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A RELUCTANT MINIMALIST

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I claim to be a minimalist and this is how it all began. I was very reluctant to look into minimalism. Around Christmas 2012, Andrei and I had an argument for the millionth time about “stuff.” It always followed the same tune. Life and stuff would be hectic and cluttered and he would tolerate until he couldn’t anymore. He would explain how he doesn’t even know where most of it came from and wished our house would burn down and we could start over. Seriously. And then I would agree that it was out of hand. I completely understood his point of view (I did not agree about the house burning down). Intellectually I understood, but I just didn’t know where or how to start. I even remember dreaming of being a missionary in a jungle and living with nothing but the essentials – a minimalist was hiding inside the whole time! After that tiff in December of 2012, I started very reluctantly and timidly exploring minimalism.

I believe it was my good friend Heather who shared something on Facebook from Joshua Becker of becomingminimalist.com. I returned to his blog occasionally and every time, I could have sworn that it was Andrei ghost writing. By April of 2013 I was in. I had known for months that something HAD TO CHANGE.

I should also admit that part of my reluctance was due to feeling that we didn’t have enough and here these people are trying to convince me to get rid of most of what I own. Yes we had clutter, yes we had things I didn’t know where it came from, but there was always something we needed or didn’t have and were doing without. It was this mind set of “doing without” that made me reluctant.

I was ready to begin becoming a minimalist but wasn’t sure where to start and that was when I read The Joy of Less by Francine Jay. She basically helped me wrap my head around how to begin and layed out a pretty detailed method of minimalizing your possessions. So, I jumped in. I don’t remember the very first thing I minimalized, but I do remember a little bit of release and freedom. I let go of things that I had been hesitant to let go and it was glorious. As days went on I went drawer by drawer, area by area and room by room. By summer I had gone through most of the house.

A few weeks in I showed Andrei the massive pile of “stuff” in the garage that I had minimalized and was waiting to either take to Goodwill or put in a yard sale. He said, “I don’t even know what’s in there but I don’t miss any of it.” That’s not even counting the trash I had thrown out.

That first initial purge ushered in quite a bit of peace in our home. It just felt lighter. We had always had a rule of the kids cleaning up in the evenings and now that was much quicker and easier.

Speaking of kids, I’ve always tried to include and talk to them matter of factly about family things and did the same with this. Nolan, 3 at the time, really didn’t seem to get what was going on or care. Nadya on the other hand had more questions and we talked about it and she began participating. When it came to toys I included them in the process. I may have snuck out a few items, mainly which were broken and/or knew they were garbage. But overall, the kids were in on the whole process and even enjoyed it. I’ll post more in depth about toys later.

A few big take aways from that initial jump into minimalism. Early on I realized it was more than just clutter and junk. There is clutter in our schedules. There is clutter in my heart. It became an journey to simplify our whole lives, which meant saying “no” to some good or fun things for the sake of sanity. It is also a spiritual journey. I also realized the beauty of a clear surface. There’s hardly anything on our kitchen or bathroom counters. I keep as much off the floor as possible-no more stacks or piles. Both of those make for much easier evening sweeps. “A place for everything and everything in its place.” I could share much more, but lastly this really stuck with me, I don’t want anything in my home that isn’t meaningful, beautiful or useful.

Photo by Andrei’s Photography.

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