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….