE TOO MUCH SPACE FOR OUR STUFF
We moved to WA in 2011, and I was bound and determined to get rid of things, and we did. Kind of. We gave away a lot of things, but we also lived in a 2,200 square foot house with a 2,200 square foot garage (yes, you read that right), and that allowed us to create an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to our stuff. Instead of dealing with it, we just put all the stuff we weren’t using in the garage.
Aside from the black hole garage, every room in the house had some level of clutter—from decorative items to stacks of papers to bags of junk I’d whisked off the kitchen counters to the bedroom when company was on its way.
It was at that time that I noticed a habit of mine. If there was a drawer, I filled it. If there was a cabinet, I organized the bejesus out of it. Seriously. I had so many Rubbermaid bins and storage solution shelving units and “systems” for storing all our stuff. Our closets and drawers were so stuffed with clothes that I dreaded putting the clothes away after doing laundry and instead chose to leave the pile of clean clothes on the chair in our bedroom that was supposed to be the place I used for snuggling/reading/drinking tea.
It occurred to me that 1) I would like to explore the idea of living with less space because that would force us to get rid of stuff, and 2) just because the drawer exists doesn’t mean it has to have something in it.
Maybe this is something that everyone else already knows, so bear with me as I expose my ridiculous self.
EPIPHANY #3: WE ARE SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME ON OUR STUFF
Even though we weren’t spending a ton of money relatively speaking, we were drowning in things. And I spent the majority of my waking hours “cleaning.” What I was actually doing was moving crap from room to room, organizing all the things into drawers and cabinets and bins, and feeling tired all the time. With two kids, a dog, a husband who made frequent “touch-and-go” trips leaving piles in his wake, and my own pile issues, our house felt chaotic all the time.
Because of Scott’s schedule, when he was in town, we would often leave to spend time as a family. Part of this was because the only way to escape the office was to be unreachable, but a more troubling piece I realize now is that I couldn’t relax in our home. We couldn’t have “quality time” together at home because at least mentally, I wasn’t there. I couldn’t relax reading books with the kids because the piles of crap were staring at me. I couldn’t sit on the couch watching football with Scott because I was constantly thinking about projects that needed to be done around the house.
When we did have a Saturday at home, it was often spent organizing the garage or the closet or some other crammed space in an effort to get ahead of it all. Instead of spending time with my kids or reading or writing, I was organizing our life to death.
In writing this, I realized pretty quickly that I was going to need to write at least two different posts, so I’ll stop there for now and work on the next post when I get a quiet minute to write again. Next up: resources that got me moving!