I Guess I'm A Minimalist Now

September 19, 2018

How It Started

I’ve never been a tidy person. I’m not very organized when it comes to my desk, my house or my car. To be honest: this hasn’t ever really bothered me even though I’d prefer it were better. Then I started to work from home and things changed, a lot.

Suddenly, those shelves crammed with junk I hadn’t touched in months really bothered me. Previously, I only had to deal with my clutter during the short few hours at home in the evening with my family and that barely provided enough time to think, much less worry about cleaning! Now that I was at home most of the week, lunch time was often frustrating because I wanted to feel comfortable and relaxed but I was bothered by the mess. I wondered “are we messy people?” For a while, it really bugged me and I spent a lot of free time cleaning and reorganizing to no avail. Then, somehow I stumbled upon minimalism. Please, if you don’t know what minimalism is, read that before continuing. I’m not going to give a great explanation at all and it’s a very in depth topic.

It sounds weird but I felt like my eyes had been opened. For years, I’ve struggled with not being organized and to be candid, being deeply in debt despite being gainfully employed for many years. After reading and watching everything I could on minimalism, I felt stupid for all that I owned. Most of these things meant nothing to me and oddly enough, the ones that I really valued, lost value because I had multiple of them. (I’m looking at you Oakley sunglasses collection!)

I’ve constantly wanted a smaller place and fewer things but for some reason, I never really took action on that. Minimalism was the answer to a lot of my questions. I can simplify my life including finances, wardrobe and family life? These people may be on to something…

At this point I didn’t think, I didn’t plan, I just started ripping my house to pieces. I started in my office, I wanted to make sure that I had a calm space to work in everyday. It was also an easy target as almost all of the office was “mine” so I didn’t have to discuss anything with my wife first. Within two days, I had taken out 4 trash bags worth of things and 3 boxes to go for donation and I felt amazing!

What “rules” did I follow? If it doesn’t spark joy or it wasn’t absolutely required, it was gone! If I had more than 1 of something, there had to be a really good reason and 2 of something was almost unthinkable.

Miranda asked me about what was going on and I gave a very short answer about these “crazy minimalist guys” and that I thought it would make me happier. Being the loving wife that she is, she didn’t make fun but simply smiled and said “you do you baby”. I didn’t try and push it on her and she didn’t push back.

The office was a great start but I wanted more! The next Saturday Miranda was kind enough to take the kids out while I slept in a bit. When I got up, I made some tea and immediately started decluttering my closet. By the time they came home, I was down to 20 things hanging in my closet, all my drawers had been “minimized”, and there was nothing on my nightstand or dresser. I was loving it!

This is when it really became fun: without a word, Miranda came in and started doing the same to her closet! She didn’t say a word, just started clearing with reckless abandon. She would perk up and ask questions here and there: “Is there a reason we should keep this?” or “Are you OK if I get rid of this?”. She even encouraged our son Zach to fill a bag with some of his old toys to give away. it seems that within a couple weeks we went from “minimalism, what is that?” to “So…I guess we’re minimalists”.

How’s It Going

That was about 2 months ago. Since then, we have made 6 trips to the donation center with my truck packed to the brim and more trips to the dump than I’d like to admit. We’ve also sold a multitude of things on craigslist. We’ve cleared about 50% of our house and we’re still going strong. Some of our major milestones so far:

How’s It’s Changed Things

Unfortunately, I can’t see the color blurple yet, but wow, I’m loving this change. Our house stays clean, it’s amazing! It take so little effort to clean when you have fewer things. For the first time ever, we went out of town and returned to a clean house. OH MY SWEET LORD, DO YOU KNOW HOW GREAT THAT FEELS?! It was so nice!

It’s eased some tensions in our marriage as well. When you’re on the same page of “we don’t need things”, it really helps with discussing finances. We know where our values stand and it’s not in our material possessions. We thought we knew that before but our spending disagreed. The house being cleaner has also made things calmer for both us and the kids.

It’s calmed my ADHD a lot. I’ve struggled with my focus for a long time and having fewer things has calmed that down significantly. There are fewer things to distract me and in general I’m more calm. Combining minimalism with a regular meditation routine has allowed me to make massive improvements there. It hasn’t cured or even solved the problem but it’s improving and that’s my goal.

Travel suddenly became easier. Once you’ve learned that you don’t need as much at home, packing a bag is super simple. You know exactly what you use everyday and those “just in case” items aren’t necessary.

I’ve also changed a lot of personal habits and minimized my life outside of clutter. I’ve removed a ton of apps on my phone and I spend significantly less time there. I’ve replaced almost all “mindless screen time” with reading instead. I also spend a lot more time just playing with the kids.

It has curbed our spending a lot. We now have a few questions to ask ourselves:

I’m also a lot more willing to return items I’ve purchased and I’m not 100% happy with.

What’s Next

At best, we’ve covered 50% of our house but that’s probably a bit on the generous side. I plan on making another pass through the office and the kitchen. The next big task is the kids room and toys. We’ve avoided it for a while because I don’t want to make a rash decision without thinking it through when it comes to them. I’ve been reading Simplicity Parenting and it’s given me some great insights and we’re ready to make the big change there as soon the grandparents take the kids for a weekend.

My Goals

My goals for minimalism are pretty simple: I want to do more with less. I don’t want to work 5 days a week, I’d like to work 4 and be able to spend another day focusing on my family or community efforts. That’s a long way off but I’m spending a lot more time now doing things that will prepare me for the future. I would like to be able to live in a smaller home than we have now. I love our home but it’s nice to know that you can go anywhere and be comfortable. I’d also like to be able to travel as a family more. I want to spend more of my time at home focusing on my family and not my things.

For now I’m enjoying the peace that comes from having fewer things in our home. I’m also enjoying watching our debt go down quickly since we’re on track. Our home feels calm and clean and that’s amazing.

Discussion, links, and tweets

I'm a Senior Software Engineer at Heroku

Follow me on Twitter. I rarely post anything but it can't hurt to try.