I really had no idea how my family would react when I declared I wanted us to be minimalists. I knew I was committed, but I was unsure to what extent they would jump on board. I have always been the kind of person who reacts impulsively and then, in time, I calm down and settle into a more realistic version of whatever situation or concept is in front of me.
This is where I am at right now. Settling into our new normal. It’s funny, what initially felt like minimal living is now starting to feel like we own too much again. Don’t get me wrong, I have not added any more to our home, it’s just that I want more stuff gone. I have less of a tolerance for clutter. However, the process is moving slower than I would like. I’m realizing that patience is the only way I am going to get where I want to be.
A Moving Target
It raises the question, is “where I want to be” a concept that keeps moving out of reach every time I make progress? The day I donated coats and moved all of our winter boots out of the coat closet and to the basement for the summer felt great. The closet looked awesome. Now I look at my closet and want to set it on fire. Still so many shoes. Still so many jackets.
I have to be perfectly honest with you. Part of this comes from a new fear that someone will unexpectedly show up at my house and accuse me of hypocrisy. I picture it either being an audible accusation or simply just judgmental glances around my house, followed by an eye roll. While being transparent and sharing our journey I have inadvertently threatened my desire for authenticity.
Hypocrisy of My Claim
Nothing makes me feel like less of a minimalist than the 4pm hour of any given weekday. The moment I decide to start making spaghetti sauce, my mischievous 21-month old manipulates open a locked cupboard and pulls art supplies out onto the floor. She then heads to my lazy susan and pulls out a bottle of olive oil and a few jars of spices before moving two cupboards over to empty all of my kids’ cups onto the kitchen floor. This typically occurs moments before she finds a crayola marker left on the floor by my 5 year old and proceeds to apply it to her lips like lipstick. If you were to walk into my home at that moment, I would want to crawl into a hole as you assess the hypocrisy of my claim to minimalism.
In the morning, I still leave 1/2 empty cereal bowls out on the counter while I spend some quiet time to myself before getting my littlest up. I sometimes even leave these bowls out for hours and hours as I rush out the door to pick up my daughter from preschool. What can I say? If my littlest sleeps in, I usually opt to keep reading. My kids still dump out ALL of the toys we do have and leave them sprawled out on the floor as I send them outside to play basketball before it starts raining.
In those sour-milk-cereal, Crayola-lipstick, toy-sprawled moments, I worry what you may think of me. Since I find authenticity non-negotiable, I’m just going to put it out there. I haven’t mastered this minimalist thing yet.
I wonder if there is a danger of replacing the discontentment I used to have with too many possessions, with a different kind of discontentment.
Am I doomed to never be satisfied with my level of minimalism? How do we find the ideal amount for our family? Will the sentence, “You know, that’s not very minimalist,” spoken in jest by those close to me eventually begin to shape the decisions I make for my family?
I need to remind myself that the end goal is not minimalism itself. Minimalism is simply a lifestyle that facilitates getting to where I want to be. Just as the habit of regular exercise and a balanced diet is the lifestyle that promotes a healthier and stronger you. The goal is not to always be exercising. The goal is a long and healthy life. A 30 day diet doesn’t guarantee health 20 years from now, just as 3 months of purging won’t result in a lifetime of contentment. Minimalism is the path that facilitates peace, contentment, gratitude, and generosity.
I was never very good at keeping my home picked up and I was pretty vocal about that. I love that it now takes me less than 30 minutes to make this place look great. The thing is, I still have to do that because we live here.
I have decided to stay focused on the purpose not the process. It’s quite a process! We will become discouraged, self-conscious and distracted if that’s all we see. Don’t swap out one distraction for another. Appreciate the growth we do in the process, but don’t get hung up there. Perfection is unattainable and I have to appreciate how far we have come. When we are focused on our purpose, even the setbacks are still steps in the right direction because of the opportunity to learn from them.
While it IS my job to edit what comes into my home, it is also my job to draw boundaries around the time I spend doing this. I became a minimalist to live each moment intentionally, not to constantly spend my time analyzing my belongings. I didn’t trade in my clutter and chaos for a fear of failure. I traded it in for freedom. Managing stuff was a misuse of my time and my purpose. I’m not looking to redirect that focus on how well I accomplish “minimalism.”
Minimalism is the path our family has chosen to undo what has distracted us from our purpose. Our time is more free to love on our kids. Our time is more free to help a friend. Our money is more free to be used to bless others.
I just may always have a couple of pairs of shoes more than I need. I may never be able to make myself throw away a handful of things I probably should part with. I probably will break down one day and buy my daughter the bell for her bike she randomly requested. If that makes me a failure, then this minimalism thing isn’t serving its purpose.