A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Help! My Daughter Became a Minimalist

Editor Note: This is a guest post by my mom, Vickie Sloderbeck. She blogs with me at our site Sidetracked Moms.

When Faith first started talking about minimalism, I remember thinking, “Okay, so what’s the big deal? I’ve been dejunking and throwing stuff away most all my life.”

You see, I grew up in the military and when I married my husband, he went through medical school on Navy scholarship while attending medical school. Upon graduation, we then served with them for five years. When I calculated how many times I’ve moved in my life, I came up with 24! That’s meant I’ve dejunked a bunch so this concept was not a new to me.

I’ll admit that I was quite surprised to learn there was a whole movement happening “out there” about this topic. I didn’t quite understand what the big deal was at first. However, what really caught my attention was Faith’s sudden passion of this area for her life. I haven’t seen her on fire for anything quite like this in a long time.

In the beginning of our combining our households, many things happened quite naturally. When you put two households together under one roof, you suddenly don’t need, nor can you fit, two dining room tables, china cabinets or outdoor grills in the same space meant for one. Yet, as things progressed, I also found myself desiring to “declutter my life” of stuff.

  • Things like many of the children’s books I had accumulated over the years to bless my children’s learning and to share with other homeschooling moms began to find their way into boxes and be sent to new homes to bless friends and others I will never know. In the past it would have been difficult for me to part with so many of them; however, re-selling and giving away about 50 boxes of books while keeping some “treasures” felt like the right thing to do. I couldn’t believe how good it actually felt.
  • Clothing I hadn’t worn in a long time finally made its way into big black plastic bags and dropped into bins for charity so that others could wear them.
  • Kitchen appliances and gadgets that had been sitting in a drawer or on a shelf unused either made their way into the trash or were passed on to friends and other family who appreciated them and would use them.
  • Good pieces of furniture were donated, too, which helped to make room for some extra floor space.

As I’ve participated in minimizing my possessions and watched others in our family do the same, I noticed myself not only needing to downsize, but also desiring to do it with a new purpose in mind.

I can’t tell you whether it stemmed from having a bunch of “stuff” in storage since February 2007 when we first started our venture of trying to sell our home (which didn’t sell after 51 months and is the one we all live in now). Having to pay money all that time on stuff I didn’t even miss after a short period of time may be a big part of why minimizing attracted me. I just didn’t want to have to find places to put all that stuff back in!

Like Faith shared with me along the way, it started becoming something I desired to do rather than something I had to do. As we worked our way through each room, it almost became like a game for me as we tackled each room—what did we really need to keep in it and what could we realistically get rid of?

Over the last 10 months we’ve cleaned out Faith’s house while my family has been “moved back in”—all in such as way as if it is a new house for all of us. And in doing so, I’ve experienced and learned a few things that might help you.

Lessons I’ve Learned:

  1. Whether you call it “downsizing, dejunking, or minimalizing,” it definitely brings a sense of calmness and peace to your spirit because there isn’t as much stuff around that needs a place to be, or needs cleaned, or requires money to be spent on it. Maybe you’ve heard the same saying I heard years ago: “The more you own, the more it owns you.”
  2. So many of the things I got rid of I haven’t even missed!
  3. It saddens me to realize that so many of the things I gave away were ones I thought I just had to have at the time. I don’t know if it’s age or what, but I find that it just doesn’t take much to cause me to feel content anymore. Minimizing has really been very therapeutic for me.
  4. As I’ve learned about this movement and how some people try to reach a particular number of possessions, and somehow by doing so, they become a minimalist. I have to tell you that I just don’t see it that way. It’s like saying that what I wear to church on Sunday is what you should wear too so that we both can be considered “Christian.” Instead, I see this as a movement where there is room for everyone—no matter how many things you’ve decided to keep that are important to you versus how much you get rid of.
  5. I’ve come to realize that my husband is never going to cull out his library of books like I did. They are so much a part of who he is. I remember him having a bigger library in his bedroom than our family did in our whole house, and that was back when we were 15! Plus, unlike me, he has read most every one of the thousands of books he owns. At over 100 books read every year, his books are definitely his friends. They are important to him—his “treasures”—and that’s just fine with me. He has been great about everything else.
  6. I never want to go back to where I was before all this started! While I realize there will always be a need to clean things up and declutter items in the future, I don’t want to be a slave to any of my possessions anymore.

Do I now consider myself a minimalist?

In some ways, I guess. I’ve certainly downsized my possessions a lot and I’m starting to enjoy getting some free time back into my days now that the dumpster has left. However, whether or not I label myself as a “minimalist” doesn’t really seem like a big deal to me.

Instead, I have found a tremendous freedom in not having to maintain, or even think about certain possessions anymore. Now, as an added benefit to all our hard work (and it has been hard work), I find myself enjoying more time to spend talking with family, participating in meals together, reading, listening to music in the evenings again, settling down from a crazy routine and lifestyle that occurred before we moved in together, and even finding the time and having experienced these things so that I could write this blog post!

You can read more from Vickie and our multi-generational family of 10 living under one roof at Sidetracked Moms. Please feel free to ask questions, comment, or just say “Hi” in the comments of today’s post. Thanks, Mom!


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Article originally published on 02/21/2011

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Comments

  1. Great post to read, as we are about to merge two households too! I’m the keep-it-simple one, and my Mum rather less so, so it will be interesting to see how we manage. I am already having to resist the ‘I’ve spotted a little space in your living-room/kitchen/bedroom where that … of mine could go …”. Help!

    • Vickie Sloderbeck says:

      Alexa, when the kids decided to move in, we all made a commitment to do it “for good.” I know this was the key for me when it came time for melding our households. I wanted it to feel as much like home for Faith and her family as it did for the rest of us. Plus, when it actually came time to make decisions on what to keep and what to get rid of, I found I wasn’t as attached to most things as I thought. I just never had felt a real need to make decisions about some things before we moved in together. Maybe this will happen for you and your mum, too.

      Best wishes on your new adventure and keep us posted on how it’s going. We’re all learning together!

  2. Aloha, Faith & Vickie!
    What a wonderful post! I love that you and your families have combined in what we call Ohana style in the islands. We have chosen to do that too with friends that are like our adopted parents to help one another simplify and to keep expenses down. We too had to make judgement calls on what to do with excess, we used our furniture here on the island and a mixture of a very few accessories and just enough kitchen setup. Its already been very interesting at times to collaborate, but we’ve all learned through the process and come out the other side happy to have simplified. I’m going to check out your other blog as well! Have fun on the journey together!!

    • Vickie Sloderbeck says:

      Hi Gena,

      I think one of the reasons that has helped us in our journey is how well we all get along. Next to Jim, Faith is my best friend and that has made things even sweeter. Now it’s fun to have her family living downstairs and spending much of our days together, as well as having quality AND quantity time with my grandchildren.

      Communication between the four of us is key in this adventure and we’re working on ways to do this better.

      Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  3. Thank you for the wonderful post. I have been following the ‘minimalst movement’ for quite a while now, and this is a perfect example of the ambassadorship that we need more of, to spread minimalism’s true goal: a world devoted to finding true happiness instead of chasing Stuff.

    This post is also important for another reason: it outlines perfectly how minimalism doesn’t have to be this obsession that hangs over your head constantly as you count your possessions. It is a *part* of your life, but not the driving force behind it. You convey very clearly that you aren’t in the more-minimalist-than-thou race, but simply using minimizing as a tool to help you down the path to your ideal life. This is the true spirit and purpose of ‘the minimalist movement’. If everyone could drive home this point as beautifully as you did, we wouldn’t need to have a thousand blogs on how to convince your spouse/children/parents/dog that you haven’t gone insane, you’ve just become a minimalist, and there wouldn’t be a widespread digital upheaval every time Everett Bogue announced he has moved on from a fad. This post needs to be shared all across the Web!

    • Vickie Sloderbeck says:

      Aldrea, thank you for your kind words. I admit I don’t keep up with the minimalist movement, so I’m not aware of what some of the “leaders” profess (except Faith’s of course. 🙂 Instead, I tend to live more in the realm of what my husband likes to say, “Everything in moderation.”

      Blessings in your journey, too.

  4. Hiya Vickie and Faith,

    Our family is being challenged these last couple of months to live a life that is more about how to bless those with what we have been blessed with. To look intently at how we are living out our Christian walk, and live a more purposeful, Biblical life.

    One of the ways we are feeling we might do so is to let go of the stuff we just do not NEED, by giving it to those who do need it…

    We are just at the begining of our journey. We have no idea where it will take us. But when I read about the journey you are on, it challenges me in my own to take a good look at our life, and question why we are living it the way we are.

    I have really enjoyed reconnecting with you both in this way, and look forward to hearing about all that you are learning!

    Kat

    • Vickie Sloderbeck says:

      Hi Kat, I really “hear” your heart on this issue. It can be difficult to sort through what we need and other things that are just nice to have.

      Because you sense God leading you in this direction, you can bet it will become an adventure and a rewarding experience. Over the course of my marriage, and especially since these last 10 months of combining our households, there were times when it was a lot of hard work. However, there was often a sense of adventure and excitement as we saw things “disappearing.” Giving books, appliances and furniture away to friends and charity is always incredibly satisfying to me. It fills me with a type of joy that goes all the way down to my toenails! 🙂

      Blessings to you and your family on your newest journey.

  5. I don’t think it is possible to convert people to minimalism. I think the desire to minimize slowly grows in the minds of people around you as they notice changes in your life. Curiosity and envy are powerful feelings and they open the door for change.

    I honestly don’t know if I could combine households like you and your daughter have done. It is one of the interesting situations that lead me to read Faith’s blog.

  6. Vickie Sloderbeck says:

    Hi Marc,

    I agree that minimalism is something that is “caught rather than taught.” Listening and watching Faith’s passion is infectious. She doesn’t just talk about it–she did it and is living it. That’s contagious. Somehow watching her and all we were doing together caused me to want to get on board as well.

    In addition, I have to believe that what I am doing is purposeful and my actions are beneficial; otherwise, I’ll quit doing them. Being less cluttered and regaining organized spaces causes me not to want to go back to the way things were–not just physically, but mentally.

    Now about combining households. Without realizing it at the time, there is one event that sticks out in my mind that I believe helped me to prepare for our new way of living.

    A couple of months before we ever started talking about living together, there was an evening when my husband, my mom and I were eating dinner together. After looking around and sitting quietly for a few moments, I said aloud, “I don’t like this! It makes me feel old.” Somehow in that moment I sensed that being an “empty nester” was not how I wanted to live someday.

    While our 15 and 17 year olds are still with us, I realize that living with small children, lots of activity and noise may not be for everyone. (I do admit that I desire to go where it’s quiet sometimes, and I can now, but I also felt like this sometimes when I was raising five children the first time around.) That night I feel like I caught a small glimpse of what the future was going to be like going down the path of empty-nester, and I clearly discovered I didn’t like it!

    Marc, thanks for taking the time to read my post and for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Faith, I found your blog via Gena’s series of Go Slow posts, and I love that you got your mom to contribute something (welcome, Vickie!). My mom read some of my recent blog posts and told me the other day that she really felt a connection to what I’m writing about and hopes to find ways to remember what’s important to her – she is sometimes surrounded by people with a lot more money and different perspectives on how to spend it, and I think she gets caught up in thinking she doesn’t have “enough” – which is far from the truth! It’s great to be able to share these principles across the generations, and I love it when we can inspire those both older and younger than ourselves.

  8. Hi Vickie,

    How fun to meet Faith’s mom! I’ve been really amazed by what you all are accomplishing, just based on the fact that there are 10 of you living under one roof. I’ve been doing some multi-generational living lately (don’t know what else to call it) when we moved in with my mother in law. We’ve been loving the togetherness of it (not something you hear from daughter in laws too often but it’s true) and it’s really been helping her out with bills while reducing the amount we were spending as well.

    It was nice to hear your story and see how you’re all managing to thrive and shine under one big happy (decluttered) roof.

    Cheers,
    Tanja

    p.s. to Faith: We’re doing the mega yard sale this weekend (yay). Half of Christmas is going out and drumroll…. the hutch is leaving the bedroom! It’s either selling in the yard sale or getting donated straight afterwards. Wish me luck!

    • Faith Janes says:

      Wow, good luck with the yard sale, Tanja and YEAH for no more hutch in the bedroom!! I know that’ll all feel great once it’s over.

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