As a mom to nine, I’ve always strived towards simplicity.
It’s a big, chaotic, lovely, and imperfect mess I wouldn’t trade for anything. But it can become overwhelming if I don’t keep on top of everything.
Simple tasks turn complex fast— mealtime, shopping, laundry, schoolwork, etc. Even Christmas stockings. Keeping the contents hidden and organized takes space, time, and some clever thinking. It’s them against me, and there are only so many good hiding spots.
On road trips, everyone has one backpack — at a minimum. When we fly, it’s a suitcase and carry-on for most. I’ve learned to separate wants from needs for the most part, but everything adds up fast.
So back in the early 2000s, when I first read about minimalism, I was intrigued. It made sense — especially as too much clutter makes me uneasy.
It didn’t take long before I jumped in.
Letting things go was challenging, but I knew it was a lifestyle I wanted to move towards. We’d never be a family of ultra minimalists, but I wanted to remove the excess.
To live an intentional life filled with needs and some reasonable wants.
At the time, it felt like we had accumulated an overabundance of almost everything. I’d somehow fallen into the mindset that you can never have too much. And just in case — you never know.
Little by little, I made progress. And, around that time, due to circumstances that seemingly came from nowhere, we were able to make a lifestyle change and travel.
We went all in — at least as much as a large family can.
We rented a large garage and put the contents of our home in there. We donated nearly everything else and got a 37-foot trailer and an F-350 to kick off our new adventure.
We had seven little ones at the time. We custom-designed the trailer to accommodate us in the most minimalistic way.
It was tight, but we had everything we needed. Our theme was focused on family, frugality, sustainability, connection, nature, and experiences. But that’s another story.
During our three years on the road, I learned how to make the most from very little. Simple and easy became my motto. And as someone that loves to cook, I learned much about simplifying the kitchen and food.
Eventually, we were ready to get back into a house.
We started with a townhome, and it felt like a mansion. Over time though, material things started becoming more prominent in our life again. It was a gradual process, but we eventually ended up in a large home filled with all kinds of excess stuff.
It was and is an absolute privilege to have material blessings. But this wasn’t what I’d envisioned. All the effort and time I’d put into minimalizing was nothing but a memory.
It was at this point that my then-husband and I started having different outlooks on how we wanted to live our lives. I wanted to go back to simplicity. Connection. Family time. Travel. He wanted an even bigger and more beautiful house — and more stuff.
Our family had somehow stopped being the center.
We all have different priorities and values, and I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong. On the other hand, though, I do feel we need to know what our driving motivator is in life. Because when we’re living out of alignment with our values, it’s hard to find peace.
People change over time, and in marriage, you either grow with each other or you don’t. We were unable to find a happy medium and became more distant. But, of course, there was much more to the breakdown of our marriage — this was just a factor.
Eventually, everything went from bad to worse for us.
Our divorce was more than a three-year process. When he left, he took nothing more than the clothes he wore. All he wanted from our life was the business.
And remember that oversized storage garage I mentioned we got back in the early 2000s? It’s still stuffed full of our other old stuff — furniture, appliances, tools, the RV, and memories from what seems like a lifetime ago.
Separating life after a divorce takes time on so many levels.
I’ve never been a person that thrives on materialism. I’m happiest when life is simple, and connections are strong. I could probably live like the Amish, in all honesty. As nice as modern technology is, there’s something about simplicity that makes me happy.
I do love conveniences; they make life easier in many ways. But they have the capability to distract from the things that matter most to me in life. It seems a double-edged sword.
Since my divorce, I’ve been revisiting the idea of minimalism quite a bit.
I’m feeling weighed down by all our stuff. I have doubles and triples of too many things.
I went into a scarcity mindset when I realized our divorce was inevitable. I wanted to ensure we had spares of, well, almost everything—small kitchen appliances, jackets, clothes, shoes, and so on. I wanted to make sure we’d be okay.
My once Marie Kondo-approved closet now overflowed with clothes that brought me little joy. Dresses, skirts, and jackets had taken over his old closet.
It’s crazy how emotions can rule us when we let them, especially when we’re dealing with hard stuff.
I was hurt, and I bought extras as if they would somehow fix something— mostly the pain. But the truth is, I needed to do the work on the inside. As nice as it might be to skip that part, sometimes we just need to sit with it.
Stuff has never been my source of happiness, but sometimes life lessons take more than once to stick.
This past year, my theme of focus has been on faith, family, and redeveloping my career. Defining our focus helps pinpoint the goals we need to strive for each day.
This year, I’ll also be stepping back into minimalism. Returning to my center in a sense. Minimalizing with a big family isn’t always easy, but it will be well worth it in the end.
My kids will all be involved in the process. And when it comes to their stuff, they’ll decide what they want to part with and keep. Because their life has been more simplistic than not, they will likely have a relatively easy time with it.
I can’t think of a better group project for us to start on—so many life lessons.
There’s a lot involved with minimalizing, but simple living seems to effortlessly bring much peace.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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