Today I am starting a series that I’m calling Simple Living. Simplicity has been a core value in my life and on this blog for many years, but I’ve been distracted from that theme for awhile. Here is the story of how the journey began and where I am now:
I grew up in a family that values simple things. We were never into “keeping up with the Joneses.” We’ve always been a DIY kind of family, and my kids love to talk about how “old fashioned” Papa is because he heats his home with a pot belly stove and uses wonderful spring water from the hill out back.
In 2001, I married my college sweetheart. As brand new college graduates, we didn’t own much, made very little money as graduate student teaching associates, and had an absolute blast! We were very careful at budgeting and even saved enough money to take a two week vacation to Florida (including Disney World) when we had been married about a year and a half. We got our first credit card that year, and we did so only because it was required for the hotel reservation. We used only cash for every aspect of the trip. We needed few things, and we were so busy with school and enjoying married life that we did not accumulate much. Except books. I can make no good excuse for our book collection! Anyway, we moved out of our tiny (but adorable) attic apartment in 2004 after finishing our masters degrees and bought our first house. We continued our graduate work at a new university and added two children to the mix by 2008. Our house was small, and we were rapidly filling it with THINGS. We continued to keep our schedule fairly simple (if you consider school, work, church, and family simple), and in general, my preferred aesthetic then and now is simple, clear, and fresh. I don’t have extravagant taste, and I would choose a single daisy over a dozen roses any day. YET the sense that we had too much was creeping in.
In the summer of 2011, we welcomed our third child and moved to Florida. It was a huge move. A thousand miles. My husband had received a new job at a small university, and the kind people there helped us find a rental house until we could buy a home. Our time ran out at the first house, and we moved into a second rental. All of that moving around taught me an important lesson. We had moved to Florida with only a small fraction of our belongings. We packed only a small collection of clothes for ourselves and our children. Our two boys packed one small box of toys and books. The houses were furnished and had kitchen supplies, so we only took sheets and a few bath towels. You know what? It was wonderful. I only missed a few things–my vegetable peeler and some of my books. When we successfully purchased our new house, I truly did not want the bulk of our stuff to come into it. But the stuff came. We were moving from 1100 square feet into more than 2000 square feet. It was easy to stash away a lot of things that we really did not need, and the clear lesson was RIGHT THERE. We only needed a fraction of what we owned, and after four month with only a small amount of our things, I only desperately wished for my lovely vegetable peeler. (And after this blog post, my mom sent me a great peeler in the mail. Thanks, Mom!) This was a golden opportunity! We should have been very, very discerning about what to keep, but instead, we loaded everything into our new house. Many of those boxes hadn’t even been opened when we moved again (those same 1000 miles) less than two years later. A lot of those boxes are still in our basement!
That brings me to this spring. I started making some important changes in my life that I wrote about here. I needed to clear my head and my heart. Around the same time, I read a blog post by my friend, Elizabeth. Elizabeth is many things, but two of her most important roles are homeschooling mom and entrepreneur. She blogs at www.homeschoolmanager.com, and I think you’ll enjoy her thoughts. Anyway, she wrote about going from hoarder to minimalist. Somewhere along the line, Elizabeth recommended the website Becoming Minimalist and specifically, the post called “How to Stage Your Home for Living.” Big things were happening inside me. I needed to return to simplicity, and I finally felt ready to make it happen. I realized that I was one of many people who are looking for ways to reduce STUFF and enjoy a life of simplicity.
On my birthday in June, I wrote this in my journal: “I’m on a minimalist journey.” I realize that it sounds totally melodramatic! (I even cringed a little while typing it.) But here is how I see it. A journey can take you anywhere. I set off on this journey with both feet, and I have to keep moving forward to see where the road takes me. I’m pretty sure this journey isn’t going to bring me to the place of only owning what I can fit in a backpack. That might be great for some people, but I’m aiming for something far less extreme. I just want to feel content, spend more time with my kids, and less time cleaning. I want to see clear, open spaces around me. I want to own things that I love. I don’t want my things to own me.
I have had success with birthday resolutions in the past, and I’m particularly excited about this one. I dove into decluttering immediately after my birthday. THIS is what sat in front of my house on July 4th weekend:
And that was just the beginning. In addition, we’ve donated three enormous bags of clothing to charity. I have a big box of books that is headed to our local library. I’ve thrown away about 20 bags of junk since June. (Note: I deeply regret that I did not recycle more things. I’m making a commitment to do better at recycling now that my belongings are more manageable.)
So that’s my story so far. In my next installment, I’ll write about some of the people and resources that inspire my desire to live simply.
Thanks for reading!