At some point in 2012 my friend Crystalyn shared a blog post on her facebook called Becoming Minimalist. Thinking I’d heard the word somewhere and wanting to know more, I clicked. I stuck my toe in the water, and thought on it for months. The idea of living with only what you need and absolutely nothing else intrigues me. The items in your home are either something you use almost daily, or wear, or are of artistic beauty and hung on your walls. I subscribed to the blog and kept pondering applying his ideas to my own life.
There are people who would tell you that I was already a minimalist but that’s not true– we live in a bigger house than we need and I like to keep things tidy and out of sight. That’s not at all the same thing as being minimalist. Anyone who saw Emily’s “second closet” knew what my dirty secret was. Extra feather down comforters, five extra sets of sheets, backup shower curtains, lamps I couldn’t bear to part with, Lord knows how many pillows for guests we never had.
We have a spare bed in the garage. And that’s after we already sold a spare bed.
We finally hit our limit. Maybe we will move soon, maybe we won’t. I don’t know what our immediate future holds though judging by the sight of Rory’s face today, he can’t continue living in this environment. This cedar is wrecking his immune system.
Two weeks ago we began selling excess furniture on Craigslist. I’d bought a glider on sale at a boutique before Emily was born and ended up being given a second free one a few months later by the manager. Both sold immediately, paying for the cost of the initial chair. An old laptop, my first wedding ring, baby gear, patio furniture that never left the garage, the high chair Emily refuses to use, small kitchen appliances that are no longer in line with how we prepare food, and so on. All snapped up in a matter of days and we stuffed $1,700 into an envelope that says “Do Not Spend” so that just in case the opportunity to move arises, our move is already paid for.
Then we hit our wardrobes. Sure, there are some items that we’ll try to consign but we each gutted our clothing down to 1/3 of the wardrobe it had been. Same for the shoes. 2/3 of our household items got moved into the garage. The kitchen drawers, cabinets, the 3,000 sippy cup parts that never made an entire sippy cup, the contents of not one but two extra storage dressers, bathroom drawers, unopened or barely used toiletries and cleaning supplies, 60 extra t-shirts that will never fit me again, kid’s toys, kid’s clothes; absolutely everything was cut by 2/3. The clothes left in their closets are only my most favorite things and their toys are only the quality ones. I even scooped up the books I thought had illustrations that were too boring for a toddler to get excited about or were too wordy for a little one to pay attention to.
This morning we opened the garage door and put it all out for sale.
We weren’t expecting a lot; our neighborhood is a more affluent neighborhood in an overall poorer county, except for the neighborhood across the highway from us where people live on the lake. I was hoping to make an extra $200 and vowed to not let any of this stuff that we don’t even need back into our house. Ultimately we made $375 in an hour and a half at prices like an item for a dollar, or two dollars, or 4 for a dollar. Twice I was told, “There’s just so much nice stuff here.” We didn’t put our junk out onto the driveway. We put a chunk of our household out there.
Eventually the cars stopped coming. I stepped into the street with my cell phone and took a picture of what was left on the driveway. I posted it under “Free” on Craigslist. It said, “Everything on the driveway. Come and get it.” We would hate to have to load up our small cars multiple times to take things to an ungrateful Goodwill when there are people in our own town ready to have them.
It wasn’t but 15 minutes later that they began to arrive to take the free items. Our beloved former nanny raided the driveway on her way out of the door and I stayed in with the kids. Andy greeted the new arrivals and said yes, seriously, go ahead, take whatever you want. There was so much to take. I’m embarrassed of still having so much to take after selling things on Craigslist for 2 weeks plus having a garage sale.
These people weren’t like the professional garagesalers that we’d seen earlier in the day. Desperately poor, driving $400 cars that were smoking out the tailpipe, children that had nothing who were thrilled to pick up whatever toys they wanted off of the driveway. Families that could not have paid $5 or even $2 for an item. I saw multiple cars get packed to the gills with our free stuff. I heard one woman tell my husband how our items were going to get dispersed through her entire extended family. Our burden has become their blessing. As I write this now, there is only a small pile of my clothing on a tarp with a pair of $200 Italian shoes that barely fit in the first place but certainly don’t fit now that I’ve had two pregnancies. None of our shoppers would recognize the brand so they’re just sitting in the sun. Maybe I’ll put them on ebay.
We have lightened our moving load by at least $1,000 and pocketed $2,075 in the process, and we’re not done yet. There is still more furniture to be sold when I get around to photographing it. Our house is tidy and modern, yes, but it’s our closets that are stunning. There are 60 extra wooden hangers on a bar in there. I couldn’t bring myself to part with the hangers just yet but at some point I will accept that I’m not going to be the kind of person who is burdened with such a large wardrobe. I’m not going to own more than one set of back-up sheets. I’m only keeping the pots I actually cook with. I’m not holding on to an appliance I never use. I don’t need eight spatulas. We are now a family who could comfortably live in 1,600 square feet of space. 1,600 beautifully decorated square feet– it’s not like we sleep on the floor.
I’m not sure how we ended up owning so much stuff. It used to bother me that Andy had a hard time giving away his old clothes but not only has he gotten better about it over the years, but he was the first one to gut his wardrobe and wasn’t even asked to. He inspired me to do better. I think that pregnancy nesting urges combined with restless postpartum feelings of wanting my old body back and not being able to have it caused me to make purchases without thinking it through. Like, “I want to have something nice to make up for how I feel about myself.” I’m happy to report that the old postpartum clothes are too big and I’m sitting here in jeans from 2006 that fit me properly, but man what an expensive lesson this has been over the past 4 years. What a burden that has been lifted from our shoulders and will continue to lift as we lighten our load.
I’ll leave you with this, which was also the inspirational kick in the pants I needed to take the first steps.