Hey there, I’m sharing a bit of background on when I began my minimalist journey, why it made the most sense to me and how I’ve stuck with it for the last 5 years.
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OUR MINIMALIST STORY (THE SHORT VERSION)
Approximately 5 years ago. 2014/2015 we were in a really hard space, we had committed ourselves too far too many things and we were feeling stretched in a lot of areas.
A number of things happened earlier contributing to us getting to this point;
- Moving cross country away from family and friends, feeling quite isolated.
- My husband just back from overseas deployment, re-establishing our family
- I started full-time study away from home during the day
- Lastly, we bought a section and decided to build a new home, (without having ever built before because we thought it would be an adventure and get us ahead financially!)
Physically our schedule was overloaded and chaotic
The build was full steam ahead and we were feeling the pressed in every area.
We had bills coming in we couldn’t afford, we were very overwhelmed with our time and schedule, and therefore with no real downtime we were really stretched emotionally with no space to think about how we were feeling, we just kept moving along.
What I did do was pray for wisdom, ways that we could make things better or change the situation. Also, we continually prayed for strength to keep making decisions, to keep doing what we knew we needed to do and to keep showing up for the commitments we had, including our children, for each other and our financial obligations.
Surprisingly, our marriage relationship was gaining strength, we were united as a team, we were sinking together too, but we were still together.
So we battled through that year, literally fighting through each day and it eventually came to an end. My study finished, the build was completed and we then decided to sell the property and not move in. We don’t know if that was the best decision, but it was a good decision at the time. We were so DONE, we were desperate for it all to be over.
It was such a difficult time for us we had to do a bit of recovery afterwards.
I specifically remember looking at my daughter’s hair tie, the elastic kind that can lose their elasticity with overuse. Once it’s overstretched and the elastic has snapped the fibres are empty, it’s rubbish.
This was exactly how I felt, it was a metaphor for my life and how I was feeling at the time. Stretched so thin, no bounce, no way of gaining back the energy that had gone…
I was shattered. We were both pretty devastated and we didn’t trust ourselves anymore to make a good decision.
At that time I was searching for how to simplify my life? I was wanting to know how was I not going to get into this situation ever again?
This is when I found Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I devoured it. I read it cover to cover in about 24 hours. I was highlighting as I read and finding more and more inspiration with the thinking that if my things in my life don’t bring me joy, they have to go!
It started to give me energy, it gave me hope.
Often I was looking for something to bring into your life that will fix things. Financial bonus, a loan or maybe a move somewhere, a new job, something is going to happen that will change things and make it all better, but she was encouraging the opposite where things need to be removed to gain JOY!
I understood the idea of removing because we had just sold our home, I knew that sometimes cutting things loose can help you to create space for ourselves to move more freely.
But Kon Mari was talking about low drag, slow leak things in our lives that drain your energy on a daily basis. This was very new to me. I understood significant life adjustments to make big changes but I hadn’t been aware of the small drains on my time and energy.
Much like a hole in an air mattress, they weren’t overly harmful to look at, but in actuality, they severely compromised the structure, and it was slowly going down.
What I realised was, if something wasn’t bringing me joy, it was possibly doing the opposite. It was probably draining and taking away, and I didn’t know it.
I was nearly 40 years old and I had been accumulating things my whole life trying to make myself happier. Thinking that if I had these things I would appear successful.
This seems very basic, we all know those things won’t make us happy…but I realised now that at my core, that’s what I actually thought. I was one of those people that you think would see it in themselves, but I was that person.
WE LOOKED CALM BUT WE WERE ALWAYS STRESSED
Underneath it all, we were often just treading water, and it was scary!
So after reading this book, I decided I was going to make these changes that Kon Mari suggested. She had given me a blueprint in her book. A way to change things for me, for my family.
You have to understand I was burnt out. I struggled to get up in the morning or make decisions. I wasn’t sure about what my next steps should be…but I knew that this was something I needed to do. This is what I was certain of, so I got to it.
Within a month I had decluttered our four-bedroom home. From top to bottom, I went through everything in the order that she told me. Step by step. I taught my husband the concepts and he went through the garage. It was INCREDIBLE the amount of stuff we got rid of.
Looking back now I don’t know what came first, the financial strain or the physical strain, there was just the ongoing nagging thought that we were accumulating things that I didn’t need and that we had spent money on them. I was so angry with myself for putting us in the position we were in.
MINIMALISM EFFECTS OTHER AREAS OF LIFE
Over time tidying up our physical space naturally flowed into tidying up our home life and the things we were committing to physically and all the things we spent money on that we didn’t need or could afford. It was a natural evolution of this process.
So cheesy, but that ridiculous book title is true, it was a life-changing experience! Magic.
Of course, it was work to put it all into practice, and it was very painful to get to that point of needing it, but it changed everything afterwards.
WHAT DOES MINIMALISM LOOK LIKE FOR US NOW 5 YEARS ON
I am not a hardcore minimalist that had no furniture and a fork. I live with a family and so that’s not realistic. We have lots of visitors come through our home, kids have friends over, our family often come to stay with us and we like to accommodate our visitors with a seat to sit on etc.
We have two teenagers in the house and they are not excited, minimalists. They don’t like it when I throw things away unnecessarily so I try to respect them going through their own process.
I do try to make them aware of what they’re buying, why they’re buying it and ask them if they really need it and try to make sure that they know the concept of thoughtful purchasing.
I don’t want to enforce my beliefs on them, but it is something that they do have to consider when they’re buying things and that when we are living together we need to appreciate each other’s strengths.
So I always allow them to keep things that are of value to them. I keep a lot of art and journaling materials that others would say are superfluous to requirements, but I love it.
I also keep memorabilia, a few extra things that belonged to my grandmother, my father, that belonged to the children when they were small. I keep it contained and I keep it maintained, but those things bring me joy when I am maintaining them.
For me minimalism has never been about the look, it’s always been about the functionality and the practicality behind what I can afford, what I’m willing to pay for, what I need and what I’m prepared to store, maintain and look after.
THREE MAIN AREAS OF MINIMALISM
1. PHYSICAL BELONGINGS
This is our furniture, toys, books and clothing etc. I have found ways of keeping things minimal in each area. Books are often bought in ebook format on the kindle, for clothing, the teenagers are on an allowance, we have a clear idea of what we need and always have enough furniture.
Most importantly, we don’t hang around the mall much at all. Most of our purchases are deliberate and we go there knowing exactly what we are getting. Sometimes we go to browse, but we don’t take money, we’re looking and thinking about what we might get.
2. IN THE KITCHEN
In the kitchen, I have kept it minimalist in our appliances and gadgets, things that we use, tools to create our food. The other is the groceries because I don’t buy packaged items, I like to cook from scratch, that’s not to say we don’t get a pizza from time to time, that’s normal, but I try to keep it clean in the kitchen and it saves me hundreds of dollars.
3. MY CALENDAR
A minimalist calendar is mainly concerning time and energy restraints. The calendar is where I have had to create the most space for myself. We always love to have free time as a family so I have to be quite deliberate, especially with teenagers as they can be so busy all the time. This is our season of life and I have to take this into account.
Also teaching the kids to manage their own time and their own events. They are still learning how to do this. Talking them through what they are committing to, is it really of value to them, do they get a huge amount out of it, if not, why not? Getting them to be aware of the choices they’re making and why they are doing the things they are doing and not doing them just because everyone else is.
Yes, there are times when we have to move it. Either there is a time frame and we have to get things done, but it’s never forever. You can do anything for a little while, and I get a thrill getting things done, but I’m just not going to live at that tempo long term. It’s not sustainable for me.
HAVE WE PERFECTED MINIMALISM?
Oh my. In the 5 years since we began this journey, I think we have botched things and gone back multiple times. What happens though is that we recover much quicker. We realise sooner the mistakes we’ve made and try to retract what we’ve done.
This is the human nature we are contending with, it’s been ingrained in me my whole life and if I’m doing better 5 years in, I’m pretty happy with that and I’m comfortable showing myself grace in the times that I get it wrong.
Say sorry. Apologise. Make it right if you can. Then re-assess why it happened.
WHY I WON’T GO BACK
Having a minimalist approach to life keeps me focused, it keeps me grounded and sane. I am a minimalist now because I’ve never forgotten the crazy hopelessness that I was in.
Only when I step out of thinking like a person who doesn’t need to have it all do I run into problems.
Minimalism has changed my worldview so dramatically that it makes me feel so appreciative of all those others that have learnt this written it out and shown us some of the ways to go.
They have mapped things out for us, but it’s up to us to do the work, learn to say no, to make good choices, and to start choosing to opt-out of this cycle of busy, buying, working, cleaning, storing, busy, buying, working, cleaning, storing…
HOW YOU CAN GET STARTED NOW
BOOKS THAT WILL HELP YOU LEARN MORE ABOUT MINIMALISM