Exactly what IS minimizing?
The dictionary’s definition starts out like this.
Verb (used with object), minimized, minimizing
- To reduce to the smallest possible amount or degree.
Now, there are other definitions or meanings to the word “minimize”, but for this discussion, we will concentrate on the first meaning only. When we say, we are going to minimize our house, or our closet, or even our life, we are really saying that we want to remove the clutter from our spaces. By eliminating the clutter, we remove distractions that sometimes render us unproductive.
Being a minimalist doesn’t mean giving up everything you own and living like a monk hidden in a desolate mountain range with none of the conveniences of the modern world. Minimizing our house, our closet, or even our lives, doesn’t mean reducing our belongings to a chair, one book, and an apple. For some, it means simply removing objects you no longer use. The degree at which you purge will depend on the end results you hope to achieve.
Determine Your Level of Minimizing
Whatever your reason, minimizing will allow you to focus more on the things that you treasure most, while clearing out the other less important or “meaningless” stuff that distracts us. This brings us to another point. The questions of what is considered unimportant, meaningless, and a non-essential is subjective. It depends on who you ask. So, for the sake of confusion, I’ll share with you, my story, and my personal “why” I felt the need to minimize.
My First Attempt at Minimizing
My very first attempt at minimizing started when our youngest daughter, at the end of her freshman year in college, decided to attend a college in another state. I did not have any reasons for minimizing other than the normal desire to downsize when your children all leave home. When that happened, we had a garage sale and moved into a smaller house. I was perfectly content with my new smaller space and my “minimizing” skills!
We Hit the Road
My husband travels for work, so when my nest became empty I packed a bag, a few craft items and joined him on the road. The two of us traveled all over the country, living in hotels in 11 states. Every couple of months we got to return home in between jobs, to visit our oldest daughter and her family that still lives in our home state and to take care of the usual business of keeping up a house full of stuff.
Our House Took All of Our Time
After a year of travel, we came to realize that way too much of our time was spent keeping up the house, winterizing pipes, checking freezers, air conditioners, furnaces, and other necessary responsibilities of having a house. The yard needed to be cleaned, the gutters had leaves in them, the windows were dirty. There were carpets to be cleaned, floors to be mopped, cobwebs to be swept. We were literally spending all our time working on one household project after another and not nearly enough time with our family that we had traveled so far to see.
I remember sitting in my craft room thinking “I don’t even know what all is in all these storage containers”. After all, I had not spent any time in this room in over a year. As I walked through each room in the house, trying to guess what was in each dresser, each closet, each box or tub I discovered that all my precious belongings that I simply could NOT live without, were there, all packed up, and I had been living without them. I had been on the road with my hubby for a year and had spent very little time at home surrounded by my things. I didn’t have a clue what occupied all my closets, or even my rooms. But, I had spent time minimizing when our daughter moved out.
What Makes Me Happy
Traveling with my husband was what brought me happiness. I hadn’t lived with my things daily, in over a year, and I couldn’t even remember what I had. Visiting our daughters, and grand babies brought joy to our lives. My ‘things’ had become a burden, a chore. We needed this house, this giant “box” to store all this stuff! And we had to spend all our time working on this box when we came home! Our time off between jobs had become major work days with no time left for enjoying our family. We needed a better plan.
We evaluated our situation and after lots of reading and researching we came up with a plan. Our goals were clearly laid out and our plan looked like this:
- Everything that was not near and dear to us must go.
- We would rent a much smaller place to land when we came home.
- We would purchase a 5th wheel camper to live in while we were on jobs away from home.
- In between jobs and when we came home, would spend more time with family.
- And we would not be exhausted from our time “off”.
I Set My Mind to Minimizing, but…
And so we had conversations with our daughters and explained our new plan. We offered to let them take any items that they were emotionally attached to or needed for their own homes. Of course, none of them asked for any of my things, and even went so far as to ask why I thought they would want my stuff?
“we don’t want your stuff, Mom!”
You mean I collected all these antique wicker sewing baskets with lids for nothing?
My collection of very interesting antique bottles that adorned my dining room shelves?
What about my books?
Nope, they wanted none of it.
So, that was how it was going to be. I would have to get rid of my things, without the hope of ever seeing them again in my daughter’s homes. No traditional items on mantles, no familiar crystal in their china hutches, nothing passed on to my girls. They really did not want my stuff.
And so, the purge began. My hubby had gotten called back to work, and I stayed home to work on our new project. As it turned out, I was glad he wasn’t there to watch me cry, whine, and be silly about how much that hand crocheted doily meant to me. No, I couldn’t remember where it came from, or why it had been in a dresser for ten years, but still….
Sadly, I spent the next 5 weeks going through each room, boxing up a lifetime of collections, pricing each item for sale or putting them in the donate box. I managed to box up what I absolutely could not live without, and marked the rest for departure.
Minimizing is NOT for Sissies!
Let me tell you this, minimizing is not for sissies. It was tremendously difficult for me to part with even the simplest items. As much as I was determined to simplify my life, it was excruciating to let go of my treasures, after all, it had taken me almost a half a century to collect them! “But I got that at …..or….Grandma gave me that when…or…we bought that at the flea market in …..and the list went on and on and on.
There was something so final about the actual placing of items in the “to go” box, but lucky for me I had a sister-in-law that helped. Instead of prying my fingers from each of my items, she allowed me to watch, while she picked up each item and made me decide which box it was to go in. I was forced to decide in 2.3 seconds, or she decided for me. What a blessing it was that she knew what I wouldn’t be able to part with, not to mention, she was thrilled that she would never have to help me move again!
The Day had Come
Finally, the day had come. I had advertised my yard sale on Facebook, Craigslist, telephone poles, and every street corner that I could possibly place a sign. I had tables and tables of items. There were rows and more rows of stuff that was priced to go. Boxes, bins, and crates with my life’s treasures stuffed in them, waiting for a new home. It turned out that my hubby finished a job just in time to make it home for the weekend to hold my hand while I sold or gave away my possessions.
They Didn’t Want My Stuff!
The time had arrived. Do you know how to get your kids to take your stuff? I discovered a sure-fire way to make that happen! Advertise on Facebook that your items are for sale, and post lots of pictures. Trust me on this, it works.
As soon as it became daylight, and our girls began their usual morning routines of checking their Facebook’s, our phones lit up with notifications!
“umm, Mom! Why are you getting rid of that lamp? I want that!” and “hey Momma, are you getting rid of the bar stools? I need those!” ….. “Mommmmmmm? You don’t want that dresser? I want it!”….. “are yall selling all those Christmas decorations? Why? If you don’t want them, then give them to me!”
And so it happened. Our girls managed to need two pickup loads of my “junk” they previously denied being interested in. So, we pretended to reluctantly drag the items to the “not for sale” area, to save for our girls. I may or may not have added to their boxes, a few sentimental items, that my heart wouldn’t let me sell.
I Couldn’t Watch
Our morning started out pretty emotional, I kept walking around looking at my life spread out on the tables before me. How had I accumulated so much stuff? When had I become enslaved to the items I once treasured? And how was I going to let go? I couldn’t take it, so I went back inside our home and watched from my bedroom window as my husband managed our sale.
As people began to show up and go through my possessions, it brought tears to my eyes and stung my heart in a way I didn’t really expect. But then something strange started to happen. There were crowds and crowds, of people and they were buying everything! The more we sold, the easier it got and by midday, I had made another pass through our house looking for more items to add to the tables. What had started as a painful parting with my belongings turned into the most liberating experience I had ever been a part of. My new-found freedom from the seemingly endless boxes of stuff was exhilarating.
All in all, we had a very successful sale, and when we were done, our house was empty except for the essentials like our bed, a dresser, and a few necessary kitchen and bath items. We each had a favorite chair that we kept.
We moved what was left to our much smaller place, and called it done. A day later we were back on the road, excited about our new journey.
It took us a couple of months to find the camper we wanted, our home away from home. We furnished our tiny home with the basic provisions needed for travel and we never looked back. Life is simple, and uncluttered, and we love it. When we manage to make it back home, we have so much more time to spend doing the things we want to do.
Your Reasons Why
Certainly, everyone considering minimizing will not want or need to take the same approach as I did. There are many reasons and methods for simplifying your life, however, your reasons will be different from mine. Your needs, wants, and results will be your own. whatever your reasons, one thing is for certain. When our lives and spaces become cleared out, uncluttered, and simple, we have an easier path to living with more energy, and maybe even more purpose.
Getting the Mindset
There is no doubt that minimizing our possessions is tough for most of us. It requires time and energy, and the thought of disconnecting with our stuff seems emotionally upsetting. For this reason, I recommend spending some time getting the mindset, before you jump into the “clearing out” mode.
Ask Yourself Some Questions
Get a plan, make lists, ask yourself some questions. Consider what you hope to achieve. Do you need to downsize to fit in a smaller house? Are you tired of the clutter and the energy it takes to clean around it? Figure out your reasons for simplifying.
- Does your home have areas that you want to simplify?
- What are your priorities?
- What do you have that contributes to your clutter?
- Do you have items that you no longer use or need?
- Is your home filled with items that do not add to your happiness in any way?
- Do you have items in your home that are considered family treasures that others in your family would enjoy?
Make a Plan
Answer these questions, write down your answers, make lists. If you are like me, it took years to accumulate your possessions, and it will take time to let them go! The time and energy you spend getting a plan together will help you stay focused. Above all, don’t stress over the purge, the more you simplify the easier it becomes, and in time you will be able to free yourself from the clutter! You can do this!