Friday, September 18, 2015

Are We Minimalists? Our Quest for Just Enough

Our relatives would most definitely describe our family as "minimalists." When we got married and moved from Seattle to DC eight years ago, we each had two suitcases to our name. There may have been the odd box of old yearbooks and clothes stashed at our parents' houses, but two suitcases were all we felt we needed to start our new life together in a new city.

It is astonishing to think just how much more stuff we have accumulated since then. I personally love the feeling of being unencumbered, like after you check your bags at the airport and you suddenly feel lighter, like you really could take flight (this is before kids, of course).

Having too much stuff robs me of time spent organizing and sorting. It takes up space and makes my house look cluttered and frantic. It uses up money that we could be spending on other things, like experiences, travel, and early retirement.

The excess stuff, unworn clothes in my closet, the residue of clothes in my drawers (or my kids' drawers) that remains untouched week after week, season after season, child after child, weighs on my psyche. The boxes in my closet that are still unpacked after two years in this "new" house. The file folders stuffed with privacy practices from insurance policies long since cancelled. This is all clutter, unnecessary, superfluous, and I think we can all admit that clutter has effects on our lives far beyond the inability to present a clean house when company comes.

That said, I always hesitate to use the word "minimalist," because the "minimum" is so subjective. Our family probably has less stuff than the average American family of similar income. Even so, we have more, much more, laughably more, ridiculously more, lavishly more, embarrassingly more than the "minimum" possessions required for survival or even comfort. This is why I laugh when people label us as "minimalists;" what looks like minimalism to a middle-class American would be the height of luxury to most people in the world.

I've been thinking about our philosophy of stuff a lot recently, after reading the book Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker. Although I've read some great books on simplifying, including The Power of Less and You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap), it had been a couple of years, and I was surprised at how far I have gotten from my "simplicity" ideals.

It hasn't helped that we have moved into a larger space than we've ever had, and added two kids to our family, but I hesitate to use kids as an excuse. Kids need much, much less stuff than we believe. Inspired by Clutterfree, I've been trying to jump back into re-decluttering our home. I'll share some of my experiences about that here, including:

  • How we keep kids' clothes organized
  • How we keep toys manageable
  • Our standards for what should go and what can stay
  • How we simplify instead of organize

The task is a bit overwhelming, but I am looking forward to getting my home to match my values again!

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