Monday, October 05, 2015

Minimalism and Me

I am so excited by how minimalism has effected me so far and I’m still near the beginning of my journey.

I believe that God has been bringing me slowly to this point for many years, but I’m so hard-headed sometimes that He’s gentle with me and is patient with my frailties. My mom is a cleanie, I’m a messy (so is my dad and so was his mom, so I come by that part honestly).

Our house was always neat and tidy and when I was young, we didn’t have too many things. But somewhere along the way I start collecting things. I’d see some pretty little thing and get it or someone would give me something and I never ever thought of getting rid of anything I owned. I was like a mockingbird hoarding all the pretty little things that caught my eye.

When I got married I already had things in boxes that I wasn’t using, but I still didn’t think of getting rid of them. When we moved to our first home, we didn’t downsize anything. When we moved to our 2nd home, we again didn’t downsize eough (aside from an attempted yard sale and one thrift store pickup) and some of the boxes that had never been opened up from the first move were carried along to the new house and put into our storage building to sit and rot.

After we had our first child, I was introduced to Flylady and tried her out for awhile, but for some reason I was never able to stick with her program. I do, however, remember some of her practices, one of which was decluttering every day for 15 minutes ("You can do anything for 15 minutes!"). I guess 15 minutes was never enough for me or maybe I didn't actually do that part, who knows.

When we lived in our last house, I had a friend who I now believe is a minimalist because her house was always neat and tidy and there wasn’t a lot of stuff everywhere. They had a couch/loveseat combo and some cushions in the living room, but not much else. I think she had 1 pair of scissors. I thought that was totally undoable, but it didn’t seem to bother her. Apparently her parents were the opposite of her and were consumers to the max, buying things all the time, filling their house with stuff so maybe she was reacting to this in her own way. She might not even have known she was a minimalist, she just was.

When we first moved to our current house, we moved gradually over several weeks. We came with the bare necessities (just enough clothing, just enough furniture, just enough kitchen supplies…) and it was lovely. The house was clean and light and lovely. And then we did the big move. Ugh. We were inundated with stuff. Our office was crammed full of boxes and furniture and stuff. That was the last time our house felt neat. We unpacked what we needed and a lot of it just stayed in boxes, but enough stuff came into the house for things to start to feel cluttered.

We were given some furniture which added more things into the mix. We were blessed with lots of free clothes for the kids, which was great. However, I wasn’t all that great about getting rid of clothes when the kids grew out of them. I have way more clothes for each size (especially for the younger 2), that they can’t wear them all.

Something else Flylady would say was, “You can’t organize clutter,” and that hoarding was a sin. Hanging on to things that you aren’t using when you could be blessing someone else with your abundance wasn’t right. That stuck with me, but I had a little kickback from D, “Shouldn’t we keep them ‘just in case?’”

He also thought we should have a yard sale and I kept balking at that idea since I’m not an organizer and didn’t want to try to plan something like that. Eventually he softened on that point and I did start sending things to the thrift store. We have taken several wheel bins full of things to the thrift store over the last 2-3 years which is great, but… Things are still just so cluttered and cleaning is taking too much of our time.

Last year my mom gave me the book The Power of Half about a family that cut their belongings in half and moved into a smaller house so they could help others with the money they got from selling their things. I got about halfway through the book, but life got so busy (taking care of stuff) that I stopped reading it. I think seeds were being planted, a little here, a little there.

We have had a dream, for awhile, of moving out into the country and, while for now it is still just a dream, but I want to lighten our load just in case we ever get the green light to “Go.”

A couple weeks ago I was feeling so overwhelmed with clutter and stuff and not being happy with my surroundings, but I just didn’t know what to do about it, I felt very unmotivated. I started searching for websites on decluttering and then I started looking for decluttering support groups.  I thought maybe having some people to hold me accountable or provide moral support would help me. I found a Yahoo group that looked promising so I tried to join and then sat and waited for a day or two for approval which never seemed to come. I started searching for “downsizing” and found a few articles about that, but I also stumbled on Light by Coco’s blog and started watching some of her videos on minimalism and immediately felt this might be a solution for me. I started getting excited, … and motivated!

In my bedroom I have a beautiful cedar chest from Malawi which is the place I keep our extra blankets, but we have more blankets than will fit in there so the rest were piling up on top of the chest. The first thing I did was to put all the blankets on my bed and sort out the less favorite or the bulkier/heavier blankets and I piled them all into a ginormous Space Bag, sucked all the air out of it, then snuck it under the boys’ bunk bed behind the under-the-bunk drawers. After I did that, I was able to get all the rest of the blankets into the cedar chest with nothing on top. Woohoo! (The front of the chest is decorated with stickers by Ana, at least for now.)

I started watching almost every YouTube video I could on minimalism* while I was doing my minimalizing/downsizing. This kept me motivated and inspired.
Here is a post I sent my sister (in-law) on September 25:
“Yesterday I tackled the closet and pulled out a few more things that I don't wear, won't miss and tossed a few pairs of old shoes which were falling apart. Then I neatened up the shoes. I took all of Ds clothes off his dresser (yes, they don't make it into the dresser, yet…), and re-stacked them neatly. I pulled out a few of his shoes which I thought might go for him to decide on. He did decide to get ride of a couple pairs, yay! I took the Tommy Hilfiger bedspread, ripped it apart, took out the old icky stuffing which was too heavy for us anyway and turned it into a temporary duvet cover for the bedspread that we had been using. Our bed look majorly better. I took everything off of D's night stand, dusted it and put it back neatly. I sneezed, sneezed and sneezed again, but it was worth it! I'm so happy with my room now! I don't mind the door being left open, lol.”

Somewhere in my searching I had stumbled on Project 333 so I gave that some more thought and tried to come up with a summer capsule (since it was ever-so-slightly summer when I started this journey) and put the rest of my hanging clothes in a Space Bag for the next few weeks until I feel the need of a Fall capsule. My girls had quite a  of clothes hanging in my closet that were too big for them so I went through them all, pulled out the one that might fit in the near future and put the rest in a Space Bag and then into a large wheeled bin for storage.

There was a plastic bin of cloth diapers in my bedroom taking up space so I pulled those out and I plan to wash them (freshen them up) and sell them. There were 2 bins of stuff that need sorting in our room taking up space and I was able to get them in the place of the diapers so they are there needing to be sorted, but are at least out of the way now. My dressing nook (with counter, 2 little drawers, and mirror) was piled with toilet paper and paper towels so I found better homes for them so I could clear off my counter. I cleaned out my drawer in my dressing nook and put my hair doo-dads/brushes/combs… in there. Then I was motivated to clean my bathroom and clear off the counter and top drawer in there.

We had brought in the winter clothes from the storage shed (all 5 huge wheeled bins full of them) and I washed them all (over the last month or 2) and I finally got around to sorting through them.
Nina (12) helped me go through the clothes and separate them into boys’ clothes, girls’ clothes, Mom & Dad’s clothes. The boys had 2 overflowing big wheeled bins full of winter clothes, the girls had a little less. Nina helped me further sort the girls’ clothes into her and her sister’s clothes and then helped weed her winter clothes down so that they now fit into 1/2 of a wheeled bin. Then I went through Ana’s clothes and got those down to the other 1/2 of the wheeled bin. Much better!

Ana does have some clothes that are too big for her that she will wear in the next couple of years so I put those into another Space Bag, shrunk it down and it’s also in the bin with the other too-big clothes. I went through the boys' clothes and anything (either boys’ or girls’) that was too small, but still in great condition, was set aside for friends’ children and everything else was put in the bin for the thrift store.

I downloaded & printed out the 2015 in 2015 Decluttering Challenge from Nourishing Minimalism’s blog and started keeping track of how much I was getting out of our house. So far we have gotten rid of (or will shortly) over 725 things! That is mostly clothes, but every bit helps.

I went through the coat closet near the entry and cleared non-winter clothes out so now there is plenty of room in there for winter coats/jackets.

I also got a bee in my bonnet to get rid of my dresser. I was only using about 3 drawers in it anyway and that was before I decluttered what was in it so I was pretty sure I could live with something smaller. D is convinced that Eli needs a dresser (beyond the 3 drawers under his bunk) so I decided I would move my dresser into his room (at least for now) and move in the antique dressing table, that was out of place in the music room just taking up space, and use that for my dresser. With a little help from my boys, I got them swapped out (much to the chagrin of Geo who wasn’t jazzed to have another piece of furniture in “his” room).

I moved the dressing table to the same wall that the chest is on (the dresser was on the wall catty-corner to where it is now (just to its right but you can see it better where it is now and the mirror helps to make the room look larger). I have my undies and slips in the right drawer, T-shirts and shorts in the left drawer and I moved jammies to the bottom drawer of my nightstand. I put a few things on the shelf of my closet, but otherwise, everything fit just fine. I love it in my room! (The little popsicle stick frame is something Nina made for me, waiting for some of her artwork).

Today I bagged up all the clothes I’ve gone through that are waiting to go to the thrift store to get them out of the music room where I was sorting. The music room still looks like Hurricane Joaquin made a pass through there, but with one of the bins out, there is more room to walk. I will get through it all, there is still much less in there than there was. Yay!

We have amassed too many sheets (fitted & flat) for the beds we have, but I’m still not sure D will be ok with me getting rid of them, so I put at least half of them into quarantine in the bottom of our hall closet and in 3 months or so, if we haven’t needed them, we might not need them ever.

That reminds me, I also quarantined a bunch of stuff in our kitchen. Actually, that was probably the first thing I did, even before the blankets, come to think of it. Our bowls… cupboard was overflowing and every time I would open the doors, bowls or measuring cups, etc. would jump out at me. I pulled out things I didn’t use, thought I could get along without… and put them all in quarantine. I weeded out our kitchen utensils and either quarantined them or stored a few in a high cupboard to see if we ever find ourselves reaching for them.

I also bagged up all our extra bowls and silverware and issued one spoon and one bowl to each kid and myself (D is exempt). We are responsible for washing our own dishes after each meal (if we want to have clean things for the next meal). I’ve also paired up forks & plates to everyone as well. Dishes were such an issue so I’m trying to think of ways to lessen the load on the dishwasher (Geo at this point) and to keep the dishes moving along so we don’t have to have a perpetually messy sink.

There is still a lot that needs to be done, but I’m so spurred on to keep at this until things are as minimalized as I can get them (within reason) so that we can live a more peaceful life. I still need to go through Ana’s summer clothes, go through our books, go through all the things in the office which aren’t in any particular “home,” go through our storage house…

I can’t wait to see what happens next!

See my next post about a chore system that is working for me.

*Some of my favorite YouTube minimalism videos:
Darci Isabella
Abundantly Minimal – Sarah
Light by Coco – Coco
A Rich Life with Less Stuff – The Minimalists
"Minimalism, Spirituality, and Why it Matters" – Joshua Becker
5 Reasons Minimalism Changed My Life - Samantha Lindsey
My Green Closet - Verena Erin
Simple Living - Love Raw Vegan

and favorite blogs:

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