Less is More?!

For those of you who don’t know us in real life, there are eight of us. And we live in a cozy 2 bedroom house, that is made even more cozy by the fact that there are eight of us sharing 1400 square feet! When we bought our home, we had four children ages six and under. Within three and a half years of moving in, our family increased by two. Somehow our stuff seemed to increase by a million. Every nook and cranny of our living space was full of toys and books, crayons and clothes, and all sorts of other things that I didn’t even know we had. Don’t get me wrong, our home was still livable. We definitely weren’t the next story on Hoarders, but we were sick and tired of all the clutter and chaos that we felt every day. Since we homeschool, we are home a lot! We can’t just close our eyes and pretend like the stuff isn’t taking over. We have to deal with it or push it aside and keep hoping it will magically disappear.

We definitely did the latter more than the former for a long while. But at some point something shifted. Over the past year, I began reading some books and blogs about minimalism. I laugh even as I write this because the very idea of minimalism with a large family sounds like an oxymoron. At first I wanted to throw everything out and jump into the 100 Thing Challenge. Fortunately for my family, I was still too sleep-deprived from nursing an infant all night long to have the energy to haul everything out. Even though I was inspired, I didn’t have the energy to follow through.

In my search for more inspiration (and to prove to my husband that I was not crazy), I came across Nourishing Minimalism, a great blog about a family of 8! Yes, 8! And they follow a minimalist approach to many aspects of their life. So, I immediately subscribed to this blog and poked around the archives looking for the secret of how I could make this happen for my family.

What I found was that I didn’t really want to be a minimalist in the strictest sense of the word, mostly because it would mean giving up my extensive book collection, and that, well….that is just wrong! J I did realize, though, that what I wanted was peace. I wanted the space to think clearly, to spend time with my children and my husband, for my home to be a place of comfort, not discontent.

I had long held the notion that less is more, yet my home did not reflect that. I felt perplexed as to how to move my family beyond the comfort of their stuff, and into the joy of owning less.

Then came the challenge, 2015 in 2015! Get rid of 2015 items in the year 2015! The timing was perfect. My motives were sincere. I was acting out of love for my family and not out of frustration. I was ready to do the slow and steady work of clearing out the excess from our lives.

We printed the blank chart with all of its 2015 blank boxes. We talked with the children. Explained what we proposed to do. Set some goals as a family. At 500 items we would go out for ice cream. At 1000 items, ice skating together. 1500 items meant a campout in the living room with movies and popcorn. 2015 items, a baseball game. All of the goals set as a family with a focus of spending more time together, the whole purpose for undertaking this challenge in the first place.

So far, we have gotten rid of 946 items. Some were garbage hidden under the beds of little boys. Some were clothes that had been outgrown. Some were toys and books that were no longer being enjoyed. Many, many items were donated. A few were sold. The crazy thing is, we’ve only worked our way through about half of the house, but we’ve done it in five weeks finding an hour here or there. Already our home is easier to maintain. The piles of clutter are disappearing and that sense of peace that we craved is emerging. By clearing out our stuff, we’ve made space for what we really value, and what we can never buy, time for each other.