“More isn’t always better, Linus. Sometimes more is just more.” Sabrina
For the past school year, I have been deeply pondering minimalism. No one in my house is wearing diapers anymore, and my first two children are self-sufficient at this point, so maybe I just finally have enough sleep and time to think about this after 19 years of homeschooling. Minimalism is the catch word for a new movement that isn’t really new at all, but is a natural result of a country run amok in consumerism over the past 70+ years.
I think many of us are collectively weary of “the stuff,” and want more peace, meaningful relationships, and spiritual focus. With all the time we spend tending to our ever-accumulating stuff and crowded schedules, it’s hard to visualize this.
Of course Jesus was way ahead of all of us:
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15, emphasis mine.
I was recently doing some research for an article I was writing on this subject. What I found is fairly shocking. The average size of an American home has more than doubled since 1950, largely just to contain our belongings. Studies show that we tend to regularly use just 40% of the square footage we live in. We also have an average of $7200 worth of unused items in our homes.
And as our homes are overflowing, we, as Americans, rent a lot of self-storage space. According to IBISworld, annual self-storage revenue was estimated to be about $32.7 billion (that’s billion with a B) in 2016. That figure is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.5 percent over the next five years.
We as a nation are literally drowning in our possessions.
Well obviously this isn’t true of everyone. We have personally never rented a storage unit, and we can park a car in our garage. Being a mostly one-income homeschooling family doesn’t generally allow for a lot of ridiculous excess, but we have excess in other areas of our lives. I have hundreds of books, lots of science experiment stuff and math manipulatives, globes, craft project items, instruments, and more that we use in our homeschool. But as the caboose child is now in 7th grade, I’m realizing that it is finally time to move along some of the younger-student items.
I have boxes and boxes in my garage that are likely mostly filled with items I will never need again. Everyone in my house owns too much clothing and shoes. I have far too much unnecessary paperwork that could probably be tossed or shredded. We have non-working electronics and the accompanying mystery cords galore. And don’t even get me started on the garage. We, as many other Americans, simply have more than we need.
Two Suitcases/Two Years
When I moved to France in 1989 for a two-year stint, I took just two suitcases and my Macintosh computer and printer. I mailed myself a box of winter clothing before I left (which arrived months later thanks to a French postal system strike), and that was about it. My belongings were sparse but my spiritual life wasn’t. If anything, I needed to depend on God even more for my daily needs than I am often aware of now in our relative abundance. Obviously now that my family unit has gradually expanded from just me to six people over the past 24 years, owning just that tiny number of possessions would be challenging, but life was certainly simpler with fewer things!
And as Jesus also called for us to care for others, I’m now working on a few ways to not just simplify our lives but bless others at the same time. Here are a few suggestions for 2021 if you want to join me in my mission/resolution to de-clutter and simplify. First, think about your goals. Do you want to reduce debt with the funds generated, help a particular ministry, clean out the garage, bless other homeschoolers? After thinking that through, here are some suggestions.
Ways to Move Along Unwanted Stuff
- Sell your curriculum or household items. You can sell what you don’t need (and bless others in the process) or give things away. I plan to do some of this to generate college textbook funds for Child #3.
- Donate your items (school and otherwise). It may take some time, but take some time to research who may best use your items. Donate items to your favorite charity, or use Facebook or another social media platform to give things away, or do it the old fashioned way by calling or emailing people.
- Recycle. I found a local place that takes a lot of strange things on donation like my old dryer, a beat-up office chair, the metal from an old box spring in the garage, and more! Get online and research recyclers.
- Donate used or outgrown clothing to local shelters or others. Check first to be sure they need what you are donating (think winter coats).
- Sell things online. Varage Sale is a fun app in our area. It’s a virtual garage sale and I have bought and sold dozens of things over the past year or so. It’s also a place to list giveaway items for the taking. It’s mainly porch pick up (ppu) or meet in a local place to exchange goods and cash. I have sold a laundry sorter bin, golf shoes, books, Barbie stuff and bought paint, Lego sets, books, and more.
- Involve the kids. I’m sure they have tons of stuff to get rid of as well, and it’s a great opportunity to move along outgrown clothing or toys.
- Find a Buy Nothing site on Facebook. I have recently given away some old VHS movies, a beanbag, some leftover “snow in a can,” a wooden trellis, and more, all in my own community.
- This article first appeared on www.homeschool411.com. It has been revised and updateMore