I Tried Minimalism, and Then I Quit. Here’s Why…

A lot of people are taken with the idea of minimalism. Our society is one that over-consumes, so it’s natural to respond to this imbalance by cutting things out of our lives.

For a while, I was a fan of minimalism. I liked the idea of being able to pick up and go on a moment’s notice, or having a clean space that doesn’t need to be up-kept. I started to pair down my possessions. I sold many things on Ebay and gave less valuable stuff to Goodwill. At first, it felt great. Truthfully, I was a bit of a hoarder before. I had way too much stuff, and I don’t regret getting rid of it.

After a while, I began to realize that having less wasn’t de-stressing me in the way that I thought it would. Trying to control my possessions left me stressed out. I was constantly preoccupied with my stuff, and I wasn’t living with the freedom I though minimalism would give me.

Eventually, I found a healthy balance between having too much and being obsessed with getting rid of stuff. It seems that the best things in life come to us when we find balance in the middle of two extremes. Today, I’m definitely not a minimalist. My sense of style is very luxurious and “boudoir” which is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

There’s nothing wrong with having a minimalist decorating style or with having less things. I also have no problem with people who sell everything they own to pursue a calling from God. I think that can be an incredible thing when it’s in reaction to his prompting.

The problem is that in some cases, the attitude behind these actions can become misguided. It can turn into a preoccupation, a fixation resulting from a need for control, or even a sense of superiority in having less “earthly possessions.”

Physical possessions might be temporary, but that doesn’t mean they are worthless. They have value when they are held in the proper regard. Here are a few of the reasons why they are important:

1. Our possessions express who we are and provide a “written” record of our lives.

By being overly sentimental, we hold on to a lot of junk. But by cutting out sentiment, we lose a lot of what gives life it’s meaning. The things we save provide a way to reminisce about the past and to keep a record of our lives so that we can share them with posterity. By oversimplifying, we rob ourselves and our children of the past.

2. God is not a minimalist.

God is a loving father who lavishes, and a room full of treasures is evidence of our Father’s generosity. This is should remain in balance — being spoiled is not necessary, but neither is being skimpy. Our material possessions should express that God meets our needs and grants our desires.

To be clear, people who own more are not more blessed. You can feel just as lavished upon with a closet full of clothes as you can with two beautiful outfits that God has provided you with. It’s not something we need to measure or compare — rather, it’s an attitude of the heart. If you are going through a time of lack, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “missing it”. These times come to all of us and are meant to refine our character and teach us reliance on God. But we need to know that the character of God is generous and abundant — not minimal or lacking.

3. Organization enriches your life, but trying to control everything will bring stress.

The pursuit of having less stuff is not satisfying because it is never complete. Your focus becomes controlling your possessions, which is almost more preoccupying than having too many in the first place.

Order and organization are good things, and I’m not saying you should never seek to scale down your belongings. But organization is meant to allow you to enjoy your environment and focus on the important things in life, not to be a constant preoccupation.

Accept the fact that life is never “complete”, live in the moment, and be okay with your possessions and their constant evolution. Freedom, peace, and creativity will be found when your mind is free from trying to control everything.

To be fair, I learned a few things from minimalism…

Even though minimalism isn’t for me, I learned some great principles from it that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I realized that:

  • Sometimes having extra space is worth more than keeping something “just in case.”
  • If something you own is going to waste from lack of use, you’re not really placing value on what God has given you. Give it to someone who will actually derive value from it.
  • It’s okay to be sentimental, but sentiment isn’t worth a closet full of junk. Keep things that make you happy and that you want to share with posterity. Take pictures of things that you want to remember but don’t really need to keep.
  • Never throw away your journals, even if they are embarrassing. Reading them and seeing what God has been doing can be a mind-blowing experience. Anything you own that provides a written record or a chronology of your life will be more valuable to you in the future than you realize.
  • When you’re emotionally attached to a toy, soften the blow by giving it to a cute child. Or by selling it for lots of money on Ebay.
  • You can sell American Girl stuff on Ebay for more than what your parents originally paid for it. I know this because I read that catalogue so much that I remember the price points.

What is your experience with minimalism? Do you have any tips and tricks for staying organized (and at peace)? Share them in the comments below!

Things I Didn’t Know About Motherhood

Motherhood is an experience that is both challenging and rewarding. Despite having many friends who became mothers before me, and despite listening to them tell me about their experiences, there was absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for the reality of motherhood. There were parts that were way more difficult than I anticipated, but there are also parts that are so much better than I could ever have imagined.

I’ve only been a mother to baby Alexa for just under two short months, but in this brief time period I’ve experienced so many highs and lows. Here are some of the challenges I’ve encountered in this journey so far!

Postpartum recovery can be lengthy and difficult.

I knew going into my pregnancy that there would be a recovery process after giving birth, but I didn’t realize how challenging that would be. After giving birth, the bleeding can last for several weeks, and everything hurts down there. It’s difficult to move around. Specifically, if I was seated and holding the baby, I had to ask someone to take her so that I could stand up. I couldn’t stand up and hold the baby at the same time.

Trying to keep up with things while I was recovering was incredibly difficult and overwhelming. The first night I came home from the hospital I started crying hysterically. I was sore, exhausted from the lack of sleep in the hospital, and I felt like my husband, Juan, was doing a much better job than I was of taking care of the baby. Fortunately, I had some great friends and family members that came over during this time to help clean, bring food, and hold the baby. I have no idea how I would have gotten through this without Juan’s paternity leave – and I have a newfound admiration for single mothers, because this was challenging, even with all the help.

Once I had fully recovered, taking care of things got a lot easier and I began to find my groove. Parenting still has its difficult moments, but it’s much easier now that my body has healed.

Taking care of a baby is incredible, but it can also be isolating.

During my maternity leave, I got to experience what it would be like to be a stay-at-home mother. Juan’s paternity leave was shorter than my leave, so I had about three weeks of taking care of Alexa on my own during the day. I had some absolutely incredible moments, but I can definitely see that taking care of a baby is isolating. It’s easy to get sucked into the baby vortex and fail to spend time with family and friends. It’s easy to get stuck in the house all day, as taking the baby with you can turn even a simple outing into an event.

I definitely recommend scheduling visits with friends and family and taking your baby out of the house, even if it’s challenging. Being able to spend time with others and go places is an important part of self-care. Don’t neglect your self-care just because of the baby. And make sure that you take some time away from your child to do some of the things you used to do for yourself. For me, that means leaving Alexa with my husband on Saturday for a few hours so I can go thrifting and grocery shopping on my own. It also looks like taking the time to write and journal in the morning before she has woken up for the day.

Breastfeeding can be incredibly hard.

In the hospital, I had a difficult time getting Alexa to latch. The nurses had me waking her up for feedings, and she was so tired that she had no interest in eating. She latched exactly two times, and both of those were times when the lactation consulting helped her do it. I wasn’t able to get her to latch myself, which led me to decide that I wanted to pump and feed her through a bottle.

I was advised to pump every three hours around the clock. This alone proved to be a difficult struggle – who wants to sit there with a breast pump all day, especially when no milk is coming out yet?

At the pediatrician’s office, I started crying when he asked me how I planned to feed her. We talked and it became clear that I didn’t really want to give up breastfeeding just yet. Since Alexa was over 9 pounds, he told me to take her home and for the next two days offer her nothing but breastmilk, even if she cried and refused to eat. We would check in two days later to see how she did.

Fast forward to later that night – Alexa is crying uncontrollably and refusing to breastfeed. I’m falling apart because I feel guilty letting her starve. Juan wanted to cave in and give her formula. Finally, my mom came over to help and with the aid of a nipple shield, we finally got her to latch.

Once she latched, there were still many challenges. The first challenge is cluster feeding. She tends to sleep pretty well at night, but that means that during the day she is making up for it with extra feedings. She can feed for 45 minutes and then half an hour later she’ll be ready to feed again. Making this even more challenging is her love of using me as her pacifier – she loves to comfort feed, and she could do this for hours on end. All of this leaves me feeling like a human milk machine.

Since I’m planning to go back to work, I had to figure out how to pump as well. To make pumping less of a hassle, I invested in a hands-free portable pump, which was a game changer. I hated pumping, but with this pump I am able to get some chores done at the same time. The only challenge is that I’m supposed to pump after each feed, but Alexa is often awake and requiring attention. The one thing I can’t do while pumping is hold my baby, so right now my pumping is a bit sporadic. When I return to work and she is in daycare, I’ll be able to adhere to a consistent pumping schedule.

I’ve grown to love breastfeeding her – especially since I learned to how to feed her while lying down in bed. I often will lie down in bed the afternoon with a tv show on and allow her to comfort feed a bit, which helps her fall asleep for a late afternoon nap. This has become one of my favorite parts of the day.

Leaving your child at daycare is super emotional

As of this writing, I have one week of maternity leave left. I am dreading having to drop off baby Alexa at daycare next week. We really love the daycare we selected, but I still feel the dread. I’m going to miss the long hours spent with her during the day, and I don’t want to pass her off to someone else who will get to enjoy her while I’m at work all day. Before giving birth, I didn’t think this was going to be difficult for me to do — I thought I might enjoy the break. But now that I’ve met my child, I have no idea how I’m going to be able to be apart from her during the week. Since I work from home, my plan is to prepare dinner during my lunch break so that I have the entire evening to savor my time with her.

Your Motherhood Journey

What are some of the challenges you have faced in your journey with motherhood? Do you identify with any of the ones I shared? Let me know in the comments!

On Weight Gain and Body Acceptance

Over the past few years, I’ve put on a lot of weight. It actually started with a medication that I had to take for bipolar disorder. One of the side effects was that I put on a few pounds. But it wasn’t until recently, when I got pregnant with my first child, that the weight really started to pile on. During my pregnancy, I was a bit overwhelmed at the rate at which I was gaining weight, and it was hard to prevent it from happening. I was constantly hungry, and as my pregnancy progressed, I replaced going to the gym with more leisurely walks because I was constantly winded and tired from my workouts.