Lessons In Minimalism

Please note: I have not been compensated for writing this post. I truly want to share a positive experience with other local women. 

I recently had the good fortune of making a new friend, Madeline Geiger, a small business owner (find her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nwaluckyrainbowcleaners ) with a passion for helping to empower other women (& men) learn to de-clutter, clean, organize and live more peacefully in their homes. Maddy came to my house and spent a few hours cleaning and tidying. She is a practicing minimalist and has created a hodgepodge philosophy that draws on wisdom from multiple places. Most importantly, she is life-affirming and loving. She imparted some smart and simple key principles to me, which I’m pleased to share with you. 

If you can replace it in 20 minutes, for under $20 and you haven’t used it in more than 20 days: Let. It. Go. 

“Just In Case” is crap. My friend Maddy asked me frequently when the last time was that I used something or what its purpose was. Most of the time, my answer was “Um, I’ve never used it… But I might need to one day.” When I said that aloud, I instantly heard how silly it sounded. Let’s deal with today. Do I need a big bag full of iron-on letters to make t-shirts today? NOPE. I might one day, this is true. If that day comes, I can run to the store and purchase some for a few dollars. In the meantime, they take up space and serve no purpose, besides adding to the clutter of my life. 

You are not obligated to keep gifts that don’t serve your family. Pass them on to someone to whom it will add value. It was very kind of your co-worker to donate a huge box of hand-me-downs for your kid. It is OK if your closets are full and the clothes are not your style. There is a mama out there whom would be thrilled to have that box of clothes. Donate, so that someone who needs it can have it. Don’t hold onto something out of obligation, or because you’re afraid you’ll hurt someone’s feelings.

Which leads me to:  

Memories are sufficient.  You don’t need to hold onto a memento or gift out of guilt or nostalgia. If it sits in a box and serves no purpose, pass it on.  I have boxes full of old cards, old house keys, a favorite shirt from my first pregnancy…Those things all represent special people, places, and circumstances. I can remember the places I’ve lived. I recall being pregnant with my daughter. I do not need stacks of pictures taken on a disposable camera in the early 2000’s in order to give meaning or legitimacy to my memories. Holding onto a large porcelain figurine of a dolphin does not make me a better granddaughter. It means I have less space for things that are really important to me. I love my grandmother, but that dolphin sculpture is not proof of my affection.  I could donate the memento and call my grandmother. That would be a much more demonstrative act of caring. 


Re-gift it. Just not to the original giver…. aaawkward. I keep a drawer of little things I’ve received that I have no use for or am not a huge fan of. There will inevitably be an occasion where it will be convenient to have a small gift on hand. No shame in passing on that candle you received from last year’s Secret Santa.

Only buy or keep things that will add value to your life. If it is functional, it is valuable.  If you don’t know what you’re going to do with it: you don’t need it. If you aren’t willing to clean or store it: you don’t need it.  

Just because something is on sale does not mean you are saving money. I’m looking at you, Target dollar section. A treasure trove of the most random, albeit cute, crap. And its $3? Awesome; let’s get 5 of them! I tell myself the whole time I’m caught in that vortex of stimulation: “you are a sucker”. Then I spend $50 on the “dollar section” anyway. We have to get a grip.

Your kids are not going to suffer if they don’t have every cool new toy.  My son likes pots and pans. And brooms, acorns, and flashlights. Kids are ridiculously easy to please and we as their parents are the ones training them what to expect out of life. They can amuse themselves with dirt and sticks. They don’t know about the trendy electronic toy that just came out. They couldn’t care less.  Let’s try not to teach them to obsess over the latest and greatest as much as grown-ups tend to do. I want to give my child the gift of contentment with simplicity and gratitude for what he has.

Your home should be your sanctuary, not a source of more chaos and headache, nor a storage shed.  The world is a scary place sometimes. When we come home from battling traffic, dealing with the line at the grocery store, or drama at work, we deserve to come home to rest.  Not just sleep, but  r e s t. Like, as in, quiet your mind. Tune out the noise. Shift your focus back to what really matters. If your piles of stuff are causing you to feel anxious while in your sanctuary, get rid of them. You don’t need more organization; you need less stuff. 

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