Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Minimalism and My Family

I've gotten rid of a lot of my stuff, and I have a lot of stuff to work on still. But I also have a lot of stuff in my house that isn't mine. There are a lot of things that belong to the family collectively, live movies, books, dishes, paint (in the garage) and other stuff. I have to look at it, clean it, organize it (or organize around it) and otherwise deal with the quantity of stuff that exists. How do I balance my family's right to own what they value with my right and desire to reduce the amount of stuff I have to live with.

This is an popular question for people who are adopting minimalism. I've seen lots of blog posts elsewhere about how family members adopt minimalism. Usually it's a matter of "let them make their own decisions, and when they see how happy you are with less they'll come around."

But what about in the mean time? What about when your family is afraid the house will "look like a hospital room" if you get rid of all the clutter? What if you're going crazy every time you need a serving bowl and you have to shift things around because there's so much in the cupboard? (And I'm sure the two examples here are completely random and not something that has happened in my own personal life.)

I don't yet have a lot of answers.

 As I was on my hands and knees reaching to the back of the cupboard to get the dish I need, I swear that I will get rid of a lot of this stuff to make room for the things I need, and to make access to the things I need a lot easier. I will move some of the things that are in my way, to make my immediate life easier. Hopefully my family will become less attached to the things in storage, and hopefully they will not mind if I get rid of things that have been in storage a while. Hopefully they will find a clearer house more pleasant than a cluttered one.

It makes me grateful that I have spent so much time moving clutter out of storage, so I can move house-clutter out of the house. I'd rather get rid of it entirely, though. But decluttering shouldn't happen at the expense of my family's comfort, and sometimes they feel stressed or threatened when I change too much, too quickly.

Most important, the pursuit of minimalism shouldn't be about "stuff." It shouldn't be about material things. I am pursuing minimalism because I want to improve my life. I want to spend more time focusing on what is important -- my family, my friends, people -- and less time dealing with clutter. Sometimes, after I spend a couple of busy days with my family, I think that I am not decluttering "enough." After all, if I've been busy driving people to lessons, attending the fair and the zoo, I haven't "minimalist-ed." (Yeah, like that's a word.)

I need to remember that minimalism is a tool to improve my life with my family. If I am making my family unhappy by getting rid of stuff, I am working too fast. I'm prioritizing stuff above my family. Getting rid of stuff in preference to the needs of my family is not better than collecting stuff in preference to the need of my family.

So I will continue moving forward, slowly. I may slow down as the school year comes to a close, so I can be present with my family as they conclude their school years. I will remind myself that focusing my on family is minimalism, if I carve away the need to get rid of stuff and instead focus on what is most important.

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