Growing up I always had this conviction that I didn’t want a lot of stuff. We moved a lot and I viewed my things as a burden to pack and unpack, yet each item was filled with sentiment. After my freshman year in college I decided it was time to lighten my load, so I started taking pictures of my childhood toys and collections and then throwing them away. After grouping items together a few times I realized that it would take a long time to take pictures, so I started putting things straight into the donation pile. Unfortunately in my haste to purge I let go of some truly precious things: a ring my Grandma Moose gave me at my baptism, a favorite doll I earned.
My journey to feeling comfortable with my possessions continued with various highlights along the way. Living in Kansas City over the summer of 2014 with only the things we could fit in our Honda Civic taught me that living with the bare bones felt a little like starving (we each brought 2-3 pairs of pants/shorts, 5-6 shirts, and two pairs of shoes and our entire kitchen supplies fit in a box). While I was pregnant with Nathan I organized the entire house and knew exactly where everything was. I read Design Mom: A Room By Room Guide to Living with Kids and felt inspired to make our space more than functional. I even had Andrew skim it so he knew what I was shooting for.
After Nathan was born I was feeling like I couldn’t keep up: the kitchen dishes piled up stressed me out, the toys and trinkets that found themselves into every nook and cranny felt out of control, and I was tired of feeling like we couldn’t use what we had. To top it all off, I couldn’t figure out what my style was and how to create any sort of beautiful space like Design Mom suggested (this has been a life long problem).
A friend mentioned reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up (actually this was the third friend that mentioned it and suggested I read it) and my journey in minimalism began. From this book and its sequel, Spark Joy, I learned to measure items by whether they add joy or value to our life. We loaded our trunk up a number of times and unloaded at goodwill. I felt light and free, like our ship just rose five feet out of the water. I had less to take care of, and therefore less responsibility.
Then I read Gretchen Ruben’s books, The Happiness Project, Better than Before, and Happier at Home. Her books inspired me in many areas of life, but in the realm of minimalism I realized that happiness is having the right amount of stuff. Meaning our minimalistic kitchens and closets and toy cupboards and book shelves are all going to look different. I realized that my focus in college had been simply to have less stuff, and thus I parted with things I shouldn’t have. But in my recent cleaning I freed myself from the things we weren’t using and didn’t need which then created the space to use things we truly enjoy.
Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up With More is a beautiful, instructive handbook for living a life with the right amount and the right kind of things. We can surround ourselves with functional, beautiful things that make our homes places we truly want to spend our time in. It has encouraged me to be cautious about what we bring into our home (do I really, really love how it looks and works?) and also to be grateful for what we already have that I love.
I’ve also read Clutter Free With Kids and Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, which were good reasons to jump into minimalism, but I was already sold with the idea so they weren’t as helpful/inspiring.
While minimalism has been a great tool in creating our home, it is not an ends in itself for me. When I started this journey I followed Marie Kondo’s suggestion to answer the question, “Why are you tidying?”. My answer and description is encapsulated in the title of a recent book I discovered, The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming. The principles of minimalism wiped my slate clean to create time and a maintainable home so we can focus on creating a lifegiving home.
In my first meager attempts at a lifegiving home, we had a fall dinner celebration Thursday night with fresh sourdough bread and butternut squash soup. Emily, Nathan, and I went out to collect acorns and berries to decorate the table runner I just finished sewing with leftover material from the Christmas stockings project. I gave Emily the job to spread them out to look nice and she decided she didn’t like how the stems looked, so she spent a few extra minutes cutting them off with her scissors. We popped a bowl full of popcorn to snack on while we prepared the table and enjoyed our fall meal that evening.
Honestly, my decorating skills are meager at best and I know the final ensemble was lacking. But we took an afternoon making memories in the preparation AND were able to send our decorations outside in the backyard and back to the kitchen to eat later without a second thought. A wonderful blend of minimalism and lifegiving.