I used to listen to a song called “Simple Love” by Alison Krauss on the way to work in Washington state, when we had just bought our first house and had our first baby. It was the only cd in my car, so I listened to it a lot, and I remember thinking, “What more could I want than what I have now?” And my answer was always: “Nothing, this is happiness.” We had a small yellow house, always seemed to have enough in our budget to save and buy the things we really needed; we had just enough room for all our simple things, and it was enough. It really was enough. Little did I know then how right I was, before I let myself think I needed more to be happy.
Over time though, when the economy tanked in 2008 and my husband began looking for work, we had to leave our life in Washington. He got a great opportunity, and we moved to Texas. When they say everything is bigger in Texas, they are not exaggerating. The cost of living was a great deal lower, so we bought a bigger house, because we thought we needed it as our family was growing and we were taking care of my grandmother at that time. I remember we had seen one house that was a great deal smaller, but still had all the rooms and space we needed, but we passed it up for the 3,800 square foot home. We soon found ourselves immersed in the new responsibilities that the new house brought with it. I am not sure looking back, if at 28 years old the commitment to that house was worth the money and time it took away from traveling and doing other things. Many days I wished for those simpler days in that little yellow house in Washington.
Life became very complicated. I had to decorate the bigger house, so I had to buy more furniture. I had to have help with the lawn and cleaning. More debt was incurred to buy the bigger home and more time was spent taking care of it . And honestly, we were less happy because we stopped doing many of the things we loved like mountain biking and weekend trips. So what have we learned?
The promise of more often brings with it a sense of disappointment. Here are a few reasons why we began the journey to minimalism.
- Debt. To free ourselves from debt. We are constantly under the burden of debt. Car payments, mortgages, monthly statements. We lived pay check to paycheck. Our purpose with minimalism has been to reduce the debt we carry, so we can be free to consider whatever opportunities come our way, or changing career paths without the burden of a required minimum salary.
- Clarity. Having less to worry about actually brings a sense of peace and clarity. I once read an article about how Mark Zuckerberg changed his wardrobe. We’ve all seen him in the familiar gray t-shirt, and there is a good reason for it. Steve Jobs did the same thing with black turtlenecks. When asked why, Zuckerberg said it was to reduce choices that weren’t important, since he was making so many decisions in one day. He wanted to focus on more energy on the important decisions for his company. For me, this became apparent when I had more clarity to write as my workspace became more simple and I could just start writing without having to clean and organize first.
- Freedom. There is a sense of freedom in actually owning less. Having less to clean, less to organize, less to deal with on a daily basis. In another way, letting go of the things attached to the past has freed me from having certain feelings come up on a daily basis that evoked sadness, regret, or guilt. With those talismans and unfinished projects gone, I can focus on what I am working on in the present, and live in each moment.
- Time. Perhaps the most valuable commodity in life is our time. The first few weeks of decluttering we actually lost some time, but overall, we are starting to gain family time each day. The house takes half the amount of time to clean and organize and we are only half way through our journey. I can say that in last three months, since we have been more heavily getting rid of things, we have slowly seen how time once lost to house maintenance is being gained. We now have so much more room to store things that we can easily find what we are looking for, and the kids can easily clean their rooms in a few minutes. We still are not done, but we are seeing how this process really does streamline our daily life to allow time for more family outings and still keep a clean, healthy home too.
- To focus on our life goals. We are bombarded with commercials. We are told we need more to be happy, bigger homes, newer phones, bigger jewelry, the list never seems to end. The reality is that happiness is not found in anything material. Comfort and security are important, but beyond that, the chase for more is empty. What makes life worth living is the bigger life questions that require much time and effort. By embarking on this journey to a more simple life, we have found it is much easier to focus on the things that truly matter.
We are by no means done with our journey. We currently live in a townhome, but some days wish we had gone even smaller. We are still learning, and this journey is one step closer to discovering our purpose in life. Minimalism, in itself, is just one step to finding a way to make our goals possible. There will be a day when we no longer need its lessons, and new chapters will bring new learning.
The world needs us all. If we are too consumed with a culture of materialism, we will never find time for what is most important in life. This is probably the reason that I am so inspired by minimalism. I hope that maybe just one person considers it too after reading my blog, that would be enough.