Forget the Joneses: My Journey to a Simpler Home

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I have gotten to the point where anything in my home could break, and I wouldn’t be devastated. I might feel a bit bummed over a few items, but I can’t imagine feeling anger or real sadness over an item ever again.

My Lifelong Tendency:

I am a cluttered person. Not because I like to live that way, but more so due to overcommitting my time, and attributing sentimentality to stuff.

Events That Started THE SHIFT:

  1. When I moved to Charleston with my new husband, all I had here was whatever could fit in my suitcase the day after our wedding, and a few large boxes I shipped prior. My mom and step-dad graciously offered to transport the bulk of my things (and kitties) from NY a few months later. They loaded it all in their vehicle and a small trailer and set forth on a cold February day.
    I remember getting a tear-filled phone call from them apologizing, explaining that they and the cats were okay… but wind met ice and it ended with my stuff spread out in the snow. I was shocked but overcome with gratefulness that my parents were okay.
  2. The return of the rest of my stuff was postponed. My sweet family brought my things to my grandparents’ basement and spread it all out on the tables we’ve gathered around for countless family meals. They strung wet pictures and scrapbook pages up to dry. The care my family took on behalf of my things and memories made me feel so loved.
    Soon after, my mom stopped by their house to finish re-packing my things. She smelled something burning as soon as she walked in. Upon opening the basement door, to my grandparents’ surprise, the whole basement was billowing of smoke! Included in the things covered in soot were the bins and unpacked items of mine. I couldn’t believe it when my mom called me. But again, I was so relieved my grandparents were okay, more than anything.
    Although I was eager to see my parents when they finally made it down with my cats and my things, and I was excited to have more of my stuff again… it all felt a bit less important than before.
  3. My husband and I started our first adoption process a couple of years later. As we started to save and raise funds for our adoption, we were also going through our home to prepare for a child. Through my new motherly eyes, my items started to transform into a financial means to get to our baby. So we decided to sell a good amount of stuff we’d accumulated in order to help fund our adoption. The value of my stuff was decreasing in my heart as I dreamt of becoming our sweet boy’s mother.
  4. A few years later, some health issues were thrusting themselves to the surface. For years I had been so focused on getting my child home that I put my health on the back burner. In the exhaustion of new motherhood to a toddler, these physical issues wouldn’t be ignored any longer. It felt like every time I came home from a doctor’s appointment with a new diagnosis, a new surgery needed, and instructions on diet changes… my mind would explode walking in the door to my cluttered house. I felt out of control with everything in my life.
    Now all of a sudden I had to manage my own health records (I had left my primary care because they wouldn’t listen to me about my issues), loads of testing, trying to get into new specialists, complete 180 with my food intake… all along with managing a household and toddler. My body REQUIRED a nap every afternoon in order to stay afloat. Even then, my husband was doing the majority of the upkeep without me. My fatigue crippled me in keeping up with everything and even bonding with my own child.

The Real Purging Begins

With all of these experiences leading up to this point, my health issues were what really tipped me over the edge. I couldn’t live this cluttered life anymore. It stressed me out to no end. I couldn’t keep up with actual CLEANING in my home because I was always shuffling stuff around. Then I’d get tired and have to call it a day so I didn’t push my body too much and make myself sick.

I started watching videos online about the famous KonMari Method, minimalism, decluttering, and found challenges to help me get started with letting things go from my home. I would sweep through my house one layer at a time, letting go of the easy stuff first.

Layer after layer, I would find more freedom and more peace.

Our lease was almost up on our house in a very nice neighborhood. We wanted to buy next. After all the answers I’d gotten on my health and figuring out what I need in order to be okay, I realized the house we were in was too big for us. I couldn’t keep up with it, have enough time to rest, and be with my family. We needed to downsize — so we got rid of MORE things.

Moving to a smaller house was a HUGE relief for me. Even though it felt like we had gotten rid of at least 60% of our things before the move, we still didn’t quite fit in the new house without needing to buy more storage solutions. But I refused to spend more money to hold STUFF. As we unpacked, I put physical boundaries on certain types of items. Craft supplies had to fit in one bin. My shirts had to fit on one rack, etc. A full van-size load to the thrift store, and now it feels like this house fits us perfectly. Everything (almost) has a place… I’m still a work in progress. But progress is the goal, right?

My New Values

I value love. I value quality time with my family over maintaining stuff. I value a clean home over a big home. I value my health over more things to manage. I value my family’s safety over sentimental items that remind me of family. I value memories over things. I value boundaries over abundance. I value freedom over keeping up with the Joneses.

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Amanda Gibson
Amanda is an upstate New York girl who married a Tennessee guy in 2011 and moved to Charleston the next day. They have adopted two toddler boys from South Korea in 2017 and 2019. She loves to share her heart ponderings and humor lent by beginning motherhood with her toddler who spoke another language. She has a background in non-profit work, but currently stays home with her boys. She enjoys her awkward floppy hound, assertive cuddly cat, but can't keep plants alive. In her "spare time," she loves to create, serve as drummer at her church, dance around the house, or provide harmonies/percussion for her sister's music.

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