You might remember from last month when I started sharing about our journey to declutter and live with less. At the time I was inspired by Marie Kondo, although we have actually been working towards small changes for a more minimalist lifestyle for about a year.
In February and the beginning of March our journey continued. I would say, if anything, it intensified. Minimalism is addictive! The more stuff we cleared, the more we realized we could live without. I also started watching videos from The Minimal Mom on YouTube and I checked out Joshua Becker’s book The More of Less from the library. Both were eye-opening and life changing!
This month we focused on toys, books, our office, the kids’ rooms, the kitchen, and living room. We are not really done in any specific area, and I don’t know that we ever will be, but we are making LOTS of progress.
Since my last post on this topic, we have managed to get rid of an additional….
- 2 boxes of donations from the girls’ room
- 6 bags of trash
- 2 boxes of books
- shredded office papers
- 7 boxes of kitchenware
- 2 boxes of video games
- 1 box of DVDs
- 1 cooler of frozen food
- 4 bags of clothes
- 5 boxes from the garage
- 3 large items (furniture, etc)
- 1 box of misc toys
- 2 bags of linens
- 7 boxes from the playroom + a few large toy items
That brings our current running total up to well over 50 boxes and bags of stuff that have left our home, plus a few pick up trucks loads of furniture and a few big ticket items we sold online. This month we made an additional $400 selling tools and guitar stuff on Craigslist. We currently have a Playstation and about a dozen games listed for sale, as well as a few collectibles, so that total might increase. Mostly, though, we are just donating things.
One of the biggest principles I had to figure out how embrace was “less is not none,” which is something Joshua Becker talks about a lot. We still have stuff, just not as much. And it has been SOOOOO good for our family. Nicholas still has Legos, just about 90% less than he had before. And he is perfectly content with that, which was a huge shock to me, considering how much he LOVES Legos! He is so much more creative with so much less stuff.
Cutting back has been nice in so many more ways than I anticipated. I feel my stress level decreasing with every bag or box that leaves the house. I didn’t realize how much the volume of stuff in our home was weighing me down. As a mom with a large family, and especially because several of our children have pretty intensive special needs, I have enough to manage in the course of my day without looking around and seeing the mental list of chores I still need to do.
Cutting back has made it easier to keep up with things like laundry and dishes, it takes less time to clean up at the end of the day, and it has had some added benefits I didn’t even anticipate. We’ve noticed our kids engaging more with each other in interactive, imaginative play, for example. The other day before school three of them were working together to create things for Barbies and stuffed animals out of PlayDoh. This morning they were using white boards and dry erase markers to create their own trivia game. We still have toys, just not as many. This really seems to help them to focus on using what they do have rather than being overwhelmed by too many choices. (Before they would go upstairs to play and get overwhelmed before they even started. Kind of like when you sit down to chose a Netflix show and before you know it you’ve just been staring at the options for an hour but you haven’t actually watched anything.)
I’ve noticed some other small changes I have begun to make without really trying. It seems like the more we cut back the more we see minimalism seep into the rest of our lives as well. I didn’t make any sort of extra effort to do this, but we saw all these benefits as well:
- We paid off our student loans! In years past, we would always try to contribute a portion of our tax refund to paying down our debt, but we would also put a portion toward buying a large ticket item we felt like we needed. One year it was a new refrigerator, one year furniture, one year we remodeled our kitchen, etc. This year we didn’t really feel like there was anything we wanted, besides reducing our debt as much as possible. We got a smaller refund than normal, but we were able to put it toward completely paying off the rest of our student loan debt.
- We ate at home more. The minimalist lifestyle has caused a significant mindset shift for me already. I am finding it easier and more pleasant to cook easy meals at home. My kitchen is more organized and so are my shopping experiences. We still go out occasionally, but not nearly as often as we were for a while. This has saved us money, obviously. But I have also lost more than 5 pounds in the past few weeks, which I think is just because of this small change and not eating as much processed food. I also started meal prepping breakfast so the kids are eating a hot meal in the morning rather than just cereal. When the kitchen stays relatively clean and the freezer is organized, it’s easier for me to jump into tasks like that. I might have liked to do it previously, but the thought of cleaning the kitchen or making room in the freezer before I could get started was overwhelming. Now the freezer is already cleared out and the kitchen is usually relatively clean. This week I made and froze breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, breakfast burritos, and biscuits. It took me less than an hour and now the kids have easy access to hot breakfasts in the morning.
- We’ve done more family activities. We’ve noticed with more free time available, we have been participating in more family nights. We do movie nights with popcorn and turn off all the lights, board game nights, or paper airplane races. These kinds of things don’t cost any money, but the kids really look forward to it. They ask us several times a week when we are having our next family movie night! They like to take turns picking the show.
- We sought electronic versions of things instead of buying hard copies. We had a pretty extensive DVD collection and we do use them. We did cut down quite a bit, though. We have family movie nights at least once a week and the kids like watching movies together, so I don’t mind keeping some. But DVDs get easily broken, scratched, and lost. They get put back into the wrong case. They get left at home when you meant to take them to grandmas’s house. I realized I could give away my 30 Day Shred DVDs and I would still have the same thing sitting in my Amazon Video Library, so that was an a-ha moment. Now instead of buying DVDs if something isn’t available on our streaming services, I’m much more likely to add them to our Amazon videos instead, so we can access them anywhere, even if we are traveling. Or just rent them for a fraction of the cost. I also started utilizing out library’s free app, Axis 360, to read ebooks and listen to audiobooks. We also took a full bag of old video games to GameStop and traded them in for just two used games the kids wanted. We have less in the house and we were recycling at the same time! We also started scanning our bills and storing them online. It’s easier to find them when we might need them and we don’t have to file a thousand papers.
- I stopped asking “what if.” The more I sorted through things, the more obvious it became to me that SOOOO much stuff in our home was only there because of one day and what if. For example, we don’t have a queen sized bed in our house, but I was tempted to keep at least one set of queen-sized sheets because what if we rent a vacation home this summer and we need them? The reality is, there are so many solutions to that probably-not-even-a-problem that it is dumb to waste closet space with the sheets. I can easily solve that issue, if it ever even happens, by just using the king-sized set we have, so what if they are a little too big? Or I could ask to borrow some from my in-laws. It’s wasteful to keep things we don’t actually need when someone else could benefit if we donate them.
- We started using what we have. We ran out of Windex and the kids had drawn all over our back door with window marker. Luckily, I had been experimenting with a recipe I found on Pinterest to use orange peels soaked in vinegar to make your own cleaning solution. I mixed the orange vinegar in a spray bottle with water and tried it. It worked just as well as any other cleaner on our windows. We’ve since been using it around the kitchen as well and I haven’t purchased any cleaning supplies. My grocery bill has also been about $75 lower than average for the past few weeks because I’m taking stock of what we have and planning meals around it.
- I feel more put-together. Sure I still have days when I’m wearing sweatpants, but now that my closet is only full of my favorite things, it’s easier to find stuff I want to wear. It’s easier for me to put together a cute outfit in the morning. Plus because there is less laundry to do, the clothes are always clean. And it’s easier for the kids to get themselves ready for school too.
- It’s easier to be patient with the kids. The more we sort through our stuff, the shorter our to-do list becomes. I don’t feel bad taking time to sit down and play a board game with the kids because the laundry, dishes, etc. are already done. Not because I’m magical or anything, but because there just aren’t as many dishes, so it’s easier to get through them quickly. Plus, I’m not pre-occupied thinking of all the other stuff I need to do, like sort through bins of clothes they have outgrown or organize the playroom, because it’s already done. And I have systems in place to make sure that we aren’t keeping too much excess.
- It’s been easier to meet needs that arise in our community. We have more funds available for larger donations, and we have plenty of stuff we are willing to part with. So it was easy for us to make a large donation of Legos to one of our elementary schools when they put out a call for donations the new STEM Lego room they are building or donate cash to specific needs that pop up.
Here is a picture of our family paper airplane race results. I blocked out the names of our foster children for their privacy.
The biggest surprise for me, by far, is how easy it has been to get the kids on board! We have reduced their toys to about 1/3 of what we had. And we could still probably donate more. I do not give the kids’ things away without their input. I’ve just been trying to lead by example and many times they follow. I was talking to Penny, who is seven, a few days ago about why I’m trying to go through my kitchen drawers and when I said it would be easier to find what I need and help people who can use it, she added, “Plus you are saving money from not buying extra stuff and we can do fun things like go on vacation!” They really do get it. Sometimes they bring me things out-of-the-blue to add to the donate pile.
Other times they need some guidance. Last weekend we spent allllllll day on Saturday working through our playroom. We went through one category at a time, so it took a very long time. But it was so worth it! We have five children, so we still have quite a few toys, but we reduced every category. We started with Barbies and cut that down quite a bit. I made a huge pile and told each of our girls to chose two Barbies and two outfits for each. So we still have six Barbies and 12 outfits. It’s plenty. the kids have been playing so much better, actually, now that they know what they have. They were totally fine with it. Then we moved on to our dolls and stuffed animals, etc. We kept 10 dinosaurs out of about 50. We kept two dress-up outfits for each child, so we still have ten dress-up outfits for them to share plus several hats, etc. (probably still too many). The kids were fine choosing which ones were their favorites. Sometimes I would just hold up two items and say, “Which one do you want to keep?” Every single one of our kids was fine. Our youngest son was a little reluctant at first, but when he realized he could trade in older video games and get one he really wanted, he turned a corner. Now he’s the one constantly asking me what else he can sell or donate.
One last thing that I think I’ve really benefited from this month has been being honest with myself about who we are, not who I want us to be. I realized I was keeping some things just because I had an image in my head of wanting us to be the kind of family who used/did that stuff. I started being honest with myself instead. We didn’t need to keep Scrabble because, honestly, I hate that game. We have never played it once in the 12 years we’ve been married. I want to be someone who likes Scrabble, but I’m just really, really not. Ditto every pair of Stilettos I owned. I avoid wearing them at all costs. Every time we’ve gone to a wedding or fancy event for the past two years I’ve tried to find wedge-style shoes or kitten heals instead. So why was I keeping multiple pairs of high-heeled shoes?
I can’t even begin to describe all the ways this has benefitted every member of our family. If you are even considering a move toward minimalism, I encourage you to start with something small and do it now.
I hope this post has been motivating. If you enjoyed it, please don’t forget to pin and share.
If you liked this post, you might also like: