Our Slow Move Towards Minimalism, Part One: A Messy Beginning

My husband and I (and our kiddo’s too) have been on a journey towards minimalism over the past 15 years.  It’s still an ongoing process and we’re still incredibly messy people but we try and counteract our messiness with having less crap to keep tidy.  For my first post in this series I thought I’d start right from the beginning….many moons ago when my hubby and I first got married.

My husband and I, we’re messy people (though I’m worse!) and we both left home as teenagers with very little organisational skills.  As a parent it’s really hard to teach your children skills you don’t have, so our kids are also pretty chaotic and messy and 5 people creating mess with no clue of how to wrangle it into submission, is a recipe for an extremely chaotic household!

Given the developmental ‘holes’ my hubby and I both have in our ‘adulting’ toolbox in terms of being organised and responsible with the things we own, you’d be right to think that we’d prioritise learning those skills pretty early on in our marriage.  I’m not saying we didn’t try (goodness we tried!) but when you are starting from a place where in childhood ‘tidying up’ means grabbing everything in sight, putting it in random piles and then carrying said piles into another room and ‘hiding’ them…you have no ground work to build up from.  Those ‘piles’ I made to ‘tidy up’ were not just a stepping stone to me sorting through them in the days or weeks to follow.  My piles would just keep growing until they were toppling over and then it was time to start a new pile.  When there were enough piles that it was taking up an increasingly large percentage of the floor space, it was time to buy a plastic tub or basket to hide the piles in.  Then the tubs and baskets would get piled on top of each other.  Then the boxes and baskets would outgrow a lived in room and would start to over run ‘the junk room’ instead!  I remember once my parents paid my Aunty and Uncle to come over for a weekend and clean out our junk room!

{Here’s a pic of my childhood kitty cats.  See the expanding pile behind?}


When I moved out of my parents home and was in charge of my own home I continued to use the ‘pile it and hide it’ method of tidying up.  When the piles got too bad and there was no money to buy plastic tubs to hide said piles, I would literally throw a blanket over an area of ‘piles’ to hide them from my sight and prolong having to deal with them.  I found all sorts of nooks and crannies to hide my piles of junk but eventually they would outgrow the space and start creeping into walkways and living areas.

When we moved into our home we had one child and another on the way, we were 19 and had very little money.  Family members very kindly donated their old cutlery, plates, a few bits of furniture and other random things that we couldn’t say no to, ‘just in case’ we ever needed them.  From that very first month in our own home we were overwhelmed with more junk than we had room to store.  The lack of functional furniture, the rotting kitchen and bathroom cabinets we had no clue how to affordably fix or replace didn’t help our situation and instead of brainstorming ways to solve our problems we buried our heads in the sand and just hid the mess wherever it would fit.

Over the years we were gifted with some book shelves and cupboards and that did help to a certain extent.  The problem was that everything was in utter chaos by that point and we’d learned nothing about how to dig ourselves out from under our junk.  At best new shelves and cupboards were only helpful until we had filled those up too (and that happened pretty quick since we jumped at the opportunity to relocate floor piles into ‘new cupboard piles’).  Once the ‘new’ cupboards were full things would then begin tumbling out onto the floors again.

In retrospect, the problem was that storage is only helpful if you know how to utilise it properly, we as you can see from these photos from 2007 (brace yourself…its baaaad!) were completely clueless.  More storage was just a band-aid on a weeping, oozing wound we called our ‘home’.  Filling what little space there was left with a cupboard or two at the end of the day wasn’t solving the bigger problems.  There was a complete lack of organisation, too much stuff and too many people living in too small a space.  The house just wasn’t working for us and we had no idea how to fix our situation.

{This was our laundry room: chest freezer to the left, washer, random stuff, pile of never-ending laundry and a random book shelf of crap to the right}



{Below is all the living area we had (there’s a dining table beside me to my left from where I’m taking the pic.  Behind me is the hallway that leads to the bathroom, laundry, toilet and the bedrooms.  To the right of the table on the right is the entrance to our tiny kitchen).  This space was our lounge room, dining room and study all rolled into one.  Behind the desk on the left with the two computers, is the front room that we were unable to use after the first two years in the house}



By the time our third son was born we were so over run with junk that even the garage was full and since we had lost access to the front room of our already teensy house (there was serious structural damage that we couldn’t afford to fix) the third small bedroom was being used for storing junk and the 3 boys were sharing one small room.

{Here’s the boys bedroom}





{and…just to give you the full picture of how grossly messy we are….this is our mess of a kitchen}



{and our small bathroom}




So to summarise

15 years ago our early married life included: a lot of hand me downs we needed to store,  more stuff than could comfortably fit in our small house, very little money, 3 young children born pretty closely together, constant feelings of being overwhelmed by ‘stuff’ and no clue how to dig ourselves out from under any of our MESS!

Next up is when we decided to ‘run away’ from the problem (‘growing up’ takes a bit longer for some of us ;).


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