Last summer, Chris and I embarked on a house-wide minimizing inventory that we dubbed "the minima". We went through every room, every cabinet and every drawer in our house, including our garage, evaluated each item and asked, "Do we really need or want this?" For many, many, many items that answer was "no". We took carloads of stuff to Goodwill. With every pound of unneeded stuff that we banished from our house I felt lighter.
After finishing our household purge I kept remarking to Chris how happy I felt; it was surprising to me how much a change in our home could affect my mood. I realized that living in a house without clutter and where every item has a home had always been a life dream of mine and it felt incredible to have achieved it. Several months later, I'm still seeing the benefits of minimizing in our lives:
+ We buy less stuff. Although it felt great to get rid of so much stuff, Chris and I also saw how wasteful we can be when we purchase things we don't really need. It's a waste of money and a waste of natural resources. So now we're more cognizant of bringing new things into the house. We ask, "Do we really need it and do we really need it right now?"
+ The house is easier to clean and stays cleaner. We have fewer things to contribute to clutter around the house and things that do get strewn about (toddlers seem to leave a wake of toys and clothes in their wake) have a designated place they can easily be returned to. With less clutter it's much easier to sweep or mop the floors, vacuum or clean the bathrooms more regularly. I realized that the step of putting all the things away was an overwhelming step that turned cleaning the house into a much bigger chore. We used to spend all day on Sundays picking up and cleaning. Now we can do the same amount of work in an hour or less on a Sunday morning and we can put the house back in order each night after the boys go to bed. This translates to having more time to spend doing all the other things I'd rather be doing than cleaning.
+ I'm more likely to invite people to our home. I want our home to be an inviting gathering place for family and friends. I want our boys to grow up amidst play dates, dinner parties and casual breakfast get togethers in our home. But I used to feel stress over having people over because I wanted our house to look spotless. I'm working on letting go of this expectation because our family and friends don't care if our floors are spotless and that everything is put away. And at the same time it's been easier to quickly tidy the house and feel that our home is "presentable" because we have less stuff. And so it's easier for me to make plans to have people over.
+ Our home is calming amidst life's busyness. We have a full and sometimes chaotic-feeling life with two boys under two. But our stuff isn't contributing to that craziness. We don't have tons of unneeded things getting strewn about or taking up space and making the house feel even more full. Instead, we have the things that we really need and want and they have definite places where they belong. We also have shelves and drawers that contain nothing, so it feels like the house has room to breathe. I've realized that this lets me breathe as well. When life is really coming at me in the form of a toddler melt down plus a baby who needs to be nursed or put down for a nap the surrounding area of the house adds to my patience instead of detracting from it because it is uncluttered and functional.
Even though we minimized our household in a relatively short period of time it is an ongoing process to maintain the minima. In fact, we just completed another wave of minimizing after I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I'll share my thoughts on the book next week.