This year, I'm not just spring cleaning, I'm life cleaning. I have this incredible urge to simplify.
Several years ago when my children were small and my husband was leaving us for 6-months stretches in the Navy, I read the little book, Simplify Your Life. I love that book. It became a life goal for me to do many, if not most, of the things in that book.
So I became a minimalist. I decided that rather than seeing furniture, clutter, and stuff everywhere, I wanted to see empty surfaces. I wanted to see the place where the wall meets the floor. I wanted to see drawers that weren't stuffed so tightly they wouldn't shut. I wanted to see empty shelves; or at least a couple of empty ones.
But not only did I have three small children, I was married to a man who likes to keep everything. Every book, every receipt, every piece of clothing, and everything that has any kind of memory attached to it, no matter how small.
And in his defense, I was brought up in a house that was so big, we didn't need to get rid of anything ever. Like my husband, I was taught to put sentimental value on things. This is something I urge every parent NOT to do to their children. All it will do is make them crazy when they grow up to have children of their own and those children either break or lose all the important items; or worse, they are not interested in them in the least.
So although I became a minimalist, I was really only a minimalist on the INSIDE. I had a vision of how I wanted my life and my home to be, but I didn't know how to get there.
At about the same time that I developed this minimalistic desire, I also began homeschooling. With homeschooling, many of my other life goals were put on hold for about a dozen years. During those years, they stewed and marinated and became richer and better.
And then when I put my kids in school this past fall, suddenly, I HAD TO GET RID OF ALL THE CRAP.
The hard part is that so much of the CRAP belongs to my husband and my son (who, by the way, took on and mutated his father's need to keep, save, and collect everything.)
Since last fall, I have been plodding through the delicate, slow, and sometimes infuriating task of going through stuff. Stuff in our closets, under our beds, in our drawers, and most frighteningly, stuff in our basement. We didn't have a basement before we moved to Maine; in California, we kept all our "stuff" in a one-car garage. And it wasn't even full.
Fast forward to a house with a two-car garage, a full basement, and many more years worth of accumulated stuff, and here we are with a minimalist's nightmare. Yes, the minimalist would be me, and the nightmare is trying to get my husband and my son to part with their beloved (albeit useless) stuff. (They hate it when I call it crap.)
I might add here that my youngest daughter is a delightful minimalist who attaches no sentimental value to things - only to people, laughter, and ideas. She will get rid of everything, even the clothes on her back - as long as she has us, her friends, her cat, and her basketball. My middle daughter is caught somewhere in between. She is a neat-freak, but puts great sentimental value on everything.
As I write this out, I realize that one place in my life I might need to begin is by developing a minimalistic use of words.
I have made great progress, but I still have a long way to go. To date, the biggest success for me is that I have gotten rid of most of my clothing. I only have about a week's worth of winter clothes and a week's worth of summer clothes. Really. I mostly wear jeans and dark, solid colored shirts. I have a few sweaters, vests, and scarves to mix and match, but that's it.
As I went through clothing, I found so many things I thought I might want one day. ONE DAY. The fact is, if I didn't wear it in one year's time, I probably wasn't going to wear it ever. So out it went.
Next I went through kitchen utensils the same way. So many neat items that I was never going to use. Then it was Christmas decorations. All holiday decorations. Do we really need to decorate for every single holiday? I also got rid of all our VHS movies and so many of the DVDs, as we are now subscribing to Netflix. I also got rid of most of our CDs, as most of our music is now on our computer. Gotta love that.
I should also add that my dear husband is making progress as well. He will never part with his comic book collection, and we still have the 1970s era, orange and brown Don Quixote painting that truly is an eye-sore, but that's ok. Baby steps, you know?
The one place he and I both struggle is in getting rid of books.
Tune in next time and I will talk to you about all my books. And photos. I feel nauseous just bringing it up.
Copyright © 2009 - Paulla Estes