Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Eliminating the "Extras"

My husband and I have wanted to live much more simply.  It is amazing what we have been able to accumulate in our three year marriage.  After visiting a friend in the city, I was in awe at the clean, simplicity of her home.  I went home and excitedly told my husband how much I loved her minimalist condo.  I told him that there wasn't a thing out of place and none of the cupboards were overflowing!

I have always been a bit of a neat freak, but I also like to hold onto things for sentimental reasons.  This is not a fantastic combination, as I have spent a lot of my life "organizing".  My husband isn't a lot better.  He also has a tendency to accumulate.  We each accumulate different things, but our collections take up valuable space in our small home.

When my husband and I got married, we were blessed by the generosity of our family and friends.  For a couple that had mostly hand-me-down dishes and dollar store items, this was like hitting the jackpot!  Our loved ones truly went all out.  We were so fortunate to receive a really good set of pots and pans, baking-ware and bed sheets.  We also acquired an assortment of kitchen gadgets, towels, utensils and cookbooks.

Our first home was a 525 square foot mobile home.  We could not squeeze even a quarter of our gifts into our tiny home!  We stored most our gifts in my childhood bedroom at my mom and dad's house.  We bought our next home six months later and it felt like a mansion!  925 square feet and a basement!  My mom was as excited to get our items out of her home as we were to use our new treasures. And so began a whole new level of accumulation.

A lot of what we keep is out of guilt.  It is so difficult to let go of items that people you love have spent money on.  It is also difficult to get rid of something that is useful.  We received many duplicates of baking-ware, but I decided that it was best to store it all in the cold room.  There is no way that I would use fifteen baking dishes in my lifetime, but the dishes were brand new.  I thought that I may need them "just in case".

Over time, our mountain of stored objects grew.  I started to run out of room in our cold room.  Instead of cleaning it out, I asked my handy hubby to build me some shelves.  I quickly filled those shelves. I managed to take over the closets in our spare room, as well.

I will say this: I am not a hoarder.  You might think so from my descriptions, but I am actually on par with a lot of my friends and family.  In some instances, I own a lot less than those around me.  My husband and I were just beginning to "outgrow" our two bedroom bungalow.  Or so I thought...

Several different "moments" led me to want to adopt a minimalist lifestyle.  My husband and I decided that we wanted to start a family.  I started to consider the fact that the spare bedroom would someday belong to a little person who would need room for his or her own things.  My visit to my friend's condo left a spark, as well.  I was astonished at the calm feeling of her home.  Our things were starting to suffocate me.  I was lucky that around the same time, my husband started to feel the same way.

We began to purge.  I was not prepared for the feeling of freedom that accompanied our elimination.  We took two Jeep loads to a second hand store in a neighbouring town.  The profits from the second hand store supports a women's shelter in the town.  We are on our third sweep of the house and it has come down to only keeping the items that we truly use or love.  Those are the criteria.  Pair of shoes that I like the look of but can't wear for more than an hour?  Donate.  Three extra spatulas? Donate.  Awesome DVDs that we no longer watch?  Donate.

My husband and I have pared down our items, considerably.  I only own one spatula and one cheese grater.  I have downsized my shoe collection and nearly eradicated my C.D. collection.  I have donated my books to my local library where they will be read and enjoyed.  My closet only holds clothes that I wear on a regular basis.

The things that we own are not supposed to weigh us down.  No one has ever given a loved one a gift, hoping that it will collect dust in the receiver's basement.  Once my husband and I realized that our unused items still may hold value for someone else, the guilt that we felt lifted.  We all know the old cliche "money can't buy happiness".  I am not one for cliches, but this one holds true.  True happiness lies in our experiences, our relationships with one another, our ability to help those around us and our belief in something greater than ourselves.  It is a disservice, not only to ourselves but to those around us, to allow things to take up too much space in our lives.

 I hope to explore our foray into minimalism on this blog, as well as the other ways that my husband and I try to maintain a peaceful lifestyle.  I would love to hear your ideas and experiences.  Thanks for reading!


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