Updated: May 29, 2020
The Decluttering Queen is turning one year old! Can you believe it? I have spent the last twelve months digging deep to find stories and tips and life experiences to help YOU (yes, each and everyone one of you) create a more simple, happier life. My initial goal was clear and still remains: “Helping you create a great life with less stuff.“
But I’ve realized I’ve never covered why I chose minimalism as a way of life. Why it has become so important to me that I believe everyone can benefit from its principles. So this is that story.
Before you think this post is all about me, let me be clear… this post is all about YOU. In fact, this whole blog is all about YOU. I have a deep desire to share with others the contentment and serenity I gained when I begun to want less.
If you decide to take the minimalism leap, you go through many stages. It’s not an overnight process or even a yearly process. Minimalism is a lifelong process of constantly questioning what we value and why we value it. (tweet this) It can be a tough road to follow. One that bares our imperfections and makes us face things we would rather not deal with.
But once you begin finding the quietness and peace that this life brings you wonder how you ever survived before.
So bare with me as I share my story as I think you will find your journey may follow the same path.
2007 – 2012: Debt, Survival Mode, & Living the ‘American Dream”
I spent much of my twenties and early thirties in the passenger’s side of my own life. I made decisions but many were not thought out clearly or with much foresight. In fact, many decisions were made out of desperation.
I was in survival mode. Your car breaks down so you get a loan for a new one. You stick with a unfulfilling job because it pays the bills. You rush to buy a house so you can be like every other one of your friends (and you can’t stand that tiny apartment anymore).
My husband and I racked up over $50,000 in credit card, student loan and car debt. That’s a lot of payments going out every month. I had always been thrifty with buying clothes but I would shop… a lot. I would spend at least a couple hundred on my son at Christmas time. I remember filling every holiday basket or stocking with dozens of gifts for him… when he was one and couldn’t care less.
More importantly, I didn’t value what I had. If something broke, I would toss it away and buy a new one. I had lots of furniture I didn’t love but bought because, hey, everyone needs a good leather living room set, right?
I also had this mindset that I need to prepare for the future. That at any moment the sky would fall and our family would be dead broke. I filled that fear with overstuffed totes of kids clothes that I would buy in bag fulls at rummage sales.
I would stock years worth of shampoo and razors and cleaning supplies. I saved everything just in case I would need it one day. My house started to overwhelm me. To much stuff and not enough space.
And during this time I totally bought into the American Dream. You MUST have a house. You will always have a car payment – it’s just the way life goes. Your kids should be spoiled with gadgets and toys and more toys. You deserve to go on vacation every year.
Most families can’t live well with only one income so both parents need to work. Oh, and of course you need cable tv, one of those new Keurig machines, the latest smartphone, and a Coach purse. That’s just what people do.
But sometimes other people make choices for you and you are forced to change. That’s what happened to me when I lost my job.
2013: Jobless & Hopeful
In 2013, the company I worked for eliminated my entire division. I had been there almost 10 years so it was hard to have something taken away from you that had become such a part of your identity. But I also knew that I had wanted to work less for a long time so my son could stay home with me. I was jobless but hopeful.
At this time, I was presented a wonderful opportunity to be a freelance writer for my brother-in-law’s marketing firm. I had zero experience in writing but I jumped on the offer. We needed the income, I could work from home, and it filled the need I’ve always had to contribute to the family.
I continue to work with them to this day and will forever be grateful for their support of women working from home with a flexible schedule. You should check out their website here!
2015: Debt-Payoff and a Less is More Mentality
This time of life also meant my family would have to reexamine our lifestyle. Without two full-time incomes, we couldn’t be living lavishly especially with that $50,000 of debt still shackled to us.
Turns out debt doesn’t go away very quickly when you only make the minimum payment. This meant jumping on the Dave Ramsey Financial Freedom plan. Basically paying off all our debt as quickly as possible. We didn’t follow all his rules but we did make a BIG mind shift to doing everything possible to pay off our debt. You can read our financial freedom story here.
One big shift you need to make to become debt free is to either generate more income or spend less. This is when I started to examine how I view possessions. For me, a big part of minimalism is being mindful about how I spend my resources: my money, my time, my energy.
It also means taking a deeper look at what I value and why. Why should I be spending hours working to buy things I don’t need? I choose to focus my energy on using what I did have to its fullest potential. And I found more contentment by enjoying the simple things in life rather than what society told me I needed.
2016: Minimalism Exploration
2016 is when I took my BIG leap into minimalism. I started to follow a blogger named Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist. He was offering a free entry into his 12-week decluttering course when you purchased his book “The Less of More”.
I jumped at the chance. Through the course, I learned a lot about myself. I pushed hard to let go of things I was holding onto “just in case.” I challenged each item in my home including artwork and clothing and even the toaster (it went bye-bye).
I realized through this minimalism exploration that I value sharing with others, giving to others, and living simple more than I value having the latest clothes or going on a tropical vacation. I want my kids to not be bombarded with tons of toys and technology and pop culture. I’d rather have them playing in the woods, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, or building with a used set of Tinker Toys.
I found myself enjoying my home more as I cleared out the clutter. Less to dust, less to move when I had to vacuum, less to pack up when we bought a different house in March 2017. I pared my wardrobe down to 40 items. I glued a broken handle on our microwave rather than replacing it.
I started becoming even more dedicated to buying second hand whenever possible. I mended clothes and began asking friends to borrow something I only had to use once or twice.
I had turned from a life of more, more, more to less, less, less.
2017: My Minimalist Life Now
I am still on my journey. I am not the quintessential minimalist. My home is nearly 4,600 sq ft. I still have desires to buy furniture for my new home on credit rather than waiting until I can purchase it with cash. And I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t need to fill up every inch of space with stuff.
By far, my biggest hangup is buying kids clothes at rummage sales. They are such a great deal and I find myself not able to pass them up. I probably will continue to struggle but each time I get more and more choosy about what I bring into my home.
I found that minimalism has also made me more choosy about how I spend my time. I don’t enroll my kids in endless activities. We enjoy time together as a family and that’s more important to me than a packed schedule. I also am careful about how much TV I watch.
I always ask myself if there is a better use of my time rather than filling it with hours of Netflix. I take time to exercise, read books, and do my favorite hobby – scrapbooking. These things fill me up and cost next to nothing.
I reframed how I viewed money too. Rather than work from a place of lack, I know embrace opportunities to secure financial freedom. I decided to invest in my health too. Thankfully I was able to combine the two into a fruitful business that helps men and women live better lives. You can learn more here.
Decluttering will never work if it becomes a cycle you repeat year after year. You don’t need to declutter as much as you need to de-own. You need to chose to be content with less whether that means less toys, less clothes, or less square feet. If you just purge out everything in a week, you will soon find yourself once again feeling overwhelmed with all the STUFF.
I hope you will continue to follow my blog into the next year as we further examine how we choose to live our lives. I promise to always offer content that helps clear the cluttered spaces in both your home and your heart. Make sure to subscribe to The Decluttering Blog so you can continue on the minimalism journey with me.