Minimalism seems to be trending right now. Many people are familiar with the KonMari method and the well-known book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
It all sounds great. In theory. Right? In a world that is constantly bombarding us with messages that we need more, more, more, a simplistic environment starts to sound pretty appealing. But, it’s difficult to resist the temptation to hold on to our beloved stuff. Our society shows us that more stuff equals greater success.
But as the winter dragged on and I felt consumed by clutter and constant tidying, my anxiety and irritability became less manageable. I knew I wanted to make some serious changes in our lifestyle.
I actually already consider our family to be fairly on the minimal side of the spectrum. Still, it seems better to have too much of things on-hand, just in case, than to need something and have to buy a new one. So, like many parents, the thought of my kids going without has kept me clinging to unnecessary items. I’ve kept piles of clothes that have never been worn, just in case. I store bins of toys that got used a handful of times, just in case.
As minimal as I felt I was being, something still just didn’t feel right. Being at home with two young boys and keeping up the house often felt like too much work. Some wise, sleep-deprived parent once said, “Trying to keep a house clean with kids is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.” So true. And yet, it still has to be done to avoid breaking ankles tripping over toys.
So, I kept on all winter picking up and tidying and piling and picking up again. All the while, minimalism kept whispering in my ear. A book ad in my newsfeed or a pin about capsule wardrobes. Still, I thought, ‘I like that idea. I’m not sure we could do that. Where would we start?’
But, people grow and change with the seasons. And the renewal of Spring brought a new perspective. I had taken the winter months to identify where my feelings of anxiety, discontent or irritation were triggered. More often than not, irritation with myself or my family usually centered around possessions, our stuff.
Then we watched the documentary Minimalism. Now I’m hooked. I needed no further convincing that a minimalist lifestyle was the way to go to conquer anxiety.
So, take a deep breath. Open your mind. This is how, and more importantly why, our family is Spring cleaning our way to minimalism.
Research has shown there is a definite connection between clutter and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Especially in women, high cortisol is associated with a high density of household objects. And stress can seriously roadblock your ability to make decisions. As parents, we make roughly 573,762 decisions a day. From the minute our feet hit the floor in the morning we have choices. So many choices! Before learning about minimalism I was under the impression I was a pretty terrible decision maker. Turns out, though, I really just have decision overwhelm.
So, I evaluated our environment and recognized the anxiety triggers throughout my days as a work at home mom. I considered how much mental effort I put into making choices for myself and my family. And I thought about how much time I spent picking up stuff. Too much, I decided it was too much.
If I felt overwhelmed by decisions and clutter as an adult, I could only imagine how small my 3-year-old feels as he tries to figure out what making good choices means. The visual clutter we see around us in our homes and in the media are constant distractions. We become distracted from our thoughts, our ideas, our families and our work. It’s no wonder we have trouble making decisions!
“The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.”—Maya Angelou
It couldn’t have been more obvious the road being bulldozed in my mind was minimalism. But you don’t just wake up one day and become a minimalist. It’s a process. And any good process needs a plan.
I realize that I need to be the change I wish to see. So before I enlighten the entire family with the freedom and joy minimalism is sure to bring them, I’m starting with myself. The first category of possessions to be minimized: my wardrobe.
A capsule wardrobe is basically a set of as few clothing items as possible for each season to mix and match and create outfits. One popular technique for this wardrobe transition is Project 333. There are no specific rules for capsule wardrobes, but they typically consist of 30 or less pieces. They don’t include workout clothes, underwear or sleepwear. Capsule wardrobes have their own trendy followers. But for me, starting our minimalism journey this way is all about function and freedom, not fads.
I work from home
I only wear items that make me comfortable
I wear the same few outfits over and over
I want to eliminate the process of deciding what to wear
I have mixed feelings about this wardrobe overhaul. Especially for women, our clothing style seems inextricably linked to our sense of self and expression. But I remind myself when I am free from decisions about possessions, I’ll open myself up to more mental energy for more important decisions. There are so many more meaningful ways, besides how I dress that allow me to share my sense of self. And most of my wardrobe now consists of pieces I’m not comfortable in or just don’t suit my work-at-home, play on the floor, nurse the baby lifestyle. So out it goes! The idea of having my closet and my mind free from clutter of things I never wear and decisions about what to wear is incredibly liberating! I’m starting with only pieces I already have and wear all the time. I’ll gradually be able to integrate in new pieces that I absolutely love and are responsibly made.
I hope that by starting with myself, my clothing and accessories, I’ll be sending a positive message to the rest of the family. It’s important my kids also understand as they grow that they are so much more than how they look or what they wear. I’m sure after experiencing the benefits of one less decision, one less area in our home that seems overwhelming we will be motivated to make moves toward minimalism in other areas of our lives.
I’ve started a Trello board to keep track of categories of items in our house that could use downsizing. Then we’ll make lists and keep track of what to donate, what to sell, what to keep, the money we make and the money we save. Next up? The overflowing piles of kids’ clothes!
The main thing I’d like us to learn is that minimalism is not about going without. It’s about making room for what’s important. And I’m excited to see what meaningful, important things this minimalist approach to Spring cleaning will bring us.