This was me – is this you?
Sleek white surfaces. Beautiful white sofas and stylish soft furnishings. Neatly stocked cupboards. A household that runs like clockwork, where everything has its place. A home that is always clean and tidy, but at the same time comforting and welcoming. Soft music plays in the background. Vibrant flowers highlight the room. Calming and relaxing. We all want it, or at least we are attracted to it; that perfect minimalist home.
As fabulous as it sounds it is not the lifestyle for those in a hurry, with kids and pets. It is not a practical lifestyle. It was not the lifestyle for me or my family. No, no, no! Well, so I thought…
I have never been drawn to minimalism. Despite the wonderful photos in magazines and the show-homes we had visited, minimalism seemed to me a very cold way to live. I imagined the never-ending washing of white cushion covers, constantly telling the children where they couldn’t go, sit, eat, and shutting our beloved dogs into their ‘own room’ so as not to spoil the effect of the house.
I am originally from Scotland, so this affected my choice of style. Winters there are cold and dark. So, in contrast, I always wanted my home to feel warm and cosy. There is no easier way to do this than with lots of cushions, candles, and throws. Add to that a roaring fire, a bookcase overflowing with books to curl up with, and a cupboard of dvds to watch and you’re sorted. This way of thinking stayed with me until recently and shaped the way I lived for years and years.
So, I had no love for minimalism. I had two dogs, three kids and a house full of stuff – from boxes we had not opened since we moved in nearly 10 years ago, to drawers full of photos and a garage full of I don’t know what! But it was what I knew and it was pretty much how everyone around me lived too. At school pick-up we mums would compare our scarily full garages, and the lofts that were so stuffed with belongings that moving would be unimaginable. We were literally trapped by our own purchases.
Eventually, though, it can wear you down. It wore me down. The children grew bigger and amassed more toys, clothes and treasures. We had so many cds, books and clothes that we were rapidly running out of storage. Lego overtook the tiny spare room that the children used as a playroom. Dusting and hoovering was more than a trial, never mind the cleaning of the bathrooms. Our bathroom cupboards were full, so the bottles and jars could be found everywhere – on the countertops, around the bath and on the window sills. Keeping it in order was horrendous.
The clutter we were collecting was like a black cloud hanging over me. I tried to keep things in order but I just couldn’t cope with it all. Cleaning was never very well done. I hours looking for different types of storage to assemble our ever-increasing paraphernalia, although I was rarely successful. We had little room for extra pieces of furniture and whatever storage we had we quickly outgrew. There was just NOT ENOUGH SPACE.
I became tense and anxious. It seemed like there was no way out. Plus, it seemed like every area of our lives was cluttered, not just our house. I was always in a hurry; desperately trying to carve some extra time out of my day. But there was no time to carve. Weekends were full of the kids’ activities. Afterschool was taken up with clubs and homework. I became quite unhappy. Life was unenjoyable and difficult.
Then one day I came across The Tidy Tutor on the internet. She made the point that you could not just tidy. You had to declutter first. Hmmm, easier said than done. But that was the spark I needed. I soon found Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and The Minimalists (more on these later). I was intrigued and excited. I did a very quick sort of my wardrobe and that was it! I was hooked! With each item I got rid of (and at first it was only a few) I felt lighter. That was when I realized that it was my stuff that was dragging me down. My things were making me feel pressured and anxious.
Maybe minimalism was an option for me after all? Well, maybe not minimalism in its extreme sense. I had no interest in only owning 10 items of clothing, living out of a backpack or setting up home off-grid (although I absolutely admire those who do. Maybe one day?). But I had this feeling that cutting back on the things we bought, purging the house of clutter and really thinking hard about how we spent our time as a family could really help me, my husband and kids. So at the beginning of 2016 we made a start. Only baby steps, you understand. This blog is about our journey, what I discovered along the way and lessons learned.