By Steve Flynn
It was 2006 and my wife and I were newly married. We lived in the red-hot real estate market of Central Florida and were considering becoming home owners. A new condominium community just down the road from the apartment we were renting featured some amazing deals.
Now, those of you who experienced the bust of the now infamous real estate bubble realize that purchasing a condo...in 2006...in Central Florida...is about the worst investment in history. But, like I said we were young and excited, unaware of the pending crash.
We bought the condo and within twelve months were upside down by 200% - Ouch! However, like most things in life, there was a purpose. I would not realize it at the time, but this awful investment has had incredible benefit to my family and I.
Flash forward ten years and I now have two young children, a cat, and my wife (still putting up with me after ten years) in that same quaint condo. The value is not quite back above water, but it's moving in the right direction. We have a few closets, and no garage. As the toys multiplied (I swear sometimes they have reproductive capabilities!), the clothes filled drawers to the max, we knew we had to make a change.
As I was doing my morning reading, I came across a blog from a writer named Joshua Becker. He writes on what he called "rational minimalism". I was instantly inspired and knew it would be the key to make our lifestyle work.
Here's what I love about this approach. This is not the sell all of your possessions and live on a communal farm kind of minimalism. This is minimalism for real people and real families that have real kids with a lot of real stuff! The concept is simple but not easy. Rational minimalism encourages us to own less for the purpose of decluttering life.
And so our journey toward minimalism began. At first it was easy. We had clothes we didn't like and hadn't worn in years hanging in our closets. There were toys that hadn't been played with in so long the kids forgot about them. The first layer came off with ease.
The next step was a little more challenging. Josh, and other popular advocates of minimalism challenge us to pick up each item we have in our homes and decide if that item "brings us joy". If it doesn't, it goes. Now, I know this sounds a little odd - but trust me, it works. This should be applied to clothing and even household decor.
As we removed stuff from our home we literally felt a weight lift off our shoulders. We simply had not realized that owning too much stuff was subconsciously weighing us down.
Here are three surprise lessons we've learned from adopting the minimalist lifestyle:
1. We have extra money:
We buy fewer things and when we do purchase something, we look for quality over quantity. For example, in stead of buying the kids ten toys at Christmas we get them a few items we know they will really like. This applies to clothing as well. We own fewer items, but what we keep in the closet we truly like.
2. We have extra time:
Owning less requires less maintenance. Our condo is not large, so cleaning it is pretty easy. With less toys, they all have a place and can easily be put away. We are not neat freaks, but our home is 10 minutes away from being ready for a surprise guest at any time. And concerning laundry, we no longer have the mountain of clothes staring at us on the couch waiting to be folded.
3. It is becoming second nature to our kids:
So I've already mentioned that we try and limit the amount of toys in the house (a daunting task with a 2 and 5 year old). Prior to birthdays and holidays we ask the kids to fill a box with toys to donate. We talk about how they are helping other kids who don't have toys. There were some tears at first, but after a few years of this my five year old started her own donation box without us even knowing, proudly placing items in it she thought the "kids who don't have toys" would like - it melted my heart and made me so proud to see this attitude take root in her life.
I could go on and on about the benefits of living a rationally minimalistic life. To me it's a part of the journey of living an intentional life. Start today. You will be amazed at the results.