Six months ago, we embarked on a journey towards a more minimal and intentional lifestyle with the More Than Enough Stuff challenge. The ambitious goal was to not buy any non-consumable goods or products for the year. We have learned a lot about the reality of minimalism as a family of five over the first half of this year, and I hope to share an update on where we are with the experiment, how it is going, and some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way as I try to learn how to be a minimalist mom.
The whole no-buying experiment began as a few different ideas and minimalist cultures converged in my life around the begining of the year. It is the season we are all looking for ways to change and improve, and I saw intentionally reducing our consumer consumption as one way our family would be able to align ourselves more fully with our values of gratitude, patience, and peace.
The three main factors that all played a roll in our decision to undergo this experiment are: the book Essentialism, which encourages the freedom of doing more with less and making decisions about the things that matter most; the book Chasing Slow, a memoir journey of focusing on what matters most despite societal pressure to do, be, and have more; and the documentary The Minimalists, which showed this really non-relatable world of minimalist people (most of whom were upper class, white, males who quit their corporate jobs to travel the world with a carryon) all living with principles I believed in, but in ways that did not resonate with me. I want to be a minimalist mom in a realistic lifestyle.
These are some of the takeaways from these different minimalist media:
We are all more happy when our lives focus on the things that bring us greatest joy.
Making decisions about what matters most, rather than trying to do it all, is a crucial part of a fulfilling life.
The pursuit of stuff always ends in disappointment or discontent as we continually need more.
We feel deeper gratitude when we use the things we already own, recognizing their value.
Experiences and memories last longer and satisfy more than material things.
These are all really great ideas that many people would agree with, but actually putting them into practice by eliminating the ever-rotating circus of stuff coming into our life was a different beast.
It has been refreshing, inspiring, and honestly very relaxing to step off of the consumer fast-lane and not concern myself with the spring line from this store, or the shiny new catalog from that. I am able to walk straight to the milk section of Costco or Sam’s Club without hovering by the towels, books, or gadgets wondering if I should get something new. My love for Target still runs deep, but I don’t miss weekly browsing sessions where I walked away with 1 thing I needed and 45 that I did not.
I love the way that my kids have caught on, and when they see a cool new toy that they like, they will ask “Mom, can I have one of those next year?” Ha! Next year doesn’t seem that far away, and they are able to recognized that they aren’t going to get everything they want right now. I have done the same, making note of styles that I like and can keep an eye on how well they last into the new year.
We all feel an abundance of gratitude. More than I may have ever felt in my life! I look around and my circumstances with peace and joy, loving the stories my items tell, and the empty space in between that allows me to breathe. There is such value in empty space.
I have really enjoyed coming up with creative ways to make things work. An experiment in minimalism is an experiment in innovation as well. How can you do more with less? How can things be used for more than one purpose? How can an old piece of clothing or furniture be renewed?
All of these thoughts and lessons have built a strong foundation for our recognizing that we are indeed more happy with less. It has inspired and enabled us to choose to downsize into a smaller space when we move to Richmond, and think about moving and setting up our new life in a whole different way.
Our family has stuck pretty dang close to our goal of not buying anything so far this year, but there have been a few exceptions. We have been flexible with unexpected situations, and with real life scenarios that happen. I mean, one of the reasons I was motivated to undertake this challenge was because the perfect minimalism showcased in The Minimalists Documentary seemed was not at all relatable to me! I wanted to jumpstart a lifestyle that will be sustainable in the long-term in some ways. Not that we will never buy anything ever again, but that we are intentional, thoughtful, and grateful with the things we choose to add into our life.
With this in mind, I want to share a few of the adjustments that we will be making to the experiment over the latter half of the year.
I went into this experiment with the mistaken assumption that I would have time and energy to MAKE many of the things my kids might need using materials I already had on hand. Although I do have enough fabric and enough skill to replace old, worn, or too small clothes with handmade, I simply do not have the time! I have made several things here and there during this past six months, but I recognize that my kids are going to need new clothing in the fall/winter for school (especially since we will be moving to Richmond, Virginia where the weather will require winter wear.)
So, what I think we will do is maintain a replacement method for clothing like we have with shoes. Plum grew out of all 4 swimsuits she owns, and wears them literally everyday. So, I am donating 4 swimsuits and replacing them. We will make work the things that work like cutting things off for the summertime. And in the fall we will asses the kids’ wardrobe needs for school, fall, and winter, then build them each a minimal capsule wardrobe that they can use for the cold weather months.
I love the idea of having our shopping for clothing be intentional, thoughtful, and premeditated, and this will be a great way to make sure our family realistically has the things we need, while remaining true to the principles we are trying to develop. And, I bought them all tee shirts at El Cosmico during our last trip to Marfa, Texas both out of a celebration for making it 6 months without new clothes, a necessity because their camping clothes were all dirty, and a sweet and useful souvenir from this place that has meant so much to our family the last few years. It seemed like a good place to start on their capsule wardrobes.
Another area where we will make a small adjustment in the no-buying plan is with our move. While we will not need to replace many items of furniture or decor, especially downsizing to less than half of our cuttingly furnished and decorated space, the smaller space will offer a few challenges. One we are already certain of is that our three kids sharing a room will need new beds. The oldest has vetoed a bunk bed situation (he and his brother have been in bunk in their current room for 4 years). While a multi-level bed may seem like the best option, if they aren’t into it, we have decided to find another solution. Right now it appears that we might be able to squeeze 3 twin beds next to each other in a row. If not twins, we’ll downsize to youth sized singles, and make that work.
The kids shared room seems like it will be one of the only major areas of the new house where we will need to make some purchases initially. Our current furniture will otherwise work beautifully in the smaller space with a little creativity and innovation. It is likely that we will find a home to purchase and move into more long-term within the first several months of living in Richmond, and at that point we will have finished the more formal project and will be moving into a general minimalist mindset sustainable lifestyle. While we are dedicated to the idea of less is more and making things work, we also want to be flexible in this transition time that will already have it’s own challenges. Self-imposed restrictions will only serve as long as they feel like a positive challenge and not a burden.
In general, the challenge to use what we have and get rid of what we don’t need has been so positive. My initial thought was that I would move everything from Austin to Richmond, simply because I can. On further thinking about the move, I’ve realized how much more freeing it will be to only take what I truly love, and sell or donate the rest before we go.
That will allow us some space and freedom from the attachments that we form with our stuff–even the stuff we don’t like much. I am really looking forward to tucking a lot of things away into storage and living on so much less for the latter six months of the year. It feels like perfect timing with the minimalist direction we have been going this year and a wonderful way to finish out our experiment.
As I think back on the last six months, I am proud of our whole family recognizing the joy that we can find beyond the stuff. The kids have been surprisingly on board with taking a break from regular updates of their toys, games, and clothing. They have learned to really appreciate the small toys that are their favorites, and also easily let go of those that aren’t. Also, a Happy Meal feels like a super special occasion when they not only get lunch, but a new little toy. They are learning to feel content with what they have, and use it well. Becoming a minimalist mom isn’t as hard as I thought it might be.
We have all been able to be realistic with our wants and needs, stepping back and thinking about why we might be motivated to seek new stuff. A lot of the time it is simply boredom, or lack of inspiration that sends me into a store. Taking a step back from the rat-race of consumerism, keeping up with the Joneses, and filling my life with the latest and greatest stuff has allowed us to take a step forward into intentional living, keep up with good friends and family members as we cultivate our relationships, and fill our lives with meaningful experiences and memories.
It has been an incredible ride, so far, and we look forward to this next six months.