For the last four years, I have strived to live a more simplified lifestyle. I have discussed it a few times on this blog, but recently I have been asked more questions, and thought it would be easiest to put it here to begin the conversation.
My husband and I didn't realize it at first, but even after our first and second moves we were headed in this direction. We were packing up boxes upon boxes of unused items, half-empty bottles of shampoo, clothes we no longer needed. We took a van load to the donation box before the move and one after we moved that second time. By the third move, we were done wasting our energy on stuff we never used. So we made a rule: Each room 5 boxes or less! That's right. In any room of our home, we can pack it in 5 boxes or less. In many rooms, it is much less. What began as a way to increase productivity in our move, became much more. Today, I can pack a five bedroom house in about 20-30 boxes! This does not include Christmas decorations, but I am slowly getting those down as well.
Because we had less stuff, we had more space. More space meant less to clean. Less to clean meant we had more time to spend with each other! The benefits of less stuff far outweighed any regret of losing an item.
I read a book entitled, The House That Cleans Itself. (This link is for a newer version) This book laid out a plan to go through the entire house and find the problems in each room. I created a notebook that included a page for every room or zone in the house and wrote the problems and then potential solutions for each area. I methodically went through each space, cleaned, fixed broken furniture, and purged in any unneeded items. The kids' rooms definitely took the longest, but they are now involved in the process as well. When they discovered that cleaning their room was much easier with less stuff, they were on board.
I also read books and blogs about minimalism. Jen Hatmaker's 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. My favorite resource is Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist.
Let It Go!
The hardest part is letting go of the guilt associated with getting rid of items that have sentimental value or that were given to us by someone. There are things I will not part with (i.e. baby books, pictures, baby blankets). But not everything that is gifted to us will remain with us. When I let go of the guilt, it was easier to let go of the items. More often than not, we are able to bless someone else by donating it or giving it away.
It Went On From There...
After decluttering physical items, we started simplifying our food as well. I try to buy fresh produce and meat, and other than bread, rice, and spices, we really only have to shop on the outer rim of the grocery store. Less items, means less time at the grocery, and more time for us! It also makes us healthier! Bonus!
After this last move, we made the decision not to purchase a cable plan for our home. We instead invested in a good antenna. You can read about our decision to cut the cord here. We figured out how to install it in the attic and now have 20 channels to choose from, all free! We do have an internet subscription and stream Hulu and Netflix. We limit our children's screen time anyway and we really don't turn on the TV much. We are saving a ton of money and we have the added benefit of limited commercials! We aren't having to shield our children from the horrible things on the screen, and we are not battling the "I Have to Have this Toy" because they see it on a commercial.
We are limiting chemicals in our home. I now make all of our cleaning products and laundry detergent. My goal is to be completely chemical free this next year.
We no longer buy movies, books, or video games. Our local library offers a great selection of these items. We utilize the library weekly!! We rarely even spend money at the Redbox anymore!
The Benefits Are Endless...
We are spending less because we are intentional about what comes into our home.
We have more time to spend with our family because we aren't spending time cleaning and decluttering, or watching TV.
We are not bogged down with stuff, instead enjoying a clean; freeing space.
We have time to spend on the things we are passionate about.
We Are a Work in Progress
We still have a way to go. I would like to purge more of my clothing and paper clutter. My husband may or may not have shirts he wore in high school. My kids love Lego's! And people love my kids. They get gifts like any other 9 and 11 year old! We continually have to purge and edit to make sure the clutter stays at bay. We have a plan, and that is the most important piece of simplifying.
In what ways have you began to simplify?