It’s been twelve months since we entertained the idea of minimalism. It’s hard to believe watching the documentary, Minimalism, one year ago has greatly impacted our lives in such a short amount of time. Yet, similar to all aspects of life, lasting change takes time and patience.
Do I still find myself wanting to buy needless things? Of course! The difference is my reasons for not accumulating more material items far outweigh the short-term “happiness” and perceived benefits of the item “I can’t live without.”
Similar to past years, this year has had it’s ups and downs. But, the direction my family is going together is encouraging and exciting to us.
Here are a few highlights from our first year of our minimalist journey.
Family Game Time
One of the main reasons we wanted to declutter the unnecessary from our lives is to spend more focused time with our children. Parents know how quickly time passes from when your kids are 2 to when they are 10. Those eight years seems to go by in a blink of an eye!
I love this quote from Joshua Becker of BecomingMinimalist.com, “Minimalism is about what it gives, not what it takes away.”
We believe minimalism is not only allowing us to give our children more of our time, but rather more of our focused time.
We have already played more board games and card games in the first year of this journey than we had in all of the previous years. Our kids are coming to us and asking if we would play Monopoly, Sorry, Chess, UNO Attack, and Tenzi instead of wanting to play an iPad.
With less of our material possessions to maintain, clean, and organize, we have more than enough time to play games for an hour.
Let’s talk money.
It’s no secret that a large percentage of American families struggle with money. One survey even says 63% of Americans can’t deal with a $500 emergency!
To give you a clear comparison on how many people are struggling with money, a survey from April 2015 stated that 64% of Americans now have a smartphone.
How many people do you know that have a smartphone? How many people do you know that can’t handle a $500 emergency?
Although you may not answer with the same number, the statistics tell us living paycheck to paycheck is as normal as having a smartphone! Scary!
How Minimalism Can Help Your Finances
Although my wife and I are celebrating about five years of being 100% debt-free (yes, that’s including the mortgage), we came to the realization that we unnecessarily wasted a rather large amount of money. It’s hard for me to even wrap my head around all the pointless “things” that add up over time.
You used to find us frequenting the $1 section at Target right when you walk in. We would buy kitchen utensils on the regular because we were trying out a new dish.
If I had a project at home (usually some sort of organization project HA!), I would buy a new tool to help out my cause. Baskets, trinkets, Christmas decorations, picture frames, toy boxes, bedding, towels, and too many blankets to count.
None of this stuff was adding value to our lives, yet it’s extremely normal in our culture to drown our space with filler.
We are finally realizing this filler adds up to over $700 per month! I wrote a post about how this $700 can make a significant difference in your options as you age and near retirement.
Different Types of Giving
Yes, it’s a dream of many to actually have money in the bank and an emergency fund in place. The extra financial cushion gives you options and allows you to make different decisions than if living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Yet, money shouldn’t be kept to oneself and held tightly in your own fist. Some of the greatest emotions can fill you up when you bless others with your resources.
This year, we were able to give in some rather non-traditional ways.
One example is my wife received a gift card to Cabela’s from a coworker (knowing that we love to camp and hike). With a new minimalist mindset, she browsed the aisles realizing she doesn’t really even want anything else. She made it back to the clearance cave and found four brand new winter coats that she purchased and donated to a local coat drive for refugee families.
Another example is we were able to donate a significant portion of the total cost for our kids’ school to purchase soccer goals. This might sound like a stupid thing to contribute to, but those goals have filled so many children with joy, exercise, and simply being outside. Seeing how much those goals get used warms my heart and encourages me to look for more non-traditional ways to bless others.
One last example was when Hurricane Irma caused major damage throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands, but specifically to St. John, where our family vacationed just 6 months prior.
When we showed our kids pictures of the devastation that occurred, my 11 year old daughter burst out into tears. She immediately asked if there was any way we could help.
Teaching our kids about money is always a work in progress. One thing we ask of them is to separate any money they earn or receive from birthdays and Christmas into three categories: Give, Save, and Spend.
My daughter chose to give all of her Give and much of her Spend money (we matched everything she gave) to a local, hands-on organization on the island, St. John Rescue.
No, it wasn’t thousands and thousands of dollars, but the teaching moment with our daughter and supporting a cause close to our hearts is just one benefit of giving.
Minimalism isn’t about what it takes away, but rather what it gives. My wife and I enjoy experiences far more than things.
Experiences are forming who we are as people, whereas, “things” simply don’t have that kind of power.
This past year filled our calendar with so many experiences. We explored the US Virgin Island of St. John (before the hurricanes hit). We hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park (a few times), Yosemite National Park, and Zion National Park.
We made little weekend trips to St. Louis and Kansas City. It’s difficult to explain how experiencing the outdoors makes my wife and I feel inside, but we realize more and more how much we are at peace while walking in nature.
This past year is just the beginning of owning less in order to experience more.
My wife and I dream of living near the mountains. Since the majority of our family lives in Nebraska, the closest mountain range to our family is in Colorado.
The cost-of-living in Colorado is higher than in Nebraska, which discouraged us whenever we explored the possibility of moving in the past. Our home in Nebraska is about 2400 sq. ft. and works well for our family of four.
In searching for homes in Colorado, we gravitated towards homes that were similar in size as our current home because we “needed the space.”
Decluttering a good portion of our possessions this past year opened our eyes to what now seems blatantly obvious: we don’t need a bigger home.
Believe it or not, we don’t even want a bigger home anymore. We actually want less of a home, so we can focus more of our time and resources on other purposes. Our once seemingly unattainable dream is actually becoming a reality.
Simply realizing we don’t need much and don’t even want much is allowing us to appreciate and focus more on what actually matters to us:
- Focused time with our kids
- Exploring God’s beautiful earth
- Living a healthier lifestyle
- Giving in non-traditional ways
- Growing and maturing as people
- Contributing and sharing with others
Time and Patience
We overestimate what we can achieve in a year, but we underestimate what we can achieve in a decade.
As is true in any endeavor, it takes time and patience to see major results down the road. Looking from an outsiders perspective, our lives probably look about the same as last year.
We are confident we are moving in the right direction for our family. More importantly, we are excited to see how the next decade plays out as we become more intentional each and every day.