It is always a good exercise to look back and remember where we first started and recognize our progress as a person, while also encouraging others who are just getting started on their own journeys. With the new beginning of February, I’d like to backtrack a little and relive my own beginnings of simplicity, and hopefully in the process, help motivate and give hope to those who are just starting out.
Looking back over 20 years ago, I can now see that my journey to simplicity started when I was child, home schooled and living in the Mohave Desert 20 miles out of the nearest town. We hauled our own water, and for a time seven of us lived in a motor home, then transitioned to a shed while my parent’s built our home little by little. I played outside a lot with my four siblings. We built houses out of rocks, chased each other, caught lizards and horned toads, played in the washes, learned about snakes, scorpions and how to build forts. All of this simple childhood play helped fuel our creativity as children and as an adult has given me the realization that having ‘stuff’ or ‘toys’ is not required for happiness, and may even hinder it in some ways. But, I didn’t realize that my childhood had taught me this, or prepared me for embracing a simpler life until I was an adult, married with three children.
In 2010, my husband was accepted to a medical school located outside the U.S. on an island that is only 16 square miles. Our children were 3, 5 and 7 at the time. We had very little money saved, but had accumulated a four bedroom house worth of typical American family possessions. We had a mini-van and a truck, a dog, a backyard trampoline, fake houseplants, a piano, fish and wall clocks. We were living the dream. But, with my husband’s school acceptance, we had to decide to store everything or sell most of what we could before our move. We held several yard sales and parted with most of our large items, and opted to store just a few things. We took with us only 10 suitcases and 6 boxes, and that was the beginning of our path to simplicity.
Fast-forward two years, and we relocated to New York City for hubby’s rotations. We didn’t move back into a four-bedroom home, but into a 1,000 square foot apartment on the third floor of a building in the middle of Queens. I still didn’t realize I was on the path to simple living, and tried to start accumulating again. But I just didn’t have the room! We were so cramped with items stuffed under our beds, our closets barely able to close, cupboards filled so full it was like putting a puzzle together to put things away. I was frustrated to say the least. It was at that point, I can’t exactly remember what I was searching for, but I came across Joshua Becker and Leo Babauta’s websites. Their messages rang so true for me, I knew right then that it was what I had been looking for. Permission to stop. Stop the accumulating and give myself and my family space.
From that point, our stuff was history, or at least 65-70% of it. Starting in New York, and continuing over the next 3 years, we decluttered the vast majority of our belongings that we no longer used and decided we didn’t need. It has been one of the most freeing things in my life. As most simple living and minimalist advocates will say, it didn’t stop with just our physical possessions either. I went on to simplify other areas in my life, our children’s schedules as much as I could, which greatly helped ease the burden and stress on our family, especially as my husband’s schedule intensified. My husband and children have been supportive of the change and even helpful with parts of it, decluttering their own possessions too. We still struggle to embrace less screen time, or get rid of our TV’s and video game systems altogether, but as with anything, we are a work in progress.
While we are well on our way into the simple lifestyle, there are many who are newly beginning their journey on this road. If this is you, welcome and I’m so glad you have found value in living a simpler life. There are many on this path with you who will provide lots of encouragement and support! I am one of them. This February, consider a New Beginning for yourself, a new beginning of a simpler life, more time, freedom, contentment and peace and so much more than you can ever imagine.