Monday, May 2, 2016

How I Started my Minimalism Journey

Have you ever done something thinking, "well, it would be nice if that happened," but having no idea that it might actually become reality?

When I saw the call for writers for a Chicken Soup for the Soul book focused on de-cluttering, paring down and minimalism, I was intrigued. My inspiration for the story, which ended up being published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less came from an experiment I did two years ago ~ to my closet.

But let me back up a little bit.

The Cause of My Minimalism Journey

In 2011, we moved from an 1,800 foot house in a semi-rural area to a 1,400 foot house in the
"suburbs" (if Vermont had suburbs that is). It wasn't a drastic loss of square-footage and there are only three of us in our little family. But MAN did it feel like it! The layout of the new house is a lot different. Whereas before we enjoyed a very open floor plan with tons of windows, this house is much boxier (a Colonial style). There are an average amount of windows but the entire front half of the house faces north and gets no sun.

Anyway, we sold/donated about 1/3 of our stuff (at least) before moving. Still, our new place felt cramped and cluttered. Here's something you may relate to: do you find that you aren't a stickler for cleaning incessantly but are driven mad by clutter? I cannot rest if I'm in a cluttered space. When my son was a baby, I spent his nap times running around the house like a crazy woman putting stuff away. Of course, then I was tired out when he woke up, but it was worth it to have a space that was free of visible chaos ... at least for a while.

The Start of my Minimalism Journey

My parents and sisters likely find it hilarious that I was published in this book. Growing up, I was not the kid with a neat and tidy bedroom. I was a collector, a gatherer, a creative and I really, really struggled with letting go of things. I was afraid if I gave away a certain stuffed animal that it would be heartbroken. I was worried that if I gave away a fancy hat or bottle of perfume (I loved to play dress up and was inspired by the 1800s), I'd never find one just like it again.

In 2014, however, I came across a blog called Be More with Less. The author, Courtney Carver, shared so much inspiration and influenced me so strongly that I simply had to give her Project 333 a try. Project 333 is basically this: you pare down your wardrobe to 33 items (including shoes, accessories and jewelry but not workout clothes, pajamas or underthings) and live with only those items for three months.

I was half-excited and half-terrified. I love new-ness in any form: moving the furniture around for a different look in the house, new art supplies, new books, new magazines, new ideas, new foods, new places to explore ... new things inspire me. Even though I buy nearly 95 percent of my clothes secondhand, what would it be like to give up 90 percent of my wardrobe? Wouldn't I hate having to wear the same boring pieces again and again? Actually, the result was radically different. I felt free. I loved putting together outfits in mere seconds whereas it had always taken me several minutes of standing in front over my overstuffed rack whispering, "hurry, hurry, pick something!"

Continuing to Minimize

After the Great Closet Pare Down, I went a little nutty. I boxed and bagged up stuff in the kitchen, the basement, the living room, our bedroom. I sold or gave away pieces of furniture that we weren't using. I tried to figure out what I needed and what was extraneous and brought me more stress by its very presence. 

Along the way, I read voraciously, books about minimalism and a more free way of living. Joshua Becker's books, Simplify and Clutter Free with Kids were helpful and offered hands-on help for how to start and what to do with those "tender areas" like items from relatives who have passed on, mementos from your past, books, artwork made by family members and more. I also enjoyed Francine Jay's blog and book immensely. 
While I love clear counter tops, they aren't *always* this tidy!
So now, you might be thinking, "Joy's house is bare. She has white walls, minimal artwork, clean surfaces and barely anything in her cupboards or closets." Well, erm, not quite. While I try to keep a handle on clutter, particularly on the kitchen counter, it doesn't always happen. It's a daily ritual, now, to keep things clear and empty. And there are very, very few closets or cupboards in our house that have barely anything in them. They do, however, have a lot less in them than they used to. 

If you're interested in letting go of some things in your life to make room for newness or simply more room to breathe, I'd love for you to share in the comments. One of the reasons for this blog is simply to create a community of people who are interested in the same things. Please let us know how you have minimized in some way and what the end results were. 


  1. Interesting journey! Over the years my partner and I have moved from a 650 square foot space to a 900 square foot space to a 475 square foot space to a 650 square foot space. While the 475 was a squeeze for us and did have a cluttered feel (even though I'm pretty good with keeping things neat), it was good to push ourselves and test our boundaries.

    My partner could definitely live tiny. It wouldn't be easy for him to purge his things, but he'd be happy to do it in the end. His feelings about stuff extend to not even taking his keys when he leaves the house if he doesn't absolutely have to--like if I'm going to be home. Stuff weighs on him.

    I, on the other hand, couldn't live tiny. It's an artist thing. :) There are just too many supply necessities! Still, we live simply and that's enough for me.

    Having only left the 475 space recently, it's interesting to me how we both are extremely careful about the things we bring into our space. I hope we manage to retain that feeling, to keep that sense that the "extra" space we have is sacred.

    1. Oh Gwenn, you made me laugh "it's an artist thing." It really is! I find that to be one area which is very hard to "minimalize" for lack of a better word. What do I do with all the pieces I've created that don't have homes yet? Supplies that I might need in the future? Fabric stash? This is fodder for another post, I think.

      Thanks for weighing in. It sounds like you've lived in some very small spaces (by U.S. standards anyway) and have learned something from each of them. I hope you can continue to curate your current abode, to make it as welcoming and comforting as home possibly can be. :)