When my husband and I came back from a week in Florida visiting his family for Christmas we found the wood floors of our apartment were buckled and soggy from a leak in the ceiling of our building. We weren’t there so the leak had not been caught. As a result, most of our floor had to be taken up and the apartment professionally dried and dehumidified.
When the insurance adjuster came to the apartment to see the damage, he commented
However, just a few days before that when we were cleaning up our stuff after the professional dryers had left, my husband had commented, “If we had a bunch of stuff, this would be a huge amount of work.” Instead, we simply had to move some stuff—mainly coats and jackets–from our front coat closet to our bedroom closet. The rest was furniture and stayed in place.
So far, although it’s been a process to work with the insurance company and to get repairs done, our stuff hasn’t been an issue. The living room and dining area (one room in our 650 sq. ft apartment) did not need much straightening up. We don’t have much extra stuff in those rooms—a dining room set, a couch (where I work because of a chronic illness), a desk for my husband, and a keyboard. We’ve both been working from home in the apartment just like we did before while we wait for a new floor.
I’ve been following minimalism blogs and reading minimalism books for years now. I used to love my collections of books that filled many tall bookshelves. I decorated with
However, once I found minimalism, I realized I loved the idea of being free from this extra source of worry. I have OCD and anxiety and losing one source of worry was and is incredibly appealing. I started going through my stuff regularly, always finding another book to pass on to a friend, or a shirt to sell at the thrift store, or papers to recycle.
When I moved in with my husband, I brought my passion for decluttered spaces with me. The first thing we did was go through all of the possessions that he had accumulated during college and in the intervening years on his own. We purged and purged.
We both owned very little furniture and had to start from scratch. We decided to only buy what we needed. We didn’t buy a coffee table. We skipped
When we got married this past year, we were adamant that we didn’t want to fill our little apartment with stuff we didn’t need. We have all the wine glasses, waffle makers, and towels we need. We’re happy with what we have. So instead, we asked for donations to our favorite charities. Everyone was happy to honor our request and it meant that all we collected in our home were congratulations cards.
So, when our place flooded, we weren’t worried about much except the floor and the drywall where the leak had come down. We have insurance. We will get it fixed…eventually. And even the delay doesn’t bother me the way it would if we had a large house or a lot of stuff. I don’t worry about everything being messy. Very little is, thankfully.
Five things my husband and I have learned from this process:
1. Minimalism is a Long Process and the Sooner Started the Better:
I’m grateful that we had been going through the process of decluttering and limiting our possessions for years before this happened. It took time to get to where we are and having started years ago meant that when an emergency like this came up, we were just fine.
2. The Disaster Will Happen:
Although I have worries about leaving on the oven or not locking the door and I probably always will to some extent—OCD is manageable, not curable—the next time we leave I won’t be as worried about our stuff, because this experience taught me that we’ll be fine. And no amount of worrying about a catastrophe or compulsions to prevent one, can actually prevent it. The true work is not investing ourselves in our stuff.
3. Disasters Reveal the Benefits of Minimalism More Than Anything Else:
My husband, who is a minimalist by many standards but not always my own, appreciates our minimalist home and sees the value in it even more than he already did. We’ve even decluttered further after seeing so much of our stuff together in the one closet to which we still have access.
4. We Believe We Will Continue to Benefit from Minimalism Through Our Lives:
My husband has seen several grandparents go through downsizing with immense help from his parents and these grandparents’ struggle to let go of stuff that they don’t need. He’s watched his parents spend countless hours trying to help them downsize and then help them manage their stuff in their new places. We know we never want to have to struggle with our stuff like they have and so we’ve started early. This experience has demonstrated the benefits of doing so already.
5. Minimalism Made It Easier for Us to Support Each Other:
Finally, we are very lucky to have each other for support through this process. We have focused on doing what we can do in the short term to make things smoother for each other. He’s been in primary communication with the insurance company. In turn, I am using my schedule flexibility to respond to maintenance and insurance visits.
We want to make this less difficult and stressful for each other, which is what minimalism is all about and what we ultimately want from it.