About six months ago, I wrote a post all about how I’ve been pursuing minimalism for the past ten years, what the process has looked like over that period of time, and some lessons I’ve learned. While discovering the concept of minimalism a decade ago has overall affected my mindset and given me a greater tendency to frequently declutter and live more simply, I’d never really actively pursued becoming an actual “minimalist.”
There were a few different reasons for this.
First, I felt like the label “minimalist” was intimidating. I felt like it conjured up an unrealistic expectation that I would only own a certain number of items and no more. However, after following several self-described minimalists on YouTube, I see much more clearly that minimalism isn’t a strict prescription for only allowing a certain number of dish towels or books or children’s clothing — rather, it’s a lifestyle that basically says that you’re choosing to only keep what you are currently loving and using IN THIS SEASON, and not more than that. That’s a definition that feels a lot more achievable to me!
Second, I am a frugal person deep down to my core, which means that my tendency to want to hang onto things “just in case” is sky high since I have a hard time with the thought of getting rid of something only to need to buy it down the road. Honestly, I’d say this is still my biggest roadblock.
But here’s the thing —
My husband losing his job unexpectedly in the last month has been eye opening on a lot of levels for me. We are in the least secure financial position we’ve been in for many, many years, but the truth is that all the STUFF I’ve kept for “someday” isn’t really serving me now in this more extreme state of affairs, either — it’s just causing me extra stress because I’m still having to manage it. I think a part of me was always thinking, “Well, if things got bad enough, I could at least try and sell a lot of this.” But even that logic is fallible because 1) so much of our stuff we acquired secondhand, so it probably wouldn’t net us much money anyway, and 2) my mental bandwidth is much better served with finding better sources of income period (like helping Matt search for a job or maximizing our flower farm business or considering a part-time job myself) rather than seeing if I can get $5 for that one thing I’ve been holding onto for the last ten years “just in case.”
So basically, the crap has metaphorically hit the fan for us financially in the past month, but I’M STILL NOT EVEN REALLY CONSIDERING DOING ANYTHING WITH ALL THIS EXTRA STUFF.
If that isn’t a clear sign I can let go of it, I don’t know what is.
So after years and years of somewhat trying to be minimalist-ISH, I am now just going “all in” and jumping the rest of the way there. I’ve seen the enormous benefits that have come to our home, to my stress levels, and to my overall ability to stay on top of things the more I’ve decluttered, and I’m longing for a level of simplicity that, more than anything, frees up the maximum amount of TIME for me.
And I can see from my own experiences thus far that pursuing true minimalism will definitely help get me there.
You all know that I am list obsessed, and y’all know that I love me a good, solid goal with a hard deadline. So when I got it into my head that it was finally time to part with all the stuff in our storage spaces (plus the rest of any excess in our main living spaces!) and basically just go for being a true minimalist after all, the first thing I did was sit down and make a list.
You see, having done this decluttering thing for a decade now, I know how overwhelming it can seem to just say, “Minimize the master closet.” Even though that is my eventual goal (along with the rest of my house), if I’m trying to see the whole closet at once, I’m thinking that I need to block out a whole Saturday for it, and that isn’t going to be possible anytime soon with us being in the thick of flower farming season.
So I sat down and listed out every single last sub-area (like one shelf or one drawer) of every single room, and I created a master checklist (as you can see above). If I’m able to go through the entire checklist by the end of this year by tackling roughly one area per day (which is my goal), I will have virtually minimized every last space in my entire house by just devoting 5-15 minutes daily to tackling one small area.
That’s the gist of my plan, anyway.
The other part is that I want to do some before/after posts here on the blog to keep me accountable, and also because I’ve been promising you pictures of our house forever and have yet to deliver 🙂
A Few Caveats
As a recovering perfectionist, I know that my #1 enemy to completing something like this is to not allow room for error…to think that somehow everything has to reach a certain level of minimal aesthetic perfection before I can call it “done.”
To counteract this natural tendency, I set a few rules:
- I’m only setting out to minimize my own possessions (and the general household possessions), NOT to fully minimize my husband’s or even my kids’ stuff. I’m encouraging all other household members at various points in the process, and I’m regularly going through things with my kids, but I’m leaving Matt’s stuff totally up to him and the final decisions on “grey area” toys and books to my kids (I’ll admit that I didn’t allow them a say in keeping dollar store trinkets or toys they weren’t really ever playing with anymore). This mental decision was so important because it allowed me to call a space like the master closet “done,” even if my husband’s side has much more stuff than mine.
- I was allowing a small budget for some organizational tools (and did purchase a few already), but that will be placed on hold until Matt finds full-time work again. My usual tendency would be to wait to take any pictures of a space until everything was done in the “ideal” way and I’d not only decluttered but also fully organized everything, but I’m just letting myself post pictures of how things stand after this massive declutter and call it good enough for now.
- I’m making myself go room by room instead of just randomly picking and choosing areas off of the master list at random. This means that I’m not just leaving the ugliest tasks until last and that I can build momentum because full rooms are getting totally streamlined and minimized over a period of a few weeks, which is definitely more motivating because I can SEE a huge visual difference by not skipping around.
- Even though I might reach a more “extreme” version of minimalism down the road, I am not waiting to use the title of minimalist for myself until I reach that elusive future time; I’m just going to own it from now on.
How It’s Going So Far
Having been on the decluttering train for the better part of ten years, I’ve definitely developed a pretty strong skill set when it comes to letting things go. For me, the fact that we still had a ton of excess stuff was due more to lack of time/energy/motivation/organization than it was to skill/ability/willingness. So basically once I took an hour and created the master list and set a hard deadline, it’s been pretty much game on.
I don’t know what exactly triggered the final mindset shift of going all in, but it happened several months back. I’ve been doing smaller challenges/goals all year, like the minimalist game or the general habit to get rid of one bag of trash and fill one box of donations every week. I also made sure to schedule in a trip to the nearest general donation center (an hour away) once a month, and that also gave me a regular deadline to shoot for and extra motivation to make each trip “worth it.” All that’s to say that each month probably since last December or so, we’ve been taking huge van loads of stuff to our donation center. We’ve already seen drastic improvements in our home, but I know there’s still a lot further to go, which is why I created this new master plan, which is basically all about us getting there faster.
I regularly follow a ton of YouTube channels about minimalism, but the one who has most affected me and given me specific tools in my decluttering arsenal has been The Minimal Mom. A few of her most useful concepts I’m leaning on:
- If it’s not a definite YES, then it’s a NO.
- If I haven’t used it in the last year and don’t know for a fact that I’ll use it in the next year, I need to let it go.
- Do I want to take the time, energy, and mental bandwidth to manage this item?
- Could I live without it?
- Would I wear this (or use it) three times in a week? (especially effective for ‘grey area’ clothing)
- Is this item serving me in this current season of life, or is it simply depleting energy?
- Is this a duplicate, or was it something I didn’t even ask for?
- Would I buy this again?
- How does this item make me feel? (Hint: If it’s negative, especially bringing up feelings of guilt, I almost certainly need to let it go.)
The biggest realization that has perhaps come from this process so far is that it’s made me see myself totally differently. I used to feel pretty bad about my seemingly abysmal housekeeping abilities, and I wondered if I was just lazier than everyone else. But now I can clearly see that I was just trying to manage too much stuff! I still have a long way to go before I’m through the rest of the checklist, but already it is SO MUCH EASIER to keep our home tidy, and I’m actually taking DELIGHT in making it tidy, which is overall a new feeling for me. Since I know that at any given time, I’m likely less than half an hour away from having all the main areas of our home totally tidy, it’s much less daunting to just jump in and get going.
It’s been exciting to see how much time and energy this has already given me back, and I can’t wait to see where things will stand at the end of the year.
I’d love to get your feedback on what you’d like me to share about this process and what would be helpful for you, so please drop a comment below and tell me!