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The Magic of Minimalism

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In the past five years, my husband and I have moved six times, two of which were out of state moves. As we have relocated, we have had to make conscious decisions about the stuff that we take, and that which we leave behind. I had heard that minimalism has a magical effect, but it wasn’t until I experienced it myself that I started to buy in.

Two years ago, around the holiday season, I got the urge to purge. My mother-in-law was in town, and she is a self-proclaimed organizer and lover of all things tidy, so I thought that I would put her skills to work. Up until that point, I had always been a sort of a pack rack and the type to hold onto things for sentimental reasons or “just in case I needed it.” However, somehow during that holiday season, I had a new sense of motivation in tidying up. As I was considering all of the things that I was holding on to, I started to realize that there was so much that I could let go of because it was literally weighing me down.

I ended up donating six bags to Goodwill. Six bags of things that I thought I couldn’t live without. As it turns out, when I let go of that which was holding me back, I was able to make space for the new. Literally a week later, an opportunity to move into our dream location manifested, seemingly out of the blue. Somehow this option felt more doable without the stuff that was holding us back. That was a really great move for our family for so many reasons. But more than that, I felt like I had created that opportunity by energetically and physically letting go of my stuff. And thus, I began my love affair with minimalism.

As a busy mom, it can be challenging to simplify. For all of us, it is a work in progress. Everyone has their own values and priorities and what might seem like a treasure to one person may be just as easy for another to discard (hence why people love yard sales so much). Just when I think I have gotten organization and minimalism down to a science, I realize that there is more that I can explore, examine, and discard. I have come to the conclusion that it is more of an art than a science, as there is no one size fits all method.

There is something about the holiday season that awakens this drive for minimalism for me. Last Christmas night my husband and I watched the documentary Minimalism. I found it to be really eye opening and one of the greatest takeaways was the reminder to “use things and love people”. Sometimes in our quest to manage our stuff, we forget about what is truly important. How often have we felt like a prisoner to our homes and the chores associated? We would rather be spending the day with our loved ones, or just being instead of doing, but we are weighed down by all of the stuff that we have to do and all of the things that we possess and consume. The older I get, the more I find the need to create more white space in my calendar. We need that time to process and just be.

The reality is that when we have less, we create space for so much more. More time to spend with loved ones, instead of organizing. More appreciation for the simplicity. More gratitude for that which we do have.

I just finished listening to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and I do have to say, it was pretty life changing. Kondo goes into her method for tidying up, which she refers to as the KoMari Method. She gives specific ideas about how and why you should put your life in order. I would put the recording on as I was tidying up my own space, and it truly motivated me and gave me ideas of how to put my things in order. Kondo talks about the idea that we should only have the things in our home and lives that spark joy and how if we’re doing it right, we should only have to tidy up once. Thus, it is a way of life, versus a chore to be completed.

But what about the kids?

I find that a barrier to minimalism is often the question of how can you stay minimalist with children. Again, this is all a work in progress and an art for me too, but I was inspired by a few things.

  1. The book called Minimalist Parenting by Christine Koh

  2. Leo Babauta, who was a guest on Minimalism, the documentary, and a father of six kids who is a self-proclaimed minimalist and goes into his own journey with minimalist parenting.

In my own experience, I have come up with a few ways to maintain a minimalist lifestyle and state of mind, while navigating the busy world of working motherhood. I encourage you to find and share your own as well.

Tips for maintaining a minimalist lifestyle with kids

  1. Include your children in the process. Make it a natural part of your daily life. I don’t often discard my daugher’s things without consulting her, but instead I make it a conversation. Mikayla–let’s go through your toys and find those that you aren’t using, so that you can pass them on to other children who may enjoy them. Or, let’s go through and find those toys that don’t work properly anymore.

  2. Model Minimalist Behavior. Let your children see you go through and discard your own things and make sure that you have set systems and homes for your belongings. Remember that more is always caught than taught.

  3. Create a ritual for discarding. Somewhere along the way, I learned about the importance of energetics and appreciation. As I have been discarding my things, I have thanked them for the role that they played in my life. I even once ran a challenge with coaching clients where we started off with a break-up letter to our stuff. This was powerful. As more is caught than taught, I found my three-year-old doing the same thing the other day with her broken lunchbox. Thank you for bringing my lunch to and from school. It’s been really great having you in my life, but I am ready to let you go now.

  4. Rotate Toys. After a birthday party or a holiday (any gift giving event), allow your child to choose five things that he/she wants to play with and then put the rest away. After a few months, you can rotate those toys and your child will have a renewed sense of appreciation for those gifts versus if you gave them all at once.

With the holiday season quickly approaching, going back to the basics may help keep things more fluent and less chaotic. The fact is that too much stuff overwhelms us. I read The Paradox of Choices by William Glasser once, and he talks about how choice is a good thing, unless there becomes too many choices and then the chooser gets to a sort of standstill. When we have too much stuff, we do not get to appreciate that which we have, and instead of it “sparking our joy”, it leaves us feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

I hope that you too can start to appreciate the magic of minimalism in your homes and lives. I will leave you with this thought; Marie Kondo says what we have is more of a question of how we want to live our lives.

As we approach the holiday season and head towards a new year, think about this: how do you want to live yours?

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