The idea of Minimalism has recently captured my full attention and changed the way I look at my life. I always thought that Minimalism was just an interior decorating style that I wasn’t particularly fond of – white walls, white floors, a single cold-looking designer chair, an exposed light bulb instead of a fixture, maybe an aloe vera plant and a picture on a shelf as the sole accents. And while that definition is still somewhat true if you’re talking about Minimalism as a style, if you’re talking about it as a way of living, it’s so much more.
Ever since I was young I’d always been my family’s resident organizer. I love neatness, “a place for everything” and turning a cluttered room into a haven. I try to keep my stuff in some sort of order, but inevitably my junk drawer or closet or pantry (or whatever it is that I just organized) ends up in disarray within a matter of weeks. I end up organizing the same spaces over and over.
When Elanor came along, I no longer had excess time to spend organizing or maintaining my home like I did before. The house was almost constantly a wreck – when the baby is crying and you’re sleep deprived, a messy house might not be helping the situation, but what could I do about it? I was too busy just trying to make it to waste time organizing my stuff.
As I sat down to nurse one day, I turned on Netflix and saw a new documentary out called “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”. I’m a sucker for documentaries so I pushed play. A couple hours later I was so inspired and jazzed about the concept of Minimalism that I could hardly wait for my husband to get home so I could tell him all about it. More than that, I couldn’t wait to implement many of the concepts that the documentary discussed in our home and life.
So what is this whole Minimalism thing? Minimalism, in a nutshell, is getting rid of the clutter in your life and home, rejecting mindless consumerism and paring down your possessions to only the essentials so that you can focus on what you really love and believe to be important. Probably the most striking mark of a true minimalist is their lack of possessions – it’s not the only aspect of Minimalism but it sure is a big one. (As a side note, Minimalism also is sometimes linked to eastern religions or “zen”, but the overwhelming majority of minimalists I’ve read about aren’t Minimalists as part of their religion. The minimalism I implement in my home has nothing to do with new age beliefs.)
Now let me be clear – I’m not a true minimalist. I don’t only own 30 pieces of clothing, or just 10 books (ha!) or only two pairs of shoes, like many minimalists I’ve read about. Minimalism is not who I am. A lack of possessions does not define me. But the underlying goal of Minimalism (eliminating the excess in order to focus on the important) as described in the documentary spoke directly to my heart. Who doesn’t want to eliminate the clutter from their lives in order to have time and space to enjoy what really matters?
Since watching that documentary, I’ve spent the past several weeks going through every room, drawer and cabinet in the house asking myself several questions:
Does this thing add value to my life?
Is it important?
If I were out shopping today would I buy it?
Do I love this thing?
Is this thing worth the visual and physical space it’s taking up, and the time it takes to clean/store it?
If the answer is no, out it goes! Like I said earlier, I’ve always loved being an organizer. But for me, this is one step farther. Reading up on Minimalism and watching that documentary (as well as re-reading the fabulous book Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider for the third or fourth time) made me realize how much time I was still wasting organizing things I don’t love and don’t need. It just doesn’t make sense to keep items that aren’t useful or beautiful. Why do we Americans feel obligated to have so much stuff if it just adds stress and takes hours of our time just to maintain?
I found myself butting up against all sorts of mental barriers when I was doing a major purge in my home these past few weeks:
“What if I need this sometime in the future?”
“I spent/wasted good money on this so I need to keep it to justify that spending.”
“I really loved this thing in the past.”
“I have such good memories associated with this thing.”
“So and so gave me this thing and I don’t want to hurt their feelings by giving it away.”
All of those mental arguments have convinced me to keep oh so many unnecessary things in times past. But not any more. I was able to let go of almost two car-loads of stuff by reminding myself of one simple truth:
It’s just stuff.
Seriously, it’s just things! The thing isn’t the memory. The thing isn’t the person who gave it to us. Keeping the thing isn’t going to “justify” the money we spent on it. We’re taught from such an early age that we “need” so many different things in order to live a happy life, but it simply isn’t true. What truly matters (the Good News of Christ, cultivating relationships, gratitude, joy, holiness, love) has nothing to do with things. And often the pursuit of what truly matters is helped along if you’re not tied down to the maintenance of tons of possessions. Everyone would say that they believe that. I always believed it, but just recently I’m trying to make that belief a hard and fast reality in my life.
The result has been truly incredible. I now know where almost everything goes, and it takes very little time to put everything back in it’s place. I’ve still got a newborn, days are very often still chaotic and my house frequently still gets messy – but the big difference is the time it takes to clean up. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where things go, stuffing clothes in packed drawers and tossing things into the junk room (yes, we had an entire room dedicated to stuff that we didn’t know what to do with) I can do a quick sweep of the house and put things exactly where they go. And I don’t have to reorganize over and over, because I’m no longer trying to organize excess. It’s be an absolute sanity-saver for me. With all the stress that nursing trouble, sleepless nights and brutal colds have brought to our lives these past two months, eliminating visual and physical clutter has been a massive weight off my shoulders. For the past several weeks, cleaning up the entire house consistently takes 30 minutes or less. I have had extra time to read, sleep, cook, play with my daughter and visit with my husband. Purging the house and trying to focus on only keeping the essentials has been so very, very worth it.
I still have quite a ways to go before I literally only have things that I absolutely LOVE or absolutely NEED in my home, so I don’t consider myself a minimalist. But there’s no denying that Minimalism has changed the way that I look at my life, my house and my stuff. And I’m loving the results!
Here are some fantastic articles about Minimalism and simple living in case you are interested in eliminating unnecessary clutter from your life: