Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed cleaning out and organizing. I was intentional about my living space.
Growing up I would re-arrange my room over and over trying to find the perfect layout.
I helped friends clean out and organize their rooms so that they could come out to play. A task that they found a chore, I thoroughly enjoyed.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized that I could deviate from the norm and not do things the way everyone else did.
When our first baby was born we skipped the crib and changing table, opting instead for a montessori style room and furniture that would last a lifetime.
After welcoming our fourth baby in six years, I felt completely ovewhelmed by stuff. We have a large family that cares about us, and they showered our kids in toys.
There are so many milestones hit in those first years, we had boy and girl clothes for all of the sizes and seasons, newborn play mats and toddler activities.
My husband was extremely fortunate to be working for a company at the time that offered paternity leave. He was able to stay home for a few weeks and I was able to jump start our path towards minimalism.
Organizing wasn’t enough.
Letting go is what makes the difference.
It is a Way of Life
After that first large round of cleanup, we have completed many more over the years. In January 2018, we did a 10,000 things challenge. As a family, we went through the house and removed 10,000 items.
As the kids grow out of clothes and toys we are able to donate them instead of storing them “just in case.”
The biggest change is a result of reducing the volume of what comes in.
This is an ongoing process as our home is not static, things flow in and flow out. I have written about how we handle paper clutter here, we try to cull any junk mail before it comes in the door at all.
Being intentional has extended beyond the items in our home.
I also focus on intentional living when we sign up the kids for activities, or rsvp to invites. Keeping margin in our schedule to breathe.
We leave room for spontaneity, or a relaxing evening watching a movie together in our pjs. This is one of the kid’s favorite treats right now, I’m not sure what it is about pjs, but they love to get cozy and snuggle up with a blanket, regardless of the time of year.
Being free of the weight of excess stuff had allowed us to live a life that is so much more free.
Keeping What Truly Matters
“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of almost everything”-John Maxwell
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown is one of my favorite books to revisit. It helps me center on the vital few, and release the trivial many.
As we were cleaning out The Palace, I couldn’t help but recognize the reality staring us in the face.
This woman has six children, a dozen grandchildren, and at least a dozen great-grandchildren. Yet, all of this stuff remained.
Stuff that was deemed important enough to keep at one point; perhaps time and time again. Stuff from a lifetime of raising a family. Massive piles of things that were simply left to be discarded.
The good stuff was taken along. This stuff, had not made the cut.
Realistically, all of the remaining belongings would have more than packed the 12’x22′ garage from floor to ceiling if we had compiled them all. This doesn’t include the 8 outside chairs, hot tub, 2 tables, couch, and grill. Not to mention the tin shed in the back that was full of belongings as well.
It was all left behind.
Shed, to allow a new beginning in a new home.
With this perspective in mind, I am reminded to hold on only to the great. The things that pass the test.
When assessing belongings around the house I ask myself:
1. Do I use this? (Things are only useful if we use them)
2. Do I need this?
3. Would I go out and buy this if I didn’t have it already?
4. Would this be something I would pack up and take to our new life if we were to move?
Similarly when looking at our schedule I ask myself:
1. Do I want to do this?
2. Is it important to do? (Do I want to take all four kids to the dentist at 7:30am? No. But is it important? YES!)
3. Is this something I will regret saying yes to when the day of the activity arrives?
4. Does this further our goals as a family?
If it doesn’t meet the criteria, let it go, RSVP no, or skip the sign up. And do it without guilt. What an empowering thing it is to be able to say “no” and know that while it may be a good option, it is not a great option, and we want only the best.
Greg talks about keeping your running average high. When out shopping, if the item isn’t a 10, it’s going to bring your closets’ average down.
Similarly with engagements, activities that you rsvp’d “yes” for, but are dreading, bring your free time average down.
Aim for a ten, let go of the good options in order to leave room for the great.
As a family we strive to be healthy, love one another, and have time to enjoy one another’s company.
We are working towards early retirement (FIRE movement) and so sometimes we spend time cleaning out trash and doing our own demo work at an investment property. It’s not the most fun thing in the moment, but it is getting us closer to our overarching goal. As a bonus, we get to do it together.
We wouldn’t be making this progress without being intentional about our living.
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