Moments before my 39th birthday I bought a book by Joshua Becker called, “The More of Less.”
As an incentive to buy his new book, he was offering his $89 dollar course on decluttering for free! EIGHTY NINE DOLLARS! I thought. Who on earth would spend that kind of money on an internet course on decluttering! I was quite sure there was nothing new he could tell me or offer me through this book or his course for that matter. I have read it all. (I would like to pause here to share a picture of all of the decluttering books I already had, except I recently gave them all away!! True story. But I am getting ahead of myself.) Since it was my birthday, I figured I could splurge on an $11 chance that this might be the one trick that really works. So I bought the book, and with it came the free course.
However, once I started reading the book, I found myself getting frustrated that I was reading instead of cleaning, because with 5 children if I stop cleaning for 5 minutes the house looks like an episode of Hoarders! I considered putting the book away. I mean, do I really need to read 222 pages of “Get rid of your stuff”? I get it. But since I kind of like rules, I decided to press on. However, I expressed my dilemma to my new Uncluttering Facebook friends (part of the course) and they told me there was an audiobook! I bought it instantly, and finished it in two-three days. The bonus to the audiobook was being able to listen in the car WITH MY KIDS.
And this is what I learned. I NEEDED EVERY PAGE OF THAT BOOK. Why? Because we are constantly inundated with the exact opposite of minimalism every day of our lives. The reality is that you have no idea how profoundly you have been affected by consumerism until you slowly peel back the layers and ask hard “why” questions. It is only then you can see how many of our knee jerk reactions are stemming from a lifetime of consumeristic indoctrination.
In Josh’s course, each week you receive an email with a video and an assignment, and I have to be real here. I didn’t always do the exact assignment. I know I said I like rules, but I am also a woman, and perfectly able to change my mind mid-blog. I kind of decluttered at my own pace, but his videos were so powerful and thought provoking that it didn’t matter if I did the exact project. He offers fresh perspective and will challenge your long held beliefs about what is valuable.
The Facebook group was so empowering. Sometimes I was annoyed by it because the constant posts were “cluttering” up my newsfeed, but then other times the encouragement to get off my butt and clean out a draw was just what I need to see in that moment. It was also a place to get the “attagirl” I really needed. The truth is that you really won’t get that from the majority of people. While most of your aquaintances are getting more and buying bigger, it is immensely comforting to have a group of people encouraging you to buy less and get rid of more!
Strangely, I was met with more resistance from the outside world than I expected.
“Are you sure you want to give that away?”
“What if you need that?”
“But that belonged to someone you love!”
Add to that, my own personal resistance. I had all of those same doubts myself! I didn’t need more people confirming my fears. I needed people to come along side me and tell me I could do without it and then tell me how they did it too! I was desperate. I was tired of organizing my stuff. I now knew that what I needed was to get rid of it. I want to spend time with my children, not with their stuff. I would spend hours organizing their toys, folding their 15 pairs of shorts, or washing their 30 cups!
So I did just that. I went through every item of clothes in my closet and drawers, and so did the kids. As God would have it, I just lost a bunch of weight, so I made the crazy decision to get rid of anything that doesn’t fit me now or belong in this decade! I got radical in the kitchen. Each child got a one cup. Gone are the days of washing 30 cups at the end of the night. I bagged them up and put them in the garage as a test run. I gave away at least 5 bookcases, a china cabinet, two armchairs, a dresser, and multiple bags of clothing, toys and books. Here’s the things. I always thought we were minimalists. Compared to other families, our kids had very few toys. We live in a small house, so there was just no way we could have a lot of stuff. Comparatively that is. But that was one of my major problems. Comparing us to other people. Instead I needed to compare the stuff we had to the room we have, and that was not minimalist at all. But beyond getting rid of the stuff, the biggest game changer was getting rid of “stuff holders.” Previously I would scan every garage sale for those rubbermaid drawer containers, sterilite bins, and bookcases to contain all my stuff. I was running out of wall space and found creative ways to squeeze more stuff holders all over our house. Then during this course I told my mom I had emptied out and given away two sets of rubbermaid drawers, only to see concern on her face. “Where are you going to put your stuff??” She asked. “That’s just it! I don’t want more stuff!” As long as I kept the stuff holders, I will just keep filling them back up.
Before this course I dreamed of a bigger house, but now I find it easy to be content. Less to clean, they say, right? 🙂 Yet I am happy to say that we now actually have more room, and our house literally feels bigger.
The bad news is that I didn’t finish. I went through many books,papers, clothing items and more, but a summer vacation and now homeschooling has thwarted my progress. The good news is that I can take the course again! Free! In fact I can take it as many times as I need!
Because of this course I have found freedom in ways I never thought possible. You may think you can never change. Maybe you even tried this course once and didn’t find freedom. One of my favorite movie scenes is between Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz in “My Best Friends Wedding.” Trying to convince Cameron that she is all wrong for the prospective groom, Julia tells her that the groom needs “jello,” but Cameron is “Creme’ Brûlée.”
“I CAN BE JELLO!!” Cameron declares. But Julia counters with, “Creme’ Brûlée can NEVER BE JELLO!” Maybe you feel like you too can never change. I know I often do…except unlike Cameron, I am definitely Jello. And more than once I have looked up to the heavens and declared to God, “I can never be Creme’ Brûlée!” Until one day I heard a still small voice in my spirit say, “But you are forgetting Who I am. Don’t you know that I can turn water into wine?” And I knew in that moment that He also had the power to change me. One of my favorite songs is “I’m not who I was” by Brandon Heath. I know that to be true. I may have a long way to go, but I truly thank God that I’m not who I was.
So I decided to tell everyone that I’m a minimalist. And that is basically how I became one. When my children ask for something in the store, one of the siblings will remind them, we’re minimalists. (which is infinitely more fun then saying we don’t have the money!) They even remind me! Stopping to look at a sale rack one day I was reprimanded by my 7 year old son who explained to me “We’re mimimists mom…keep walking…were minimists.” It’s amazing the power our words can have. I had convinced them we were minimalists too!
Please know, however, that if you just bought more and bigger, this is not me “shaming” you. This is me experiencing freedom in a way I have desperately needed my whole life, and simply wanting to share that with anyone that needs it. And if that is you, I highly recommend this course. Right now you can even use the code FF25 to get 25% off at http://my.becomingminimalist.com The deadline to sign up is Sept. 4th.
Knowing what I know now, I would gladly pay for this course. It is worth every penny. Literally. While decluttering, I found money! I also found items I had planned to buy. But beyond the monetary value, the sheer freedom from being buried under stuff is priceless! And if you need someone to do it with you, count me in! I am going back for seconds!
I will conclude with a couple before and afters shots and pictures of some of what we gave away:
And some of our giveaways:
(In the spirit of full disclosure, I LOVED many of the following pieces, and truly wrestled with giving them away. But at the end of the day, I love my family and sanity more! Hooray! So I fought through the anxiety and fear of getting rid of stuff and haven’t regretted it one bit. As Dr. Zasio from Hoarders always says, “You can still love your dear deceased Uncle, even if you get rid of whatever he gave you.” And the irony is, that in giving away one of our beautiful family pieces, we got a visit from a family member that drove 11 hours to come get it since they,unlike us, had the space for it in their house. And since we had gotten rid of so much stuff, we actually had room for them to stay with us when they came to get it.)
The chair, not the child! 😉