Saturday, September 22, 2012

Project Minimalism

It started out simply enough. I threw out the bath toys - all but a couple of small cups and a couple of squirty fish. I got so tired of cleaning off the mold! I would procrastinate cleaning the bath tub because I knew I would have to soak the bath toys in the kitchen sink filled with bleach and scrub all of the plastic squirters. So, one day, I finally cleaned the bath tub. I had the toys next the kitchen sink, and instead of submerging them in the bleach water, I chucked them in the recycling. (Can plastic bath toys be recycled? I don't know, but that's what I did!) And it felt so good!

A few days later, one of my closet racks broke, leaving cardigans, pants, and skirts on the floor. I've moved them temporarily to another hanging location.

Later that day, I heard something that I was finally ready to hear.

Now, I commute an hour and a half twice a week to my teaching job out on Long Island, and since my commute involves walking, a train, changing to another train, waiting for a shuttle, and walking to my building, not much of that hour and a half is involves me sitting in one spot. So, I listen to podcasts, mostly about Catholic families and marriage. (Currently: The Catholics Next Door, Catholic in a Small Town, and The Stupendous Marriage Show, sometimes This American Life.)

One of the podcasts featured the idea of minimizing the amount of stuff you own. As I said, I was finally ready to hear. Joshua Becker was talking about his new book (Living with Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness) and his own experience minimizing his stuff. He's a family man, with two kids and a house in the suburbs. I thought, if he can do it, surely I can. Yes, we have two kids, but we live in New York, and, let's face it, I have way too much stuff for this little apartment.

He made several points that stuck with me (I'm paraphrasing):
-We know things can't give us happiness, so why do we invest so much time buying them, cleaning them, and organizing them?
-Maybe, just maybe, Jesus was actually serious when he said to sell your possessions and follow him. (You certainly don't need to be a Christian to be a minimalist, but this hit home for me.)
-We should use our money for more valuable causes than things, like charity. (Maybe law school loans first...)
-We should free ourselves from addictive consumerism and the never-ending comparisons.
-Plus, a host of side benefits: easier to clean, you know where stuff is, less time spent organizing.

There was one more thing that I'm not sure if Becker actually said but became clear to me after reading the book: I keep so many things for the just-in-case, maybe-someday future. Do I think I can preserve myself or my family from suffering by keeping stuff? That's probably a false sense of security that I foster with the keeping of all the stuff.

So, we are beginning Project Minimalism, with the goal of reducing the amount of stuff we own by at least 30%. My husband is on board, although I think it's implied that most of the actual cleaning out will be my task. I'm okay with that. I've started with the kitchen, since I can clean while cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It means the kitchen has been a bit of a mess for a few days, but I've just about finished!

In addition to all of the stuff that I knew I would give away because I truly don't want it anymore, there were also some things I wrestled with but ended up giving away: waffle iron, fondue pot, vaccuum sealer and accessories, cast iron pan, some vases and candlesticks. I want to challenge myself to part with things that I kind of still want but realistically don't actually need. Things I ended up keeping but thought about giving away: my spare large pot, some decorative plates from my grandmother, some decorative copperware that I don't actually use, the Nespresso machine.

I probably won't give you the play-by-play on Project Minimalism, but if there are any interesting points or personal breakthroughs, I'll let you know.

What do you think? Can I challenge you to part with at least 30% of your possessions? Have you started minimizing in your own home and found it helpful?

For more info:
The Stupendous Marriage Show Podcast
Joshua Becker's website

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