Minimalism: Where to Begin

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I was having tea with a friend one morning as our kids played in the next room. We were discussing minimalism and how having less offers us more. “The more you have the more it has you” she said. I thought that statement was so profound and no words have ever been truer. I have been purging my belongings left and right for the past year. So many bags and boxes have left our apartment for the consignment shop or the thrift store bin my neighbor stopped to ask me if I’m moving out. I responded with a chuckle and said, “nope, just making room for more.” But the more replacing the space where that glass cookie jar used to be won’t be filled with more cookie jars, it will be filled with more time to spend with my babies, more time spent creating, more time spent learning.

How does getting rid of a cookie jar in my kitchen give me so much, you might ask. How many times do you open your kitchen cabinets and struggle to find what you are looking for? How often do you reorganize what you have previously organized to put away your clean dishes? How many times have you held that cookie jar in your hands and asked yourself, should I keep this? I might have used it once since we got moved in here 4 years ago. But you think of the Christmas cookies you might bake with your kids some day and how lovely those tackily decorated gems would look in this beautiful glass cookie jar on your counter even though you know you will ultimately put those cookies on a regular plate, or better yet, a tupperware container because you don’t really think your 2 year old can handle getting a cookie out of your precious glass cookie jar without chipping the glass. How much time did you spend working through that in your brain to then put the cookie jar back on the shelf because you are too exhausted to make such a heavy decision at this time and you’ll come back to it in the next year or two and spend the same amount of time and energy making a choice about an item you don’t really need. And please note, the cookie jar is only one item in your cabinet where 50 more decisions lurk in every corner.

But how about you just get rid of the cookie jar and never have to think about it again? Because really, a plate is just fine and has several more uses and will look just as lovely and inviting. I’m sure by now you have heard about the Marie Kondo Method of going through your belongings, and while that is a great concept, it’s not the best place to start. Before you can determine whether to keep something because it brings you joy, you must first define your needs and your values. Do I really need a cookie jar if its only function is holding cookies? Do I bake cookies often enough to make it worth keeping? Would something else do the job just as good and be able to be used for other things as well and with more frequency? Why do I want this cookie jar? What do I like about it? Does the other item I could use have the same qualities? Would I buy this cookie jar again if I saw it in the store? Was it a gift and I’m holding onto it out of the feeling of obligation?

Once you worked your way through those questions, get yourself a box and put the cookie jar in the box. Fill the box with other items that don’t align with your values or goals. If you long to have a collection of nice dinnerware, get rid of the plastic and mismatched cups, plates, and bowls cluttering your cabinet and go out and get a nice plate set. Not only will you be beaming with pride over your new dinnerware, you will have less junk in your cabinet making it a much more pleasing space to look at and opening your cabinet to set the table will no longer bring you anxiety. If you struggle with the thought of getting rid of something, put it in a box and then put that box somewhere out of sight, out of mind. If you have yet to return to the box to use something you are afraid of getting rid of because you might need it or eventually miss it after 3 months, get rid of the box. You can now be certain that you do not need those items.

Use this same method throughout every room in your house and you will start to feel weight coming off your shoulders. You know the feeling you get when you walk into a vacation rental and everything looks intentional, organized, and clean? Imagine feeling that way about your own home. What if your home felt that pleasant and relaxing? What would you do with your time if you didn’t have so much stuff to move around and make decisions about? Would you finally be able to go out for brunch on a Saturday morning because you’re not bogged down by a list of chores at home? Would you feel less guilt about going on a trip a place you have been wanting to visit all year? Would you finally be able to start that creative project you already bought the supplies for? How good would it feel for your house to be cleaned in an hour? Just a wipe here, a vacuum there. No shoe piles, stacks of junk mail, random odds and ends to sort through in the corner that have accumulated over the month… Can you see it? Can you taste it? It’s in your reach. You just need to start and start small, one space at a time. You do not need to take a week off to get your house in order. Just start with 15 minutes this morning in your closet and then next week another 15 minutes somewhere else in your house. A little goes a long way and soon enough, you’ll notice a big change in your home and the way you feel. Don’t go into a room and feel like you need to do it all at one shot. If there are boxes in your attic, just start with one box and take a little break to treat yourself to a snack and then come back and tackle another. Slow and steady wins the race. Are you ready to get started?

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