I’ve always kept a tidy house… at least on the surface.
In fact, I am the person who has people come into my home and constantly comment on how clean it is.
Yep, I’m known for being clean.
But cleaning and decluttering are two very different things.
I can clean a surface like nobody’s business. And while my surfaces may sparkle, it is what hides in the closets and cabinets that gets me going.
But let me back up a bit…
I have two kids with special needs. Specific to this post, there is autism, anxiety, and sensory processing disorder in my house. I learned early on in the lives of my children that keeping surroundings clean and free from excess meant a calmer, less overwhelming environment. If I wanted fewer meltdowns, I needed to create a space that oozed peace. That meant fewer toys scattered about, fewer stacks of anything from magazines to DVDs, and less distractions everywhere.
In order to achieve this peace in our home, I took to shoving anything and everything in closets and cabinets. I also became a master at organizing bookshelves with bins and other containers.
My house was definitely “decluttered” as defined by the majority of home organization experts.
But it was still overwhelming to me. And I admit that when it comes to sensory overwhelm, I am just as bad as my kids. In some cases, I am worse. I relate very well to what goes on inside my children because I feel it too. I’ve always needed to have an organized space to feel calm. Adding the organization of kid stuff made sense to me in order to achieve that peaceful house I so desired.
So we were organized… and clean.
A little over a year ago, a family friend told my husband and I about a documentary on minimalism that he’d watched on NetFlix. The conversation came up as I had just read a book about decluttering and basically couldn’t stop talking about it. The friend told us that he and his wife were amazed by the lifestyle of the people in the documentary, and he thought we would be interested in it. So my husband and I sat down and watched. Instantly, I knew my life was going to change.
At that time, we were preparing for our move from Nevada to Wyoming. My husband and I decided that we would use the move as a way to let go of all the excess. It’s pretty easy to downsize when you’re moving. After all, who wants to pay to take so much so far? We sure didn’t!
We got rid of a lot. We donated things, gave things away, and threw away so much that our trash can was overflowing. We felt really great about it. It was like a weight was starting to lift from us.
I started to feel more peaceful.
We made our move and, while waiting for our house to be finished, we rented. In the rental, we didn’t open very many boxes. Our goal was to just live off what we needed. Only, after a couple months it became apparent that we didn’t need much. At the rental, we had access to a very large construction dumpster and we had been told that we could use it for whatever we wanted. So we did. We began opening some of the boxes and just tossing out more stuff that was unnecessary to our lives. We also made a few calls and donated larger items that were no longer needed or wanted.
And then our house was finally ready.
We moved into our house with what many people would consider not very much.
But it was still a lot of unused stuff.
Cabinets and closets got the stuff.
The stuff was hidden, but we knew it was there.
So that brings me to where I am now.
Last week, I watched a YouTube video where a lady issued a challenge. Her challenge was to set a timer for 60 minutes and then attempt to get rid of 60 items. I told my kids about the challenge. They love anything timed because it’s like a race. They were excited to help.
We set the timer.
We went through closets and cabinets.
At the end of 60 minutes, we had over 100 items!
But we weren’t done.
Both kids told me they still wanted to take some things out of their rooms. So I let them. And I continued to go through the house.
We ended up taking a huge load to our local donation spot over the weekend. And, last night, my husband went through and reduced even more of his belongings.
It’s freeing! It’s so extremely freeing to let go of stuff. To allow yourself to let go. To give yourself permission to not be like the rest of society. Who taught us that we needed so much to begin with? Why do we keep accumulating? What purpose does it serve? What does it say about us other than we know how to shop?
Anyways… For me, owning less is like decluttering my mind. I feel more at peace in my home. I feel like I can breathe. I feel less overwhelmed by my surroundings. I feel less burdened by life.
But it’s not just me or my husband that gets the benefit. I look at my kids and I realize that minimalism affects so much more than just me. And it’s wonderful!
After all the 60 items in 60 minutes challenge and post-challenge was over with, I noticed my daughter sitting in her room. I walked in and asked if she was doing ok. Honestly, I was worried she might have thrown out something she truly wanted. She looked up at me and said, “I love this! I love that I have room to play in here. I actually want to play in here now!”
And she has played in her room more in the past week than she has since we moved in.
The last bit of icing on the cake came from my son, who has autism. He walked out of his room and said, “I like my room more now. It feels peaceful.”
I asked him, “Did it make you feel stressed before?”
And he replied, “I wasn’t stressed, but I wasn’t calm. There is less taking up my brain now.”
All that because he chose to let go of multiple tiny figurines that covered every flat surface in his room. This confirmed to me yet again that kids with sensory issues need space.
They need space without clutter.
They need space without distraction.
They need space to feel safe and calm and restful.
They need space where their minds and bodies can decompress after being out in the world.
I need it too. That’s why I continue on my minimalism journey. I read so much about finding your why in minimalism. All those reasons are my why. I still have a bit to go before I reach the place I want to be at, but with each step I am feeling much calmer on the inside.
I’ve started calling myself a minimalist. That may sound funny to note, but I have. The way I feel about the life changes I am making has me wanting to associate with that label. It’s not that I need a label, but maybe throughout my life I have had so many that I finally found one that fits. After all, I’ve had people say I’m a neat freak. I’ve been told I’m OCD, anal, and all sorts of other things in that arena. I’ve been called a Martha Stewart clone for my cleaning. I’ve even been called crazy. So now I’ll just call myself what I know that I am… a minimalist.
Less is my more.
I like that.