Learning to Live with Less

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I had the privilege of sharing a bit of my minimalism journey in the latest issue of Queen of the Castle. Check it out:

Maybe you can relate to a similar experience.

You spend hours, maybe even days, organizing the kids’ toys, your clothes, the hallway closet or the junk drawer in the kitchen. Everything has a place. An overwhelming sense of joy and peace overcomes you after tackling some of the biggest messes in your home. But then it happens. Life. Kids. The day-to-day grind of family, work, school, appointments and extracurriculars. And it can happen in only a few short days, maybe even hours. What was just an immaculately organized toy bin, closet or junk drawer has suddenly reverted to the complete and total mess it once was.

Ugh. All that hard work for nothing.  

It’s such a frustrating experience! Not only is the mess back, but all hope that you can gain control of your stuff has been lost, and you give up.

I’ve been down this road many, many times! Too many times, in fact.  

But then I discovered something that has eliminated many of these frustrating and hopeless experiences with decluttering. It didn’t make my life perfect – not even close – but it allowed for me to live a simpler life. It’s called minimalism.

I know that’s kind of a freaky word, but minimalism is nothing more than simply choosing to live with less. It’s figuring out what’s important and what’s not and then getting rid of what’s not.

So that’s what I did. I went through all of my clothes, photos, paper, sentimental items, the garage and my workshop, and I got rid of the stuff I didn’t need or want. Stuff that didn’t add value to my life or bring me joy. I ended up selling a ton of stuff at a neighborhood thrift sale and donated a bunch more. It felt amazing. I mean, literally, getting rid of all that stuff gave me a huge endorphin rush! But more importantly it made my life simpler. There was less to think about. Less to organize. Less to clean. Less to look at.

And minimalism is not just about less stuff and less clutter, but it’s also about choosing to live with less stress, less debt, less discontent and fewer distractions. And now that a lot of my stuff is gone I can begin to concentrate on some of these other areas.

Minimalism truly has improved my life, and I know it can improve the lives of others, too.There is no one formula for living a minimalist lifestyle – it looks different for everyone.  

There’s a unique opportunity coming to Wisconsin this spring where our communities will have the chance to hear the stories of others who have decided to live with less. In May and June the film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things is coming to Eau Claire, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee and Oshkosh. Screenings of this documentary are happening across the US, and they’re inspiring communities like ours to ask themselves, “How might my life be better with less?” The film follows minimalist architects, designers, musicians, businessmen, authors and minimalist families and shares with viewers the many different flavors of minimalism. You will get an inside look into the lives of those who are thriving with less.

No matter if your home (and storage unit) are chock-full of stuff you’ve been accumulating for decades or if you only have 50 items to your name, you’re welcome to join us as we’re challenged to reevaluate the things that matter most to us. I hope you do.

Reserve your ticket(s) today. Find the city closest to you on the map and then click the “reserve ticket” button. Please note that you can’t purchase tickets at the theater – you must reserve them online ahead of time.

This article first appeared on the Queen of the Castle website

photo credit: Logan Adermatt

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12 thoughts on “Learning to Live with Less

  1. In your first paragraph, you described the story of my life. I am curious how you got the rest of the family on board with minimalism. My husband doesn’t get why I want to “get rid of everything”.

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    1. The best thing I’ve done is focus on my stuff – my clothes, my photos, my sentimentals, my workshop, etc – because that’s stuff I have 100% control over. I can do whatever I want with that without my wife caring. But for stuff that we share – kitchen items, house decorations, etc – that stuff is more tricky because usually I’m more gung-ho about getting rid of stuff than my wife. I try my best to communicate what I’m doing and ask her to join me. Sometimes she does and sometimes she doesn’t. As for her stuff that I have no control over, I’ve learned to leave that alone (I once threw out her backpack from college without asking – oops). I do offer to help her declutter her stuff because I understand that it can be overwhelming for people that aren’t obsessed about getting rid of stuff like I am. I hope that all makes sense. In short, I guess I focus on me and hope it rubs off on my family, and I’m always willing to help out since I have most of the motivation for stuff like this.

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      1. I am definitely more into minimalism than him. Somehow my husbands electrical toothbrush has gone missing and he swears I was me. Lol good tips. That’s what I’ve been trying to do. Maybe I need more patience.

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  2. That’s awesome Ernie. As much as we like to live a minimalistic life, it seems like our house is drowning in my daughter’s toys too!

    I do however do a good job of getting rid of a lot things we don’t use on Craigslist and yards sales once or twice a year 🙂

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    1. I always remind myself that living minimally doesn’t always mean living neatly! We, too, have toys everywhere, and I’m just glad it’s a handful of toys instead of ten billion!

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    1. Thanks Kalie. Yeah, it took me 36 years to realize that the less stuff I have the less cleaning and organizing I need to do!

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  3. Nicely written Ernie; I definitely relate to the toys! Mr. Potato Head pieces and building blocks are strewn about multiple times a day; thankfully, we’ve had our kiddo helping with clean up since the beginning so, with our help of course, things always find their home when we’re done.

    To note, though, this past week we sold some pieces of furniture, have donated a lot (with more to come) of clothes and our son’s toys to a local children’s home and our Jeep is currently crammed packed with more clothes and larger baby items that are headed to a thrift/consignment store this weekend. We’ve still got some more work to do in the basement and could probably make another pass and rid some more stuff from the closet.

    We are certainly working on becoming more minimalist in nature, especially with our plans of moving into an Airstream in a few years. I’m a little more gung-ho about all of it than my wife, but we’re on the same page with our long term goals so it’s working out nicely. She (and myself…lol) have a big soft spot for buying stuff when it comes to our kiddo.

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    1. Yeah, it’s tough not to buy kids stuff knowing how excited they get, but honestly that excitement is temporary. I’ve gone through too many Christmases and birthdays with my boys to see them get super excited about all their stuff only to see it completely forgotten and cast aside weeks later. I’m still trying to figure out how gifts work in our family.

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      1. Totally understand ya there, buddy. Sometimes, my wife and I get more excited about something we run across on Amazon than I think our kid would…lol. We also agree with the “figuring out how gifts work” with us, as well. As you know, we’re planning to go full-time RV living in a few years so we hate the idea of constantly getting cheap, plastic crap that ends up donated or in the garbage.

        Cheyenne came across this idea of limiting gift-giving to four presents: one to read, one to wear, one they need, and one they want. After this past Christmas, we expressed this plan with our family and are hoping things go as planned…I’m sure it will take some reminding! 🙂

        Also, I’m working on switching over our son’s Coverdell ESA, that I had at E*Trade, over to a 529 with Vanguard. My plan is to pass out (maybe in the family Christmas card??) a gift-deposit slip so that people can gift him with something truly tangible and long-lasting, as opposed to wasting money on trinkets that are soon forgotten and discarded.

        Hope you find these ideas useful; let me know if you’ve got any suggestions.

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  4. I feel like I have had the experience you describe, only without the peace from it being organized. It can be put away and still feel wrong. I think I would have been a good candidate for extreme minimalism, but now with a 7-month-old, it is kind of challenging to tackle the basement or garage. I think having a child certainly increases that sense of constant busyness that makes getting rid of excess even more crucial.

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    1. Extreme minimalism? Sounds like the next great reality TV show 🙂 Yes, I agree – having kids has intensified my focus to get rid of my stuff so that I can spend more time with them and less time organizing, cleaning, and maintaining my stuff.

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