Minimalist in Training

When you’re stuck at home for six weeks recovering from surgery with two kids under the age of two (who, thankfully and miraculously, take awesome naps,) you have a lot of time to look around your house. Not just look, but I mean really scrutinize and ponder the contents of your house. It’s not that you don’t have other things to do: make bottles, pick up toys, write, sleep. You just end up coming to a simple conclusion: it’s time to declutter.

I’m jumping on the Marie Kondo bandwagon. I’m converting to Minimalism.

I started with my office. For two consecutive days, my daughters blessed me with simultaneous naps and I was able to clean my gigantic desk, inside and out. I discovered bank statements, paid cable bills, and GoodWill donation slips dating as far back as 2010. I’ve moved twice in the past five years, so the fact that I’ve moved such a horrifyingly useless pile of paperwork both times is particularly cringe-worthy. Perhaps the most disturbing discovery was the giant stack of holiday and birthday cards from 2012, 2013, and 2014 that I had apparently deemed too important to toss. Why? Just why?

For both entertainment and inspirational purposes, here are some of the more ridiculous odds and ends I ended up throwing away:

  • Our dog’s Puppy Kindergarten “diploma”. I would say our Bernese Mountain Dog, Harley, only loosely fits the definition of “trained”. It was social promotion at its worst.
  • A shopping bag full of bridal magazines from 2011. I got married three and a half years ago. I hope the next wedding I plan is A) not my own, and B) not for at least two and a half decades.
  • The overwhelmingly stuffed “new baby” informational three ring binder from our first pediatrician’s office. We have a new pediatrician and a new binder to tell us how not to mess up our kids.
  • Save the Date magnets from at least five different friend couples. They’re all married now and besides, our fridge isn’t even magnetic.
  • Four old cell phones and their chargers. Ok, these I didn’t toss. I’ll donate them. Some lucky teen will be the proud owner of a SWEET Razr. It’s the thinnest phone around, if you didn’t know.

I realize I’m not alone. Many of us are sentimental about what we hang onto. One of the biggest reasons I keep stuff like Harley’s diploma is that I think someone at some point in the future will think it’s cool or meaningful or useful. But when I hear myself rationalize aloud, sounding like I belong on an episode of Hoarders, I have to stop and think if my reasons are valid. Here are the four items I allowed myself to keep from the massive pile of junk in my desk:

  • The adorable picture of my cat from the Humane Society’s website when she was just two weeks old. It doesn’t exist anywhere else and it’s the reason I drove down to Fairbault to adopt her.
  • The newspaper clipping of my husband’s Boston Marathon time. He rolls his eyes at this, but I don’t care. I’m proud of him.
  • The thank you letter that made me cry from a former student.
  • The first Valentines Day card my husband gave me just a few months after we started dating. It may be a Hallmark holiday, but those butterflies in my stomach were legit.

As I look around my house for the billionth time, I know I have a lot left to tackle. Maybe this week my girls will grant me the time to sort through my closet. Perhaps by December I’ll get to my books. The conversion process will not happen over night and it won’t be easy. But my reason for trying is clear in my mind: I want to sweep away the clutter to make room for the truly meaningful. I’ve got a little girl who is constantly surprising me with what she’s able to say and do, and a tiny baby who is growing and thriving. Soon they won’t want to cuddle in my arms or make me pretend coffee in the playroom. I’d rather have time and space for those moments than for a pile of old bills.