Minimalism and Home: How Light Changes Everything
By Melissa Marie
In 2012, I made many trips to the local thrift shop where I PURGED my whole home of unwanted items.
I had read The Minimalist’s Blog and at the time was a full-time college student and wife. So half of me was with the tribe that had to do group work and then would go home to cooking, decorating, cleaning, you know, the jest of homemaking.
Frustrated one day I told my husband, I was tired of the “mess” ( we did not have much at all) and needed to purge it to find peace.
I had fallen deep into the trap that every room needed to be decorated.
Every corner a lamp or an end table, so like a mad woman I began to un-haul our home.
He agreed to allow me to excessively purge, as long as I did not become freegan ( a person who scrounges for food at the back of grocery stores, restaurants etc).
I must emphasize to his embarrassment, I reluctantly agreed.
My reluctance is for a whole other post on how America wastes good food.
My massive problem was that although I had bought into this decorating thing, I was not good at it and tried to find contentment in cluttering my home.
I remember every time I walked into our apartment there was this little bowl that held these fake apples that were so cute and shiny, but sadly it did not cure my ailment of discontentment and did not give me the feeling of “home” I so longed for.
It had taken me a while to figure out and admit that I am totally lost at a hobby store, I am not gifted in decorating or regular crafting and it does not bring me joy.
I do like to do fun, elementary crafts but for perfection and looking for amazing projects…I am not your girl.
So kindly, my downstairs neighbor watched me load my jeep, load after load packed with stuff.
Worried that we were having troubles, she asked me what was I doing.
I boldly proclaimed it out loud, ” I am a minimalist” I declared.
I thought she would laugh and say, ” oh is this like a hippie thing dear?”
Instead, after I explained to her that I was releasing things that did not fit our lifestyle anymore ( too much home decor, ill-fitted clothing and a kitchen bulging with items I did not use.
She softly replied, ” I envy you.”
Doing what I do best I downloaded the statement, best known as a blank, long stare.
She put her cigarette out into an ashtray that looked like crystal, with perfectly manicured nails and standing on her fully beautifully furnished Apartment Therapy worthy looking patio, she looked sad.
I don’t know her reasons and never will, but I boldly declared just like the youngin’ I am, I said, “You can do whatever it is in life that you want to even something like ridding your life of everything that is no longer serving you.” With that, I smiled and thanked her for always allowing me to use her parking space as a loading dock to my new minimal adventure and headed off to the local charity shop.
Now before the charity shop, the neighbor above her caught wind of what I was doing and asked to “shop” my pile.
I allowed her to because that woman could overhaul a trash bag. She loved crafting and decorating. Therefore, she was enjoying having the stuff that she had unlike me. I felt good for giving the items away for FREE. I was bringing her joy by allowing her to create art for free, so I felt exuberant for serving my small apartment community.
I sat in my empty apartment in total happiness.
I had nothing to clean except the dishes and a couple of photo frames, a load of wash and taking my dog a bath.
Life was blessed. I could focus on what truly mattered, like homework and getting to the public transit on time.
I had not touched my husband’s things which he scarcely had anything since it was me that went nuts with all the buying, but the visual effect of the home made him feel anything but at home.
As a month or three went by and I was finishing my finals that semester, I looked forward to a minimal Christmas.
Then it hit me, within those empty white walls, we also had empty wallets, not much lighting, not enough cups, I did not want to wear the same thing over and over or maybe I just did not like what I had to wear.
Again, the discontentment crept in.
I began to obsess over all the things that I could possibly want for Christmas that had to be minimal and functional.
I spoke to my husband who had allowed me to handle the finances because he worked the long night shift hours.
I don’t know why he trusted me with the money, I had no clue to what I was doing.
I was a shop-a-holic before minimalism. Never give an a-holic anything that enables more a-holic behavior.
I was tired of being in debt and he was tired of the emptiness that our home had become.
Being in an empty home meant feeling homeless for him. He had his reasons and I heard him out.
We made a deal if I was going to skim the budget and put every dollar almost earned toward paying off debt then he wanted a cozy home.
We began to scratch our way to the light of debt freedom and paid off over 30,000 in medical, consumer, business loan and our Jeep.
However, I have struggled with decorating and so it became our mantra that before something comes to live in our home we must agree on it unless it is clothing or a necessity.
We must love it, it serves a purpose or it is gone.
I see both of our parents were onto something about harmony in a marriage when they said to always communicate.
We continue this way of life and God has blessed our efforts to remain debt-free and communicate even when our “discussions” are not minimal.
Minimalism & Light
Every minimalist is different.
It is true, there are no rules for how a minimalist lives except for this, get rid of everything that does not bring value to your life and keep what does.
Clutter does not bring value to your home, mind, pocketbook nor your ability to focus on what matters to you and to your family.
Putting up some pictures, and allowing myself to have candles and lamps brings me immense joy and comfort.
I have always been sensitive to bright light, but never gave thought to a lamp because it would technically just be excess since it was not needed. We always had an overhead light turned on by a wall switch.
However, as I began to allow candle holders and candles to carefully be placed in our home, I realized I could also get that lighting effect with a few lamps.
I remember watching the movie, “You’ve Got Mail”, with my Mom last fall for the umpteenth time and realized all of the lamps of the character Kathleen Kelly’s home. I loved it!
The clutter was a bit much but the coziness of her lamps made me realize that I did not need to worry about a burning candle in the next room just get a few lamps to let our home glow.
Note: I do not own the copyrights to these photos from the scenes of the movie You’ve Got Mail.
This has not only made our warm white walls, yes, there is such a thing ( Valspar’s Du Jour paint color: it has grey undertones) gleam and feel like a warm latte, not stark and sterile, but oh so clean.
The Ways That Lamps And Minimalism Have Illuminated Our Lives
So, six years later after my massive declutter and a move across the country, we are finally finding our balance.
I have a lot more clothes now, that alone brings me joy.
I am learning to sew from a good friend who can make her own clothes that would fly off the racks at Nordstroms.
I write now and it helps my heart to understand myself better and to face the fear of public writing.
I love the things in my home and they serve us well.
We hang a few pictures, own a bookshelf, reading chairs, lamps, throw rugs and pillows and decorate small bits in honor of the season changing and the balance feels great.
Here are some of the spaces of my home in perfect still posture mode.
Click on a photo to scroll through them and get a comment on each one.
Our home is more about function, comfort, and meaningfulness now more than ever. This is not to say that clutter creep does not try to enter and must be dealt with but it helps to know that when the lamps and candles are lit, clutter is never attractive no matter the light so, it is the motivation that drives me to keep a tidy, uncluttered home.
More than the stuff in our home, we invite friends over to share meals, talk and throw simple parties that allow our home to be filled with love, laughter, tears, real talk and lots of hugs.
This is what HOME is truly about and without the illumination of someone saying, you need to have a meaningful life with less so that you can focus on what matters I would be filtering through piles of junk and wondering why I am stressed.
Sometimes we lose our way amongst the voices that say more, and we interpret it as more stuff instead or more loving, living and giving.
Listen to your heart and if that is cluttered, start there.
Live frugally, be kind, have fun and repeat.
Adapt Your Adaptations