Becoming A Minimalist Is (Literally) Saving My Sanity

by Jorrie Varney
AleksandarNakic / iStock

I like nice things. Who doesn’t, right? I’m the girl who used to own a closet full of handbags. But not just handbags — my closet was stuffed to the brim with far more clothing than I could ever wear. Beautiful pieces would hang for months with tags still attached. Maybe because it was a lukewarm purchase, or maybe because it wasn’t the right color when I got it home. Who knows, but for whatever reason I began to accumulate things that were never put to use.

My love of pretty things didn’t stop with clothes, it spilled over into other areas of my life too. Throw pillows, office supplies, area rugs, you name it, if I liked it and could afford it, it was coming home with me whether I needed it or not.

A collection of things isn’t necessarily bad, but for me, things began to take over my life. Clutter causes me anxiety — a messy room will be the death of me. When I was the only member of my household, I managed to keep my things tidy, but then I got married, and my husband had things too. After a few years of marriage, our things together had grown into more things, and then we had a few kids. Kids have more things than you could ever imagine.

Eventually, I found myself caught somewhere between “Hey, I forgot we had this” and a full-blown episode of Hoarders. My anxiety was at an all-time high. I had reached my breaking point with our things, and the clutter they caused.

I started with my closet. If I hadn’t worn an item in six months, I put it in the donation pile. Slowly, I worked my way through the house, room by room. Do I love this? Do I need this? Do I already have one? These were the questions I answered over and over as the donation pile grew.

When it came time to clean the kids’ rooms, I was nervous. I decided I wouldn’t make them part with anything they didn’t want to. These were their things, after all. My 5-year-old daughter had been watching as I pared down our possessions in other areas of the house. She asked what I planned to do with the items in the donation pile. In our town, like many others, there is a homeless shelter. In my career, I work closely with the families who are guests of our shelter. I knew I would be donating our unneeded things to those families.

I explained this to my daughter in terms she could understand. Her expression softened as she processed the information. “You mean, they don’t have a home? Or toys?” she said. I shook my head. Without a second thought, she grabbed a box and headed toward her room. I followed her down the hall and watched as she sorted through her things, thoughtfully adding items to her donation box. “They can have these, Mommy.” She handed me the box, nearly overflowing. That was over a year ago.

Now, our home only holds the things that are most important to us, the things we can’t live without. The time, money, and energy we put toward finding, buying, and managing our things is now spent on family. We use the money to go places together. We don’t spend as much time picking up scattered items or digging through a packed closet looking for a lost possession. We live.

We still collect things as we go; it’s nearly impossible not to. I don’t deprive myself if a certain Target beauty really catches my eye. My kids still get new toys from time to time, like any other children, but we are much more aware of a need verses a want. If we do find a new pretty thing, we often donate an old pretty thing to someone else who might enjoy it.

Like my husband said during our initial purge, “No one needs 16 throw pillows.” Especially when we are fortunate enough to have each other.