Beth, a 30-something mother of two children 8 and 10, lives happily with her husband and our little family, on the South Coast of England by the sea. She writes about their minimalism journey on her blog Someday Slower and documents it beautifully on her Instagram account too.
What’s your home like?
We live in a rented townhouse and although we would love to own a house, we are lucky to live where we do. Our home would probably be described as cosy minimalism, as you can definitely tell we live here! But the walls are light, we are lovers of natural tones and there is enough white space to relax and play. It is a lovely calming place to be.
How do you feel about your home?
Before simplifying I didn’t like my home as it was a place of stress for me. I felt chained to the kitchen sink and the washing machine and well you get the idea. We had so much stuff that before I discovered minimalism, I felt suffocated with it all. Since simplifying, my home is a haven. It is a place I can be with my family and enjoy them, rather than tidy up after them.
Tell me a bit about what lead you to declutter?
I came to minimalism out of complete overwhelm. My marriage was in trouble, so much so that we were living apart. I had developed a chronic illness that meant daily tasks were a struggle and instead of living my life, it felt like all I was doing was watching from the sidelines washing up. My time was being taken from me but I had no idea where it went. Finding minimalism was life changing. It gave me back something that I didn’t even know was lost, it gave me a whole other life, that had been buried underneath everything I owned.
How did you approach the task?
One day I watched a documentary on Netflix called, Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things. It had such an effect on me that the very next day, I picked up a box and didn’t put it down again until I had decluttered 80% of our belongings. It was a long slog, chronic illness meant that I had to go slowly but the silver lining was that over time, I learnt what decluttering style suited me the most and what amount of physical things felt like enough.
At first I just went room to room, throwing away, donating or selling all the things I didn’t want or use, I did this multiple times. I then tackled the places that took up the most of my time, which were the lounge as it was the hub of the home, aka a clutter catch for everything and then the laundry. I got rid of knick knacks that had no meaning, furniture that took up space and anything else that was in my way. I made capsule wardrobes for us all, meaning that laundry time was halved and I could breathe again. These two areas were where I saw the drastic changes I wanted and gave me hope to keep going.
My last decluttering tactic and the one I liked the most, was to think about what I wanted to keep, rather than what I wanted to get rid of. What did I love, what did I use everyday and what was worth my time? It was so joyful that it didn’t feel like a task I had to get done, it felt like an incredible step toward the way I wanted to live.
Did you get your family involved? If so, how did that work?
My husband wasn’t living with us at the time but we stayed close and learnt about minimalism at the same time, so as he dealt with his things I dealt with mine. Our children were 5 and 7 when I simplified and I was determined to make this a lifestyle rather than a fad. So I led by example, I focused on my things, I talked about what I was doing, took the kids with me as I donated belongings and showed them the money made, from things I no longer used. I didn’t touch their stuff and not because didn’t want to, I did, they had so many things! But rather I wanted them to see simplifying as a good thing, as a choice, not as something I was making them do.
And it worked, slowly but surely the kids wanted to declutter when I did. Both decluttered in their own way and I’m so glad that I waited. Often we blame others for the clutter in our lives, our kids or spouse for making mess, our friends or workmates for clogging up our calendars but we are responsible too. We have too much clutter and have made bad decisions, it’s just easier to want to deal with everyone else, rather than ourselves. But by dealing with my stuff first, I could be there to deal with my families when they needed me too.
What were the biggest changes you made in how you run your home?
The biggest change to how I ran my home was that I no longer did everything. We are all responsible for what we choose to keep, along with the running of the home and because of that we suddenly had time to spend together, instead of keeping house. There were no more long weekends spent doing hours of chores because our home is easy to pick up and easy to clean.
How has your life been improved by minimising?
My life has changed for the better. Firstly my marriage survived and we are now all back together, living in the same home. My relationship with myself improved as I no longer felt the need to buy things to make me someone else, I am happy to be me. I have more time for my children and am more fun to be around. I have a freedom that I didn’t have before. I am no longer a slave to consumerism, to debt, to trying to be someone I’m not. I’m content with where I am in life and for who I am and to me, that’s huge.
In what unexpected ways has your life or that of your family been affected?
As mentioned my relationship with myself has changed dramatically. I spent a long time not liking who I was and years trying to buy a better version, of who I thought I should be. But through minimalism I learnt that to be happy, all I needed to do was accept me, for me. I could never find happiness in a store, I had to find it within myself because no matter what you buy, it won’t make you feel good unless you love yourself first.
What were some of the things you found hardest to part with?
There were a few things that were hard to part with. One were the things that I bought to make me a better version of myself, or indeed someone else. Things that I never used because they weren’t actually me – the high heeled shoes, or the books with long words I couldn’t understand. These items just reminded me everyday of who I wasn’t but who I thought I should be. They were hard to let go of because then I would be left with who I actually was, which at the time I didn’t want to do. But how liberating it is to allow ourselves to be exactly who we are!
The other thing was the items the kids had outgrown, especially the baby things. I had kept literally everything not wanting to let any of it go. But minimalism showed me that keeping bags of baby clothes and toys were weighing me down. I was keeping these things because I didn’t want to deal with the fact that medically, it wasn’t wise for me to have more children, not because these items held such meaning for me. I guess I didn’t want to admit that they would never be used again.
But slowly I let go and although hard, I don’t regret it because I kept a small box of sentimental belongings, that were important. And although it didn’t change the fact that I won’t have more children, I feel lighter in my home.
Describe the ways in which you prevent your home from going back to the way it once was
I stop my home going back to the way it was by shopping less. We use to shop weekly, maybe even daily?! But by being intentional with my spending, I organically bring in less. Another thing we do is the one in one out method. So if something comes in, something else has to go. This is great for wardrobes, books and house items, which are my main clutter points.
How do you think your children have been impacted by simplifying?
Simplifying has been incredible for our children, they have thrived. Not only do they have more room to play (don’t underestimate the white space left for Lego towers, or dens) they are less overwhelmed with what they own. Play is deeper, toys are loved and looked after, everything is just calmer. Our days have also been simplified. Our pace is our own, so we spend more time in nature splashing in the rain, rather than splashing the cash. Our connection is better, we have more time to be present with them, which I’m sure is all that children want anyway. Stuff can’t replace relationships and time is priceless.
If there is anything you feel your children miss out on, what would that be?
My children don’t feel like they miss out because they still get things. They get presents on special occasions and have pocket money, that they can spend as they wish. Only now instead of it all being about the stuff, we focus more on experiences instead. They may get less overall but we definitely do more! I was really conscious that I didn’t want minimalism to be something they didn’t like, something that meant going without. But I think even the kids would admit to it adding more to our lives, than any of us even imagined.
Describe some of the ways in which you’ve had to adapt in order to live more minimally
I have had to adapt to minimalism by changing my mindset completely. I used to be a shopaholic. When I was sad I shopped, when I was happy I shopped, when I was bored, celebrating, commiserating, I shopped. My lifestyle revolved around it and so I had to really unpick why that was. I discovered that shopping was a bandaid and habit that I used to distract me from myself. When I shopped I felt good but then I felt bad again and shopped, so the cycle continued.
What has been the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has been accepting me for me. I had a lot of emotional clutter, years and years of low self worth and depression. I always thought that if I could just be prettier, or smarter, or thinner, I would be happy. I was always running away from myself. Accepting who I was, as I was, has by far been the greatest challenge of minimalism but one that set the groundwork for being content with my life and what I have.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
That stuff won’t make me happy. That chasing consumerism, the perfect dress, the perfect lipstick, the perfect chair, will never be enough. Because the more we buy the more we want and that want will never end. The goal if I had one, would be to feel complete in an empty room, to feel enough without the stuff, wouldn’t that be an amazing place to be?!
What words of encouragement or wisdom would you offer to motivate someone who feels about their home the way you felt in yours prior to simplifying?
I would say that your home is supposed to be your haven, a place to relax in, to have fun in, a place to love your family. It shouldn’t be a place that steals all of your time. The clutter in our homes often mirrors the clutter in our minds, clear one and the other will follow. Also don’t see it as this huge daunting task because that just adds to the overwhelm. Just start, every day again and again and again, until one day, you realise you are done and you can bask in the time you have gained.
And if decluttering and organising your home is something you’d love to do, you might be interested to see the bonuses that come with a coaching package with me. You can check the full details out here.