I feel like we've been covering some pretty heavy topics lately, so I want to lighten it up and talk about one of my favorite things this week: MINIMALISM! Perfect timing as we approach Christmas, right? 😆
First, let me give you my personal definition of minimalism, because there are many ideas out there about what it is.
For me, minimalism is the rejection of constantly having to have new stuff, new clothes, new gadgets, new furniture, new decorations, etc. AND, when necessary, the purging of unnecessary stuff that clutters up our lives.
I think what we deem as necessary is different for everyone, so I don't like when minimalism is defined by a certain number of items or a particular aesthetic. To me, it's more about contentment, rejecting consumerism/debt, eliminating clutter and even reducing our environmental impact.
Minimalism became attractive to me in a season of major upheaval, grief, expectation and change. From November 2016 to June 2017, we fostered two little elementary-aged girls, and in December 2017, Julia was born.
I think of June-November of that year as The Great Purge of 2017.
Foster care was a worthwhile and difficult experience for us. That's a long story that really can't be told here, but in the context of this specific topic, let's just say these little girls came with lots of stuff, accumulated more while they lived with us and left a bunch after they left to live with family. I was constantly picking up, constantly frustrated with them not cleaning up after themselves and our house was a disaster... ALWAYS. The stuff wasn't an issue in the forefront of my mind at the time, but looking back, I see how much stress it caused everyone in our home.
As we prepared for our baby to arrive while simultaneously processing a pretty wild seven months, I became increasingly overwhelmed by our own clutter. Drawers that wouldn't close. Shelves spilling over. Clothes crammed in closets. Duplicates of so many things. Trinkets adorning every surface. An entire "junk room" filled with... junk.
My boss (sorry, Ashley! She hated when I called her my boss! 🤣) at the time was a self-described "minimalist," and I loved how uncluttered and neat our office environment was. I started researching that term she used and found Facebook groups, Instagram hashtags and countless articles describing what I can only call a movement.
It made me question...
- Why was I holding onto things? Why was selling, donating or throwing away stuff hard for me?
- What did I actually *need* and *want* and *use* in my home, and what was I holding onto because of sentimentality, guilt or "just in case?"
- Why did I feel the need to continue bringing new things in?
- How did clutter make me feel? How might I feel lighter mentally with less stuff?
I began the journey by stopping the flow of new things coming in. No more wandering Target looking for clearance picture frames or cute vases.
Then, room by room, I started purging. RUTHLESSLY. For this to work for me, I knew I had to hold each item in my home in my hands and ask myself if I actually wanted or needed it (This was before the Marie Kondo documentary came out, but I do remember reading about her "Does this spark joy?" method during this time, and that line of thinking was so helpful).
Purge Mode Jill had to get honest with herself. If you haven't used it in the last six months, you're not going to use it. Period.
Each room, each drawer, each closet in our home received this treatment. Sometimes more than once—the first time I purged each space, I wasn't always ready to let go of something. A month later when I revisited it, I was.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome for me was guilt about getting rid of things people had given us or items I was supposed to feel sentimental about. I am honestly not sentimental about very many material things, but I felt cultural pressure that I should be. When I thought about it more deeply, I realized I wouldn't miss any of the things I felt like I *should* keep. They truly didn't bring me any joy. I even got rid of a huge sign I made for our wedding with our names and wedding date. I realized I didn't like the way it looked anymore, and it took up a TON of space. It had served its time in our home, and I was ready to say farewell.
When we moved in July, we downsized from 1650 square feed to 900. Two bathrooms to one and three bedrooms to two. Almost zero storage space. We went from having a huge garage to no garage. More purging ensued, and we sold over $2,000 worth of possessions on Facebook Marketplace. The Goodwill guy knew me VERY WELL. I truly felt like getting rid of stuff was a part-time job for me as we prepared to move.
Sitting here typing this in our cozy little home, I feel peace. It doesn't feel cramped or cluttered here. There are empty drawers in just about every piece of furniture we own. Our kitchen is small, but efficient. We are not overflowing with toys. I have some things we probably still need to toss, I'll always be a messy person, and I could definitely organize more effectively. We have a toddler who comes with a lot of stuff and mess. But with less, the snowball effect just doesn't happen. It gets messy, we spend 30 minutes putting everything back in its place... and that's it.
Minimalism has helped me clear out physical clutter, but it's also helped remove some mental clutter, too. I finally feel like our home is the refuge I want it to be. We don't spend a lot of time cleaning, and we usually know where everything is. It's freed me from this pressure to decorate our home like a magazine—I'm just really bad at decorating, so it's nice to just let it go and focus on things we actually enjoy. We've lived here almost six months, and for the most part, everything is "done." I've never felt that way in a home before—there was always one more room to furnish or another wall to adorn.
Sisters, my intention for this essay is NOT to tell you you should become a minimalist. Some people really like stuff, they are great at managing it and have plenty of space to store it. If that's you, go ahead! Do what makes you happy. There are people out there who would come into my home and tell me I'm not a minimalist... and I do not care one bit, because I'm comfortable in my space. This isn't about comparing yourself to others or fitting into a certain mold. It's about the EXACT OPPOSITE. 😜
I wanted to share my experience simply to tell you it's OK to go against the grain if you are feeling overwhelmed by stuff, want to change your lifestyle or are tired of keeping up with the Joneses.
You DO NOT *have* to:
- Decorate your home like a magazine
- Always update your decor based on seasons or trends
- Hang onto every single gift given to you or your children
- Have a ton of toys (we all know kids would rather play with things that are not toys anyway)
- Hold onto things "just in case" you might need them one day
- Keep clothing you don't like or that doesn't fit
- Put decor on every surface and wall
- Keep something just because "it's a perfectly good ______ and I should use that someday"
- Keep physical things that are related to good memories—it's OK to keep your memories and let go of the item or take a picture of a piece of paper and throw the paper away
- Have a ton of duplicates of the same thing. Example: I owned six cookie sheets. Three fit into an oven at one time. So I got rid of three cookie sheets.
I'll wrap up with one last thought. I've seen arguments that minimalism is only for the privileged or that it's wasteful. I would argue that continually bringing in new things that are unnecessary is wasteful, and finding homes for things you do not use can actually be a conduit for generosity. In addition to freeing up funds to be more generous, I can't tell you how many things we gave away that brought SO MUCH JOY to other people.
I've been on the receiving end, and it's such a blessing (just recently, someone gave me a ton of winter clothes for Julia, a friend passed on a winter coat in her size and my sister-in-law gave me a coat she didn't want anymore! All things I was planning to purchase, but got for free because others didn't need them anymore! WOW!!!).
Someone needs that extra cookie sheet or that unopened bottle of lotion you've had for six years. A more sentimental family member would LOVE to have that handmade blanket you don't need. Someone on Facebook Marketplace is looking for a deal on that exact item you are about to list. Ask around! Post on social media! Give out of your excess and be blessed. 💗