I was a very unwilling convert to minimalism.
It wasn’t trendy to be minimalist when I began my journey and blogs were just starting to talk about it. The KonMari method was years away from reaching American shores. Tiny houses weren’t a thing.
So I learned minimalism on my own and in a rather unconventional sort of way. And only because I had to.
My husband, Ryan, and I moved to Hungary in 2009 and because it would have been outrageously expensive to ship boxes, we only brought what we could fit in two fifty pound suitcases and two carry-ons each.
I agonized over each item I packed and questioned each item I decided to leave behind. And I cried. A lot. What made it more difficult was we hoped this move would be permanent, that we stay in Europe forever. So we wanted to take things that were meaningful and would make our new country feel like home.
As it turned out, moving back to North America was in our future.
In June 2011, with a seven-month-old Audrey and a dog, we temporarily moved to Oregon and then left for Ottawa, Canada in August.
That’s right. We moved internationally twice in one summer.
And as I packed I cried. A lot. But not as much as we when we moved to Hungary or moved back. I was starting to think more intentionally about what I bought, to let go of more clothes, and to only keep memorabilia that was truly meaningful.
A year and a half later, this time with a two-year-old and a six-month-old, we moved back to Oregon.
And I didn’t cry. I stressed and had some minor meltdowns, but I didn’t cry. I was learning to let go, to trust that God would provide what we needed when we needed it, and that life truly was better when we only had what we needed.
So when, after a year and a half in Oregon, it was time to pack to move to Macedonia I was ready. My skills were honed and I was all set to once more, and hopefully for the last time, move our family to a new country in suitcases.
I didn’t even stress. And I swore I would never move in suitcases again.
When I unexpectedly found myself packing everything back into suitcases six months later it only took a few hours.
That was two years ago and for most of those two years our family of five has lived in 2-bedroom, 800-square foot home – that’s ⅓ the size of the average American home.
I would like to say that I was all noble and intentionally chose a small home to live in because I was so sold on the idea of minimalism that I completely embraced it. Truth is it was all we could afford.
But the skills I learned in packing our family into suitcases and purging our belongings on a regular basis have served me well. Our family thrives in our small space we’ve intentionally chosen not to move to a larger space, though now we could.
So now I not only have the skills to be minimalist, I have the conviction to make the hard choice to pursue minimalism even when I don’t have to.
For me, minimalism means:
- I spend my time on what matters to me, not managing my stuff
- I spend my money on what matter to me, not on stuff I don’t need
- I spend my mental energy on what matters to me, not being bogged down by too much stuff
- I can discern when I need to say ‘yes’ and when I need to say ‘no’ to something
- I have the authority to fill my home and life with truth, beauty, and goodness and not stuff that will move me away from what matters to me
For the record, this is not what minimalism means to every other person. This is what minimalism means to me and how I see our particular brand of minimalism positively impacting our family. I would prefer to use another word than ‘minimalism’ because there are families out there who live way more minimally than we do. But until I find a more appropriate word, this is my working definition of minimalism and this is what I mean when I write about minimalism on this blog.
When I started to think about writing again the topic that I got most excited about, and what ultimately got me to start writing, is minimalism. I love the freedom it’s brought to my life and how it’s allowed me to focus my time, money, and energy on what truly gives me life and I want to share what minimalism has taught me with you.
Not that I expect everyone else to convert to minimalism – because frankly I might need to host an event at your larger home or to borrow something that I have decided I don’t use enough to make it worth keeping around.
What I do hope is that what I share challenges you to think about how you live your life because we all need to examine why we live the way we do. And when we live our own life in the best way we know how the world is a better place.