I’m a minimalist. What does that mean exactly? Well, in short, it means that I regularly survey the items in my home that belong to me. I ask myself, “Do I love this?” “Do I use this?” If the answer is no; then I donate it or throw it away. I’m ruthless about it. I’ve been on this journey for a couple years, reducing and reducing. It’s very freeing. My house is cleaner. I have more time. I’m more comfortable in my space. It’s life altering, really. I’m also very intentional about what I purchase. I don’t impulse-buy. In fact, I don’t go shopping unless it’s for groceries or for a specific item. It saves our family a lot of money.
I used to have a huge amount of curriculum, mountains of books, math manipulatives, school supplies, etc. I used to shop used curriculum sales, library sales, and book stores all the time. I was picking up “deals” left and right. The problem was, our homeschool day was all over the place. We’d start with one math book, for example. Then, a couple weeks later, I’d pick up another one because it looked better. We’d try it for a while and then I’d decide I liked the first one better. We were kind of all over the place that first year. Luckily, my kids were pre-K at the time. So, I had more leeway to try things out and experiment. I thought it was good to have lots of options. I thought the variety would help keep their interests. But honestly, it kind of stressed me out. Bouncing back and forth between textbooks in nearly every subject meant that we rarely finished any of them. Plus, everyone knows that children thrive under routine. We were all craving a little stability.
I had been happily reducing things in my home but, those giant bookshelves of homeschool stuff were still staring at me. Friends had given me hand-me-down books, a local school had closed down and I had saved boxes of items from the dumpster, my mom, a teacher’s aid in the public school system, had brought me things too. I had accumulated A LOT. It was great…and kinda terribly overwhelming. The stock pile was spreading through the house. There were educational games in the coat closet, craft supplies in the pantry, boxes in the basement. I had every resource I could possibly want…but did I really want all this?
I tried organizing it several times. I moved things around, sorted, and stacked. It was a losing battle.
I hated the idea of getting rid of something and then having to buy it again later.
But, something had to give. I started slow. I donated a few books to the library book sale. I gave some of the things my kids had outgrown to friends. This didn’t even put a dent in the pile. I had to get serious about weeding things out. I signed up as a vendor at a used curriculum sale. I posted things to sell online. I dropped things off at a used bookstore. I gave things away. Finally, I threw things away. It took forever. I was sooo over it. I got to the point that I didn’t care if I needed to rebuy something later. It wasn’t worth storing it. Also, I stopped shopping. If I thought I needed something for school, I decided to wait a week. Way more often than not, I decided we could do without it.
It’s been months now since I started narrowing things down. I feel like we are finally in a groove with our schooling. We have a routine down pat. My kids know what is expected of them. They are thriving. I feel like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I can actually find the things I need. We use the things we have. Homeschool life has become much more simple. If we decide to do school at the park or in the car, I can put all of the necessary supplies into a basket and go. We actually finished our history book and handwriting book earlier than expected. A simple life is a fulfilling life.
Are you ready to simplify? Here are some tips:
1. Stop browsing. If you must hit the bookstore or search Amazon, do it with a single item in mind. Get what you need and go. Browsing leads to impulse buys and unnecessary purchases.
2. Wait before buying. It’s great to downsize. But, if you keep bringing things into your home, you’ll never really get a handle on the clutter. If you are considering a new item, wait one week and see if you can do without it. If you decide you really want it, follow the “one in, one out” rule. For each new item you introduce into your homeschool, you get rid of one item. This keeps clutter in check.
3.Utilize your local library. We go to the library at least once a week. We constantly have new and interesting books in our home. We get educational videos, audio books, and music. I love our library. The best thing is, all that goes back to be stored and organized by someone else when we’re finished with it.
4. Trade with other homeschool moms. If you are doing Apologia Botany and your friend’s family is studying Apologia Astronomy, see if they want to trade books at the end of the year. Help each other out! I have a telescope. My friend Melissa has a nice microscope. We’re planning to trade for a couple weeks ago that it kids can learn to use both.
5. Google is your friend. Before buying art books or CDs of classical music, or a history video, see if you can view what you need online. Speaking of art, be sure to check out my blog post Teaching Art Appreciation in 5 min a Day. It has a great lending resource.
6. Do one elective at a time. Keep it simple. Do one elective course per semester. Don’t feel obligated to teach sewing, Spanish, and auto mechanics all at the same time. You’ll be bogged down with supplies and you’ll have no downtime. Do your core subjects. Then, pick electives sparingly.
Enjoy your extra time, extra money, and extra space. You’ll soon see that minimizing possessions can free you up to maximize on life.