The first time I heard the word “minimalism” my reaction was immediately negative. I pictured stark white walls, uncomfortable, futuristic looking furniture, and nothing to brighten the space except maybe a weird modern art piece or two. I like my stuff, thank you very much, and had no desire to pitch most of it and start living like a monk (plus, you know, I had kids). Then I read a little book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (you might have heard of it) and my perspective started to shift. I’ve always prided myself on keeping my house orderly and all my things organized, but I’d never really thought of getting rid of everything that doesn’t bring me joy. So I started the process. I worked my way through my clothes, books, and paperwork, then got bogged down somewhere in the middle of “komono” (literally, everything else). I had made some good progress getting rid of our excess, and felt the weight of trying to manage all of our belongings start to lift from my shoulders, but life got busy and decluttering moved to the back burner.
My next big shift toward simplifying happened just before Christmas. While I was working on choosing Christmas gifts for the girls I unexpectedly found myself caught up in a buying frenzy. I started obsessively scrolling through Zulily, filling my cart with cleaning toys, dress-up clothes, play dishes, even Care Bears (do you think the toy industry is bringing back all the toys from the eighties on purpose, because now we want to buy them for our kids? Of course they are). I was almost frantic in my search for the perfect matching Christmas outfits and coordinating pajamas for my girls to wear on Christmas morning. I was out of control. Looking back I can recognize how badly I wanted to create the perfect holiday memories for my girls (after flu Christmas and vomit Christmas I was desperate for an actual magical Christmas) and I fell into the trap of thinking that the things I bought could create the beautiful memories I was dreaming of. Of course they couldn’t. Thinking about my own Christmas memories, I remember very few toys that I received, but I can clearly picture what it was like to open our stockings together on my parents’ bed, and gather with extended family for ham and my mom’s famous refrigerator rolls.
I’m not sure what shocked me out of my shopping daze (probably the total when I went to purchase everything in my on-line cart) but I finally was jolted awake and saw how stressed out and irritable this consumer mindset was making me. It was killing my joy, and keeping me from experiencing the Christmas season for what it should be, celebrating our Savior’s birth by being fully present with the people I love. Instead of buying tons of plastic toys I resolved to give my girls high-quality ones they could use in tons of different ways. While researching open-ended play I stumbled on some posts about decluttering kids’ toys instead of buying more, and I found this amazing on-line community of families who are choosing people and experiences over stuff. They mostly called themselves minimalists, and as I read more about them I saw that my knee-jerk definition of minimalism was all wrong. It’s not about living with the absolute bare minimum, it’s about getting rid of the excess so we can align our lifestyle and values, to live the way we say we want to live. Joshua Becker, founder of Becoming Minimalist, defines minimalism as “The intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” In his book, Clutterfree with Kids (such a great read if you are interested in minimalism but wonder how in the world it can work with kids) he goes on to say, “There is more joy to be found in owning less than can ever be found in organizing more.” That’ll preach.
So here I am, on-board with the minimalism movement and slowing figuring out what that looks like for our family. Chris and I have had some great conversations about our family life and the values we want to model and teach to our girls. I still don’t really like the word minimalism, it seems so restrictive and harsh, so instead I’ve decided pursue simplicity will be my rallying cry. 🙂 I have many more thoughts on this topic, in fact I think I could keep writing for another few thousand words, which means this is definitely going to be a recurring theme in my blog posts. In my next one I’ll give you some resources that have been super helpful to me as I’ve explored minimalism, and maybe some practical steps for how you can get started on your own journey toward finding joy by simplifying your life.
Any minimalists out there who want to weigh in with your thoughts? Anyone else trying to figure out a way to get free of the excess that clutters up our lives? I’d love to hear your perspective!