My journey of minimalism is coming to an end – sort of.
It started a few years ago when I happened across The Minimalists documentary on Netflix. I was intrigued. I was motivated.
I finished watching it and declared – “This is what we are going to do”.
I’m fairly certain my husband and the boys thought I was a bit crazy. After all, I’m a collector of all the things. Not a hoarder but we had quite a collection of all the things nonetheless.
However, a truly minimalist lifestyle is not practical for our family.
It’s just not practical at this point in our lives to get rid of everything except what’s necessary and live in a Tiny House. But, I could make some changes. We had too many things. I knew it, I just wasn’t ready to part with it yet or deal with it or make any changes.
These three things are an important part of a Minimalism lifestyle.
*KNOW that you need to change
*Be ready to part with things and deal with the decisions to do so
* Make some changes
Watching the documentary “triggered” something in me – it inspired and motivated me to change.
I created a plan and followed it.
I made a list of all the rooms in our home and I started with the biggest project – our home office. Paperwork and filing. UGH.
There were so many boxes of papers. It was overwhelming. Not just in the number of boxes but in the way they took up so much space in the office. When I tell you that I saved everything, I wasn’t kidding. Every bill, every memo, everything I ever printed off the internet. It was all in boxes.
I decided that I would go through boxes while watching football games on Sunday. I had a shredder (you know as you would it a home office), a trash bag, and an empty box. As I went through the paperwork, each piece of paper either got shredded, got trashed, or got saved.
This was a process. It took many, many Sundays of football games and beyond. Once I was done with the paper boxes, I moved on to the supply boxes – organizing school supplies, pens, ink cartridges, etc.
I used those plastic shoe boxes from the dollar store. The ones with lids.
Eventually, I got all those many paper boxes – I wish I had counted them before I started – down to six boxes. So, I bought plastic totes that held file folders – six of them. And, I just transferred the paperwork from the cardboard boxes to the plastic bins for later. A few weeks ago, I started Round 2 of purging/trashing/shredding and actually filing all the paperwork. I’m almost done…
I then moved on to the other rooms in our home – the kitchen, the bedrooms and closets (there are 3), the bathrooms (drawers and under the sink), the linen closet and the laundry room (which isn’t really a room per se, just a space to have the washer/dryer side by side with cabinets on the walls above.) Finally, we worked on the garage. We worked a little at a time, starting again with boxes that were on shelves and moving along to the stuff ( clutter ) that was on the sides and the back of the garage.
I’d still like to do a complete empty, cleaning and painting, etc but that’s going to have to wait until the Fall. (because, NC summers)
I think it’s been three years since we started.
THREE YEARS? Well yes, it’s not that we really had SO much stuff that it took us three years but that we fit in purging/organizing when we could do it. Some weeks I did nothing. Some weeks, I worked for an hour a day. Some Saturdays, I spend 3-4 hours working on it.
Minimalism is a process and its mentally taxing at times. All those decisions being made about keeping/trashing/donating can be overwhelming. And, I wasn’t really in a hurry to get it done so I took my time and went through the process.
At some point in time along my journey, I started following Joshua Becker. He frequently posts memes on social media.
This one in particular resonated with me.
Because first and foremost, I’m a money coach. I get that there are habits in spending, there’s a mindset shift that occurred when we decided to become debt-free and we are more careful now in our thought processes about spending.
Take a minute, from wherever you are sitting and look around. Find ten items and assign a dollar amount to them. How much money is there – in that stuff? $50? $100? More?
More than anything else, this quote helped solidify for me the importance of Minimalism. What I didn’t fully understand is that I was taking all the skills and mindset things that I learned while getting out of debt and transferred them to my stuff. Getting out of debt and applying the concepts of minimalism are just two of the ways that I’m moving towards the life I want – a life with less stress and more experiences. A simpler life.
Minimalism isn’t just about stuff. It’s a mindset shift towards a simpler life. ~ Melissa the Coach
I realize NOW that I probably needed to define the life I wanted before starting my journey of Minimalism. As it turned out, the more I pursued this concept, the more I decided what I wanted and what I didn’t want.
I knew, for me, I had to define what Minimalism meant for me – that is,
“Life made simple”.
That’s it. A simple definition that I could use to measure all my decisions against. If something I owned didn’t make my life simpler or help me in some way to keep the chaos of life neat and orderly, I didn’t keep it.
Along the way, I discovered some benefits of Minimalism:
1. Boundaries are created more easily and enforced.
Minimalism sort of forces you to create “rules” per se, boundaries for your stuff. Once you apply those concepts to your stuff, you can apply it to other areas of your life. You gain confidence in the ability to draw “a line in the sand” and “defend” that line.
I learned that boundaries are good and healthy and that it’s OK for me to enforce them.
2. Less overwhelm with decision making
There is a term called “mental load” and it gets heavy at times. So many decisions in a day and sometimes it’s just too much. Minimalism helped me to learn how to make decisions quickly and move on.
Most every decision I make involves running it past my definition of Minimalism – Life Made Simple. I’m much better at being able to make a decision clearly and quickly.
3. OPEN spaces
Have you ever walked into a place and just had a visceral reaction to all.the.stuff in there? That’s how it felt walking into the office. It was so cluttered that the energy in there was bad – it felt heavy and oppressive.
One of the first things my husband said once the office really started to get cleaned out was “It feels bigger in here”. And, that it did.
By removing the stuff, we created more space and it felt better.
4. Saved money
Remember that exercise I asked you to do earlier – look around and assign a dollar amount to ten things near you – that’s the beginning of the mindset shift between stuff and money. A yard sale will do that to you too. Selling your items for a fraction of what you paid for them is a gut-punch of sorts.
When I buy things now, I ask myself “Do I really need/want this, or will it just eventually end up in a yard sale?” If it will eventually end up in a yard sale, it stays in the store. Money saved.
5. Saved time (efficient and organized)
“I know I have it here somewhere!”
How many times have you asked yourself that question? Part of minimalism is organization. Having things organized means you know exactly where they are so when you need something, you just go get it. Not spend hours looking for it.
Minimalism also helped me refine the systems we have in our home to keep everything running smoothly. We created a calendar system, a cleaning system, and a way to keep a running “to-do” list. I’ll tell you that large whiteboards in the center of the home are a vital tool for these systems.
6. Less Stress about the “stuff”
Stuff is stuff. Stuff can be replaced. That’s what insurance is for.
This concept was reinforced to me when we evacuated from Hurricane Florence. Once we decided that the boys, dogs, and I were headed West to stay with family in the NC Mountains, we had to decide what stayed here and what came with us.
I have a Toyota Prius. Similar to this one –
That helped make the decision a little easier because there was only so much space. We started with the boys and the dogs – 2 boys and 4 dogs.
The oldest would sit in the front. The youngest would sit in the back.
I was driving so that left one extra seat. That’s where the two smaller dogs would go in their crates. The largest dog – a lab/hound mix would go in the front seat on the floor. He would get himself settled down and then my son would arrange his feet around the dog. The 4th dog would be in her crate in the hatchback space which, by the way, took up almost the entire space.
I bought a rooftop bag for our clothes.
At this point, we were about all the way through our process of minimalizing and I had gone through all of our closets. Fortunately, we are all pretty minimalistic with clothes anyway but we really got it down to a more efficient system. All the clothes we owned at the time fit in a large duffel bag. (Like the kind you would check on a plane).
So three large duffel bags (one for each of us) and one bag for my shoes and we were on our way.
And yes, we took ALL of our clothes. Summer and winter. The day we left, Hurricane Florence was expected to hit out the area as a Category 4. That’s strong enough to peel roofs off and create major damage.
I remember standing in the driveway right before we left and looking at the house, knowing that everything that was important to me was in my car – well, with the exception of my husband, hew as staying behind due to work obligations.
Stuff can be replaced, that’s what insurance is for.
Of course, I have items that are of sentimental value. Those were packed in totes with lids and sealed with duct tape. I’m not even sure if that would have helped if a Cat 4 Hurricane came through our house but it helped me know that I did something to save them. One thing I should mention here – one suggestion of Minimalism is to take pictures of everything that is of sentimental value. And, I did that. So, in a way, I knew that if it got destroyed, the picture would still evoke the same memory as the actual item.
Evacuating from the Hurricane really reinforced for me that stuff is just stuff. Happiness is not found in stuff – its found in experiences and with people we love. No amount of stuff is going to make us happy. We have to be happy with just us, where we are and who we are with. That’s a mindset shift.
Now that I’ve minimalized, saved time and money I can focus on what’s really important to me – my faith, my family, my friends, my businesses, etc.
I can say “yes” to opportunities because I don’t have “stuff” int he way. I’m NOT over-committed, I’m very particular with my time and I’m very protective of my boundaries.
My mental health has improved dramatically. There is calmer than chaos, there is a sense or order and structure (which I love) AND I see that my kids are picking up on the same skillset.
I have mixed feelings about this journey to Minimalism coming to an end. We still have a few smaller purging projects here and there to do but mostly it’s going to be done sooner than later.
I don’t know. I’ll probably find some other project to do. After all, I’m a wife, mom, business owner, and homeowner. There’s always something to do! HAHA! But, yes, I’ll also take the time to adjust to this newfound “openness” of having less and making my life more simple.
In the meantime, I’ve added Minimalism Coaching to my business services. But, you should know, I’m not coming to your house. There are professional organizers for that. Sure, I’ll share tips for organization as I’ve learned what works for me and my family but I’m not doing this for you.
Coaching involves us working together to come up with a plan and then I will hold you accountable to that plan and encourage you along the way.
Because that’s how I do financial coaching and that model works.
If you need help getting started on “Life made simple” please schedule your FREE 15-minute call HERE.
Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram @MelissatheCoach for the “great reveal” of the office paper project boxes. I should be done in the next few days filing everything I decided we needed to keep!