I first felt the impact of minimalism at 30 years old. I was working full-time as a teacher, raising a one-year-old (with another on the way), and preparing to sell the home we were quickly growing out of. My husband and I moved about 70% of our belongings into a storage unit, knowing we’d be cozied up (to put in kindly) in an apartment as we awaited our new home to be built.
Approaching this massive home edit with a temporary mindset made things easy for a first-time purger. It wasn’t goodbye; it was we’ll have room at the new house. We swept through every space in our home with a cutthroat mentality, excited for the big changes ahead. Every closet, drawer, and cabinet was touched, narrowing our belongings to the items we truly used to function day to day. The thought process became will we need to buy another one over the next few months if we put it in storage? If so, it could stay. If not, see ya later. We cleared our refrigerator doors, paired down-home decor, and maximized empty floor and counter space. We were on a mission. A minimalist mission.
In the following days, I arrived home from work and daycare pickup running on empty per usual (you’re familiar with the feeling, I’m sure) but was met with an instant feeling of calm upon walking into our minimalist living space. Linen closet? Forty percent full and folded to perfection. Emptying the dishwasher? Done; took two minutes. Suddenly, vacuuming became fun because of all that open floor space just waiting to show off. I could not believe the way this shift in our home had altered my mood.
Six months later, my husband and I cracked open that storage unit door. We had just settled into our much-anticipated new home (with our minimal belongings and a new baby), and staring down rows and rows of cardboard boxes, I just knew we were thinking the same thing.
What is all this stuff… and do we need it?
There were, of course, baby items that would be pulled out for baby two (and eventually three) to enjoy. But many of those boxes were opened and then quickly shut again, headed for donation.
We’re now six years into living in our home, and the itch to live minimally as a mother is still there. But how, and I repeat how, do we manage a minimalist lifestyle in a home with two busy adults, three growing kids, and a dog? We’re so fortunate to live a life allowing our kids to acquire the material possessions they wish for, whether it’s impulse toys, sports equipment, or gifts from family members. I love seeing their joy. And let’s not point fingers here, I enjoy an impulse Target purchase just as much as any other mom. But every few months, I get in a particularly spicy mood and find myself surveying our home and all the possessions in it.
When do the things we own begin to own us? Where is the line between just enough and way too much?
I don’t have all the answers, but I can say this with certainty. I feel a sizable shift in my family’s energy when our home has less. Less toys, less dishes, less towels. I spend fewer hours picking up and putting away, which for them means a happier and more available mom and wife. I don’t hold myself to any unrealistic expectations. Rather each time I feel overwhelmed in our space, I grab a trash bag and fill it. I ask myself, would I replace this if we got rid of it? And if the answer is not immediately yes, bye-bye. The feeling of opening an empty-ish drawer or cabinet triggers an instant flood of calm and satisfaction for me, and I see the same feelings in my family.
I know we’re growing and changing, life is busy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ll look around in 20 years, realize decluttering isn’t such a challenge anymore, and miss these messy days. I’m just in the thick of it, finding the happiest version of myself for them. Minimalist, no. Minimal-ish, yes.