I Tried Minimalism For a Year and This is How it Went

It was an idea that had been brewing for a while. Every time I look at my children’s cluttered bedrooms. Whenever I stuffed clean laundry into already overflowing drawers.  Every time I walked into the guest-room-turned-office-turned extra-toy-storage-area. Finally, on a spring afternoon in May, after my children had begged me to play outside with them and I had instead spent an hour dusting all the knick-knacks that adorned the living room shelves, it hit me.  If I was tired of cleaning STUFF, maybe I should stop buying STUFF.

The next day, I began researching minimalism intensely. What is minimalism? Minimalism is a tool to rid one’s self of life’s excess and focus on what is important.  It is a way of living a simpler, less materialistic life.  In essence, it is an approach to life that focuses less on owning possessions and more on spiritual and personal growth. 

When I was ready to commit, I met with the family to discuss how and when we would proceed with bringing minimalism into our lives.  I explained the benefits of minimalism (less clutter, more family time, improved organization, etc.) To say the least, our kids were not fans (we jokingly call our younger daughter the Baby Hoarder, as she has saved every McDonald’s toy, birthday party favor, and carnival prize she has received, ever). Even though they were initially resistant, we pushed forward.  I wanted to exemplify healthy lifestyle choices for them and felt strongly that the earlier we started, the easier it would become. 

Over the next month, I went through every room in the house and got rid of anything we didn’t need or use.  All said and done, I donated, sold, or recycled over 60 garbage bags worth of STUFF.  Clothes I’ll never wear, books I’ll never read, broken toys, everything from silly trinkets to entire bedroom sets.  Then, when I thought I was done, I went through every room again.  When I looked at the items in my home, I asked myself, “When was the last time I use this?” “When will I need it again?” “Does it truly bring me joy?”

As the purge continued, I began to realize that the more stuff I owned, the more it owned me. My cluttered, overstuffed rooms transformed into clean, organized, and happy spaces.  In essence, living with less actually resulted in living with more.  By the clearing the physical clutter from our lives, we made room for the more important aspects of life: health, family, friendships, passions, and purpose. 

Here are 5 things I learned during our minimalism journey:

  1. Minimalism isn’t deprivation and there are truly no set rules. That is one of the benefits of this way of living. For me, it was (and still is) about getting rid of the clutter in my house, in order to help me clear my brain. The journey to minimalism isn’t easy, but it gets more rewarding and liberating the further you go.                                                                                                                     
  2. It’s important to take it slow. You don’t have to start with whole rooms. I started with a drawer in the kitchen.  Start with one cabinet or one toy box.  Once you start throwing things out, every box gets easier than the last. The weight comes off your mind.
  3. Sentimentality will obscure your decisions, but it’s important to get rid of emotions as we rid ourselves of items that don’t add value to our lives. Remember, it’s more important to hold on to people, rather than things.        
  4. Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, habits, anything that does not support a better sense of self. Keep in mind that it is almost always okay to get rid of that which does not bring value to your life.                                                                                                                                             
  5. Minimalism brings families closer together. Less toys = less toys to fight over. I am a lot more present with my children now. Instead of constantly cleaning, picking up toys, dusting all the knick nacks, we now can cook, read books together, and play outside without the distraction of all the junk we used o own.

Bottom line

We will never go back to the way we were.  We are still far from clutter-free, but we are more intentional with how we invest our time, energy, and money.  Minimalism is a way of living and a mindset, but it is not a one-size-fits-all.  My life still doesn’t look like the pictures in magazines, and minimalism hasn’t magically obliterated all the problems in my life.  That’s okay.  We are raising our children to understand that the best things in life are not things. We are happier than we have ever been, and that’s all that matters.

At the end of the day, we are not defined by what we have, but by who we are. 

What do you think? Is minimalism right for your family?

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