Some days, you may just need to laugh. Some days, you may need to know that other people aren't perfect, especially on the road to minimalism. If you were here today, we'd probably chat outside because it's beautiful, almost Fall weather here. We'd let the children run and dig in the mud on the other side of the garage while we sit on the stone steps leading to Dogwood Grove, a quiet realm of trees. I'd probably tell you how good it is to laugh along this minimalist journey. Deep, belly, tears-in-the-eyes laugh. It's one of many things I had to learn.
When I first started sorting and donating and giving everything (500+ bags) away, I wasn't laughing. It wasn't funny. We were completely broke and looking up at the poverty level, wishing to be poor. And yet, I felt this conviction to start giving it all away.
I tried desperately to bring simplicity to the chaos of my home and yet I needed to save all the money that I could. In the midst of that struggle between frugality and minimalism, I had to learn to let go of unrealistic expectations. Yes, we expect to have a clean and tidy house most of the time. Yes, I reasonably expect to find my purse every day and keys and kids. However, I had to accept that sometimes I would mess up, BIG TIME. Here's a couple quick examples.
In my minimalist journey, I thought it would be a good idea to build a couch so that I didn't have to buy a new one (ours was broken and old from college). I watched You-Tube videos and thought that I could totally build my own couch out of a thrift store wooden door. I found the door of my dreams for $20 and I was inspired! I had great aspirations of building a "dream minimalist couch" with old cushions from a previous college-thrift-ed couch. I went to Lowe's and bought several pieces of wood with lots kids in tow. Lowe's cut it for me because I am not good with power tools and plus, well, toddlers. I brought it all home and screwed the boards into a rectangle, thinking "how hard can it be right?" Then just put the door on top. Easy, right? Wrong! Nothing was straight. The baby was screaming and my husband was working at the time. I think I laughed and cried. But I stuck with it. I finally got the whole thing stable enough to just throw the cushions on this wooden box thing and then I put two sheets and my grandmother's lace table cloth over top. What was I thinking? The cushions slid off, the kids wore the sheets like togas, and it wasn't at all comfortable. You'd think I would've gotten the hint that it wasn't working, but I kept trying! We had that couch for over 6 months trying different variations of a failing theme. My husband sweetly said, "Honey, it feels like we are sitting on a door." Ouch. Literally! Not my most costly experiment, that was yet to come, but the whole thing did cost me $50 and lots of ridiculously wasted time. I can laugh now at how silly my mindset was. If I had put my time into making income, I could've at least bought the pre-made thrift store couches we have now. (Kurt talked the manager at the local thrift store down in price, but the couches are sturdy and match and are, oh-so-heavenly comfortable compared to the door couch.) My next minimalist experiment cost quite a bit more for the lesson I learned!
As I was trying to minimize my home, I decided it would be a good idea to label everything using a washable black crayon to save time and ultimately money. If I was organized, I reasoned, I wouldn't lose things or buy duplicates. I was so excited when I found one at an art store for $1.59. I labeled my kitchen cupboards so that the kids could put items away correctly. I label my glass jars and felt the thrill of organizational victory - until the day I forgot my beautiful black crayon in the laundry. Now, I'm sure many a momma has washed a pen or crayon or something in a load of whites, which is, of course, what happened. I could've lived with that. However, after I washed the load of whites with the high-end washable black crayon, I accidentally dried it too. My money-saving, super-great washable crayon did NOT wash off the inside of the dryer. Not with soap and water, not with rubbing alcohol, not with any abrasive chemical laden cleaner I was trying so hard to avoid. I completely ruined the dryer because the only time that the black crayon came off the inside of the dryer is when, of course, I put clothing into it. Everything we owned had black crayon on it. I had to buy a new dryer AND new (thrifted) clothing! That was possibly a $500 mishap, but I sure did learn a few things. Keep track of black crayons.
Then, as you and are laughing over that one, we would probably listen to the soft singing of birds in the cathedral of trees. We would probably try to giggle quietly...shhhh otherwise the kids will come running, curious about why we are laughing. I'd tell you next about my DIY make-up experiments. Like the time that I tried to make green eyeliner out of Spirulina, a health-food algae I use in smoothies. My husband came in to kiss me and didn't notice the green tint to my eye lids, but did ask me why I smelled like "fish food?" Yikes! That wasn't working. It was expensive and tasted terrible, even though I did get it on sale. That was a $25 experiment.
My money saving -minimalist antics may seem a little extreme, and I haven't even told you about all the things I have trash picked (everything from dishes, mattress/box springs, furniture, foaming soap pumps, and I've even found 5 dollars in change in the trash). I made my own baby blankets pictured above, and I tried to make curtain rods from sticks and fishing line. It didn't work but I've got more ideas. I may yet build another couch or reuse the door for a coat rack. I had sheets pinned with safety pins as curtains until my friend hemmed them this year. Finding wealth in hidden places is life-giving to me, all the while keeping only what creates my best, inspired life. It is a delicate but doable balance.
And not that I'm totally proud of my crazy tendencies toward DIY frugal adventures, but I want you to know that if things don't always go as planned, that's o.k. You are still making progress. It doesn't need to be perfect to be moving you forward. You're learning. Set your goals high. Dream big. Debt freedom is possible. A simple home that works for you is completely within reach. And you may need to rest for a moment and laugh along the way. You're in good company. I made my own dish soap today (somehow it's green). I'll let you know how this one goes.
Blessings for your journey,