In July, we were quite blessed with the opportunity to buy a nice, spacious home for our giant family. There were so many changes that would need to be made. Our 900 square foot, three bedroom home as certainly overrun with our excess of furniture, belongings, and just general clutter. While transferring all of the stuff to a home that was three times larger would be doable, it was absolutely not the vision I had for my home and for my life. In a season that we found ourselves changing in infinite ways, including (gasp!) medicating for my ADHD and getting a true gasp on my ability to be a wife and mother, we sought a practical and sustainable solution to the overwhelming piles and crap we seemed to be buried in.
What started with the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up very quickly spiraled into a life-changing transformation as we embraced minimalism on a deep level. And when I say "we," I truly mean it; my husband and children, although we all differ in how we practice it, were on board with me. It has been a fairly pleasant experience getting them to incorporate these ideals and with minimal resistance!
The only downside that I have experienced is that minimalism is utterly misunderstood. I can't help but laugh at the mental images invoked by some at the mere mention of the "m" word. In an attempt to quickly and thoroughly dispel the most common myths about minimalism and those who practice it, I decided to jot down my thoughts on the matter, and include a few pics at the very end for reference. Enjoy!
What minimalism isn't:
One of the biggest misconceptions when people hear the term "minimalism" is that you have no possessions at all, aside from your white wicker chair that sits in the middle of your white living room, next to your solitary picture on the wall. If you are really extreme, you might simply live in a renovated bus - also white, and empty. For the majority of minimalists, this couldn't be farther from the truth. We have downsized probably 80% or more of our belongings, and yet we still have more than enough stuff to function - and then some! I may only have 6 pairs of socks, but I have at least 100 skeins of yarn. We have reduced to the point of only one type of soap for everything...but I have an entire drawer full of makeup (it is very well organized, in case you are wondering).
One size fits all
One of the most annoying things about changing your eating habits is the commentary from others. It's simply, more often than not, unhelpful. And potentially hurtful. Any time you try to eat what you want, someone is there to chime in. "I thought you were on a diet??" "Oh...so you can't eat a milkshake but you can drink a Coke?" "Is that on your diet?" It is an opportunity to educate people about what you have eaten all day, how you plan your meals to accommodate certain foods, or how much you worked out this week and need to make up the calories; but most of the time, you just wish people could be more open minded. The same is true for a minimalist lifestyle. It is flexible and adaptive. There is no black and white, there are no rules, and there is no set limit. Sure, we minimalists judge the hell out of each other in private..I would NEVER get rid of my makeup and simplify my beauty routine!! On the other hand though, we understand that we don't all live the same way and we accept that there are infinite differences from one person's journey to another. We share ideas and give suggestions and feedback, knowing full well that it doesn't always work for another person. Minimalism isn't putting yourself in a box. It's opening possibilities and freeing yourself. I have room for a drawer full of makeup - because that's where my passion lies. I got rid of all the bath supplies and random medicine and samples and I have room for makeup. It's beautiful, isn't it?
I have places in my house right now that just totally stress me out. Try as I might, there are area in our lives that are harder to minimize than others. Needless to say, most of this is not actually my own stuff. My darling husband, while on board with the minimalist concept, is not quite the thrower-awayer nor the organizer that I am. I don't feel comfortable ridding him of his own things or telling him how to organize them. It's a constant struggle to see his overflowing shelf, his box of junk he can't part with but never uses, and his duffel bag of "cop stuff" that he doesn't even know the contents of. I tell myself as often as possible that he just isn't there yet and it's okay - even if it cramps my style. What's worse is the parts of the house belonging more or less to my kiddos. My daughter clings to the most worthless junk (this is not an opinion... She literally tries to keep broken bits of plastic and paper clippings). That junk finds its way to the outer edges of my home and makes me slightly crazy. All in all, I have to admit that we have our quirks and minimalism is not about perfection. There are going to be boxes of clothes that haven't been sorted. There is going to be an item here or there that the owner can't part with. While my yarn collection is quite purposeful, I have to divulge that my insistence on keeping all the drawing paper is...well... less purposeful. Minimalists have flaws, like everyone, and if we show you our immaculate, well-organized bathroom vanity - just know that the towel rack probably has at least four dingy towels too many and we haven't folded them in days.
I don't think minimalism is for everybody, but I do believe pretty much everyone would benefit from the concept of it. Much like spirituality, so many people are not ready for a commitment or prepared to embrace it. Now, that's not to say everyone needs to toss out all their stuff and do what I do. Some people can't, for one reason or another. But I do maintain that the biggest factor keeping people from just jumping in is fear and lack of understanding. So many people suffer from severe anxiety that keeps them from parting with the stuff... Which is nothing but sad. I know, because I have been there. It is a horrible feeling to be unable to let go of things. It is even worse when there are so many things that you feel buried and burdened by them. Nonetheless, I have no desire to make everyone change. We minimalists do not just want to turn the whole world into us or our way of doing things. We aren't about forcing everyone into minimalism! Which brings me to my next point:
What minimalism is:
Like I said, we don't want to suck everyone into our little minimalist bubble. But you have to understand something: we know the power of the change we have made in our lives. It's huge. If we can see places you would benefit from it, we are going to say so. This is more true for large families with small children than probably ANYONE else.
- If you are complaining about the amount of laundry you have, we will tell you to get rid of it.
- If you feel like everyone is dirtying too many cups, we will suggest you reduce the cups in your home.
- If you are looking for tips to keep your home clean, we are going to recommend you start throwing stuff out or donating it.
This is not necessarily one of the positive aspects of minimalism I suppose, but it can be addictive. I find myself looking at my clothes and wondering if I can reduce my wardrobe further. Once I toss the extra cups we have somehow accumulated over the last several months, I begin to eyeball the extra spatulas. The act of reducing is almost habit-forming as you learn to adapt to what you have. So many things you had collected before now look superfluous. At some point, it becomes second nature to reconsider every item to want to bring in the house. Maybe addictive isn't the right word, after all. It's not involuntary but rather learned behavior to push yourself out of your comfort zone and truly discover what you can live without and how little you really need.
Linear; progressing from one stage to another in a single series of steps; sequential. That pretty much nails it all! Minimalism, while not being about perfection, is definitely about being a constant work in progress. We purged and downsized like crazy when we moved! And yet I am always finding more stuff to sort, more things to toss, and more things to organize. Just when I think everything is just as it should be, I find a way that will work out better and I have to shift everything around. More stuff is acquired. More things don't fit. More things get worn out. More and more comes in, at a faster rate than it is dealt with. I am always finding that there is a box or shelf or corner that must be, once again, judged and picked over with a fine tooth comb. We have scheduled days each month just for looking through our stuff and deciding if we still want or need what is there. The job will never be completed, at least so long as we breathe!
It's pretty obvious that minimalism is a rewarding lifestyle change. I don't know very many people who practice any degree of minimalism and turn their back on it. It's strange though how much it is frowned upon by those who don't really understand it yet! If it was miserable and difficult, would anyone do it? Ha! I'm not sure where the attitude stems from that we are essentially torturing ourselves with minimizing, but it couldn't be further from the truth. The more we let go of, the more fulfilled we become. When you say goodbye to the clutter and the piles and the stuff, you are welcoming more time, more space, and more purpose into your life. Maybe that sounds silly to some people. But I can honestly say that clearing out the stuff I don't use has dramatically changed my ability to utilize the stuff I truly value. You wouldn't think that having more than you need could be time-consuming, but for most people, the sheer stress from even seeing the over abundance of things keeps us from using our time wisely. Why is it that when a child is at home in their room, they will dump out their toy box on the floor .. but when they enter a waiting room with a few books and only one or two toys, they methodically engage each item for a great length of time? Taking away choices isn't deprivation. It is gratifying!
|"Other" Living Room|
Some things really are *empty* and that is soooo okay with me. This wacky cupboard that was left behind when we moved in is being utilized until we find something to better fit our needs. It was in the corner of the school room, holding a few random items that have no other place..but I found it to be less useful in this spot than it would be in the dining room. We switched it out with a book shelf for the kids to use which looks much nicer in that spot. I have a few more things to go on that shelf, but I will not fill it with random crap as I might have been tempted to do a year ago. This is a life changing secret, but... you don't HAVE to use up all your space. It's okay to leave some things empty if that is what you want.
Not everything is perfect. After Christmas, the game shelf was unbearable. My kids were taking advantage of how easily they could throw things on the open shelving, so we needed to change something. Since we keep things fairly tidy, a complete overhaul on the area too maybe an hour. I didn't need to scour the house for missing game pieces, because pieces aren't allowed to leave this room. I knew just by glancing at each item if I had seen a piece floating around the house. Anything with missing pieces goes straight in the garbage. This has taught my kids that if they care about something, they need to take care not to lose pieces, or let the baby get into it... and they need to put it away.