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February’s Challenge: Living with Less

Zoe and Elsie dancing together

First off – thanks to all of my readers who commented/messaged me with their feedback on my last post. You guys have given me some really great food for thought (pardon to pun!) with paring down our grocery bill each month. I’ve also received quite a few questions about our bi-weekly meal rotation. Let it be known, I’ve heard you guys and I’ll be writing a post in the next couple of weeks with more of a “how to” in regards to meal planning.

All of your feedback and insight, though, has sparked some interesting conversation between Jeff and me. The premise behind our $500/month grocery limit has been to take better control of our finances (read my previous post here) while also living with less stress and more contentment. However, what would it look like to live with less in more than just the grocery sector of our lives? What if we minimized “stuff” to maximize contentment? What if, for the month of February, we took a long, hard look at our possessions and thought about whether they were truly aligning with our core family values? What kind of relationship do we have with our possessions? How will our girls perceive our attachment to material things? What does “living with less” really look like for our family?

Bottom line – we want to be a family that lives out contentment on a daily basis. We want to take the time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. We want to be free from the mental stress of owning unnecessary things. We want Jeff to be able to spend more time at home than at work. We want to have time to pursue our BHAGS (Big Hairy Audacious Goals…stay tuned for a more in-depth post about BHAGS). But these desires require action on our part.

Our first target, so far, in living with less has been our basement. We have a huge, unfinished basement. A huge, FULL, unfinished basement. At least we did, as of a week ago. In the past week, Jeff and I have gone through a cleansing spree of selling everything and anything from our basement that we are no longer using. Kids stuff? Gone. Old furniture? Gone. Unused, unopened wedding gifts from over seven years ago? Gone. Jeff’s old N64? Gone. (Side note – who knew those things were worth so much?!?) In one weekend, we made over $1000, simply selling stuff that our family has outgrown or that we haven’t used in years. That $1000 went towards buying a road bike for Jeff as he trains for an Ironman in the summer. (Talk about one Big Hairy Audacious Goal!) The point is, the selling of unnecessary possessions has made room to afford accomplishing a bucket list dream of Jeff’s.

Selling random things around our house proved to us just how much we really have and turned our focus onto what we can actually live without. We want to keep that momentum going. Spurned on by all of your feedback and by the addicting rush of selling things, Jeff and I brainstormed some practical ways that we’re going to continue to live with less for the month of February. They say that it only takes 21 days to form a habit, so our hope is that by the end of this month, we will have formed a pattern to live by that we can continue long term.

Starting with my closet. This scares the living junk out of me. I have more than a strong attachment to my clothes. I’ve kept a skirt once because it was the skirt that I wore on the day that I met Jeff. No matter that it was completely out of style. That I hadn’t worn it in at least five years. It had sentimental value. It was my “good luck” skirt. Eyeroll. I don’t think I’m quite ready to do a capsule wardrobe, however, I imagine I could get rid of at least one hundred items and I’d still have plenty to wear. So, for the month of February, my challenge is to par down my wardrobe to 50 items, put the remaining clothes in garbage bags, tuck them away (probably in our newly spacious basement!) and see if I truly miss those clothes. If, by the time March rolls around, I have found I can’t live without certain tucked away items, you bet I’m going to go digging through those bags to reclaim certain clothes. I have a sneaky suspicion, though, that I won’t be missing anything and that there’s a very good chance that those garbage bags will make it to the Thrift Store unopened.

We also have a clunker of a fridge in our garage that I’m pretty sure accounts for half of our hydro bill each month. It holds, currently, a couple of tubs of yogurt, one lonely shriveled cucumber and eggs. We don’t need this fridge. The only time it has come in handy has been when we’ve entertained large crowds. But, the few times a year that we have more than 15 people over at our house, I’m pretty sure we can get creative with our camping cooler and our current, less-energy sucking fridge in the kitchen. So, February is the month that we say “adios” to the garage fridge.

Jeff is also a collector. Over the years, he’s collected stamps, coins, golf balls and since we’ve been married, beer cans. Loads and loads of unique, craft beer cans. When I say loads and loads, I mean close to 15 boxes of beer cans. The intention has been to display said beer cans in a yet-to-be-built bar in our basement. While the idea is super cool, the amount of beer cans Jeff currently owns would wrap around the perimeter of our basement about ten times. We don’t need that many beer cans.

Before you think that I’m making my poor husband get rid of his lifelong collection, I’ve agreed to narrow down my Christmas decoration collection down to two tote bins. (For those of you who know me well, you know this is the equivalent to cutting off my right arm.) I’m the weirdo who starts decorating for Christmas before Halloween. I listen to Christmas music in September. I own enough garland to probably wrap around the perimeter of our basement about ten times. We don’t need that much Christmas.

So how will living with less affect our core values of faith, marriage, family, hospitality and contentment? Our hope is that owning less stuff will mean we will have more time to pursue the Lord, more time to shift our focus from the material to the eternal. Our spare time will not be spent so much with being consumed with organizing and taking care of unessential items. Rather we’ll have more time to develop relationships, whether that be in our marriage, with our kids or by opening our home to others. Hopefully owning less will foster a deeper appreciation for possessions we deem important and necessary.

I imagine that this month will be stretching for us as a couple. I know I too often put my hope and trust in my belongings. They act like a security blanket at times. Call it cliche, but you can’t take it with you. When all is said and done, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be glad I kept that extra Christmas garland or my “lucky skirt,” I’m positive that I’ll be thankful that we made the space to develop relationships with those around us instead.

What about you? What do you do to live with less? Or what scares you about relinquishing possessions? What would you struggle to give up the most? Or what would you stand to gain by living more minimally? There’s only 23 more days left in February. And you know what they say about 21 days….

 

10 thoughts on “February’s Challenge: Living with Less”

  1. Love it! Have you ever used thredUP? They’ll send you the bag, you stuff in your clothes, they take pictures and list online and sell, and you get a percentage of the money. Could not be easier…the bag is even prepaid shipping. You just hand it to the postal carrier! I love it for shopping and selling! Here is my referral link… http://www.thredup.com/r/NCOFER Let me know what you think!

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  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE this – couldn’t agree more. For me it started by reading a book by Marie Kondo about the Konmari method of minimalizing. It is a slow process as it takes a long time to go through the house, but I have done a serious purge through the entire house already and now just regularly declutter and get rid of things that do not bring me joy (that’s in the Konmari method), we do not use, or we can live without and find an alternative to when needed. Worst case, we miss something so much we buy it again. I have found it worth my time to only sell large enough items, and to always have a thrift store box running! A few weeks ago I wore a blouse to church and kept it on all day, and when I went to bed took it off to wash and throw in the thrift store. A few times that day I had thought about how I didn’t love it as much as I used to. Yesterday, I wore a sweater I had to readjust WAY too many times that I took it off halfway through the day and I am never putting it back on! It’s a process – we switched rooms and the 3 kids have our bigger bedroom so Dan and I have quite a small closet but I am happy to say everything we have fits it it or our 6 drawer dresser (3 each!). But, even now I go through things and wonder why I kept it the first time around 🙂 I am sure if I go through my basement shelves I could scale back again and I just did it 6 months ago! I was SOOOOO sick of being the “stuff manager” in our home – I would rather put on many other “hats” than that one! I can definitely resonate with not wanting to waste our precious spare time organizing unessential items! Happy minimalizing!!! (Sidenote – I am buying a 2nd fridge this week! haha…. hopefully for us that’s the right choice right now!)

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    1. Hi Em! I’ve heard of the KonMari method of minimalizing! (And actually, interestingly enough, our Coffee Break is hosting a workshop discussing her methods in a couple of weeks. I obviously signed up! Super stoked!) I love your title of “stuff manager.” I totally get that. I used to pride myself in how good I was at organizing all our “stuff.” I plan to change that….big time! 🙂

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  3. We kondo marie’d Our house last year (I saw we…it was me;) and it was addicting getting rid of stuff! Life feels lighter doesn’t it! I need to do another round this spring…kids clothes!!! So many kids clothes! I stopped saving clothes for the next kid for the most part which was great! Now my goal is to have empty drawers and spaces in my home that are purposeful and reflect “space”. I think for me that is the goal for me with living with less…space that reflects room for more- when everything is full I feel like my life is overflowing and I am overwhelmed with it.

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    1. I hear ya on the kid’s clothes! I think I’m going to tackle that this weekend! I have two girls, and I don’t know, people just can’t seem to stop buying them clothes! (I get it. Girls clothes are SO stinking cute…and they have so many accessories. But regardless, my girls both have their favourite things they wear, and everything else never gets worn. Unless I bribe them to. And then it’s a full on meltdown. Totally not worth it!)

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