I am a minimalist.
Well, I strive to be.
As a Midwife, my entire life is kind of out of my control, so I search for ways to feel calm and grounded. Babies are born whenever they want. Quickly, full force, screeching into this world. Or slowly—hesitant to budge. There is nothing I can do to make a baby come faster or slower. They don’t usually come when I am completely ready for them.
I never expect a birth.
My personal ritual, my own private ceremony, includes creating empty surfaces, shiny wood counters that are open and clear. Space around me opens space inside me. I love neat rooms and stacks of books. I try to simplify. I minimize.
I am no expert. Definitely not. I often, actually, fail miserably at creating this space around me. Today it feels simple and other days it does not. But I can tell you a little bit about our journey to simplification.
I wanted less. I wanted to pick-up after the kids less, I wanted to have less housework and I hate clutter. This is partly a healthy obsession, and maybe a little compulsive too. Probably.
I began by getting rid of things. I brought full paper bags to the freebox at our local recycling center. I had yard sales. I listed on Freecycle, and I dumped unworn clothing into the little green boxes in our supermarket’s parking lot. I gave things away any opportunity I had.
“You like this? Really? It’s yours!”
We lived in a home with mud walls. This is the desert, and it rains seldom. One winter, with below freezing temperatures, the pipes burst in the walls. The water dissolved our walls directly into the house. It was as if a truck full of thick dirt had backed up and dumped it all into the house. Mud to our shins.
We had less. Instantly!
I strive to buy nothing. I avoid going to stores. I even avoid thrift shops. I don’t browse. When I have to get something, I will order it on Ebay. Or Online. I don’t tickle my brain’s want center.
I don’t need stuff; I need time.
So I looked at my commitments. I love my work, I love being at work. I love being at home and in the garden. Or I love my red couch warm from the sun. I tried to cut out everything that I really didn’t enjoy. Sometimes I even had to cut things out that I do love because it piled me high, and it had become work.
I want to have lazy afternoons when I am home. I want time to read books, grow my flowers and weed my beds. I want to sit with the girls and be together, to talk and make food. I want to drink coffee with Falko or have a glass of wine on the back porch in the evening. I want to walk with the dogs in the arroyo. It’s true. Or please, send me skiing in all that free time. A true expanse of white and sky.
We had a small farm (expanded garden on one acre with chickens and goats) with a CSA (community supported agriculture). I enjoyed the farm; I loved the feeling of accomplishment I felt. My girls worked hard out there munching and picking. Watering and digging. The community that sprang up around the harvesting was fun and it nourished me.
And it was too much time. It consumed me, my family and every ounce of leftover we had. The work was hard and honest, the food was crispy fresh and I began to feel deeply exhausted. I started to feel guilty about not working even more on the farm, I wasn’t able to give it my all— not because I spent time on my couch reading, but because I worked at a super busy Birth Center with extra loving projects. I was home schooling the girls, too.
My life was full.
We spent a winter pouring over the hand illustrated seed catalogs. Huge and juicy veggies.Then in early Spring we went on a long vacation—just the girls, Falko and I. We had so much time for each other, we lazed around, we strolled the streets of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. We ate mangoes, read books and had siestas. And I realized that I needed this. I needed this time with the family without a focus.
Falko said, “There you are! “
And we made the difficult decision to not do the farm anymore. I was learning my priorities. And I needed less.
And I still garden and eat fresh chard, purple kale and zucchini. We grow enough for ourselves (well almost enough, we could do more) but not for the community. We are still fed, body and mind, from our garden. Yet my life has been simplified. This is how I began.
When in doubt, throw it out.
It became a mantra for me. If I wasn’t sure it was absolutely necessary to keep, then I knew it wasn’t. And of course I am not advocating adding to the landfill. I recycled, reused, donated or gave it away.
No more buying for me!
I began to really think about what I brought into the house. I tried to bring only food and the absolute necessities. This meant no shopping. It aided our tight budget too. I called it the Buy Nothing Budget.
Use it up!
I learned to know what we had in the home already. I didn’t want to have extra bottles of shampoo and conditioner opened and unused. Creams and curry. I developed systems to know what I have in the house and to know what I still needed. I don’t buy extras.
Get rid of it.
If I don’t love something, or don’t use it, I will get rid of it. I notice if something has hung in my closet for a full year. Have I worn it? If it isn’t a special event item and it is just taking space, I will let it go.
I am learning to not attend. I will go to an event, not because I am invited, but because I really want to go. If it enhances me in some way or I find it enjoyable. I am done with attending just for the sake of obligation. I won’t commit, and I won’t offer, unless I mean it. This leaves me with more time and more energy for the meaningful.
Have you simplified and minimized? What tips can you share with me? I need more inspiration!
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Assistant Editor: Kerrie Shebiel/Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Katarina Silva