Living a simpler life means I am now free to spend more time with my children, learning alongside them, talking to them, spending one on one time with them, reading to them… which brings me to ––
We also homeschool, so it’s impossible not to have items to help our children learn through daily life. We still try to keep things minimal but I do have a space for art materials, workbooks…etc. We also love reading (as you can see). My vice is definitely good books (more on that later). I do my best to borrow most of what we read from the library but there are many good books which we prefer to have on hand. We also don’t have a dedicated “homeschool room.” We simply hang out and read or play games on the couch or floor and do most of our artwork/writing at the dining room table. We’re big adventurers so much of our time is actually spent outside in nature.
The biggest challenge was honestly staying true to who we are as individuals and as a family. Just because we want to minimize doesn’t mean your spouse wants to get rid of something that’s dear to him or her. You just have to model it. People close to you catch on quickly when they see how beneficial and freeing having less stuff is. We can also manage minimizing but have to honor our family’s desires at the same time. And it never looks the same. One day I’m purging and my husband has boxes from Amazon on the front doorstep. Other days, it’s the opposite. We just have to keep it balanced and listen to each other’s desires. Same goes with our children. I’m pretty sure I scarred my firstborn by donating one of his two basketballs – in my mind no one needs two basketballs. But the one I ended up donating was apparently more special to him than I thought (despite my asking for his permission at the time) I would never donate something other than outgrown clothes without someone’s permission. That’s just common courtesy.
The other challenge is setting up expectations. I can’t expect to consistently have a clean home – homeschooling means our kids are around playing, doing art, bringing out games and toys the majority of each day. So making sure I relax my personal expectations is key. My house may look perfect one day in the future but that’ll be a bittersweet day because it’ll mean my two sweet children are grown and have lives of their own.
The last challenge was presenting our requests to family members. We mainly request experiential gifts for birthdays and holidays. For grandparents who love showering their grandkids with gifts, that might have been the toughest change in mindset – and we still see our share of material gifts. And that’s OK! We’re simply grateful to have a loving, giving family and just hope they understand why we request minimal gift-giving. We’d like our children to appreciate giving to others as well as never growing up feeling entitled. This is important to us.
Finally, one of the best things that came out of living a simpler life was 1) our marriage and 2) Broken to Brave.
(Note from Rachel: Thank you Crystal for sharing your humanity with us! Notice all the Broken to Brave books piled in her bedroom. This is real life – it’s O.K.)
If we never cleared our home, our heads and our hearts I doubt we’d be where we are in life. Our marriage has never been stronger because we’re spending more quiet time talking together. We’re prioritizing our family time – doing things together more often than not. We’re taking time for ourselves when we need it. Professionally, it’s easier to stay on a path that brings you happiness when you’re not clouded by society’s pressures to accumulate more junk – my husband knows for certain he’s doing what he was meant to do. We workout together as a family – eat homemade dinners most nights of the week, talk, laugh, adventure together.
It’s probably the best thing our family did, simplify. I can’t imagine if we’d purchased a mansion, consumed our time with filling it with things only to have to maintain those things, taking time away from what matters most.
The funniest reaction I received was from my mother who upon walking into our most recent home said, “Wow. It feels so empty in here.” “Yeah” I replied. “I might get a plant. But I might not.” That was five months ago and we haven’t changed a thing, nor is there a plant. We have a rose bush and a few other flowers on our property so I just go clip those and viola! Instant beauty without going to the store.