I have been doing quite a bit more reading, with the free time that minimalism has granted me. I’ve recently been reading books about minimalism, and how to go about the transition from hoarding, to being free to live simply. One thing that continues to stick out to me, is this idea of measuring our success. To be honest, I lived a life previous to my minimalism, always seeking to look good to those outside of my home. I wanted to make sure everyone knew, that we were living the American Dream. We had a nice house, 2 kids, a dog and a yard littered with toys. I was (and still am) a stay at home mom. We live with only one income, yet my focus was never on making sure we lived only within our means. We didn’t have a great deal of debt, but I continued to try to keep up with the Jones’s. Why?
Why, is the question I have been contemplating lately. Which brings me to a memory that I recently was mulling over in my mind. When I first became a stay at home mom, I met a friend that lived in my town. The two of us had our girls mere days apart. Our girls were destined to be the best of friends. My friend was a teacher but had taken maternity leave through the summer. So naturally we were spending most of our days together. It started with making quick trips to the mall to walk around. I found myself always buying something similar to what my friend had purchased even if I didn’t need it. I thought that in doing this, I was proving to her that I could buy everything I wanted too because my husband had a good job as well. Day after day, we would spend hours, shopping for things we never really needed yet purchased anyway. Why? I believe it is because we fell into the trap of measuring our success.
While my husband has always had a great job, and has been a wonderful provider, that isn’t how we should measure our success. It took me almost 15 years to realize that our jobs, homes, cars and other stuff, shouldn’t be the only measure of our success. What if instead of trying to measure our successes we just lived life simply. Picture this for yourself. You don’t have any pressure to measure up to others. You just lived in a way that made you happy. What would you do? Would you spend your days working on your garden, reading books, playing games with your kids, cooking. writing, exercising…or resting? I believe we have all felt the pressure of trying to advance ourselves in this world. We work hard to keep up with it all. What if we are chasing after the wrong things?
Since choosing to go minimalist, one of the things I have enjoyed the most is reading. I love to read and yet I couldn’t ever find the time to do it. If I did have the time, I felt like I couldn’t fill it with reading, and that I should be doing something more important like laundry, cleaning, or running errands. There was never any down time. That has all changed since choosing minimalism. I believe that the greatest pleasure we get from minimalism is the gift of time.
Over the weekend my kids and I were outside playing. They were riding bikes, making chalk art, and jump roping. My son came and sat down in the chair next to me and said, “this has been a really fun day. I like that we get to play outside so much now.” It hit me then that he may not have realized the benefits of minimalism before but in that moment he connected the dots. I looked at him and responded with “Yeah! Isn’t it great that we have time to just play? We don’t have to run errands or clean the toy room!” He smiled from ear to ear. He realized in that moment that all the time we spent before taking care of all of our stuff left us with little time to get outside and enjoy the day.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that every day will be just play. I don’t want to give you false hope. Here’s the thing though, the fewer things we have to take care of the less time it takes to care for them. Laundry in my home used to take me days to complete. I would have roughly 9 loads a week. I would work tirelessly to get it all done. While you might be thinking, having fewer clothes means more laundry, it doesn’t. I used to ask my kids to bring me all their dirty clothes from their rooms. Most items went into the laundry because it was on the floor. It was on the floor because it had been worn. Whether it was worn for 5 minutes or 10 hours, it ended up in the laundry. WHAT? I know! When we chose to have fewer clothing items, it was like a light bulb went off above my kids heads. They didn’t just throw everything on the floor. Instead they knew they only had 2 pairs of jeans so if the ones they just took off were not dirty they could fold them up and put them back in the drawer! GENIUS! It was all about managing the little they had. They were intentional with what they did with their clothes. (High Five to all the moms and dads out there that do the majority of laundry!)
These are the things that are so freeing. Seeing my kids actions in taking care of what they have. Allowing them to be kids and play. Watching as they make up games and imagine. These were things I took for granted. I thought giving them MORE of everything would make them happier and would make me look like a better mom. Instead it stifled their creativity and imaginative play. It also created kids that were needy and always wanting more. When we chose this lifestyle, I will be the first to say it didn’t hurt them one bit. They embraced this new life with open arms. It was almost as if they were relieved themselves to not have so much excess. It allowed them to see the things that they wanted to play with. They didn’t have to dig through that black hole of the giant Toy Bin to find the one item they were looking for. Instead the most loved items were right there, where they could be front and center.
If you are worried that giving up too much will cause you anxiety, and that you might get rid of something you will need later, try this. Put the items you think you can let go of in a box, place that box somewhere like your garage. Choose a set amount of time such as 30 days to decide. If you needed the item in that time frame then keep it, if you never looked back after packing it away, let it continue it’s journey to donation. While this may be a slower way it can give you some peace of mind knowing that you made the rules. You may just need the reassurance that you are making the right decision.
So let’s go out and live life! Let’s stop measuring our success by our clothes, money, cars, homes, etc. Let’s start living the life we always wanted, intentionally!