Challenges

I’ve changed my mind about my theme for this blog. Well, I suppose I could consider it an evolution of sorts. I’ve joined the “minimalist” movement and I want to write about that. Although for me, it really started four years ago when we left Pittsburgh to come back to Michigan. We were living in the city, in a big house with no yard. We lived on a street that had continuous traffic, and throughout the night we would hear the announcement of buses, “101. Downtown”. Our neighbors were only a single car width away from us. We could hear their arguments. The one I especially remember was one with the husband shouting at his wife, waking me at 2:20 a.m., “YOU’RE RUINING MY LIFE!”. It was only a couple of months later that they separated and divorced. Anyway, my point is that we found our dream house in Michigan before we sold our house in Pittsburgh. When I say “dream house”, I don’t really mean it the way most people think about it. Because it wasn’t the house that was our dream. It was the small lake and woods where it was built. In fact, I didn’t really even like the house. It was a small ranch with a walk out basement. Nothing special at all. And the woman who had lived there was elderly, and her husband had died, so she was moving in with her sister in Virginia. The house was filled with her things – lots of artificial flowers, magnets on the refrigerator, religious signs on the walls, etc. We knew it would take a good bit of remodeling to make it our own, but we felt up for the task.

Carrying two mortgages was not a good situation for us at that time. Well, is it ever? But especially at that time, because all 5 of our children were either in graduate school, medical school, or college. That’s why we had decided to move. Our children were all over the country, and we expected that would be a permanent situation. We decided we would *not* be parents who would follow our children wherever they went. How could we choose which child to follow? So, we decided to make the changes necessary to ready the house in Pittsburgh to put on the market. Mostly, this involved cleaning and painting, and replacing some flooring. But during that process we rented two huge dumpsters, and emptied our basement, donated children’s clothes that no longer fit anyone, threw out Christmas presents never used and games never played. We are a Brady Bunch family, so we each had our children in a different marriage, hence two family’s worth of mugs, spoons, files. . . you can imagine. We filled those dumpsters within a week. There were things we threw away that I had forgotten we had. I was embarrassed by our wealth of material possessions that we hadn’t even looked at in over ten years. I remember thinking, “Just how many coffee mugs will we really need?”. I settled on four that had special meaning to me.

We threw away, gave away or donated everything that lacked meaning to our family. We had to keep in mind that we were moving from a house with nearly 4000 square feet to one with just over 1200. There would not be room to just have “stuff” that no one cared about or even remembered. We established a few rules about what we could keep and what we couldn’t. There would be no unitaskers – items that only did one thing, like a special knife for chopping herbs, or a strawberry huller. There would be no duplicates unless they would be used, for example, we would have enough plates for company, but we wouldn’t have more than one *set* of plates. Some of this was difficult. When we came upon art that the children had made in school, it was difficult to throw *anything* away. We decided to keep only a couple of things from each child, and vowed that they would be displayed in our new house, thus, they would be used. For example, one of our daughters went through a batik phase, where she and a friend spent their Saturdays creating batik prints. We ended up saving three of the batiks, and when we moved we had them professionally framed. There are now the primary art items in our living room.

When we arrived at our new house, at night, in the middle of a blizzard, we had only what would fit in our car with our two dogs who had traveled with us. That was an air bed, pillows, a few pots and pans, toiletries, and a couple of changes of clothes. The moving van would arrive several days later, so we were prepared to live very simply at the beginning. Even after our things arrived, it only took a week to unpack all of our boxes, and I knew where everything was located. I loved that feeling. One day my husband asked where the measuring cup was, and I was able to go right to it. Notice I said *the* measuring cup. One. There would be no more searching through junk drawers, packed utensil drawers, or closet doors that couldn’t be opened.

So when I think about my own journey in simplifying our home, it starts there, with our move four years ago. And it continued with our lifestyle, our finances, our wardrobes, and the way we think, which I will write more about tomorrow.

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