Friday, September 6, 2013

Finding My Inner Minimalist

I've been struggling for a while with something I know to be true:

I would be happier with less stuff.

I know it.  Jeremy and I have moved three times since getting married.  Each time was excruciatingly painful.  I would pack up dozens of boxes and look around at a still-full home and wonder "What IS all this stuff?!" By the end of the process I am cursing each and every item I place in a box.

I want to live with less.

As we contemplate moving again in the near future, I'm starting to panic.  We've had three more kids since moving in to this house, and acquired quite a bit of other stuff as well.  All this stuff makes me feel stuck.  It makes me feel like we can't actually move, even if we could find a job.  It weighs me down, cementing me firmly in this place.

I know I can live with less.

I studied in Vienna, Austria for four months one summer.  I lived, happily for four months with the contents of one large suitcase and a satchel bag.  So I know that deep down inside of me is someone capable of being a lot more minimalist than my current surroundings would indicate.

This week I've been reading a "Special Commemorative Issue" of TIME on Steve Jobs that came out right after his death.  It included the iconic picture of him in his living room, surrounded by just about nothing.  (Taken the day before I was born actually.)

I don't really see that as my end goal. But I wouldn't mind a similar open room free from piles of stuff stacked around the perimeter. 

I can't start "living with less" in my home while I'm still surrounded by all this stuff. 

I just saw on Pinterest this post on 101 physical things that can be reduced in your home.Basically the author's idea is that to get started going minimalist simply begin by purging your home of excess.  Don't get rid of all your ". . . ", just get rid of the "excess" of that item.

I liked it for a number of reasons.  #1 I agree that it is a lot easier to reduce in number, as opposed to completely remove.  #2 I agree that beginning this process immediately feels good and simultaneously encourages getting rid of even more stuff. #3  I liked that I had already come to understand this technique on my own and have been steadily working on it this last year as we prepared for baby and to move.  (Validation! I am headed the right direction!)

From his list of 101 thing here's what I've worked on thus far: 

Glassware (I got rid of our extra ceramic mugs and all the plastic kid cups/dishes since I bought break-resistant Corelle for the family.)  
Kitchen gadgets (Having only one set of measuring cups means that I sometimes have to wash something in the middle of a cooking project, but it lessens my dishes pile at the end of the day, and that's a good thing.) Pots / pans We've done this slowly over the last few years getting rid of the Teflon, and realizing that we don't have to replace every pan just because we had it before.  
Tupperware(I had a box full of lids with no bottoms!)  
Magazines(My solace was--"I can find these ideas on Pinterest")  
Books/Cookbooks (This is hard. I've always wanted a "library" but when I realized I wanted a library of good books not crappy ones, I've started to look more critically at our collection.)  
Make-up (I really don't wear it, so why keep it around? Plus, makeup has a limited shelf-life anyway.)  
Cleaning supplies/ Bottles of shampoo/conditioner (Making my own soap has gotten rid of a lot of this excess.)
CD’s/DVD’s (We've gotten rid of all the plastic clam-shell and jewel cases except a few prized ones of Jeremy's and mine, and keep them all in a giant CD book instead. They take up a lot less space now.)
Stuffed animals (We let everyone in the house pick 2 to keep--That's still a lot of stuffed animals, but we got rid of a grocery sack stuffed full.)
Clothing (Always a work-in-progress.)

It feels good to look at that list and see all the purging I've already done.  But like I said, every thing I get rid of makes me want to get rid of even more.

Here are the things on the list that I see as my next steps:

Kitchen appliances (We have two waffle irons--we really only need one even thought they are different shapes.  We probably have a few other appliances we'd leave behind in a move as well)
Mixing bowls (We've got some we're still using, but are cracked and we won't move them with us.) Over-the-counter medicine (I'm not really a medicine-type person, other than for occasional headaches, also it turns out just about everything we have is expired anyway. Time to purge.)
Sewing supplies (My plan is to get rid of anything I did not buy, or do not have a specific project in mind for.)
Scrap-booking supplies (I've moved on to printing photobooks instead.  Extra bonus=photobooks take up way less space than scrapbooks.)
Audio/visual cables/Video game systems/Video games/Video game accessories (This stuff definitely needs a purging before we move.)
Winter gear (Particularly single gloves and mittens with no mate!)
Towels (I'm holding on to what I know is an excess of towels because I figure we'll use them to put in between furniture in the moving truck when we move.  Then I'll get rid of the junky ones.)
Manuals (I know I still have manuals from appliances that stopped working years ago.)
Scrap pieces of lumber (The backyard needs a purge as well.)
Board games (Hard to get rid of, but there's no use keeping ones we never play.)
Unused wedding gifts (Esp, home decor items.)
Old schoolbooks/papers (I've got a box or two from college, and Jeremy has a ton from his graduate program in the basement.)
Toy cars/trucks (Yea, they multiply)
Childrens’ old school papers (I feel like I'm throwing away their childhood, but I can't keep everything.)
Christmas / seasonal decorations (Jeremy was asking: what if we just decorate for christmas only with things out in nature? Pine cones, bittersweet branches, evergreen wreathes? Sounds good.)

I would add one more thing to his list for easy purging, more of a category than an item: Anything received for freeI've decided that anything that I've gotten for free I am not going to stress about getting rid of.  Hand-me-downs, prizes, stuff friends unloaded on us when they moved away . . .  There is plenty of that to get rid of.   

So my new mantra is a quote my sister shared recently (and I've been thinking I should chalkboard it) is, 

Your life 
does not get better 
by chance, 
it gets better 
by change.

Well, Change, here I come.

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