Cassie D. Tilton
Why We Became Minimalists
The expression less is more is a phrase explained being “used to express the view that a minimalist approach to artistic or aesthetic matters is more effective.” It is taking a blunt approach to clear the clutter completely from your home or workspace by purging unused items and also utilizing simplicity when it comes to design and layout of spaces.
When I think of clutter in that context, I believe it’s in reference to ridding visible surfaces of knick-knacks, untouched books, an abundance of clothing or shoes, games, toys, pillows, décor, kitchen items, pens, hobby supplies, storage items, hair accessories, etc. However, true minimalism reaches beyond aesthetic matters. It breaks through unseen barriers to encompass so much more than what we approach when we walk in the door.
We kind of stumbled upon minimalism, thankfully. A few years ago, I began getting anxiety when our house began overflowing with toys our son and daughter would receive from friends, family and our random purchases walking by toys and items we thought were “cute” for them. They just kept piling up. Soon by the end of each day, I would be drained from incessantly cleaning up toys behind them as they played. Some days I wouldn’t touch them until it was closer to when I needed to start prepping dinner so then I spent an absorbent amount of time cleaning up everything and reorganizing them all. Knowing that many of them were toys that they wouldn’t really mentally engage with, but rather my son just saw it, picked it up, and then threw it across the space, or my daughter would leave them laying around, made me pause and think about what they really needed. Certainly not just items to throw around or leave without giving them a second thought! So alas, I started purging the toys. This was before I realized minimalism was a way of life. Right before my eyes, our house was growing larger! My stress levels decreased some, and, more importantly, I started to realize just how much time it really took of my day to keep up with them. Time that I could be utilizing by engaging in more meaningful matters. As time went on, the more I purged, the better and better I started to feel. Freedom. A tiny taste of freedom. My husband and our daughter started to feel the freedom-vibes too! Our son was too young to realize anything different so he was happy just the same. This was just the beginning of it all for us.
Minimalism is “the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing anything that distracts us from them.” ~Joshua Becker
Embarking on this journey together, we began to grasp that there was so much more to this than just purging toys to clear up some space. Digesting that small bit of freedom parlayed into other areas of our lives. Both of us started to hear and see more about “minimalism” and “simple living” as a lifestyle, not just design layouts or decluttering and reorganizing our belongings to clean up. Joshua Becker’s definition of minimalism is very enlightening if you take some time to think on it. The key words for us are “anything that distracts” from what is most important to us and being “intentional” about our choices. This explains how a minimalistic lifestyle does not only pertain to outward clutter among your home or workspace, but that it also applies to your schedule, priorities, budget, thoughts, etc. Together, we began to reevaluate where we were in life and started to bounce thoughts to each other to help vocalize what was most valuable to us. We have conversations like this together so we can set goals together and are always on the same page. We agreed that what mattered most to us is time spent together and time spent with our children. Our goals became centered around actions that would slowly put us in a position to be able to focus on us. Not on what the Jones’ are doing or what they have and trying to keep up with them, but on us writing our own song together to sing and dance to and being able to create lasting memories with the kids that we will always cherish.
Minimalism is a subject that is far from being shallow by only concerning aesthetics. It dives much deeper for us. We decided to change our lifestyle and become minimalists for these five reasons:
To enhance our time on Earth, while we have it.
We want a life of no regrets. Life is fleeting so we want to make it count by making the most of it while we’re here. It’s hard to do so if your time is consumed by frivolous tasks. I can speak from experience; it is not truly living if you’re spending an hour (or more!) each day cleaning up toys or reorganizing items in your home or office space. By minimizing our household items, this awards extra time; time engaged in more meaningful activities during that hour+ is how I would much rather utilize it while I’m alive. Connecting with my husband, my kids, my art and writing, or with friends. This also helps with my energy levels to be more present when my family is home with me, because I’m not depleted from all the cleaning-up there was to do by the end of the day. Time is too precious and too important to waste it on managing clutter.
To lighten our financial load.
Becoming intentional about our budget and the purchases we make unveiled just how deep we were in on wasteful spending. All the tiny purchases of toys, kitchen items, hobby supplies, unused subscriptions, eating at restaurants, etc. all combined to a hefty sum. Most of those items ended up being sold, donated, or thrown out. My kids do not need an overflowing room of random toys that need daily clean-up, our homes surfaces do not need to be covered in knick-knacks and décor items that need regular organizing and dusting, I do not need every single paint color that every single brand offers, we do not need to eat at restaurants just because we’re being lazy…you get the picture. We want to rein in our spending where we can in order to put our money towards more meaningful experiences with our kids, such as traveling and seeing more of the world together. We also want to remain debt-free so we created a budget together that caters to the lifestyle we want and anything outside of that is a hard no.
To become healthier overall.
There are many health benefits connected with taking on a minimalistic lifestyle. Just to name a few that we’ve experienced: less stress, mental clarity and focus, incorporating exercise and making better eating choices. My anxiety/stress levels decreased dramatically the more and more we cleared out. It felt like a weight was being lifted off of my back! When rooms are clear of clutter, and every item we choose to keep has a “home” to go back to, it helps keep it simple so that the kids can help maintain it also. This allowed me to focus on more important matters such as helping our daughter with her studies and doing fun learning activities with our son without guilt of knowing tidying-up is still needed of all the items left laying around. Without being choked by stress and having gained back some time after minimizing how much we own; we are able to incorporate exercise. My husband is able to utilize the gym membership we have had for over six months and not used and I’m able to do yoga from home because the house is in order and I’m not worn out from housework. Also now having extra time, I am able to prepare healthier meals…this is a big one for us…by being intentional with our choices, one of them is choosing to eat healthier. Cleaner. At home. While eating at a restaurant is fun every once in a while, as a treat, it’s not so easy to make healthy choices when the convenience of the unhealthy items is at the tip of your tongue with just a quick request to the server. I’m able to clearly think about the ingredients and what we are putting in our bodies. Meals are simpler now. Fresh and fewer ingredients are necessary and they are tastier too! My moto being, fresh is always best, goes a long way for us and helps us to keep our spending down. Proof is in the results too-since we’ve started eating simpler, cleaner meals at home, my husband’s cholesterol levels have been steadily decreasing! By minimizing what we keep in the kitchen and around our home we have increased our health overall and have more energy for more fulfilling activities.
To have less distractions.
By being intentional about our purchases, we bring less into the house. Owning less items helps to keep rooms clear of clutter and therefore clear of distractions. My daughter is able to focus on her studies with having a clutter-free space to do her work, our son is learning responsibility on how to keep his toys in their “homes” since it is much simpler now with less of them everywhere, I am able to focus on my artwork and writings since there are less items to juggle throughout the day, any my husband can focus on work on those days when he needs to work at home. When we are doing anything, we can all focus better with having less distractions now. If it is a distraction, and not something useful, then we rethink if we really need it in the house.
To have more time together.
What we put on our schedule can also be overwhelming and cause unnecessary stress. This kind of ties in with the first reason I mentioned above to enhance our time together on Earth. Being too busy isn’t all that much fun. We’ve been known to say, “Yes!”, to so many invitations without really thinking about what all would be required from us. My husband and I and the kids love a good party, gathering, or outing, but if the cost of our time and finances outweighs our peace, then our priorities are wrong and we are saying yes for the wrong reasons. Believe me, we’ve been known to shut down the party haha, however, since we’ve begun to live simpler, we make an intentional decision together of whether or not to join in the fun. Our priorities come first and if it doesn’t support the life we want, then again, it’s a hard no…with a “Thank you” attached to it of course!
Decluttering your life changes more than the way your home looks and feels. It makes space for your soul to discover that your happiness never was found in all that excess stuff. ~Julia Ubbenga
So, our journey to minimizing started with clarifying what is most important to us in order to keep our goals clear, then we began simplifying our home and all that we choose to do with intentionality, and also changing our thoughts to support the positive changes. We’ve been learning the art of saying “no” to anything that doesn’t support the life we want, because anything outside of that is just a distraction and holds us back from attaining our goals. It’s a learning curve for sure, but easily doable. Baby steps. For us it was a progression over several years before we began to feel comfortable. The humbling wisdom attained on this journey has been so worth it. We are still learning, and will remain open to learning, but we are headed in the right direction and are experiencing the freedom we craved by ridding ourselves of the clutter, busyness, and debt. This has brought my husband and I closer together and enhanced our relationship with the kids. It’s a win-win all around!
Several people have asked me what steps we have taken to make the changes that we have, and I understand it can be very daunting...I mean…where does one even start?! So, in my next article I will share with you what we did more specifically as we grew into the minimalistic lifestyle. Possibly even breaking it up into several articles to simplify it further. Knowing all situations are different, some of them may not apply to you, but some may be helpful. It can be overwhelming when you take it in all at once, but be encouraged by keeping fresh in your mind that it took years to get where you are now so you don’t need to have it all figured out in one day, one week, or one year even! Progress is progress, no matter how fast or slow you accomplish something. So, stay tuned for next week’s article!
If you have already begun your journey to minimalism, or to live simpler, I would love to hear about what your favorite changes have been in the comments below! It’s always encouraging to learn from each other.
Sending each of you loads of Love and Light,
P.S. These are great places to begin to get you inspired on your journey and to help you learn how to keep life simple: