What square footage do you have in your home and how many people?
1400 sq ft log home, and we have a household of 8.
What was your motivation for embracing simplicity in your life?
After leaving the corporate world due to my child’s medical complications, I felt a huge conviction to “get my house in order.” Over the span of several years, I gave away over 2/3rds of everything away to charity over 500+ bags. I struggled with donating so much when I knew that financially we were completely broke. In the end I had to come to the place of understanding that God provides true wealth in hidden spaces. In giving it all away, I found that I truly had enough. The motivation for simplifying also grew from wanting to create a legacy of peace-filled living for my children. I was driven by the intense desire that they know “people are more important than stuff.” I also wanted to forgive the past and release the depression and anger I had struggled with for years. Simplifying the house and finances brought tremendous relief in all areas.
How has minimizing your possessions made your life better?
I honestly have a completely new life. Possessions were not the only problem. My mindset was the most important change. I no longer allowed beloved family members to “store” items at my home. I found the courage to speak my needs with love and firmness. I had to “curate” my home and my life, letting go of items and even relationships that did not move me towards my purpose-filled life. Now, I am able to be debt free in large part because I was able to clear away the mental clutter and free up enough time (since I wasn’t always cleaning) to work in both of our businesses. I’ve been able to support orphans in China through missionary friends who are dear to our hearts. Most importantly, I’ve been able to be the kind of mother that I want to be, fully present for my children. I’ve been able to soak up sweet baby smiles and listen to the heart of my teen. I’ve been able to frog hop with my wild boys through the living room because there’s actually space to play even in 1400 sq feet. I absolutely love the new life I’ve been able to create since giving almost everything away.
What was your biggest challenge in the middle of decluttering?
The biggest challenge was hands down the financial side of decluttering. My husband was a youth pastor when I suddenly left my corporate job. We had no plan. I struggled deeply with the need to declutter for safety and sanity but was afraid to give anything away because I knew we didn’t have the money to buy it again. The way I overcame that huge obstacle was to begin seeing creative solutions. I began using multi-use items instead of disposable. I could see how mathematically I was able to do more to create income if I spent less time cleaning. I took a legitimate tax deduction for big ticket items that I donated and thereby alleviated the guilt of having spent money on those items. All of these steps helped me to lower our monthly budget needs AND create more income via our businesses at the same time.
Did you involve your family or were you on your own?
I did the majority of decluttering on my own since my husband was working all the time trying to make ends meet. Since being a youth pastor didn’t even put food on the table, he picked up other jobs eventually landing at UPS. This meant he was gone even more. My children were toddlers so I had to train them to help and to have one pile for sharing, one for keeping, and one for trash. They quickly learned our system. I do confess that I often decluttered “mafia” style. I have, to this day, a decluttering shelf up high where offending items will go into my black garbage bag to be discretely donated.
I also did not have the support of extended family. Many parts of the family were skeptical and at times downright hostile towards my desire for minimize. This was a huge challenge. Over time, I was able to communicate lovingly that my children didn’t need any more toys or clothing. Helping the family to feel personally valued went a long way in winning them over to at least being tolerant of my convictions. It is not an easy or tidy process when dealing with heart issues, but it is so worthy of the effort to build bridges of trust in the decluttering process.
What unexpected reactions did you get from friends or family?
I truly was surprised at the anger that I received from others as I was decluttering. I was baffled at the negativity, but I came to understand that it came from deep hurt or fear in their own souls. I initially felt hurt when there was not a respect for my minimalist stance, but then I quickly decided it wasn’t worthy of my time to be offended. Forgiveness is important. Healthy boundaries, repeated over time, helped the situation. Also, I needed to learn to speak blessing when declining yet another bag of migraine-making toys. It’s a journey and a process! I had to learn in my minimalist journey that I am responsible for the boundaries in my home. Regardless of the opinions of others, I am completely accountable for what I allow into my life and my home.
And while I totally believe that minimalism was vital to our financial situation, I also found that I couldn’t scrimp and save my way to abundance. Abundance is first and always a choice of the heart. I learned that I am totally in charge of creating my best, inspired life and that principle brought freedom for me. As I began to dream and believe that a completely new life was possible, I took the hard-work action steps needed to bring that new life to reality. Now, I am free to live a minimalist lifestyle that I love, not out of scarcity or fear, but out of faith and abundance.
If you want to see more of Elizabeth’s beautiful home, she has a home tour on her blog.
Elizabeth Enright Phillips is a professional financial + minimalist coach and mom to six children. She serves high-caliber women who want to create a simple haven in their home & stability in their finances. She and her husband are raising their wild, beautiful children in a 1400 sq ft log home in the woods. She is driven to provide women with the better information and the live coaching they need to create their unique sacred space and financial stability for their families.
Everyone’s way of embracing minimalism is different and that is very important to remember. When you are thinking about becoming minimalist, the whole point of it is to keep true to your authentic self. What is important to you, the things you enjoy and the life you want to live. I’m excited to share some real life examples of what minimalism looks like in different homes around the world.