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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I'm trying on minimalism.

In May 2015, Stephen and I took a trip to San Antonio to photograph a wedding.  My dear friend who hosted us, Joy, mentioned a book she had just read called "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up".  She was sharing some breakthroughs it was providing her.  Several months later, another friend mentioned the book.  That prompted me to borrow the book from the library and give it a read.

My full time job is stuff manager.  I manage stuff.  Clean clothes, dirty clothes, spring clothes, fall clothes, coats, hats, gloves, books, clean dishes, dirty dishes, homework papers, art supplies, wrapping materials, sewing supplies, puzzles, games, LEGOS, soap, cleaning products, towels, sheets, furniture, food, bikes, shoes, backpacks.

I shop for it.  I buy it.  I find space for it.  I put it away.  I clean it.  I store it for next season.  I get rid of it when the time is right.

I manage stuff for SEVEN people.  Sometimes they help.  Sometimes they make my stuff management job way more difficult.  Then they'll shrug.  That makes me go f-ing MAD.  I can feel the anger start in my heels and rise crazy fast up my body, and before I know it, I'm yelling this sentence.

"Are YOU KIDDING ME?!  I've spent all day managing stuff for YOU, and you have the AUDACITY to SHRUG at me?"

Many years, I've made the New Year's Resolution to work on my yelling.  I thought I just needed to build up enough self control to stop the explosion of anger.  In Fall 2014, I went to a MOPS conference in Louisville.  One speaker mentioned a mom who made a goal of going 365 straight days without yelling at her kids.  I went to her website,  It suggested that I figure out why I was yelling, and develop some strategies of how to manage those situations.

I yell a lot because of stuff.

I think I've always tried to minimize the stuff I manage, but there is a practical reality to owning things.  Everyone needs clothes, coats, hats, gloves, dishes, soap, cleaning products, towels, sheets, furniture, food, shoes, and bags.  Plus, art supplies, puzzles, games, LEGOS, and bikes make life a lot more fun.  We own stuff for a reason.

I read "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up" and the author says you should only own stuff that brings you joy.

Here are some reasons why I owned stuff that had nothing to do with joy.
1.  My kids have outgrown this, but what if a baby comes over and they need somewhere to sit or something to play with?
2.  What if I want to listen to the music of my youth someday and can't find it anymore?  
3.  This book defines me as a person or defined a stage of my life.  If someone looks at my bookshelf, I want them to be able to have a full sense of who I am.
4.  This was so important to me as a kid/teenager.  I want to share it with my kid when they reach that age.
5.  This is a high quality item.  It isn't going to fall apart for a long time.  (Especially since I never use it.)
6.  I have to keep this set intact!  These mugs go with those plates!!
7.  Someone I love (or sort of like) gave this to me. 
8.  I made this.  My kids made this. I know who made this!  
9.  This is extra of stuff I use.  If I ever run out, I can keep this on hand to replace it.  That theoretically saves money.
10.  I have no idea what is on this old phone, computer or cd, but what if something irreplaceable is on it? 
11.  This could be valuable some day!  I've always dreamed of being on The Antique Roadshow.  
12.  I paid a lot of money for this.  
13.  This is too nice to go to goodwill.  They'll sell it for nothing.  I should really find a new owner who will appreciate this item's value.
14.  Goodwill won't take this extra soap, but I can't just throw it away.  It has value.
15.  This item is old.  It was owned by my grandma.  It held up so well because she didn't even use it, but she didn't get rid of it and neither can I.

In the Fall of 2015, I started sorting through our stuff.  I put all similar items together, and touched each one.  I asked myself three questions.  Does this bring me joy?  Do I use this (not in the theoretical sense)?  Is this a duplicate? 

I was determined to get rid of anything that didn't pass the test.  My stuff was holding me hostage with guilt.  "Don't get rid of me.  I belong to a set!"  "Don't you remember that you paid a lot of money for me?!"  

I worked on my clothes, my kitchen, our books, and the kids toys.  I made my kids participate.  

Me: "Julian, do you want this item?"  
Julian: Shrug. He throws it in his closet.
Me with Angry Eyes:  "Pick it up and hold it!  Does it bring you joy?"
Julian: "What?  What does that even mean?"  

I don't want the tale to be that I threw out all their stuff.  I didn't.  I haven't.  I AM making us think about why we own the stuff we have because either I'm managing it or I'm managing them managing it.  And I'm tired of yelling.  

In September 2016, I went over to my friend Brooke's house.  She had just done some intense decluttering spurred on by Marie Kondo, too.  Her house was epically tidy.  I came home with a realization that I had really only begun.  

I worked through my clothes, kitchen, and books, again.  I went through our sheets and blankets.  I went through all our bags.  I went through my sewing and craft supplies.  I sorted our photos, DVDs, and CDs.  

It's made a difference.  If we all work together, we can tidy our house, top to bottom, in record time.  I spend less time organizing, picking up, and cleaning by myself.  I think we aren't as overwhelmed with the task.  That leads to less whining and less yelling.  

Not too long ago, I found some of my daughter's toys out in the piano room.  Instead of feeling annoyed by stuff, I had this intense joy of seeing this reminder of the fact that five kids are learning and growing in this house.  The stuff we have brings me joy.  It kind of feels like freedom.