The Struggle: Becoming Minimalist

People always say how amazing it feels to declutter, purge, clean out. Not me. I hate it.


We have been working on our minimalism challenge for a few months now. I can feel the burden of our things starting to lift. But before I write a gooey post on how wonderful this whole thing is, let me explain why it is also painfully hard. Yesterday was especially trying. We dealt with all the easy stuff first, but now are to the point where the rubber really hits the road. So I better put this on paper while it is fresh.

  1. It represents old dreams: I bought my first travel book when I was 15. For years I read, underlined, and highlighted those pages. I mapped my trips. Where I would stay and eat. I budgeted how much each day would cost. By my senior year I had saved $8000 to take this dream trip. And I received this back pack as a graduation gift. Then a crazy thing happened. A month later I decided to go to Bible college instead. I took all the money I had saved and used it to buy a travel trailer to live in for affordable housing and the rest to cover my costs for the first few months. Some times in life when you lay dreams down, they grow back bigger and more fruitful. 7 years later I moved to Europe! I lived there for 4 years: traveling, making friends and studying. I traveled through 27 countries with Mr. Mt., my 2 boys, family, and friends old and new. It was an amazing experience. Much better than if I had gone alone at 18. But I still have that back pack. I’ve never used it. Although the dream of traveling solo isn’t even appealing to me anymore, this was hard to part with.20160720_163812
  2. It represents who we used to be: Mr. Mt loved to roller blade back in high school. It was an athletic adrenaline rush that caused him to lose more than a bit of skin. In college he wanted to get back into it and splurged on a $300 pair. It didn’t take. 10 years ago he gave it another go. Still didn’t stick. Now after 2 surgeries on his feet and limited use of his feet without terrible pain, the odds of getting into rollerblading are about 0%. But were they easy to part with? NO! In fact they have made it past the last 5 “purge”/ moves. Yesterday we said goodbye to a young punk skater.
  3. It connects us to those we love: I was never more completely loved than by my great grandmother. Unconditionally and without exception. When she looked at me, she only saw the very best version of myself. 15 years after she passed the weight of her loss is still so heavy. These were her suitcases. It’s silly really. I never saw her use them. In fact I am not sure she ever needed them. They struggled their whole lives to make ends meet and never traveled. But to me they feel like part of her. I opened one yesterday and the smell of her house wafted out. My eyes filled up with tears. To part with them feels like I am scrubbing her out of my life. But her suitcases aren’t her. And everything I loved about my time with her isn’t in those suitcases. I have other little mementos that I will keep. I wear her wedding ring. Her high school graduation photo is one of the few photos I display. My motto for this: Her stuff isn’t her. None of my fond memories go away with her suitcase.
  4. If we bought the item, we might become that person. My heritage is half Native American, half Norwegian. (Strange I know. I end up looking very tan half the year, and very pale the other 6 months- I kid you not.) Anyways, my family has a lot of connections to Norway and that culture is deeply woven into our family. Lutefisk dinner at the Lutheran Church (yuck!), lefse at Christmas, expensive wool sweaters and creepy trolls have all been part of my life.  At my wedding I had a kransekake (Norwegian wedding cake) brought from Norway by my cousin. A few years later my aunt sent me the molds to make this tasty delight myself. I was thrilled! It is so delicious yet so expensive to bring from Norway.  This was the perfect solution… Except I’ve never used them… In 7 years. Crap. I really thought I could be this great Norwegian kransekake chef. I had ideas of making these beautiful towers of almond rings. Alas. (Sigh) It’s hard to get rid of those things that you thought would make you someone different. Yoga matts, challenging books, golf clubs, whatever it is for you. In the end, I gave myself a year with these. Produce a kransekake tower in a year, or they go.20160725_101141
  5. It cost money: This is where minimalism and frugality clash! I made a rookie mistake when we started renovating houses. I bought cheap paint. The last reno almost killed me as I painted 4 coats of that cheap crap on the walls. And it still didn’t cover well. Now I have about 7 partly used 5 gallon buckets of paint. 5 of them cheap. I will never, ever use that cheap paint again! I have sworn it off for good. But. I paid for it. I actually bought it to SAVE money. Now I am just going to get rid of it? Then it really will be a waste of money! The struggle is real people. I hate getting rid of things I spent money on. And I generally know how much I spent. That cheap paint was $50 a bucket. And I am getting rid of 5 of them?!? It’s a frugal fail. But it doesn’t seem as painful if I just store them. Like I might, under some strange circumstance, use it again. But that is a lie. I have to own the failure. Hopefully someone will pick up that $50 bucket from the ReUse store for $5 and get a better deal from it than I did.
  6. You might need/use it again: The extra suitcase. The blow up mattress. The extra tent. Because what if we want to bring a guest with us camping? And what if they don’t have a tent? Never mind that this hasn’t happened in 4 years. Never mind that we don’t even have an extra seat in our van to bring them. Do we really want to spend another $30 for a spare tent in this unlikely event? We already spent $30 on that perfectly good tent, and it’s still in great shape. My mantra for this: We only have space for things we use. Now if you are “lucky” enough to have a sprawling home with so much storage that half of it still sits empty, you will need to find a different motto. With 7 people and a dog, our 1600 sf home only can hold what we use. There is no garage to stash things away. No attic to hold our little hoardings. We haven’t used our spare tent in 6 years, since we went camping with my sister in Italy. It had to go.


I also found a small bag of trash while going through one of our camping bags. That I had no problem tossing. So if your basement, closets, garages have been accidentally filled with little bags of misplaced trash, you should be fine. Otherwise you might need to put on your big girl (or boy) undies and find your mantra. Then repeat.


What do you all think? Is getting rid of stuff easy or hard? How many things do you keep that you don’t use? If you need some great motivation to get you going, The Minimalists is an awesome place to start. Plus they reside in my neck of the woods, so they get bonus points for that!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “The Struggle: Becoming Minimalist

  1. I feel the clash between minimalism and frugality, or maybe it has more to do with our current battle to get out of debt. While I hold on to many things due to sentimentality, there is also a concern with whether I can sell or trade things for money to pay off our credit cards and student loans. I want to use everything I can, like our stuff is some hunting kill. I want to find a purpose for everything instead of just filling up garbage dumps. It’s hard and I feel your struggle.

    • Sometimes I feel bad for how little I am selling things for, in case I do need to replace it. We are selling my favorite chair today. =( It was our very first piece of furniture we bought as a couple. I’ve held both my babies in that chair. Countless friends have napped on it on a Sunday afternoon. Plus it’s still in great shape! Replacement cost would be about $1200. I’m selling it for $25. =( But it honestly doesn’t fit well in our current house. And we might stay here forever, or at least a few more years. Then there is no guarantee we would have the right space for it in our new home if we moved. It will be nice to have that space back. Our sweet new baby will have his crib there after we finish with our bathroom construction. =)

  2. It’s really hard bc its emotional. You place a false value on your possessions. My dad has about 10 commercial fishing poles that he thinks are worth $200 each. They’d fetch $30 at an estate sale

    • You are so right. The emotion clouds all logic. Because our storage is so incredibly limited, we have to be ruthless with anything we don’t use (a lot). We just don’t have space to store things we don’t use. The end result has been amazing! But after a really tough day, I wanted to jot down all the things that do make it emotionally difficult. In some weird way to be an encouragement to others who are holding on to stuff that isn’t serving them, but it hard to part with. I think when people just talk about how easy and amazing it all is, it can cause people who are holding on to too much to think, “Well, that’s just not for me.”