I’ve tossed about a lot of topics to blog about this month and just kept coming back to one topic, minimalism.
I often blog about home management and ways to maintain a more natural lifestyle. But what I haven’t discussed is why. And the reason I haven’t is because of fear of people’s opinions on my lifestyle. You see, I’m a minimalist. And the word minimalism has such a negative connotation to many Americans. Many believe being a minimalist means you are sacrificing things, simply giving away mementos of a hard-earned nature. That being a minimalist means you are not taking advantage of all that is available in the modern world today.
While that may be the perception of some, that may not always be the case. For when one takes the time to truly learn about what minimalism really is, they may find out it can can not only help improve one’s life but help you save money and live a more natural lifestyle. Minimalism can lead to happier lives!
My personal journey into minimalism began a few years ago in the midst of personal crisis. My family was $78,000 in debt, I had just suffered my first miscarriage, my grandmother had recently passed away, and in the midst of it all I was spending upwards of four hours a day cleaning my home. I suffered from panic attacks. I worked at a lackluster job. When home, I spent more time cleaning crumbs from counters than creating memories with my family. I yelled a lot. I shopped too much. I collected clutter. My home was a wreck. I lived around piles of unfolded laundry. I cooked processed foods. I was addicted to soda. I was overweight. My shih-tzu was overweight. I was unhappy. My life was a cluttered, chaotic mess.
When I looked around my home, from room to room, I started realizing just how severely clutter had become embedded into my life — my schedule, my mind, my body, my family, my pets, and even my home.
An example: I formerly owned four crock pots. I never cooked wholesome meals at home using those crock pots. I owned them because I thought I needed to possess these items to have a proper kitchen. Crock pots purchased on sale from my favorite money-saving sites, for any occasion that might pop up. I felt I was prepared, a proper newlywed and domestic goddess divine. The reality was, the crock pots and the clutter that be owned me. And this clutter made me feel less than happy with my circumstances, less than happy with myself as a person.
I had built a home and a life with my husband, and through grace and gratitude wasn’t lacking resources. Quite the opposite, actually. I had all the building blocks of a great life. A handful of degrees, a home, cars, a closet bulging at the seems, lots and lots of beautiful Pinterest-inspired things. Still I felt a lack of focus I couldn’t quite explain. A general dissatisfaction that didn’t make sense, an inner noise that despite all I owned left a heaviness in my soul.
So, as usual my husband came up with a great idea after months of nag-fests one after the next. He said, “If you’re not happy with the clutter, get rid of it.” Simple, right? My husband even brought home Marie Kondo’s famed, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (I’ll be devoting more time to the Kon-Mari method later this month). So, with the Kon-Marist doctrine in-hand, I started to get rid of stuff.
We moved larger ticket items to one room. Listed and sold them. Used the proceeds to pay down debt. We sorted through clothing. Sent a ton of items off to Thredup. I still didn’t seem settled. We then sorted through books, papers, toys, gardening tools, anything that even resembled processed food, every inch of our 2,400 square foot home. We listed over a hundred items on local Facebook groups, Craigslist, and Wallapop. We also made more than a dozen trips to charities all over the county. Still I didn’t seem more put together.
I wasn’t settled until the day I walked into my near empty living room and noticed that for the first time, the light that filters in from my shuttered windows. Now in an untamed space actually of my bare uninterrupted room, danced magically across our beautiful, dark floors. In that moment it hit me, that ah-ha moment I smiled. It clicked for me. When I live with less, I lived with more.
By decluttering my home, I uncluttered my life. No longer was I plagued with the embarrassed of having friends and family over. I no longer resorted to boxed macaroni and cheese for dinners. We now have cleared tables and simple dishes. We ate wholesome foods. I planted, blanched, sautéed, and canned what we ate myself. Minimalism helped me created more time in my life to be both a developed, modern woman who could work from home, and a gal who could still ding at that pesky glass ceiling from time to time too. I know where everything is in my home and my office, and I can run them both like a boss.
Here are a few other reasons I decided to take the minimalist plunge:
1. Finances – Having begun living on a tighter budget out of necessity, minimalism gave me a way to counter rising unemployment, stagnant wages, and falling stock prices by rethinking my families overall purchasing power. We choose to make the distinctions between essential and nonessential purchases. We buy better items, less often, and are now completely guilt-free in doing so.
2. Environmental Mindedness – Part of why my family chooses to live a minimalist life is out of sheer concern for the environment. We believe that less consumption equals caused the preservation of earth’s natural resources. We choose to say no to plastic products. We use mason jars are storage containers, to store cleaners, and to hold whole food purchases in-store like peanut butter, juice, and the like. Minimalism allows us to make a direct, active difference in our home, our community and our planet. We prefer to not idly sit on the sidelines, but be conscious of our surroundings and planet.
3. Personal Debt – After years and years of living beyond our means, we were in trouble. $78,000 worth of student loans, assumed medical debt, and excessive credit card payments kind of debt. Minimalism, and in part by the trend-setting debt-free solutions of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program, we were able to get out from under the soul-crushing debt of yesteryear in just under five years. Minimalism teaches you that when you choose to buy less and save more, you regain the confidence in your personal finances.
4. Social Awareness – Injustice, poverty, unequal educational opportunities, malnutrition, and apathy have always plagued mankind. But through minimalism our family finances have become freed enough to help make a small difference on a global scale by investing in individual self-started the world over through Kiva.org. Kiva allows individuals to donate small sums of money, which are turned into micro loans to start small businesses in third world countries. Do you know what one hundred dollars can do to the loves of women and children in need? Plenty. And when you spend less time worrying about the self, you can devote time to help feed the hungry, provide clean drinking water to others, promote educational opportunities for others, and speaking up for the voiceless whenever it is needed.
5. Beauty – Minimalism has allowed our home to become a showcase. Minimalism transforms my home into a museum of hope. Our artwork, mementos, and keepsakes have become center stage in how our families story is presented to the world through every room in our home. Every piece, every frame, every memory is important and meticulously placed. This is a source of pride for me.
6. Technology – Today, computers replace the need for dvd’s, paper files, photo albums, calendars, planners, calculators, phone books, and more. One way we implement minimalism in our lives is by digitizing. Everything from 45’s and 12″ vinyl, to movies, tax documents, manuals, and even holiday greeting cards. We receive digital subscriptions to magazines and our local newspaper (which cut our subscription rates in half). We pay our bills electronically. We opt for e-books on the OverDrive app from our public library. We replaced couponing with digital apps. We shop online for our monthly staple products from Amazon Subscribe and Save, including toilet paper. We electronically vote in country, state, and national elections. We donate to charities on the web. We can even tithe online via our parishes website. Technology has enabled my personal journey into minimalism to expand farther than I could have ever imagined.
7. Simplification – Minimalism gives me a sense of security. In an every changing, fast-paced world where the personal demand on one’s time, space, and sanity seem to be without end, minimalism gives our family a refuge of silence and peace. Minimalism gives our family quiet places, open green spaces, unspoiled views, open surfaces, and experiences. Minimalism offers a life with less stress, less distraction, more freedom, more time, with less guilt and emotional baggage.
8. Presence – While the minimalism lifestyle may seem sparse, stark, and lonely, this is far from the contrary. For minimalists are never alone. You see, there are many, many proponents of the minimalist lifestyle. And everyday they are making their presence more and more known to the world. There are awesome folks like Dave Bruno, Colin Wright, and Joshua Becker who offer daily insight, advice, encouragement, and inspiration for the minimalist lifestyle. I am able to glean from they’re victories and learn from their mistakes. They are like friends who are always their for you in spirit. They are my minimalist cheerleaders!
9. Lifetsyle – Myself, like countless others are choosing to make their living online. I work from a fully digital, remote home office thanks to Skype, Google Hangouts, e-faxing, Cloud drives, Google docs. I can generate additional income by running both a blog and a website for my home studio. Did I also mention I have an ETSY shop too? I am freer to travel. I can work from anywhere. I can even engage with colleagues while walking my fur-babies. Technology, I am a changed woman!
10. Realization – Consumerism is alive and well. Advertisers tell us that our next purchase will bring us satisfaction, longevity, happiness, and joy. And people believe it. Minimalism has helped me to pull off the veneer of commercialism. To be a more thoughtful person. I now realize that there is a falsehood in debt. There is corruption in over consumption. I know I will never find happiness through anything man-made. While money isn’t inherently evil, the love of money and things can be. I choose to seek happiness and fulfillment in other places: in my faith, my relationships, my social causes, and my own significance.
This is why I personally chose minimalism. Why at the end of the day, minimalism doesn’t have to be about living in a tiny house with two t-shirts in your closet, sleeping on the floor. Minimalism is about paring down and focusing on what really matters. For once you’ve experienced the inherently awesome benefits of living with less clutter, you have no reason to go back.
For me, this wasn’t as much about streamlining my physical possessions, as it was about minimizing my schedule, getting clear about my priorities, and being laser focused about what I want out of life. Becoming whole meant I could become a better wife to Daniel, a better mom to many, and a better person to myself.
Professionally, minimalism has manifested itself into my life can best be seen in the way I design my days. I no longer had to block off time to clean incidental messes, I could devote time to blog editorials, assignments for work, spending time nurturing my family, and a big one for me, living a more natural life. Minimalism helps me live with intention.
So, folks this will be the tone for April here on the blog. I will be discussing in detail what we got rid of in our home, why we love the Kon’mari method ( including a Spark Joy and Kon’Mari Journal Review), how we stopped being stuffaholics, how you can start a minimalist life and my favorite minimalist resources, blog spring cleaning, social media spring cleaning, my Spring cleaning routine and my daily 1-hour cleaning schedule, natural cleaning tutorials, more on our less junk more journey philosophy, seasonal meal planning, and what I loved in April.
I’ve said all this to say to you all: Minimalism brings me joy, and that’s a joy worth sharing with others. That’s all.
Here’s to living with less,