Q: “How might your life be better if you owned LESS?”
This is a question that has been rolling around in my head for a while, after stumbling upon some people who call themselves “minimalists.” My answers started slow, and then they started piling up quickly.
- A: I would have less stuff to clean.
- A: I would have less stuff to repair when it breaks.
- A: I would have less stuff to organize.
- A: I would save money from shopping for meaningless things.
- A: I would not have to think about what to wear as much because I would LOVE everything in my closet.
- A: I would teach myself and my kids to appreciate what I already have.
- A: I would buy more quality things, and less junk.
This journey of examining what I owned started a few years back when we moved to a new location, and decided to move our family of 4 (and a BIG dog) into a small apartment while we searched for a house. In the meantime, about 80% of our belongings lived in a storage unit for 4 months.
Aside from a couple pieces of clothing that I missed when the season changed, I really didn’t miss ANY of it. As we unpacked the unit at our new home, I was hit with this overwhelming thought, “Why did I keep ALL this stuff? Now I have to deal with it!”
It was around this time that I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, who now has a Netflix series. I started to put into place some of her principles. It’s main message is that you should only keep things that bring you JOY. So, I kept an ongoing “donate” bin in my closet. I emptied it regularly to our local thrift shop.
It started then. Since then, I have begun to give/sell/throw hundreds of items. It felt so good to give things away. I felt so good to share my things with people. This process has accelerated even more in the last few months because of two factors. First, we had our final child, deciding that our family was complete. Secondly, I left my full-time job as a teacher and decided to stay home with my girls for a few years.
In the first weeks and months as a stay at home mom, I found myself in a huge cycle of cleaning, organizing, sorting. This stuff had always been in my house, but in my busyness as a working mom, it never bothered me. Now, I was home, and it was staring at me all day long. And it literally was taking away from time with my kids, the main reason I chose to be home in the first place. I started slowly giving stuff away. Whenever I brought in a new clothes item, I got rid of an old one.
Now, in the past month, I have been reading and learning more about minimalism. I have let it sink into my faith too. I have thought about how minimalism is living a life of gratitude and generosity, which are Biblical principles. This sermon video further explains how the Bible gently pushes us to consider our belongings.
I also found a documentary, podcast, and YouTube channel called The Minimalists. Here, the founder challenges you to do a “30 Day Minimalism Challenge.” During the 30 days, you basically give away one thing the first day, two things the second, and so on. On the 30th day, if you’ve followed the whole plan, you will have given away over 500 items in your home. It was the kick I needed!
I started doing the challenge, but decided to adjust it to fit my needs. Instead of looking for exactly 7 items on the 7th day of the month, I have attempted to attack one area of my house each day, minimizing as I go. It’s not a “picture perfect” list, nor will it fit perfectly for you or your household. I thought about keeping it more generic, so you could apply it to your home, but it felt disingenuous. So this is my actual list of areas in my home that I minimized. I hope it will encourage you to take a deep look at your things and decide what is adding value to you life, and what is distracting you!
MY 30 DAY MINIMALISM CHALLENGE:
1:Kids Clothes, specifically out of season clothes.
2: Teaching stuff from the career I paused. This requires a bit of explanation. I had nearly 20 bins full of teaching supplies and mostly books from my 10 years of teaching. As any teacher knows, much of your classroom supplies are bought with your own money, because we are given a tiny budget to work with. I felt like I was holding on to these things out of fear and sentimentality. I didn’t know if I would ever return to the class, and if I did, it may be a totally different grade! I let it go, and found a new teacher who was trying to build up her classroom. It felt great to give it to her!
3: Email lists. I unsubscribed! Try “unrollme.com” to help with this process!
4: Pencils/Pens/Markers. I streamlined this and put them all in one place. I had them EVERYWHERE!
5: Baby toys. She prefers remote controls anyway!
6: Junk drawer (flashlights)
7: Office drawer (scissors/staplers)
8: Maternity clothes. No need to keep those! I hated them anyway!
9: Random junk from night stand (pins, pens, ponytail holders)
10: Diaper bag! This also requires explanation. I had three bags that I was using at different times for different things, all holding about the same stuff. I pared it down to one cute bag that a student handmade for me!
11: Purse purge! I think every woman can relate here. I cleaned out some pens, reward cards, hair bows, and junk! I actually downsized my purse and now just carry a small bag.
12: Wrapping papers- I use gift bags anyway! Why do I even have all of this??
13: Kids books. As a teacher, this was a hard one for me. I want my kids to have access to tons of good literature. But I had hundreds of books. I saved the ones I really liked or that my kids liked. Any that I felt no “connection” to were given away!
14: Baby gear. Babies come with SO much stuff. Even though I was done having kids, I was holding onto strollers, walkers, high chairs, and so on. My thought was that it would help to have them if/when we had people over. In the end, I decided that the day-to-day clutter was more stressful than it was worth to keep them around.
15: Coloring books. Oh my goodness. The amount of half-used coloring books in my house is embarrassing. I recycled SO many, just keeping two for each of my girls.
16: Socks. How many socks do you REALLY need? I decided that I only need about 4 athletic pairs (for running!), four normal black pair, and a couple warm ones. My sock drawer is not overflowing anymore!
17: Craft stuff. I haven’t used these crafts in YEARS!
18: Bathroom travel bags and travel size items. I had four travel size bags! I had seven partial shampoo/conditioners!
19: Medicines: I think any typical American household has a basket of old medicines laying around. We are a very healthy family, so by the time we need a medicine again, it was often expired. I disposed of a ton of old, yucky bottles and pills.
21: Spice rack. We like to cook a lot, so our spice rack was overflowing. We had duplicated and expired spices. Time to simplify!
22: Card making/envelopes. Paul and I don’t even give cards anymore! It feels like a waste!
23: Lotions/Perfumes. Wow, this had piled up. So many half-used ones. I started using just one at at time, and used them up! It felt good to use the whole thing.
24: Nail polishes. I’m embarrassed to say that I had some gunky nail polish bottles left over from high school!
25: Towels: We had a BAZILLION towels!
28: Serving bowls/plates in the kitchen.
29: Hats/Mitten/Gloves/Scarves. We live in Minnesota, so these items are a necessity. However, we had bins and bins full. Time to pare them down!
30: Hangers. I decided to only keep white hangers. Now they look so neat and tidy.
The funny thing I realized after this challenge is that my own family, who lives here, barely noticed the hundreds of items that we no longer in our home. I wasn’t being sneaky or hiding the fact that I was minimizing from them. We just had so much stuff in closets, drawers, bins, and shelves that they didn’t even miss.
So I challenge you to consider what you have, what you need, and what you LOVE. Do a 30 day challenge and see where it leads you!
#minimalism #mariekondo #konmari #tidyup #thankfulness #generosity