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How minimalism saved my sanity (and how it could save yours, too)

January was a month of big changes for my family and for me personally. Everything changed at the start of the month and as the weeks went on, all the things that changed as 2017 began… well, they changed again. Have you ever been through periods like that? Where you think things are going in one direction and they end up going somewhere else entirely and your WHOLE LIFE is turned upside down? Well… who hasn’t, right? That was basically how I spent my January. And it was overwhelming.
 
As I processed through my massive to-do list, trying desperately to prioritize all the things that needed to get done, one thing stuck out like a sore thumb as my biggest source of stress: the disarray in my house. Moms, can I get an amen?!
 
Short of dramatically arm-sweeping everything into a trash can, I decided it was time to get things under control once and for all. As massive as my to-do list was (and still is), I KNEW that the absolute first thing that needed to happen is removal of the excess and organization of what remained if I had any hope of getting my peace of mind back. 
 
 
We view our homes as a reflection of our work and our success as wives and mamas. And we all have our own versions of what is acceptable and what is best. If your house isn’t up to your standards, this is in no way an invitation to beat yourself up over it (in fact, please do the opposite!). For me – and maybe you can relate – it was super hard for me to feel like I was going to be productive if I was living in chaos. The kitchen was a dumping grounds, there were toys in every nook and cranny of the house, and our bathroom was a disaster area. My to-do list had only gotten longer, and I was supposed to be productive in this environment?
 
I DON’T THINK SO.
 
I am not a person who subscribes to the single-chair-in-a-room version of minimalism (although more power to ya if you’re able to pull that off!). I believe that you define what minimalism means to you, and as a general rule, minimalism should at the very least mean the number of things you own match the amount of space you have to house them in an organized, easy-to-access way. 2012 was the first time I was exposed to the concept right after the birth of my second baby (so I have been through this process with babies as well as school-aged kiddos). Back then I was merciless in the purging of anything that didn’t fit my personal vision (and I am happy to report that I don’t miss anything I parted ways with back then!).
 
That’s the thing about stuff. We forget about it after a while. Because at the end of the day, it just isn’t that important.  Our memories and experiences are what define our lives when all is said and done. Here are some guidelines that will help you determine where to begin finding freedom from the tyranny of stuff:
  1. Let go of the urge to keep something “just in case.”
    We often hang on to things because we think that someday we will need it. Here’s the best example I can give you: NAIL POLISH. Unless you religiously do your nails every week (if you do, I envy you!), you probably have a box full of old, stinky nail polish under your sink that is asking to be discarded. If it’s something that can be replaced by an occasional service (mani/pedis!), hang on to the basics and discard the rest.
  2. If it is to be kept, is it easy to access when you need it?
    When I reorganized my kitchen, I got rid of a ton of stuff. I did NOT turn into the mom with a single set of dishes and silverware for everyone, but I did finally get rid of all the plastic stuff since our girls were old enough to eat on big people plates. What was awesome about this process is that it freed up space for the things that we use on the reg and everything is easy to access. Like items are stored with like items and nobody questions where anything is. It’s glorious.
  3. Has it gone unused for any unreasonable amount of time?
    I defer back to the bathroom purge, where I encountered five-year-old containers of unused body scrubs I had long since forgotten, lotions, hair products, and other things that I bought probably because they smelled good. By the time I was done I had an entire garbage bag full of items that not only didn’t serve a current purpose in my life… they never really did.
  4. Don’t feel like you have to sell or find a home for every little thing.
    As I sorted through my things, I came across several items that could have been sold or placed in the home of a friend or family member. I want to challenge you to resist this feeling that the things you are purging must find a worthy home or give you an ROI. More often than not, it is simply not worth the time and the effort, whether by holding a garage sale (OMG THE HAGGLING) or selling on Craigslist… a.k.a. Creepslist or texting everyone you know asking whether they want something of yours. High-value items are one thing. The Keurig you stopped using six months ago is another. Things to consider putting time and effort into include high-dollar items like furniture, electronics, jewelry or keepsakes that can be given to another family member.
  5. Does it cause undue stress in your life with its presence in your home?
    To me, minimalism is resisting the urge to pack things away that you may pull out of a box once or twice a year. If it isn’t worthy of display or use in your home, you won’t miss it if it’s gone. I know one of my biggest sources of stress was the unseen items in my house (the visible stuff was bad enough) because it took up space that could be used for other things. I had a box under our bed full of a number of keepsakes of mine and my husband’s, including volumes and volumes of journals. Reading through those made me feel a bit of anxiety, and had me rehashing and reliving things in my past that I am happy to forget. It was a great relief to finally discard those mementos, knowing that I will remember what is important, and can focus on the present and building a meaningful future for my family.

How do you define minimalism? What are the first steps you can take toward a happier existence? What scares you about minimalism? Share in the comments below!

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2 Responses to How minimalism saved my sanity (and how it could save yours, too)

  1. Judy LeMarr February 23, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    I love this. Particularly the “just in case” bit, I’m sure many relate to this but this is a big one for me. This is probably my go-to phrase when it comes to holding onto things in my closet that realistically can be parted with. Definitely feeling motivated to clean some things out now. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Meredith March 3, 2017 at 8:31 am #

    This is great advice! Becoming minimalist, streamlining, dramatically decluttering (whatever you want to call it) is a long process but so worth it!