Aiming for a simple life – A few big steps

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

– Lao Tzu

Simplicity

We have been on a road of our choosing now for several years, one very few understand. Maybe it was becoming a mother and seeing how different raising a child had become since the time my mother raised my sister and I. Maybe it was us diving deeper into our Tao cultivation, making us more aware of our attachment to possessions and habits that were leading us nowhere. Or maybe, it was a combination of both… Whatever it was, it has led us here, to a place where our home feels cramped, life seems to be going by too fast and everything has become subject to conversation and analysis, in order to answer the question we’ve been asking ourselves over and over again :

“Do we really need all this?”

Our home is less than 900 sq.ft with half a basement. At the time we bought it, we only had Little Miss. It had taken us 4 years to successfully start a family so the idea of having a second child was one of distant dreams… So we bought the small house, perfect for a family of 3. Then our prayers were answered and Little Man arrived. But we loved our home (and little piece of land) so we had only one choice : Make it work.

What do you do when you need to make a small house bigger? You empty it. So we have been on a mission to get rid of things. Our goal : 50% of all we own will have been donated, given away or sold by the time 2014 is done. I would say we are easily at 25% to date.

Some areas have been easy to clean out :

  • Clothing and shoes
  • Baby things (So easy to give them to friends that will be giving birth to precious new little ones!)
  • Kitchen gadgets, tools and small appliances
  • Dishes (Can you believe we had 2 full 8 people place sets??? – Our table sits 4!)
  • Papers (Clearing out filling cabinets has been so satisfying.)
  • Magazines (I always have friends and family to take my magazines. They live on and please others.)
  • DVDs (Our tastes in movies and entertainment have changed so much that most of our movies we now find offensive and unpleasant to watch.)

Some things are less easy to get rid of (but we still managed to get rid of a lot!) :

  • The kids toys (I feel bad getting rid of their toys because they are not mine. They belong to them so I feel disrespectful giving away their things.)
  • Books (Oh how I love my books!)
  • Memorabilia
  • My daughter’s artwork ( I know we can’t keep every scrap of paper she drew a circle on, but so much of her heart goes into her doodles. It tugs at my soul.)
  • Fabric scraps (The thrifter/upcycler/recycler in me can’t let anything go that could be reused!)

It is a plan in action and little by little, we are getting to where we want to be. Funny enough, right now, the house feels even more cramped as boxes are being pulled from the crawl space and emptied to sort, leaving behind things that must now find a home. That is another one of our goals : Aside from seasonal things (camping gear, Christmas decorations, etc.) if we can’t find a place for it out in the open, then we must not need it!

It’s been an eye (and heart) opening process. Tao is not against possession. Not all cultivators must become monks in order to attain enlightenment. In this period of cultivation, we can do so among people, learning to cultivate with the challenges of a world filled with temptations. But as we have been letting go of “things”, we have also been letting go of pain and suffering. I had slowly experienced it as our path was unfolding, but never as much and as suddenly as I have with letting go of material possessions that I now know were causing such heaviness. As bags and bags, boxes upon boxes, are leaving our home every week to be left in drop boxes, brought to friends, sold for a few dollars here and there, it becomes easier to see what else can be let go of. Simplifying our existence has become such a freeing experience that I wake up in the morning now looking around the house for something else to remove.

It started as a challenge, it has become a sure way to a happier life.

Wishing all of you a peaceful day…

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About Yanic A.

Hello to all of you and thank you for stopping by! My name is Yanic. I'm a wife to a wonderful husband, a mother of 2 beautifully complex and unique children and a lover of all things inspiring. Having started a personal journey of self discovery when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter 4 years ago, I've since embraced a daily life of simpler pleasures and gratitude. As we get to know each other, you will know me as a quilter, a gardener, a Tao cultivator, a vegetarian foodie, a true believer in a healthy family life as being the secret to my happiness and hopefully as time goes on, a friend... I will try to share with you my days as they unfold, speaking of my happy successes without censoring my challenges, trying to make this blog a true portrait of the ever-changing path that I have chosen for myself. I'm hoping to find in these pages others to share with and learn from, bringing to light the absolute connection in all things and people, showing this world as being a true community.
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41 Responses to Aiming for a simple life – A few big steps

  1. apeerless says:

    What a beautiful and well written post. Putting into practice that which we believe to be true. I am happy you are seeing the end result and gaining it’s blessings. Thank you for sharing with us this part of your journey.
    April

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      Thank you so much for your visit and your kind words. The miracles of my cultivation come to me every day. I am truly blessed indeed to be on this path!

      Have a peaceful day.

      Like

  2. Kristin says:

    I’ve been on the same mission for years. It is so satisfying to have clear counters and a little more space! The end of the school year signals the time for us to you through the kids’ rooms top to bottom and clear things out. I feel like we don’t bring that much stuff in anymore, but there still seems to be stuff to get rid of every year!

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      I know! Seems we go months without buying anything and stuff just magically appears! The worse for us is the toys… I don’t know how we end up with so much, but our kids don’t play with them! For all the dolls and such my daughter has received as presents, she always asks for her crayons and paper. And my son is at an age where the best toys are everyday things. He wants to play with the pots and pans, not the intricate little big knob puzzle. LOL!

      Good luck with your cleaning out process… I’m jealous of your clear counters! We are still struggling!

      Like

  3. Lisa says:

    Stuff makes you sad. My husband says we need a bigger house. I say we need less stuff. Three people should be able to live quite comfortably in a 1200sf house. I do love my books though and that’s definitely my weak spot. And I am ruthless with paper.

    We have a wine chiller bucket that my dad got for me about 10 years ago. Have we ever used it? No. Will my husband let me get rid of it? No. I tell my husband as soon as he dies I will not be opening the “Museum of Steve” and will, in fact, be getting rid of his stuff. He doesn’t think that’s very funny. 🙂

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      I used to be such a “keeper of things in case we ever need it” person. I actually thought I was being smart : The day we’ll need it, we’ll have it and we won’t have to spend the money. Until we got to a point where we would have needed to pay for storage to keep the stuff that would “save us money one day”… No sense right?

      I bless the Universe everyday for a husband that is right there with me in my mind space. I don’t know ow this would pan out any other way, but I’m sure your husband and you will find a middle ground!

      Thank you so much for sharing your personal story. By sharing, you all inspire me so much!

      Like

  4. The last time I moved, I really made a conscious effort to cleanse my life of all the unnecessary accumulated possessions that had stacked up over the years… I remember giving away about a DOZEN large black garbage bags worth of clothes and items, and several others bags for recycling. You’d think that one would experience a bit of loss when parting with so much in one go, but on the contrary it was incredibly refreshing and liberating. I didn’t miss a single item of it, and my entire life felt fresher, lighter, and less complicated. When your focus is on surviving happily with the minimal, it can be surprising how little we really need! I think its fabulous your kids are going to grow up in an environment where attachment to material things is not likely to take hold. Across the world, it’s the people with less material wealth but more spiritual wealth who are happy, content, and at peace 🙂

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      Amen! I know there will be times when my kids will want what others have. It cannot be helped… But I hope that by teaching them restraint and the value of experiences over possessions, that these future discussions will result in better understanding what we has their parents are trying to do.

      And I agree with you! Best diet ever! Every time I give away something, I feel like I’m shedding a pound. Maybe THAT’S why the baby weight has been so easy to lose this time around! LOL!

      Thank you for sharing your experience. xo

      Like

  5. sophiezest says:

    Hi Yanic, Thank you for this post. I am fascinated by the path you have chosen, and I admire it. At the same time I don’t think I would be capable of getting rid of so much stuff (although my husband would). I too love my books, my craft materials, my fabric stash, my kitchen gadgets (which I do use, though not very frequently). If Buddhism says that material things lead to temptation and that you should live in the present and let go of the things of the past, what happens to things like photo albums, journals, old correspondence? I can see that it would be good just to rely on one’s memory, but photos are a good prompt. Anyway, sorry to go on so long, I’m just curious. As it happens I am working in an environmental meeting today with some powerful messages about consumerism and waste, which tie in very well with what you are saying.

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      I love when people go long on my posts… feels like an open conversation with friends!

      From what I was taught, things cannot by happiness. From my own personal experience, every time I’ve thought that getting some”thing” would make me happy, it did for a while, but it was always short lived. It only made me want to get new stuff. Living in the present and letting go of the past have very subtle variations to me :
      I don’t think keeping photos, correspondence, etc is what living in the past is… You should cherish people that have come before you, your ancestors, your loved ones. But let just say you are holding on to an old stack of letters from your mother because you feel guilty for never taking the time to write her back, then THAT is living in the past. It’s all in the intention. The question I always ask myself about possession is “if this object was gone tomorrow, how would I feel? Could I just move on or would it cause great distress?” That to me is the attachment factor. Example : We need a car to get around. Fine. But if my brand new car was stolen and all I could get after was a perfectly fine working car, but older model, not in a color I like, etc. Would I still be thankful to have a car, or would I hold on to the fact that this is a “lesser” car in my eyes?

      I don’t know if this makes sense…

      Thank you for sharing and feel free to ask any other questions? I love these open heart conversations.

      Like

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  7. bitsofthepast says:

    Great post! I too have been on a similar mission to simplify. Some of the things I do with magazines are cut out my favorite ideas and put them in a scrapbook for ideas later. Also, my kids use them for art projects. Then, they are recycled. Some of my friends take pictures of their kids artwork and then place it in a file on their computer and back it up with a hard drive. Then, they are able to get rid of the work, but always have a photo of it. I still have problems with this. I love keeping it all! I go through my house every six months and clean it out. But my husband cannot be there, or I would not be able to get rid of anything!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      That is such a great idea… I think I will do that for the smaller pieces of art (like on restaurant napkins or post-its!) It is hard… our hearts are so attached to everything our kids do.

      Thank you for sharing as well!

      Like

  8. Angel Jem says:

    What a thoughtful post. I fight hard with possessions and the role they play in my life. I had a good wardrobe clear out this weekend but I have loads to go! I know I should hold my possessions lightly but it is my worst area of ability.

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      It’s not easy… so much of our emotions reside in the thing we hold them to. I wish you the best of luck! It was a long process for us, believe me… this is years in the making!

      Like

  9. I always love the feeling of lightness when I get rid of stuff. I have an easy time with it, my hubby not so much. He is a bit of a pack rat, but lucky for me he has his own space in his workshop and keeps it out there, out of my sight 🙂

    I have trouble functioning in a space that has too much stuff, I guess I could explain like a bit of claustrophobia, although I don’t have issues with small places or anything like, just when they seem cluttered or over powered with stuff. I also have a very hard time relaxing if there is stuff just laying around. So everything has its place and if it doesn’t have a place it goes.

    The kid toys are hard for me too, especially because a lot of them have been made by us. There are definite toys I could get rid of, but little man has a say in that, and he is not ready to part with some things yet. As he grows he will let go of some of it. For now we just work to make sure everything has a place and if not we find a spot for it.

    Enjoy the journey. xo

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      We try and let Little Miss decide with us, but some toys, we made the decision ourselves : Age inappropriateness or a fundamental disconnect with our values… those, we take to heart. Often times though, they have been in a closet for months without being mentioned, so she doesn’t remember even getting them. I feel off doing it, but I feel less off than if I would have to watch my kids play with toys we do not approve of.

      And I totally get your claustrophobia… I feel the same way!

      Thank you for sharing! xo

      Like

  10. Tracey says:

    It’s taken me 30 years of marriage and five children, four of them now out of the house to where I can Finally start getting the house to where I want it. I love and married a pack rat, but now it’s love it or it’s out of here phase and it’s so freeing.

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      LOL! Just make sure you keep your pack rat… no matter what, I think your life wouldn’t be so fun without him! ❤

      I'm glad you are able to cleanse your house the way you have been wanting to.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing!

      Like

  11. pamelabanis says:

    I was fortunate enough to have been raised in a frugal, simple home. Our adult son has also followed in our footsteps. (And yes, he is a list maker like his Mother). Family and Friendships are far more valuable than something I need to dust. I enjoyed reading your post tonight. Thank-you.

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      You are welcome… Thank you for taking the time to read and for sharing your experience.

      That is really all we can hope for in the end isn’t it? That our kids will grow up taking our values to heart and making them their own. I hope my kids find their way in the life we are building for them.

      Have a beautiful day!

      Like

  12. Hiya. this is a wonderful inspiration to peruse your blog! this post on letting go of possessions was great and touched a lot of people by the look . i like that you have a 50% goal. this brings clarity beyond ” i need to get rid of stuff”
    your saturday morning garden glimpses are lovely. i would love to borrow this idea at times!
    lovely to meet you in blog land.
    Roselinde

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      Please feel free to join in! Make sure you come back and put your Saturday morning glimpses into the comment section here for all to see.

      So lovely to meet you as well…

      Yes, I find I need tangible goals if I’m going to set objectives for myself. We came up with 50% because we wanted to double our free space inside our home. LOL! Also, about 50% of the stuff we own is in closets, boxes, drawers… if we truly want to keep these things, we need to make them a part of our lives, bring them out and use them! 🙂

      Thank you for your visit and your kind words. xo

      Like

  13. karen says:

    I have one box each of the kids past drawings and special papers. I have a hard time thinning out books and presents from others like knick knacks. I found every time I moved when we first started out was a great time to get rid of stuff. Now it’s a challenge when we stay put!!

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      I’m the same way… when we were living in apartments, we would move every couple of years so the loads would get thinned out regularly. Now, we’ve been in our home (the home we plan on living in for a long time) for 3 years and have added 2 kids. You can imagine how quickly our good decluttering habits went out the window… but it,s never too late! 🙂

      Thank you for stopping by!

      Like

  14. Thank you for this wonderful post! This is exactly what I needed to hear! I started a purge in our home just yesterday. It felt so good, but I am still having trouble letting go of some things that I know need to go. I feel like I need someone to hold my hand through the process and tell me it’s okay. Your post has really inspired me. Thank you!

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      You are welcome. That is so sweet to say… I know what you mean about someone saying “it’s gonna be okay”. I thank the heavens everyday for my husband being on this path with me : What I fumble about, he walks me through and vice-versa… My husband is my inspiration. When he immigrated here, he arrived with his Jetta trunk full of stuff and nothing else. He left behind his furniture, most of his clothes, most possessions… he came here to marry me and start a new life. That has always amazed me!

      Good luck with your purge! Keep me updated!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. cporzio says:

    Great, congratulations! Parisian apartments as so small that I’ve been doing this for years too. I pretty much enjoy the process now and I find it liberating not to have too many things to take care of. The problem is…we keep on getting a lot of stuff from outside for the kids and it’s so difficult to give it away when they are older. You’ll let me know how you’ll manage when they grow up 😉

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      My mom would do this wonderful thing with us : The moment we were old enough to understand getting things, she figured we were old enough to understand giving away. So one Christmas, as we were giving her our list, she sat us down and explained how some kids didn’t get to make a Christmas list. That was the start of the Christmas Cleanse! Every year, before we could ask Santa for stuff, we had to fill a box with toys for kids that weren’t so lucky. Then, the tradition extended to clothes when new clothes time arrived. I started that with my daughter this year and I will keep it going. She freely gave away a bag full of toys and gave a box of clothes as well. Fingers crossed that she continues without fussing!
      Good luck! Please share your tricks with me as well!!!

      Like

      • cporzio says:

        I’ve tried to do so too and it work rather well with my daughter but not so very well with my oldest child who’s 13 and is quite messy. Truth to be told they get slightly different messages from me and their dad so I guess it’s normal for them to go for what’s easier for them. My husband in fact never tells them to sort their things out so it’s easier for them not to listen too much to me when I tell them too…ah compromise compromise…

        Like

      • Yanic A. says:

        I’m sure you do what you can… Every bit counts I think. I was horrible when I was a teenager… maybe it’s just the age!

        Like

      • cporzio says:

        Ha ha ha thank you, that lifts me up 😂

        Like

  16. Those are big steps and sometimes a challenge, but it is SO satisfying to simplify and downsize! I might be getting addicted to it! 🙂

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  17. I haven’t been reading much online for the last … more than a week, but I’m glad I read your post. My house is very roomy, and we do use all of the space. Both my husband and I are very aware we could be quite comfortable with a lot less room, and some day I’m sure that we will. But we’re also both very aware we don’t want to be owned by our possessions. We want to be in charge. And I don’t like having “too much,” more than I use. My fabric stash, equipment, and notions are all things I use. I don’t need to be embarrassed about secret storage, or not-so-secret 30 gallon bins full of fabric I have forgotten completely. We regularly donate as we find items we don’t use. Each year for MANY years, we’ve gotten rid of more than we’ve taken in. When we do get new things, it is for specific real reasons — new hiking boots because we hike — rather than aspirational reasons like we want someone to be impressed with us.

    I guess all this is to say that you and I seem lined up on things again. 🙂

    If I understand right, you’re offline for a few days. I wish you peace.

    Like

    • Yanic A. says:

      Very inspiring… I’m hoping I keep it going. As I add, I take away, Our goal is for an overall feeling of simplicity, so the point will be to reach a level we are comfortable and keep it at that level. So as stuff is being brought in, stuff must be taken out. We are embracing the challenge!

      Wishing you a wonderful week. Thank you for stopping by and sharing!

      Like

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