This is going to be a series. I sat down to type this out and quickly realized it would not all fit into one blog post. There is just way too much to say about it! Before we dive into a how-to post I have a few stories, clarifications, and persuasions for you. It may be tempting to skip over this part, but I think it will benefit you to read it. Mainly because minimalism is much more a mind-set than it is a method. You really have to have your mind reshaped to pursue minimalism.
I want you to learn how this can really help the home-maker who is struggling to keep her home organized. I want you to pursue it for the right reasons. I want you to know that it *can* work for you in whatever situation you find yourself in. (big house, little house, big family, small family, it can work for anyone!) I want to persuade you to view your belongings in a totally different way. I want you to know why you have to be “all in” committed to minimalism for it to really change your life. Then I want to tell you ‘how to’ pursue it starting now with your spring cleaning efforts. I hope I don’t sound like a sales-woman when I say, this could be the spring clean that will change your life!
I will share how to begin living a minimalist life-style, which I promise is not as hard as you may think! Once you change your mind-set, doing it is actually very easy! And I will tell you how to continue to grow in it and to perfect it, that is the phase I am in now, and it has become so easy and fun. It no longer stresses me out to organize or find places for things like it use to. I will help you get there, if you are willing to change your mind about your things!
Again this is a mind-set, not a method. I can give you steps (and I will eventually give you steps), but you can do the steps and stay in bondage to your things if you don’t build the foundation first.
How I Became a Minimalist:
So let’s kick it off with a testimonial of my personal story. I want to tell you how I went from an unorganized mess to a minimalist. I use to really struggle with keeping an organized home. I don’t any more. Now my house does get messy with toys and our daily things, but they are easily picked up; in about 10-15 minutes my house can be entirely clean. Not just look clean, but have stuff crammed, I mean actually clean! A few years ago this was not so, I really struggled with keeping my home clean and organized! It was bad! There were some areas I kept clean (my living room and kitchen mostly), but there were many areas that no matter what I did I could never keep organized and put together. I’m not talking about dirt and grime and cob-webs, I’m talking about our stuff. The task of organizing was absolutely daunting to me. I’ve never been a good organizer, I’m still not great at it, but minimalism makes it easier because there is way less to organize. Back then I hated it!!! Organizing was the bane of my existence. I wasn’t a hoarder or anything, in fact, I felt like I had the same amount of stuff as all the other people I knew. I just couldn’t manage it. I always had a room where I stored a few boxes of junk that I needed to sort through. I always had a mess of school and craft supplies and miscellaneous papers shoved in the corners in my office floor and piled all around my desk and shelves. I would spend hours picking up my children’s bedrooms, the toy/school room and my own, but in about three hours they would be destroyed again. I would pick up and organize all the time, but it never seemed to help! I constantly had an organization project going. It always flopped in the end! I’m not a lazy person, and I am passionate about my job as a homemaker, so I was perplexed by this whole cycle. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I put SO much work into it and yet the end result was *still* a messy house. I always questioned, “Why can’t I keep my house clean when I work so hard?” My husband would wonder what I had been doing all day, when in fact I had been cleaning and organizing all day. That caused conflict. It hurt him and communicated disrespect. It hurt me because I felt like a failure as a wife, homemaker, and mother. It hurt my children because they were learning my example, and they were witnessing the conflict between my husband and I. It hurt and it was very hard on my heart. I knew there were more important things than a clean house and I pursued those and focused on my areas of strength such as teaching my children diligently, but I believed a clean house was important too. I was suppose to be a keeper of my home. I was suppose to be building it, not tearing it down. A clean house is right, and I knew that. A clean house is a noble desire and we should pursue it! A clean house brings so much peace to the family! God is a God of order, and I knew that it would honor Him for me to run a home of order. I wanted it SO BADLY! But continued to walk in defeat no matter how hard I tried.
I just knew there had to be a way off of the hamster wheel! I began praying for the Lord to give me wisdom. I would say, “Lord, you know my heart, you know I want to be a good homemaker and to work as unto you, please show me what I’m doing wrong!” (in tears, begging, pleading, I was desperate)
The Lord did finally answer. Almost a year and a half ago we took a long work trip with my husband to Western Canada (about 3 days of driving for us). We had four children and as anyone knows when packing for a trip with lots of littles, we had to pack JUST the essentials to last us for six weeks. So I put together all that we needed: a week’s worth of clothing for everyone (we would have access to a laundry mat), toiletries, our current home school curriculum, our current read aloud books, 3 small toy sets, a pack n play, booster, diaper bag, blankets and pillows, an ergo, a stroller, my camera, my laptop, our homeschool ipad, and my husband’s work supplies. It seemed a meager amount to me, but still stuffed the 12 passenger rental van pretty tightly. Once we settled into our hotel in Canada, I was AMAZED at how light my work load felt while I was there. Sure, we had room service to come in and make the bed and clean the bathrooms and yes the hotel provided dinner 2 nights a week (amazing!), but I could’ve managed those things easily. The lightened load wasn’t from my relief of chores or dinner preparations; it was from the constant organization and picking up, and from being surrounded by my junk. It made a huge difference in my perspective to not be surrounded by a house that always seemed to be reminding me that there was so much work to do. The truth was, I couldn’t relax in my own home! I loved the simple hotel room with just the things we needed! It was SO much more manageable for me! What amazed me was how peaceful it felt to be surrounded with only the things we needed. The whole place could be picked up and put in order in five minutes flat. I could actually sit and read to my girls and enjoy it without feeling like it was taking away from homemaking. We could take outings without me feeling like I had work left undone. I could have my quiet time undistracted by a lingering pile of junk in the corner. It was wonderful! And it hit me then and there, I don’t need those things we left behind, in fact those things were a hindrance! My stuff was the problem! As I processed through this life-lesson I was learning, the Lord brought this Scripture to mind:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. -Hebrews 12:1
I just knew this was the answer!!!! Yes, we lay aside sin, but not only sin, also weight….. to me that means anything (my belongings included) which caused me to not run the race with endurance. It was clinging to me, it was holding me down, it was distracting me from the Lord and my work for him, and it needed to be thrown off! Isn’t it so sweet when the Lord finally answers! It was like a glass of fresh water after being lost in the desert! I was thrilled to say the least.
This was before I had ever even heard of minimalism, I truly feel the Lord revealed this concept to me through His Spirit and by His Word first, then allowed me to learn more about it through other means later. He used my circumstances of the trip to Canada to graciously give me a taste of how wonderful it would be to live that way, which motivated me even more. It still motivates me!
How I got started:
While still on my trip and learning these things,I endeavored to get rid of everything I didn’t need or love as soon as I got back home. I knew it would be a lengthy process because I had accumulated a lot, but I was set on starting as soon as possible! When we returned, I chose an area (my office) which had been messy for years. I used the method I shared in my No Clutter November post. It worked! Four huge trash bags later, and my messy office was cleaned up in a day!!! It was the first time since I had moved into that house four years prior that the office had been clean! And I had organized it and worked on it countless hours in months and years prior with no lasting result of organization. It felt so good to have it really done! A few days later, it remained cleaned. Weeks later, it remained cleaned! I was amazed and relieved! This small victory motivated me to continue…. I started getting rid of more things. Every day I was throwing stuff away like crazy or putting things into a huge donation pile and taking trips to donate trunk loads at a time. “Ruthlessly Purge” was my motto. I showed no mercy for things. If I didn’t love it or need it, out it went. I had a lot of stuff and four children so this was (as I had assumed it would be) a long drawn out process. Becoming a minimalist isn’t something you can do in a week. It took you a long time to get all those things, it will take a little while to get rid of them. That was my thinking, and as far as I can see, that is the truth. I did it by areas; which later I found out wasn’t the best method, but that’s okay, it was still a huge help! In the middle of my homemaking reformation the Lord led us to sell our house and to buy our current farmhouse. I then turned my attention to packing up for the move. We had to do it quickly because the house sold two weeks after being on the market, It was such a rushed thing, and I was pregnant with morning sickness so my pursuit of minimalism was put on halt. We had to put most of our stuff in storage for about 8 months and I didn’t have time to purge as I packed; the farmhouse had to be gutted and reconstructed before we could even move in. We lived with the in-loves, with our basics and even still I felt like we maybe had too much with us for the space we had, my cue was that perpetual messes were becoming a distraction again. That is when I began researching for ideas on living with less, and that is where I stumbled across this wonderful concept of minimalism. It was exactly the life-style I knew the Lord was leading us to! The possibilities were inspiring me. The objective was becoming very clear. I knew where we were heading when we opened that storage building. I would be extremely selective about what I brought into my house, and I was. That storage building is still stacked full of stuff. We took out what we needed and wanted, and stopped there. And we have been living quite well with the things we have in our house for months now, in fact, I purge from this small amount we brought in all the time. I have grown to love the simplicity and order so much that I just keep pursuing it more and more. I plan to tackle the storage building in the spring (it’s just too cold for me right now), but I’m not planning to keep the stuff, but instead to get rid of it properly. There are only a few things I have remembered and wanted out of there that I plan to keep. The rest is going!
I can’t tell you how much I love living with less! It seemed hard at first, but the more I got rid of, the easier it became to get rid of even more. My trajectory is definitely to continue in this direction and to teach my children to do the same. Minimalism has made home-making a joy to me again and I no longer feel like a failure.
what is minimalism?
So you may now be asking, “what is minimalism?” I think some people have a misconception that minimalism is only for singles or for childless people who live in 500 square foot houses. The tiny house movement has made minimalism a bit trendy with the hippy crowd. Most people think of that type when they think of minimalism. It’s totally not like that for everyone! A basic definition of minimalism is: living with ONLY what you NEED and LOVE. Also, I would add it is a whole new way of viewing your things and your home. You become much more intentional about the things you purchase or receive as gifts . You do not allow yourself to feel obligated to keep anything (either a gift or something you spent hard earned money on) if it hinders you from doing what the Lord has called you to by causing messes that you are continually spending time and energy on. Minimalism looks a little different from person to person and family to family, but it’s premise is pretty much the same for everyone; living with the things you absolutely want to live with and having your space look the way you want it to look. Minimalism is like organizing in reverse: instead of deciding where to put things you have, you look at your space and decide the very things you want to be there. Everything else needs to go somewhere else that you want it to be or out of the house. You also reshape your view of “need”. Our culture has made things into a need that are certainly not necessities. Figuring out those things that your family actually does use and need is a process, but it’s worth it!
Do it for the right Reasons
A quick word of warning: if you begin to research “minimalism” you will sadly find very little Christian perspective on the topic. There are a lot of great “how to” articles out there, but the motivation for most of those authors is not living for the Lord, but instead living for themselves. That is NOT where I would encourage your heart to be in this pursuit. If you want to get rid of your things so that you can do whatever it is that makes you happy, then you are worshiping yourself, and that is very dangerous for your soul! (call me dramatic if you want, but it’s just the truth) You will hear a lot of selfish reasoning in most articles on the topic, and actually it can sound appealing to the flesh….. travel, see the world, focus on climbing the career ladder, sit in silence, read, meditate, sip tea, retire early to a life of leisure. I just want to gently warn you that is not Biblical! That is not how Christians live or think. If your heart is being drawn towards living a minimalist life then let it be for the glory of God. Let it be to honor your husband and children. Let it be so that you can work less on organizing your stuff, and spend that (undistracted) extra time in prayer, the Word, diligently teaching your children, and in service to God. There is nothing wrong with silence and relaxing with a cup of tea or traveling, those are blessings to refresh us, but those should not be life objectives for the Christian.
Minimalism does work!!! It will get you the freedom from the mess that you’ve always been wanting, but I pray that you pursue that with a pure heart and not out of selfish ambition.
Can a big family live a minimalist life-style?
This is a question I get sometimes when I explain to people that I am a minimalist. It is asked in a variety of ways, “is that house going to be big enough?” “don’t you need…. (fill in the blank item)?” ,but the big question above is at the heart of all the other questions, and so I think it a profitable thing to answer. In a word, yes! A big family absolutely can live a minimalist life-style! And let me explain, In truth, a big family only *really* needs a few more things than a small family with only two children. In fact, I had way more stuff when I just had my first two children than I have now for all of us (with the exception of beds and carseats). Kids don’t need every gadget and toy that comes along! They only need a few toy sets and puzzles. I promise they play in a much more content fashion with less than they do with more. I have seen the fruit of both first hand; I saw clearly that more toys only makes them play less! It doesn’t seem like it would be that way, but it definitely is! They don’t need a closet full of clothes and accessories. And (this is a big one!) you don’t have to keep everything someone gives them for Christmas and birthdays! Gifts are a great way to see what toys work best for your family. If a toy becomes a nuisance or a constant mess maker, then get rid of it. The person who gave it did not want to give you something that would make your life hard, they wanted to bless you. So feel no guilt and donate it or give it to someone who will actually be blessed by the item. Give thanks to the person who bought it when it is received, give thanks to the Lord for the way you feel so loved by the person giving the gift, teach your children to do this because we give thanks in all circumstances, and then if you don’t love or need it, get rid of it! If people ask what you want, tell them exactly what you want! I recommend crafts (which can be done and then thrown away) or good books that you want in your family library, or experience gifts like season tickets to a local theme park or zoo or art classes. It most certainly can work for a big family, but you can’t have it in your head that you and your children must have whatever people and the world tells you that you need. You really probably don’t need it!
I believe this can work for anyone and any situation if you want it to and that it can be altered to fit various life-styles. If you have a huge house and lots of space to put things, then you can likely have more things than someone like me. And sure, there are things I wish I could buy and find a space for, I’d love to have some work-out equipment, but I don’t have the space for them so I will just workout outside and chasing my kids. If I don’t have a place for it, then I don’t get it. However, if you have space for a work-out room, can afford it, and you want one, go for it! That is still minimalism. It just looks different depending on the space you have to work with.
Now I will say minimalism is not for everyone. If you are a great organizer and you easily keep your house in order….. then keep your things. But I’m not bent that way, and for me to continue down the path I was on was like trying to shove a circle puzzle piece into a square spot. Nothing lined up! If you hear this concept and think it’s not for you, then great, but don’t quickly discount it because you are not ready to get rid of your things. If you are struggling with organization, at least give this a go in a few areas of your life and experience what a difference it makes. Try out my no clutter method, and get rid of everything you don’t need or love.
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