People often find it really weird when I share that my minimalist journey didn’t really start with the desire to get my house in order. It’s true, that when we moved into our big, beautiful 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom dream house, it wasn’t long before I found myself drowning in the overwhelm of trying to keep it up. There was always something that needed to be picked up, updated, cleaned…the entire process seemed never ending. That alone sent me into the occasional random bursts of decluttering madness, for sure. The truth is, we didn’t really have a lot of stuff to begin with.
I guess I was always a minimalist
I guess for the first time in my life I’m admitting that when we lived in our bigger house, I was already kind of a minimalist. I was minimalist in my home everywhere except in my closet. That was not minimal at all!
While I was feeling the overwhelm of having a much bigger space to care for the truth of why I started minimalism was so much bigger and I would love for you to pause and consider if any of this applies to your life as well.
The Excess Reality
One of the first things that started to hit me was the wasted space of our house. I have counted multiple times, and including our beautiful entryway (that seemed to collect stray toys and dust) we had a total of 17 rooms and a massive storage room. Now we have 9 and 3 of them are basically one cozied up area.
My entire life I had dreamed of having a beautiful, grand home like this. It was everything I had always fantasized about, especially whenever I saw anyone else who had a home like this.
In my mind, people who owned these houses were further along than me, they were happier, and better off. They had made it. This was happily ever after.
Happy FOREVER after
Funny thing about happily ever after is I remember a moment when I was probably around 4 or 5 and my mom was reading me a story before bed and of course, at the end, she said, “…and they lived Happily Ever After.”
I asked her, “Does that mean they were happy FOREVER after?” The idea that once people collected all the things: the prince, the clothes, the house, they would forever be happy made me feel so excited.
Of course, at this time in my life, everything in my life had been pretty great, but my tiny little mind loved the idea of reaching a final destination of happiness. After that, life turned into one sucker punch after the next, but still some part of me believed that happy FOREVER after was still attainable, and the more stressful my life got, the more I wanted it.
I remember being a kid, my dad in the midst of a divorce – and my mom wasn’t far from one, when the movie Father of the Bride came out.
In the movie, Steve Martin’s character, George Banks said this, “This is our house. 24 Maple Drive. Annie was just in grammar school when we bought it. A few years later, we got a surprise package. Our son, Matt. I love this house. I love that I taught my kids to ride their bikes in the driveway. I love that I slept with them in tents in the backyard. I love that we carved our initials in the tree out front. This house is warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and looks spectacular with Christmas lights. It’s a great house. I never want to move. But the thing I think I like best about this house are the voices I hear when I walk through the door.”
Dream House? Or…
As a kid with divorced parents and divorcing parents/step-parents, I heard this quote and all I heard was, “This house made all these wonderful things possible.”
When Tom and I would do our Christmas Eve tradition of driving through neighborhoods looking at Christmas lights, the ones that looked like the Bank’s house were the ones that stood out to me. I would always hug my hot cocoa a little tighter, lean in toward Tom and say, “That’s my dream house.”
Little did I know all of those years that a subliminal message had snuck into my brain as a kid that told her that this particular style of house meant a happy family. Growing up in a lot of dysfunction, there was nothing more I wanted than a happy family and I believed a house was part of making it happen.
When the realization that maybe the house wasn’t what I wanted started to sink in was during house tours. It was funny how when we moved into a big house more people wanted to get a tour. People got more excited, looked at us differently, talked to us with more respect.
I wish it wasn’t true, but it is.
However, what I quickly came to realize was that I got bored of hearing myself talk about our space. I would walk through our main level, upstairs and then when I’d put my hand on the basement door this icky feeling of, “UGH, are we still doing this?” came over me.
The enjoyment of showing off my space…my perceived status was short lived and very quickly felt gross, boring and excessive.
This feeling of excess spilled over into my photography business where I continually was collecting more and more backdrops and props and feeling this underlying feeling of grossness about all of it.
To top it off, my days as a photographer seemed to quickly feel full of fake smiles, and forced togetherness.
Most of the families I worked with were laid back, gracious and loving. Let me just say that.
However, there was without fail so many people screaming at their kids, husband or wife all in the name of a good photo. In two weeks they would share the photos to social media with some sort of, “Live Laugh Love” quote and you couldn’t help but feel like it was all a lie.
Now, let me just say, as a mom who is well known for her occasional freak outs, I am not saying that these parents were faking it or weren’t really grateful for their family and little ones. I’m sure they 100% were. Still, it all started to feel fake. Like they were saying cheese in front of the camera and I was saying it after I put the camera away.
I was faking happy forever after and I was feeling it on every level.
What we’re made for
I know not everyone will buy into the fact that I am someone who allows myself to be more and more lead by intuition. I know this can sound hokey, crazy, or even too woo woo for people to handle, but the reality is, I believe we are naturally meant to be lead by our intuition.
If we look at nature, and animals, they show up for this life with so much less hustle, strife and anxiety than we do and it’s largely due to the fact that they simply listen to their instincts. Their knowledge.
Just like turtles instinctively flock toward the water, and baby birds practice flapping their wings, I believe that we as humans are all meant for something. Our instincts specifically want us to show up for this one life in some way.
The trouble we run into is that because we are all humans, we are all watching what other humans are doing as an indication of what we should or shouldn’t do. Kind of like me and the big house. We fill our house, schedule, and workload with things that we believe are the ticket to success because someone else said so.
We fill our closets with the latest trends because, well, that’s what everyone else is wearing. We get peer pressured into drinking, smoking, or binge watching Game of Thrones. If everyone else is doing it, it’s probably what I should be doing.
Well, the more I found myself reading spiritual material, the more I started second guessing everything I had ever thought I wanted and it all started with this one belief.
If I have a feeling I was made for more than what I currently have. Then, I was.
More than this
Sitting there in my beautiful home, the home I had always dreamed of living in, I was overwhelmed by this idea that all of those thoughts, dreams, and ideas in my head actually might be a pre-programmed message from God.
Like what I was meant to do, swim or fly, was etched into my DNA and yet I was ignoring it. Why was I ignoring it? Well, because everyone else was ignoring it. And, of course, everyone was telling me that any big hope or dream was unrealistic and impossible. Stick to something more solid, more grounded.
The thing is, for me, all of that solid groundedness was making me feel like I was drowning. It was like I was a bird who had been forced to tread water in the ocean, being gaslit into believing that was where I belonged.
Every fiber of my being fought me on the idea that maybe I really did have a purpose, but, a small voice inside kept saying, “What if…what if….”
What if I just tried? What if I just attempted living life how I wanted to? Things might fall apart, sure, but they kind of already were, so I may as well try.
This is where Spiritual Minimalism came into play.
If I had been filling my life up with what everyone else told me I needed. If I had been dressing for everyone else, chasing what everyone else told me to chase, the only way I was going to find myself and my purpose was by eliminating whatever I had been trying to fill my life with that didn’t feel aligned.
So I headed to my closet.
Finding myself in the closet
I want to say, almost instinctively. I slammed down my book, grabbed a garbage bag and headed upstairs to my closet where I did the most backwards decluttering ever:
- I grabbed all of the items that I always wanted to wear. The stuff that made me feel the most comfortable or happy to be in.
- I pulled out any accessories that might need to go with some of these favorite items.
- I got rid of the rest!
This was the beginning of my 3 year clothing freeze where I went cold turkey on buying new clothes (which I talk about in episode 49).
I would accept hand me downs from friend which gave me this amazing opportunity to try new styles that I previously wouldn’t have and I found new things that I liked. One of them being quality items.
As a self proclaimed bargain shopper, I was usually scooping up any leftover clothing that didn’t sell and had been marked down.
One of my friends always bought clothing from more expensive places and I loved the way they looked and felt and fit!
Another friend had a really fun vintage-type style and I loved the chic, classical feeling they gave me when I put them on.
Let’s sell the house
This continual letting go process brought me to an epiphany one day. A moment that would forever change my life. The moment where I raced up the stairs to the double doors of our primary bedroom, sat down next to Tom and said, “Let’s sell the house!”
No, I didn’t think moving would save us. No, I didn’t blame all of our problems on the house.
I simply realized that what mattered the most to me the entire time had been family. Having my family near me. That close family unit that George Banks was REALLY talking about in Father of the Bride, that was what I wanted. What I had always wanted.
Coming from many broken homes as a kid all I wanted for my marriage and my children was a solid family unit and this house wasn’t helping.
We were spread further apart than ever before.
Weekends were spent catching up on projects, updating the yard or the house, trying to keep things clean or me working extra hours to make sure we could keep affording to live there and still do fun things.
The hustle of maintaining the house was taking its toll on all of our family members and I knew we had to at least try life without the house to see if we might be able to repair what was being broken.
Life after the big house
Of course, if you have been following me for a while, you know life has gotten pretty awesome after downsizing from the big house.
We freed up enough income to pay off debt. I had more time to learn how to make passive income online – no screaming photography clients necessary.
In the last 6 years since we moved, we have learned to slow down, take breaks, and all around enjoy life more. We haven’t totally escaped the hustle mindsets we used to live by, but we are dangerously close.
I have built work that feels meaningful and fulfilling and Tom is teetering on the edge of that too.
With our kids, we have traveled more, had more experiences and way fewer financial worries.
We aren’t trying to keep up with anyone else, we are only trying to focus on living our lives in the absolute best, most fulfilling way we possibly can for ourselves and that feel absolutely amazing.
So, yeah, I didn’t start minimalism as a way to get more organized, or to clean less (although that was part of it). I started eliminating stuff from my life so that I could spiritually connect to my inner calling on a deeper level.
Never will I say that material wealth is bad, but if it is running your life, if you find yourself hustling to keep up or fit in, then you are living out of alignment.
Taking the time to find myself, listen to my intuition, understand my purpose and my calling a little more each day and then buying things from a place of peace and self understanding – that’s true abundance.
Continuing the Minimalist Journey
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