DOWNSIZING OUR HOME AND EMBRACING MINIMALISM

September 27, 2017

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A year ago I had never really heard of minimalism. Even though I didn’t know it was a “thing”, a desire for a simpler life and home was placed in my heart. I was still struggling with postpartum depression and was slowly making it through the hardest year of my life. Our second daughter was a really tough baby – like crying and screaming nonstop (we eventually found out it was a milk allergy) and not sleeping through the night until 13 months. Between caring for her, our toddler, and trying to keep up with the house, I was drowning. It was a very eye opening year. As we entered spring of this year, things were starting to ease up a little. I realized I never wanted to feel stretched thin like that again. I wanted to be able to enjoy my family and all of the small things in life. I started making notes of things that would help me accomplish that goal.

After our girls would go to bed, Ryan and I would sit on the couch and throw around the idea of downsizing our home. For the first few months, Ryan was NOT on board. He kept saying our house wasn’t that big and truly believed we needed all of the space. Our current house is 3500+ sq ft – it has two floors and a full unfinished basement. Ryan’s dream was to finish the basement, but even unfinished, we fully utilized the space. The thing is, we LOVE our neighborhood and neighbors. Even if we finally agreed to a smaller home, we couldn’t fathom leaving our friends. But I hated cleaning all of the time. I hated that our weekends were spent doing chores and yard work. It was an internal battle that I struggled with for the next 5 months.

In September, an article introduced me to minimalism and it grabbed ahold of my heart. Our girls were sick for a few weeks, so I used the time to begin purging…and that is what initially snowballed into our family embracing minimalism. In the weeks that followed, Ryan got a sudden job offer in Nashville. We began to see that my crazy purging was a huge blessing that would make packing a lot easier. We went to Nashville to look for a house and eventually decided that we wanted to build. We found a great lot – but the house was going to be big again. I had been praying that we would know what house was meant for us, and in my heart, I didn’t feel like this was right. But it was the best thing that we had found in the area that we thought we wanted to be in. As we drove back from Nashville, Ryan said “I wouldn’t be heartbroken if this house fell through”. Immediately I knew we were on the same page. I think you should be in love (or at least excited!) about a new house if you are planning to stay in it 10 years. We immediately pulled out of the house. For the first time, Ryan was open to getting a smaller house. The thing that really got him on board was the possibility that he could have a 5 minute commute. The initial house was going to be a 45-60 minute drive both ways.

My selling points on a smaller house (it will be close to downtown) were:
· short commute which equals more family time, more sleep and less stress/wasted time
· no more weekends full of yard work (the yards are very small)
· more time exploring and enjoying the city
· more likely to enjoy the city because of how close we will be
· save money from smaller house, smaller utilities, less stuff

I am so excited to share that we found the neighborhood that we will be living in! The closing date on our current home will determine which Nashville house we settle on, but they are all between 1500-2000 sq ft. Ryan still wants to consider closer to 2000, but I will be pushing for 1500. There are typically no basements, attics or garages for storage, so everything we have will be in the living areas of the house. We will no longer have “extra” rooms – we’ve agreed on a 3 bedroom house and none of them have formal dining rooms that you can “flex” into another space. I want to mention that I am not trying to say that downsizing to a smaller house is right for everyone. Every individual and family is different. We all have different goals. In order to have the peace that I longed for, I knew I needed to be responsible for less “stuff”. Our “stuff” was suffocating me. It was stealing precious moments of snuggling with my girls and husband. It was causing boredom and lack of creativity in my children. With less things to maintain and wash and care for, I could finally embrace the things I longed to focus my attention on.

For anyone contemplating downsizing – it can be pretty overwhelming. I’ve gone through every area of our home 4 to 5 times. My advice is to pick an area and get rid of anything obvious. Clothing is a great place to start. My first round through our closets I could easily set aside anything with holes or stains or shrinkage. The next round I set aside things that sit there, but we never really wear anymore. The final round was through my clothes again, since I was still holding onto a lot “just in case”. These rounds took place over a month. After each one I would continue purging other areas of the house and then come back and revisit each one. This really helped me become more “brutal” and serious as I kept coming back to items. Did they really bring me joy? Do I really use them? Am I just keeping them out of some sort of emotional tie?

I ended up purchasing two 50 packs of space saving hangers. My goal was to give myself 40 hangers and Ryan 60 (since he has a lot of work clothes). I told myself that from here on out, 40 hangers is all I have, so if I want something new, something else has to go.

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I was surprised that I even had a few of the 40 hangers left after everything was hung! I do have a drawer for pajamas, underwear, pants, and workout gear. I also took things that were out of season and placed them in an underbed storage bag. Ryan and I share one and the girls share another.

downsizing-2

This was a huge area in our home to purge. We’ve moved 8 times in 6 years and lived in every climate imaginable. I even found clothes from when I was still in college! The second biggest area was toys. Holy cow we had a ton of toys. A basement is a blessing and a curse. Yes, I kept it very organized, but it allowed me to hold onto A LOT of material possessions. We come from families who love giving gifts. After addressing the obnoxious amount of toys in our home, Ryan and I committed to a minimalist christmas gift plan for the future. We had three unused IKEA dressers in our basement that housed toys. I also had toys on the other two floors of our home. I plan to share in detail how I weeded through everything, but in the end, this is all that is left.

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I say that, but there is a surprising amount of things in these tubs. I went through the toys numerous times over the past month. I sold what I could and donated the rest. I found that I was holding on to a lot of things that I thought were “awesome toys”, yet the girls never played with. Besides what you see, the girls still have dolls and books in their room, a dollhouse and a play kitchen. We also keep a large amount of books on various shelves throughout the house. Once I removed the excess toys, the girls’ attention spans increased dramatically. I focused on keeping toys that I’ve noticed they “pretend” with.

This has been something that has taken a great deal of work, but I am so excited. Getting rid of excess has given me a sense of freedom and feels like an enormous burden lifted off my chest. We truly only tried to sell a few things to a consignment shop. Everything else we have given away. This is not to toot our own horns, but meant to share the amazing ways that the Lord works when you open yourself to freely blessing others. Last month I said a prayer that we could bless people who needed it by putting all of our things on Facebook. The next morning at 9am there was a line of people at our front door. As I sat and talked to people while they looked through our belongings, stories began to pour out, and I knew my prayer had been answered. One family had two grown children and just found out that they were going to be blessed with an unplanned baby. They were also about to move to Africa for mission work and had nothing. We were able to give them a carseat and a ton of other items that would ease the unexpected financial cost of their surprise baby. There were so many things that people shared with me that day, and those stories definitely eased any sentimental attachment I had left for our things.

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