Somewhere in the abundance of belongings that have entered and never left our home during some point over the last thirteen years are pieces of my history, chapters to the story of my life. Everything in my home has a meaning to me for one reason or another but obviously there are some like my baby doll Katie that I would be absolutely devastated to lose. I have had a fear of house fire since I was a small child, even devising ways I could get all my stuff out of my room (which at one point included plans for a stick built slide system to push boxes full of stuff…that I kept in boxes for that reason) never mind the fact that I lived in a mobile home that would likely be fully engulfed before my brilliant idea of opening a window…
Today isn’t much different, after my family and our pets of course, I have several must grab items that I know the location of such as all my photographs and home movie files, as well as some important childhood items of mine and my boys. However, there are many items that I have absolutely no idea where they are other than “inside my home” which truly scares me, especially since moving to the city meant living in apartments and having to trust my neighbors not to burn down our building and let’s just say I have trust issues…
So when I came across the term minimalism, which according to The Minimalists
“is a tool we use to get rid of the excess stuff in our lives to make room for the essentials. Minimalism allows us to focus on what’s important in life—health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution—so we can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom. See our What Is Minimalism? page for a full explanation and some good links that will help you discover minimalism for yourself.”
I fell in love with the idea, I especially love the idea of only keeping what we love so we can live the life we love. As a baby step towards my goal of significantly downsizing our belongings, about 6 months ago, Rohan and I brought a bag of things we don’t need to a local church that offers a clothing closet. Every Thursday anyone in need can go there to take anything they need from donations dropped off.
After we went outside we had the following exchange:
“Maybe we’ll bring some more to drop off next week”
“Oh, you would like that?”
“Yes! We’ll drop off! It’s nice!”
Over the next few weeks, I went through what I thought was all of our clothing, sorting and washing nearly everything before putting it away or in a bag to donate. I was uncharacteristically ruthless, bagging up everything we didn’t love, even getting rid of a number of things I liked but knew we’d never wear again for one reason or another, as well as a bunch of outgrown clothing of Shawn’s (including an entire plastic tote of size 2-3T which Rohan is currently wearing!) so after washing it all, I pulled out all the memory pieces (hospital outfit, etc.) then took out anything that I wouldn’t ever put Rohan in, either due to style, characters he doesn’t care for or whatever else. That left me with a pile for now and even some to set aside for as he grows. I split those up by size and am storing most of what we aren’t currently wearing in some Bankers Box cardboard file boxes (that I got on sale a few years ago but had yet to even open!) with labels to make it easier to find in the future as we need them (and will be storing the rest as soon as I can get to sorting).
Once I finished that, I decided we should go through my older son Shawn’s room and have him really think about whether he loves each item. He went through everything first, deciding what was most important to him. Once he finished, I made the final decision on whether to keep any of the rest for Rohan or toss/donate what we didn’t need. There were several things I had zero recollection of because we had never gone through *everything* he owned before and while going through things, found a number of other bags/boxes full of clothing *face palm* so had to repeat the clothing process.
We both quickly found that it felt awesome once we started thinking about donating it to a family who had nothing. In the past, we have always put everything aside for a yearly yard sale since we’ve always needed even the very little money we could get from one, but now things feel different. I finally had to decide that the space I could save immediately and the thought of making someone who is in my situation or worse, happy for even a brief moment when they come across something we have passed on, is worth losing out on the $50 or so that I might get from a yard sale (especially considering how stressed they make me!) and has kept me shoving things in donation bags left and right!
This has definitely been a very long journey of self-discovery for me. For a long time I ignored it, thinking I will get to it *someday* but as it all started to accumulate, I then got extremely overwhelmed and feeling like I would never get my clutter under control. I have read so many books and articles, signed up for websites and newsletters, even Facebook groups about organizing but I think what finally changed things inside was when my Grammy passed away November 2014. I had already been feeling like I needed to focus on my priorities, one of which is giving my boys the family life I’d imagined them having when I was a child. When Rohan was born, it made me realize just how much my life was not how I’d pictured it and started doing things to change that. I am grateful to have spent a lot more time with my Grammy, of course had I realized that it would have been our last year together, I would have gone even more often but in most cases, we just don’t know.
That’s why I think I am so invested in my personal minimalist journey, it may not look like anyone else’s but every single day I am in the process of paring down all the extraneous unimportant things in every aspect of my life. I have been able to give more time to those things that I have wanted to be important but felt guilty to work on because I had *so* many other things that I needed to do as well. It has been extremely hard to cut some of the things that were once such an important part of my life as well as those things that I always wanted to get to but hadn’t; having to decide that’s not who I am today and to let it go has been more difficult than I imagined on occasion. However, I am finding that as more time has passed, it has been much easier to really get in touch with the woman I am and who I hope to be in my life.
I am so excited to share that
between January and getting our van the end of March, Shawn, Rohan and I walked 14 trash bags (most of which were the big black 30 gallon bags!) to various charities in the area including not only the clothing closet at the local church but also the homeless shelter where Derek and I met, the domestic violence shelter and the last few trips we went to Goodwill because after keeping an eye out for over 18 months, I finally found 2 little tables for Rohan.
Bonus, they held the blue one for me and when we went back to pick it up with another load of donations, found a fire pit for $15! All it needs is some nuts and bolts and it’s brand new! Can I say how much I *LOVE* shopping at thrift stores?!? We’ve been wanting a fire pit to roast s’mores since moving in 5 years ago but hadn’t found one until now so we are definitely looking forward to getting our first use out of that!
I know I still have a seemingly endless road ahead of me to get my home to where I really want it, to be completely honest, I have never felt like I *lived* anywhere thanks to the clutter, never unpacking everything and never decorating anything except Shawn’s room and that wasn’t even me… it was actually an amazing lady I know who I am proud to call my friend who helped my son realize his dream of a military room and succeeded with flying colors! It’s always been one of those “someday” kind of things but now I am hoping to change that too so we’ll see how that goes…
I read about a system for moving and because we are looking for a new place to call home, I decided to use some parts of it to get our home in much better order so we won’t have to move so many unneeded belongings next time. I tried finding a link to it but can’t so the following is my variation of how I remember it, please comment if you know the original so I can give proper credit, thank you!
Use a notebook or binder to write down the contents of each box as you pack it, then number the box and the paper. By doing it this way, you will know exactly what is in each and every box without having to open and search through multiple boxes to find something you need. You will naturally pack things you don’t need often in the first boxes so when you get to your new home unpack starting with the last box because those will be the last things you packed and therefore, likely the first things you will need i.e. daily use items that you couldn’t pack before your last day in your old home.
So as I sort through all the various boxes, bags and other containers my belongings have found themselves over the years I have tried to put things away with like objects (unlike how we have ever packed to move lol we usually just clear a table top/drawer/cabinet into a box!) and fill out an inventory as it’s filled. I have only done a couple boxes this way so far but the hope is that by the time we move (unless we find the perfect place sooner) I will have opened, sorted and inventoried everything in our entire home!
Aside from a few more bags/boxes nearly ready with plans to fill as many more as possible, I haven’t decided exactly what I am going to work on next but I will be sure to update once I finish my next project!
Have you heard of minimalism? How have you cleared clutter from your life?