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Why minimalism? Type “minimalism” into Google and the results will be daunting. Pinterest is filled with beautiful, white images of perfection that make most parents roll their eyes. So why bother? Is there hope for the rest of us?
When I started dabbling in intentional decluttering, my daughter was only a few months old. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and desperate. I knew my house wouldn’t be perfect. It wouldn’t be devoid of stuff. But, I knew there had to be a better balance than the chaotic state we lived in.
I had no idea where to start, but along the way, I heard the simple living mantra, “Less Stuff, More Life”.
Those four words changed everything.
That phrase can mean different things, but the purpose remains. Stuff is jammed into our lives. Our home, heart, time, resources. Clutter saps energy, demands care, sucks finances and interrupts families. It can destroy relationships and cause regret and pain.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Find Your Roots
My own obsession with stuff can be traced back to childhood. I was not a neat freak. Far from it. My small room was lined with piles and my closet door held a sign stating “open at your own risk”. Yowzer! This picture should be a pretty good example of the cluttered life I lived in childhood. (Just looking at it makes my chest tighten!)
Yet, I didn’t fully realize the effects of clutter until college. Moving out opened my eyes and I strived to clean out, but I still stored a lot of things at my parent’s house.
I’ve lived in five different homes since that initial move-out. As small as 425 sq feet and as large as 1300 sq feet. I’ve shared a home with my best friends, had a unit all my own, then got married and had my daughter.
Years and years of collected stuff. All those boxes I collected of baby things. Some were used. Many were sold untouched. So many household items we collected as newlyweds. Things we thought we needed. Boxes were sold at a yard sale. So many things we discarded that were never ever even used. I’m a pro at this guilt-thing, my friends.
It took 5 years of cleaning out. Slowly, methodically. Wave after wave.
Less Stuff More Life
5 years of emotionally charged decisions.
Finally, I feel like our kitchen has been simplified to meet our needs and only our needs. We have one cabinet over the fridge that stores excess dishes and a few holiday items, but our cabinets and drawers consist of the minimal items we use and love.
Our bedroom has open space. The bathrooms store only what is needed. Not every space in our house appears simple. Our daughter has more toys than I would like, but it’s an area that I give grace in as she is a very busy toddler. Keepsakes and storage are minimal at our current home, but it’s enough.
There is no rule that you have to trash all your stuff. All your memories, all your hopes and dreams and history.
Rather, the process of paring down is a sentimental journey–it’s about evaluating what you have and why you have it.
It’s a process of design psychology –
- How do you feel when you see a particular item?
- What emotion does it invoke?
- What meaning does it have?
Is it a memory that you could remember by writing it down or recording it, or simply photographing the item? Or is it a memory you participate in while you use or enjoy the item?
Think about color. Think about style. Texture. Feel.
What feeling do you desire your home to evoke? What do you feel right now with your stuff? What needs to change to get where you truly want to be?
Moving On From the Past
In my work as a professional organizer, I have seen numerous families with loads of stuff that was passed off to them by family members who didn’t want to store the stuff, but also don’t want the stuff to be gotten rid of.
Here’s the problem…if no one wants to keep the stuff, why is it being kept?
It’s nothing more than a burden on everyone, but particularly the poor person who has no choice but to store it.
Don’t do this to your family! Work together to keep the important things and let go of the things that no one has the capacity to keep.
Things that have meaning have lots of options. Family members may want them. Historical societies, museums, collectors, genealogists, extended family.
Don’t let sentimental stuff become a burden–spread out the weight so that each person connected has a piece of the tapestry, but not the estate in it’s entirety.
When you keep only a few of the most meaningful keepsakes in your life, you highlight the beautiful, special and cherished people and moments. The things that really matter.
Use them, view them, display them, touch them, and love them. Don’t just pack it away in a box in the attic (or garage or basement or closet).
Here’s the ultimate decluttering secret.
By having less stuff cluttering your home, you will absolutely get more joy out of your life AND your stuff.
For me? I enjoy cooking more in my simple kitchen. There isn’t a mound of dishes from three days ago. I don’t have to dig through drawers and cupboards to find the cooking utensil I need. I know where everything is, and it’s easy to access.
My bedroom–it’s peaceful. I don’t trip over stuff on the floor in the dark. I don’t have surfaces collecting dust and trash. I sleep better at night. The things I use and value are quick and easy to access.
The dining room table is clear and ready to eat at whenever we want to use it.
On and on. Simple spaces are enjoyable. Daily decisions are cut down. And from a holistic point of view, my stress on a physical, mental and emotional level is reduced. Greatly reduced.
I have time in the morning to write and study and work on my dreams.
I have time in the day to homeschool my daughter and explore outside in nature with her.
I have time to sit with my husband and talk about our days while enjoying a cup of coffee.
Life isn’t perfect, but there is a LOT more open space and breathing room, literally and metaphorically.
Less stuff will always lead you to a more passionate, fulfilling life. You’ll be free to go more places and do more things. To experience life in ways you never imagined because you’re less tied down by your stuff.
It’s worth it, I promise.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a Quick Start Guide to Decluttering 5 Areas you Can Conquer in 10 Minutes or Less.
Related Minimalist & Decluttering Articles
- My Minimalist Journey
- How to Purge Your Stuff Ruthlessly & Declutter Guilt-Free
- Clearing Clutter Using the Quick Win Principle