The following is a guest post from Frugal Babe of FrugalBabe.com.
“A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.” – Jonathon Swift
I’ve been frugal nearly all my life. I was raised in a family of six living on one modest income, and my parents taught us all from an early age that money was just boxed-up time, and should be used wisely. I’ve always shopped at yard sales and thrift stores, and have become pretty adept at stretching our dollars.
But I was never a minimalist – not even close. In fact, I was a bit of a pack-rat. I think that I equated saving stuff and holding onto things “just in case” with being frugal. I kept all sorts of stuff in order to avoid having to buy something new in the future, and I also shopped far more than I needed to in an effort to find bargains and deals. All of that shopping was at thrift stores and yard sales, and I did find lots of bargains. We live in a fairly wealthy area, and I’m always amazed by the stuff that we can find used for a fraction of what it originally cost. Shopping at thrift stores was something that I loved, and I would usually end up there once every week or two. Invariably I would buy stuff. My total bill was usually under $25, so my shopping habit wasn’t a budget-buster. But it was contributing a lot of clutter to our house, and there were definitely better ways that I could have been spending my time.
About six months ago, I stumbled across a few minimalist blogs (including Becoming Minimalist, which appealed to me as a mother) and started reading. Although I had no desire to get rid of everything we own, I was very drawn to the idea of getting rid of all of the excess. I didn’t need 20 pairs of shoes. Or half a walk-in closet full of clothes. Or ten saucepans (my stove only has four burners…). I didn’t need to hold onto stuff just because we had spent money on it. I didn’t need to keep stuff simply because someone had given it to me as a gift. I realized that I’m drawn to wide open spaces and clean lines, and yet my house was filled with stuff and didn’t have much in the way of wide open spaces.
So I started getting rid of stuff. I got rid of about half of my clothes and shoes, along with about half the stuff in our kitchen, bathroom, and linen closets. Instead of being cluttered with stuff, our bathroom counter is always empty now, which makes cleaning it much easier. The cupboards in the kitchen are no longer over-flowing with stuff, and we can find everything we need at a glance. Since my husband and I got rid of a lot of excess clothing, we were able to sell one of our two dressers, which has made our bedroom feel much more spacious and clean. Overall, our house is cleaner now, and much easier to keep that way.
It seems odd to me that there was once a time when I didn’t know about the concept of minimalism. These days, when I go to Goodwill, it’s to drop off donations or look for very specific items that we need, like new winter boots for our son. Having small children means that somewhat regular shopping is always going to be part of the picture, as they outgrow things so fast – but my shopping is much more mindful than it used to be.
Over the last six months of purging clutter, there hasn’t been a single time when I’ve regretted getting rid of something. There hasn’t been anything we’ve missed, and I doubt I can remember even a fraction of what was in the boxes and bags of stuff we’ve donated. There hasn’t been a single occasion when I’ve had to buy something and wished that I had hung onto some item that I could have used instead. But there have been lots of times when I’ve walked into our bedroom and felt calmed by how peaceful and uncluttered it is. There have been lots of times when I’ve needed to find something and known exactly where it is, because we don’t have cluttered closets anymore. And even though our shopping was never very expensive in the past, the fact that we do so little of it now is definitely more frugal.
We do still buy things just for fun. Recently we went to the thrift store for some winter shirts for our son, and came across a preschool-size electric four wheeler for $30. The day after Thanksgiving, we bundled up and spent the entire day in the backyard playing with it. We made some bumps for it to go over, and our son had a blast driving around all of the garden beds and over his “awesome track” as he called it. We took a break to walk over and watch the train go by, and to play with some other kids at the park. I cannot imagine our son being any happier. He had both his parents with him, he was using his imagination, he was digging in the dirt… it definitely made him happier than if we had spent the day shopping to buy a bunch of toys for him.
Although I’ve always been frugal, minimalism is a new adventure for me. And I’m finding that it makes my life so much easier. I spend less time cleaning and organizing now, and more time with my family. Instead of going shopping for entertainment, I go to the park with my son. Instead of looking at a closet full of clothes and wondering what to wear, I now wear everything in my closet, and know where everything is. Instead of having a basement filled with clutter, we now have space in the basement for a large work-out area. And all the stuff I was keeping just-in-case is no longer taking up space in our house. I’ve found that minimalism actually matches up perfectly with frugality. They’re both important aspects of a simple life, which is what I was striving for all along.