Unexpected Benefits of Minimalism

Minimalism The Journey #8

I’m not naturally an organized person. Or even all that clean for that matter. (Although I wouldn’t categorize myself as messy either.) I don’t mind some dishes piled in the sink or a week’s worth of mail strewn across the table.

My clothes generally have been stuffed in a drawer with some vague notion of having been folded. And my car always needs a thorough cleaning if I anticipate having to give someone a ride.

Kids and Clean Aren’t Friends

My lax attitude towards order and cleanliness was only enhanced after having kids. Despite only adding two miniature human beings to the household, the number of dishes seemed to have doubled and the laundry somehow tripled.

Not to mention the clusters of toys that began inhabiting the various corners of the house. For the first couple of years of their lives, we lived in utter chaos. Stepping on or in some way tripping over a rogue toy was a weekly occurrence.

Every mealtime required not only a complete change of clothes but also a thorough hosing down of the kitchen table and floor.

A New Normal

When our youngest hit two or three, life became far more manageable. But the problem is we’d grown accustomed to the chaos. So that chaos continued. The amount of laundry decreased ever so slightly as their fine motor skills improved. The layer of slime that permanently coated our kitchen table gave way to the odd crusty spot here and there.

But the piles of toys throughout the house remained and maybe even got worse as we added new toys with each passing year. The dishes in the sink never seemed to get done until they reached critical mass. And despite the decrease in the amount of laundry being done, we were still circulating 4 or 5 laundry baskets full of clothes in addition to whatever clothes were left over in the drawers.

As I said before, I’m not naturally an organized or even that clean of a person, so it was easy to adapt to this new normal. We usually did one comprehensive cleaning and general pick up about once a week. Sometimes every week and a half depending on how busy our weekend was. This left us feeling relatively on top of things.

However, one of the added perks I’ve noticed since switching into a minimalist mindset is the desire to be more organized. I’ve been overcome with a swell of productivity and my outlet has been keeping things neater and more organized. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like our house has transformed into a palace of cleanliness and order. It hasn’t.

But the dishes no longer pile up. We’re down to two baskets for laundry and it’s getting done with far more efficiency than it ever has before. And most nights the floors are clear of toys, with a few exceptions.

What Changed?

So what role did minimalism play in this turnaround? Well, I think two major changes have taken place. First, the obvious, we have far less stuff. I think before it’d be easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of dishes or laundry that needed to be done. So as long as there was a clean plate to use in the cabinet or some clean clothes in the drawers, why would we attempt to tackle such a massive undertaking?

But now, when there are just enough dishes to fill up the dishwasher, it’s easy to keep on top of it. And when doing one or two loads of laundry is a prerequisite for wearing clean clothes the next week that is more than doable. By simplifying our life, we’ve made our life so much easier and more manageable.

The second major change has been an internal shift in my values. I value cleanliness and order in a way I just didn’t before. I don’t think I’m ever going to be an uber-organized neat freak. But I do appreciate the calm simplicity that comes with a relatively ordered household. And the reality is no matter how hard we worked, we just couldn’t have achieved simplicity or order with the amount of stuff that we had before.

Final Thoughts

While we still have a long way to go, I wouldn’t trade these new unexpected benefits for any of the stuff we’ve jettisoned from our house. Simple living is far more valuable to me now than a closet full of possessions.

8 Comments

  1. Hey, you just described the state of play in our house. Except my wife cannot get used to the situation and was fighting against all the way. Now I know she is a minimalist and I am… well not organized that much 🙂 But I am improving. There are days when I manage to put my worn clothes INTO the laundry basket, not just next to it. 😀

    1. I have a chair in our bedroom that has been my laundry basket for years (ironically it’s only 3 feet away from our actual laundry basket). Since minimizing my wardrobe, I’ve actually been able to use that chair!

  2. Amen! Although if I had to choose, I would prefer a decluttered house rather than a spotlessly-clean house. I am notorious (in my household) for clearing surfaces and putting things away, sometimes never to be found again.

    My wife is not as bothered by the clutter as I am. It’s not like I am always cleaning up after her, but I definitely carry the decluttering torch in our household. I imagine if a husband and wife were very far apart on the clutter-tolerance spectrum, it could even create some martial strife.

    1. I too have been known to lose an item or two when “putting things away”. Usually, it’s paperwork that I end up needing the day after I’ve “cleaned” it up.

      My wife is the same way, far more tolerant than I am, which is probably why she puts up with me. 🙂

  3. Yes! This is one of my favorite things about minimalism – that having constraints on your stuff actually can nudge our behavior in a way that makes us happier!

    We’ve got just enough dishes to allow us to eat one meal as a family. That means we *can’t* let dishes pile up for more than the time span from one meal to the next. Sometimes we do just that, but our “worst-case” dish pileup is a manageable one and we’ve gotten into the habit of just taking care of them. Same goes for laundry, cleaning up toys, etc.

    1. “that having constraints on your stuff actually can nudge our behavior in a way that makes us happier” – I love that line, really well said!

      I think we still have a few more dishes than we need, but we cut our dishware in half and it has made a huge difference. My wife and kids haven’t minimized their clothes that much, but just me minimizing mine has had a massive impact. I feel really good about the direction we’ve moved and as we continue on this journey I think more benefits will reveal themselves.

  4. Growing up I was never clean, organized or tidy, my mother can attest to this. But as I have gotten older, I have slowly started becoming more and more of this mindset. Ever since adopting a some-what minimalist attitude this skill has increased. A clean and organized house means less physical clutter, as well as mental clutter and stress. I have gotten to the point where I can’t stand having things thrown about the house and it actually causes me stress. My motto is put it away when done so I spend 30 seconds, rather than letting it build up and then taking an hour to put everything away. I also try to wash dishes as soon as I am done (no dishwasher for us) and then put it away as soon as it is dry. I have many other things that I would prefer to spend my time and energy on so efficiency is key.

    Mr.Wow isn’t quite there yet, but I’m working on him.

    1. I’ve definitely followed a similar trajectory, although I’ll say it is still a work I progress. I’m much neater than I’ve ever been there is still room for improvement. But like you said, less physical clutter does lead to less mental clutter and less stress, so it is worth the continued work!

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