Valentines Gift 4

GUEST POST: A More Minimalist Approach

A friend of mine has a really fascinating story about how minimalism has helped streamline their home and simplify their life! 

Thank you Susie for this great post!

“I was born into the Utah foster care state system. Sometimes I was allowed five minutes to pack a bag of items before being rushed off to the next living situation, other times I was only allowed the clothes on my body. The Lord graciously allowed that crazy cycle to slow way down when the Albrights lovingly adopted me when I was 8 ½ years old. The cycle only slowed because the Albrights moved at least every 3 years. Sometimes we moved into a big house and sometimes it was a small house. In preparation for each move, we would have several yard sales and then whatever did not fit into the moving truck was left behind. Because of this, I learned to only have a handful of special things.

Money was never super tight but we did live on a loose budget. My parents taught my siblings (the Albrights adopted 2 more children after me) and I how to take good care of our belongs and how to be good stewards of our finances. Most of our clothes came from a thrift store or were hand-me-downs from a friend. We always had plenty of clothes, food, and things to keep us entertained.

I began attending college shortly after my 17th birthday. I attended 3 semesters, sat out for one to work, and then again for 2 more semesters. During that time I became friends with a wonderful, godly man named Ben who was two years older than myself. In March 2009, Ben’s senior year, he asked me to become his wife. Ben graduated from college in May and I moved in with his grandma during the summer so we could put the final touches on our weddings.

Along with this new stage in our lives, came many, many new possessions through three bridal showers, wedding gifts, and yard sales for extra glass serving dishes. My parents also decided to downsize shortly before our wedding and their gift to us was their possessions (couch set and other furniture, decorations for year around, kitchen items, etc.). These gifts from people who loved us were a huge blessing as we started our new married life together in August.

Less than a month after we got married the Lord allowed me to become pregnant with a sweet little girl. Emily was the first grandchild on both sides of the family and with our growing circle of people who loved us we were given 2 baby showers and tons of just because gifts. By this time our little one bedroom apartment was filled with boxes and boxes of stuff.

In November of 2010 Ben and I bought our first sweat-equity (i.e.-needing a lot of remolding and updating) house. Emily was 6 months old and we just found out we were expecting another little one and along with her came more and more gifts. A week before Hannah was born we had to temporarily move into a furnished 2 bedroom apartment for 2 months while our house was being worked on. We took all of our clothes, toys, books, and musical instruments. The rest went into an in-closed storage trailer in our backyard. The last week in the apartment I had double foot surgery that kept me mostly off of my feet for 8 weeks. The move back into our house was difficult to say the least and for a long time everything from the apartment and the rented storage trailer was just stacked wall-to-wall in our living room.

Slowly, as we were able to, the stuff in the living room found places throughout our house and we were once again able to use our living room. As we remodeled rooms, everything from that room had to be moved into another one. I would organize everything as best as I could so things could function well during the transition. For a long time it drove Ben crazy that he couldn’t find things in his own house because every few months things, out of necessity, had to find new locations. There were many stressful and exhausting hours as we did most of the remolding ourselves, yet still tried to lead a normal life – Ben worked full time, we had two beautiful daughters to raise, we were highly involved in church, we gardened, and we loved spending time with all of the extended family who live in close proximity to us.

With all the wonderful family and friends who loved our family of four, I began dreading birthdays and Christmas because we were always overwhelmed with tons of well-intentioned gifts (and hurt feelings if we returned or got rid of a gift). Those gifts that were meant to be a blessing had become a burden and clutter to us. We tried asking for specific items but often that frustrated the giver. We tried hard to abide by the one-in-one out rule but that just maintained the clutter. I tried organizing it better but that took a lot of time and had very little to show for it. Something needed to change and soon. The clutter was too stressful, the cleaning and maintaining of house took way too much of our time and energy and was pulling us away from the things we wanted to purse- like family and God. Being Christians, we feel that God created us to glorify HIM and that everything we purse and use our time on should be things that in some way draw us closer to God and bring Him glory. I wanted the relationship with my Savior, the Creator of the Universe, that I had before and during college but I could not find the time. Everything else was taking it and I couldn’t even keep up. I spent many moments in prayer begging God for wisdom and direction. I remember many nights asking God to somehow burn our house but keep our family and specific possessions and parts of our house without mar.

In 2013 God lead me to 2 articles that really challenged the way I thought about our family’s possessions. The first was about a woman who had run out of room to store some of her craft items and told her husband that she was planning on purchasing another cute container to house her necessary items. The husband half joking told her that what she really needed to do was purge a few of her unloved craft accessories. The lady took the challenge believing that she could prove her husband wrong, for in her mind, all of the items needed to stay. Working her way quickly through her boxes, she found a great deal of items she no longer wanted. When she was finished she was left with things she enjoyed and extra empty bins to be used somewhere else in her house. The second article was about a lady who had recently lost her parents and was given the responsibly of emptying their house. The process was overwhelming and time consuming. She found their house filled with things but very few of value. Throughout the project the lady learned many things but came to conclusion in her own life she only wanted to keep what she found necessary, beautiful, and she LOVED. So she set out to de-clutter her house and only kept what fit at least two if not all three of those requirements.

Over the last two years I began our journey doing just that. At first it was hard to see what all we had, even though it was “organized”, but as we have remodeled more of the areas in our house and things are began finding their permanent locations, it’s became easier to know what we need/wanted and what was just excess. When I began it was mainly just my personal things, and then things my children outgrew. Slowly that has expanded to things all over the house. I had to remind myself over and over again, “the clutter didn’t get here overnight and it won’t disappear overnight either”. During this time I read more and more articles and posts about de-cluttering and stumbled onto the idea of minimalism. At first I was skeptical but then after a lot of thought and prayer I realized that that is where we were headed and I embraced it. My girls joined in next, and I love that they often bring me things to sell or just pretend to sell things and set up meets. Ben wasn’t fully on board for a long time and if he said something had to stay, then I left it alone and found something else to de-clutter. I did my best not to nag him but rather when he wanted to acquire a new item or hold onto something I would ask him questions like why he wanted to buy said item, will he use it, what was it replacing, how long does he envision it being beneficial, or do we have an item that already serves or can serve that purpose.

Ben still refuses to call our family minimalist but rather “becoming streamlined” and I am fine with that. As you can guess, he is now fully on board with what we do. You see, November 2014 faced us with a professional waterproofing company, EverDry. We already knew the issues and had done tons of previous research. Our basement had moisture issues and with its monolithic foundation it had to be handled correctly. Yes, upfront we could have saved money doing it ourselves or paying a fly-by-night company but chose to wisely invest and fix it correctly the first time so we didn’t’ have to spend a more money and time in the end. While cleaning out the basement in preparation for the company we found many things that had to be thrown away due to mold growing on them. Things that we (mainly Ben) had saved for “just in case”- but in the 4 years we lived in the house “just in case” had never come and now the items were ruined. EverDry fixed our basement in December and now we are excitedly (and very carefully) planning out how to use the space.

Two years ago, cleaning the house was a full time job – literally. I spent hours a day, cleaning, organizing and straightening things. Now – we can clean a really dirty house in 2.5 hours – That includes dishes, laundry, vacuuming, a quick wipe down of both bathrooms, and straightening rooms. How did we cut the hours on the house? One, most of the remolding is done so things have found their permanent locations. Two, we have gotten rid of many possessions. I made it a goal with each room when we emptied it to fix it, I would not bring all of the stuff back in. When we did the kitchen, over half of the items were sold or donated. We now have way more cabinet space than ever before and plenty of extra space.

There are some areas of our house I don’t think will ever be “streamlined” like our books or Ben’s dress ties. And I don’t think we will ever be “extreme minimalists” in that we can easily count our belongings. But I am thankful God lead us every step of the way, that Ben is finally fully on board, and we that are and have de-owned many of our possessions.

Some of the things we did and do to help reduce the clutter in house:

1) Sell clothes and household items on local Facebook sites. We only meet at our house, on the way to where we are going (like at taco bell on the way to grandma’s house, or somewhere we already are (like the parking lot of Walmart). That way we do not waste money on gas and if we have to sit and wait a few minutes in a parked car then we use that time to just talk as a family). In January 2015 alone we have made almost $550.

2) We occasionally have been able to sell items on Craigslist – though we only meet at very public locations and make sure we don’t go directly home because craigslist has been known to be shady (fb can be too if you are not careful) Though regardless, we are in God’s hands

3) We also do short challenges (like get rid of 10 things each day for 6 days or about monthly I round up all the random stuff from all over the house and do a “goodwill give away” where I post on a couple of my local facebook sites saying its free but must be picked up that day at our house).

4) Minimalist shower: we each have our own scrubbies and then make our own shampoo (baking soda + water), conditioner (I use it weekly. its vinegar + water), we buy bars of honey/oil soap (each one lasts almost 2 months and leaves our skin super soft so lotion is very rarely needed) from a local bee farmer. Our neighbor makes her own bars of soaps for pennies each and we have used it but still need lotion afterwards. We keep our bar of soap in a lidded soap dish and wash it out every time the bar is gone.

5) Minimalist laundry: We make our own laundry soap for less than $2. It takes 20 minutes, is unscented, easy on sensitive skin, is comparable to Tide, and lasts our family 14 months. Yes we still occasionally need to treat a spot so we have on stain remover. Also, we use less than 2 tsp of distilled white vinegar for our fabric softener so no dryer sheets our needed. Speaking of the dryer, we only use it to dry towels and socks. Everything else gets hung up. Allowing moisture in the house in the winter, the air dry outside on racks in the summer (take 20 minutes for most clothes), and saving money on utilities.

6) Minimalist cleaning system: distilled white vinegar diluted with water is what we use to clean almost every surface of the inside of our house. At $1.70 a gallon, vinegar lasts us almost 2 months.

Somethings I learned while decluttering:

1) its not a race. There is no complete end because as long as we are alive on this earth we will acquire more possessions and things will eventually need to be replaced.

3)When every item is special then no item is special. Choose your things carefully.

2) When things no longer fit into its designated location (like the games in the game closet), rather than find a way to organize them better – purge them first!

3) There is going to be a casualty or two – something that you regret getting rid of. That’s ok and its part of the process. Take a deep breath and move on. More than likely you will forget you ever owned it or you will find some other item that can handle the causality’s job

4) Time is so precious. Your family is precious.

Because taking care of our house has become less time consuming we have more time for the things we desire to pursue. We have more time to spend in God’s word and prayer, more time with our kids, more time for my husband and I just to enjoy being with each other. We have played way more games, and had more time to talk this year than any of the other years of our relationship. We have been more focused and been able to create a better HOME for our family.”

-Susie

6 thoughts on “GUEST POST: A More Minimalist Approach

  1. Jeanne

    I really this post. You are so right in what you said, that time is precious and should be waisted as little as possible on material things. I always started feeling overwhelmed whenever I owned too much stuff so I never really accumulated nor did I have to do a big purge. We own very little clothes so laundry is quick (and I put a ceramic ball in my washine machine so that I do no have to use any laundry detergent (if it is stained of course, I will add some stain removal but I try to treat the stains directly on the spot whenever possible).
    We live under the roof in a large and sunny one-bedroom appartment with a lot of space and windows. We have a large balconny where we take most of our meals in the summer. We rent from a nice family that live in the rest of the house and we can use half of their beautiful garden. As our family is growing we are thinking of buying a house (the kids – toddlers -now sleep in a corner of the living room behind a curtain), but it is a very hard decision because we love our appartment so much. The kids playing area is in the living room and every days between 4.30 PM and 6 PM, before dinner we are all playing together (I try to have the food ready before that) and it really is a wonderful time for the children to connect with their father.
    Our kids just have a few toys and almost all of them are gifts. We have very generous family and friends so we seldom have to buy clothes or gifts to our children. Last Christmas, we decided not to give any material thing to our children because we knew other family members would give them presents, and guess what? the children did not notice!
    I believe many people think we cannot afford a house or a more practical appartment but that is just not the case. We just really enjoy our simple lifestyle!
    I have one question for you Susie, you mentionned it was sometimes a challenge to manage friends and family members generosity. I have the same problem, while it really provides us with most of what we need for the kids, it is just a little bit too much of it, have you found a solution? I have asked for non material things (like a little trip by train since we do not own a car) but it doesn’t seem to make them as happy to give these kind of gifts…

    Reply
    1. Susie

      Hi Jeanne,
      Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your story. As far as the possibility of buying a house goes, I would consider writing out pros and cons and hang them in a location you see frequently. A house takes a lot more resources to maintain but as your children age, the individuals in your family may want/need more privacy than what is currently given.
      As far as a solution to too many gifts goes, I don’t have a perfect answer. Here are a few things that have helped us:
      1) Time has changed our family. In the last 3 years my girls have 7 new cousins, 2 new uncles, and 3 of the older males in the family have potential spouses. The more family we have in close proximity, the less gifts we are given.
      2) Ben and I sat down with both his and my parents (at different times) and explained to them what we desired for our family (Less stuff, more time); It was difficult but worth it. We explained to them that in a sense, they were wasting their hard-earned money on things we did not need or want.
      3) For certain family members we ask for categories while others we can give them a specific list. We have a couple family members that I feel comfortable asking for receipts.
      4) Our children are on board. When we moved them to bigger beds we got them excited about a new mattress. Whenever someone asked what they wanted for their birthday they replied with, “A mattress”. We still received some gifts that year but many people contributed towards the new mattress.
      5) one year I sent out a private facebook message to family gift givers explaining specific reasons why we were overwhelmed with stuff and would only like said things. Though it did get the message across, it did step on toes a little bit. No one was listening to us before then and I felt it was the only thing I could do.

      With our consistency, our extended family has learned that if we don’t really want it, the gift will not find a home in our house and in turn, they have become better about giving items that they think we will really use. :)

      Reply
      1. Jeanne

        Thanks a lot for your reply Susie, this is very helpful and it gives me a lot of inspiration on how I can adapt your solutions to our family. In our case, I think that what might be really helpful is to take a proactive stance and discuss long in advance with each of the big “donors” (mainly the two sets of grand parents) what they would like to give for the next birthday, Christmas etc…. and see if we can find something that they would enjoy giving and at the same time something that we need and try to get them excited about something useful (i.e. a car seat – even though they generally prefer to give something more fun, by underlining what a powerful gift it is for the safety of their grand children). By the way, I love your idea on how you got your children excited about the mattress! I also got an idea for next Christmas, if I put it really well, explaining our wish for non material things, I might convince them of the beauty of all together paying for the training of a dog for a blind person. It is probably too expensive to pay for all of it, but still that might be exciting! Thanks again!

        Reply
  2. Admin Post author

    Thank you for posting that Susie! You have some great ideas and I found your focus to be convicting. Great outlook!
    Lydia

    Reply
  3. Julane

    If you ever want to make your own spot/stain remover, I found one on another blog I read and have been using it for a few months now. Super easy & cheap, too! 1 part blue Dawn dish soap (the original formula) to 2 parts hydrogen peroxide. Just shake it all up in a spray bottle and use as you would a traditional stain remover. Works GREAT! Some set-in stains need a second treatment, and if it’s really bad (for me, it would be when one of my diapered children has a blowout

    Reply

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