I have wanted to write this blog since January 1, 2017. That’s when I knew the changes Andrew and I made in our life between December 24, 2016 to January 1, 2017 would be so beneficial for our family that I’d have to share it with you. And I was right.
Finally, a year later, I can say without a doubt. Andrew and I are minimalists. Or at least a version of minimalism that suits our life. And our quest to get here started a year ago on Christmas Eve as we were wrapping presents and continues every day.
Earlier that week a friend on facebook posted the quote “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works” followed with a link to the documentary Minimalism – A Documentary about the Important Things. It immediately peaked my interest. So when everyone was finally asleep and we brought out the last of the Christmas gifts to wrap for the next day, we turned it on to keep us company.
The concept of the film is that things and consumerism do just that – CONSUME our lives with THINGS. They leave no room for living because we are chasing an idea that we need a bigger salary to be able to buy the things we think will bring meaning to our lives. So we work more and more to buy those things. We become too busy. We keep thinking we’ll be fulfilled by a content feeling we expect to have as we achieve those things. But, they don’t. The American dream has become a hamster wheel of chasing more and more. With no finish line in sight.
Why do we need three car garages? Or the stuff we store in them? Meaning should come from what you do with your life, not what you own. Instead with minimalism, every possession in your life serves a purpose or brings you joy. You choose to live deliberately with less. You get off the hamster wheel.
It hit close to home for us because we’re already pretty minimal in our household in that we are attracted to a clean, tidy house and minimal, contemporary design. But especially since being new parents, we’d begun to experience ways that having kids can bring so much more stuff into your life if you’re not careful.
So, on December 26, 2016, when the last of our visiting family left town we launched the most epic cleaning-out project of our lives. Every cabinet, every closet, every drawer was taken apart and paired down to only the essentials.
Here’s what our version of minimalism looks like…
Let’s get one thing clear, we didn’t bring our lives down to the bare bones like Joshua and Ryan did on the documentary. But we did clean a lot out. We’re not trying to take the beauty of design, art and homemaking out of our lives, just a more simplified version of those things to create a sense of mental clarity. In the film they say if you love books, keep your books. That’s the direction we took. Here’s what worked for us so far…
We have 1 of everything we need. Like dishes. Inside of our kitchen cabinets were several variations of serveware, all wedding gifts from 10 years before, that we had never used. What was I holding onto these for? Yes. I had a bit of guilt to donate these items because they were thoughtful gifts from friends or family, but every time I looked into the cabinet they gave me the feeling of inadequacy because I didn’t have the time or energy to put together a grand celebration. Let alone the desire. Cooking for big groups just isn’t my thing. Bakeware representing my inabilities didn’t help my mental state of well being. So, off to the garage sale pile they went. Along with vases, candles holders, decorations, jars and jars and jars.
I adopted the capsule wardrobe and I love it. Do you have a favorite outfit you love to wear and feel the absolutely best about yourself when you wear it? Okay. Imagine your days if you could wear it daily. So I did! I love wearing skinny jeans and a cute top. Long sleeve, short sleeve, vintage tee, bunchy sweater. Whatever the case – I live for jeans and a top. No crazy patterns or pops of color. Just classics like navy, green, black, gray and white. Now, when I get ready in the morning, I turn to my sea of favorite pieces and easily select. No fretting that I have nothing to wear.
I started by going through my clothes and pulling out everything I haven’t worn in the last year. If I didn’t, even if the clothes were still style relevant and nice, I chose to get rid of them to minimize the distraction while choosing what to wear each morning. Obviously if I hadn’t worn the item in over a year, I just wasn’t that into it.
The secondary effect has been that it’s given me clear direction for shopping. Now, I only buy select colors and styles of clothes instead of what looks good on a mannequin or what’s on sale. I buy what I KNOW I like and feel comfortable in. I have specific gaps to fill in my wardrobe and I don’t buy outside of those.
Speaking of shopping – we just don’t. Unless of course, we have something specific to shop for. But the freedom that comes with choosing to only have one of a specific item means, you’re not compelled to stroll the aisles of Marshalls for random items that make you feel good that day. Retail therapy is expensive and short lived. I don’t need a new potato peeler and I definitely don’t need 14 pairs of nude wedges or stilettos in every color. I have a plenty good potato peeler and I have a beautiful, high quality pair of Tory Burch wedges… I don’t need another until those go bad.
Retirement savings and knowing we have money in the bank is our therapy at this point in life.
This means gifts too. We don’t exchange gifts with each other and our families and this has alleviated so much stress at the holidays. I don’t need things. I need quality time with the people I feel compelled to buy for. I crave meaningful conversation and laughter… not scented candles.
Kids need minimalism too. This was an easy transition for us because Asher is still young and we’ve intentionally not overdone the baby and kid gear since his birth. I’m a big believer that clutter contributes to confusion and being unfocused in kids. I just don’t think children need every toy they want and 50,000 pieces of legos. So, we merged the playroom with Asher’s bedroom and kept only the toys that he really liked and got rid of everything else. A playroom made room for a lot of things and keeping it only made me feel like I needed to fill it up. I noticed the less toys Asher had to play with, the more time he actually spends playing with them. Every toy has it’s designated space and we teach him to put it back where it belongs each night before bed. Structure. Amen. Hallelujah!
To keep this under control we asked our families to minimize the gifts around birthday and Christmas and ask us before they opt for anything big. Since Asher’s birthday is the day before Christmas I often pack up a few of his gifts and store them in the closet to bring out later in the year when he’s bored with his current toys and that has worked well.
We run a minimalist office. This was a biggie for us and very hard for me to swallow at first. I was fearful that this would create an impression of downsizing and that we weren’t growing. I was worried what other people would think. But, not one single person even noticed anything changed because nothing did, except where we logged onto our computers. Now we have a home office with four computers set up. Our two employees come to our office from 9am to 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and work from home on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This gives us time to come together a few times during the week but also the privacy to focus on our task lists without distraction. We use chat a lot throughout the day to communicate quickly as well.
An office space represented our need to buy two of everything for our small company. Two toilet papers, two paper towels, two microwaves, two refrigerators, two internet bills, two electric bills. All so we could have a few readers stop by to pick up magazines a handful times throughout the year. Nope.
Minimalism isn’t just about things, it’s about reducing distractions, to-dos and activities that take our attention from our core focus. At the office, this was our internship program. While a great way to give back to younger generations at my alma mater and fun to have extra chatter in the office, when we went to a home office scenario, this meant we couldn’t have our internship program anymore. It’s very difficult to manage a team of interns in office, keeping interns accountable while they work remotely is down right impossible in my experience.
Minimalism for us equals mental clarity. It frees of from the weight of “shoulds” and “wants” and just lets us be present in the moment. But even more so, it’s given us laser focus on our finances because when you stop buying things you really don’t need, you really start to notice how much money you wasted overtime.
As of today, we consider our efforts still a work in progress. We act intentionally with our purchases and plans to keep our lives simplified as much as possible so we can live. We don’t want to spend time cleaning our house and maintaining our stuff. We want to do things, go places and see people.
You CAN do more with less.