I haven’t always been a minimalist. In fact, minimalism kind of found me after years of anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, and trying to keep up with managing a young family and household.
I knew the path I was on would never sustain me. I was working in a corporate career I hated and constantly fighting my family to clean up their spaces. We needed a bigger house and more money in the bank. It was a downward spiral, and I knew I needed an escape.
One day I broke. I remember sitting on the couch and crying in the middle of the night, desperate for rest but so overwhelmed, I couldn’t possibly stop to go to sleep. I felt like there was more to do than humanly possible before the sun rose on another day.
Soon after, not knowing where to start, I did what many people do when trying to simplify. I started with my closet. Before I cleaned out my closet, I could go to work wearing a different blouse for 38 days (that’s almost two full work months). It was embarrassing and eye-opening. How did I accumulate so much stuff?
Cleaning out my closet turned into a 30-day no clothes shopping challenge. I realized I had more than enough. This simple challenge evolved into a one-year challenge. People thought I was insane. I thought I was insane. Who doesn’t buy new clothes for an entire year?
At the end of the year, not only did I have a changed wardrobe, I was changed. Cleaning out my closet was only the beginning. I was inspired. I NEEDED my home to be cleaned out too, every drawer, every storage closet, every room.
I didn’t know where to start, so I just started. I cleaned out my bedroom first. Then my storage closets and junk drawers. Next, I moved on to conquering the entire house.
The first book I read for inspiration was The More of Less from Joshua Becker. It gave me the motivation I needed to change my mindset about shopping and the accumulation of stuff. After that, I was unstoppable.
It took me six months to declutter my house to look “clean”. It took me another six months to finish my home and love it.
Something else happened during my year of decluttering and not shopping. It was almost magical. I learned “stuff” didn’t make me happy. I was no longer shopping for fun or as a way to spend my time. I was no longer relying on new and shiny things to bring me joy and happiness.
Instead of finding my happiness in stuff, I was finding happiness in other areas of my life. I was taking my kids on more picnics. I was spending time at the library instead of the mall. I learned how to quilt. I was saying “no” to obligations that gave me and my family no value.
I was no longer only decluttering my house. I was discovering what minimalism could mean for me, this foreign concept I had never known except for the extreme cases featured in documentaries.
All of a sudden, living a simple life didn’t seem so extreme. I didn’t need the same things anymore. I didn’t need a bigger house. I didn’t need a higher paying job. I didn’t need a fancy car. Minimalism and simple living taught me to be the happiest version of myself.
After years of trying to keep up with my coworkers, neighbors, and the Joneses down the street, I discovered my happiest life. Not spending money on senseless items and finding simple joys allowed us to move into our dream home in the mountains, allowed me to quit my job to stay home with my kids, and gave me the opportunity to pursue a dream career.
So how exactly did I find my happiest, simplest self?
1. Start Small
Clean out a closet, a room or even a drawer. It doesn’t have to be big. Big changes can come from small actions.
2. Stop the inflow
Stop shopping for fun or the next good deal. Buy only what you need, and stop letting more clutter enter your home.
3. Spend more time doing what you love
Like visual clutter, obligations can clutter our lives too. Cut out life clutter and only devote your time to things that matter to you. When you stop spending so much time trying to keep up with those around you, you gain an incredible amount to time back to do what you really love.
Minimalism changed me. Minimalism changed my family.
Minimalism looks different for everyone. For me, it meant freedom from visual clutter, financial hardship and a career I hated. It gave me more time with my precious family and time to focus on all the things that matter the most.
Minimalism forever has my heart, and I look forward to seeing how it continues to morph as I grow. I’m forever grateful to minimalism, as it helped me find my happiest, simplest self.
About the Author: Brooke is the author of Happy Simple Mom. She writes to encourage others to find their happiest selves by letting go of clutter in their homes and lives.