I walked to the supermarket around 10am one morning, up Bay Street in Port Melbourne to our Coles store. It was a 5-minute walk from our apartment, that we were renting while renovating. I pushed our new baby, Oliver, who was about 3 months old with the sole purpose of buying dishwashing tablets. I walked about 500 meters up the street, and something caught my eye. A shoe store had a pair of beautiful tall boots in grey, that I thought were nice. I had a brown and black pair of tall boots, but not grey. I pushed the stroller in, and 10 minutes later, walked out with a $600 pair of boots. I walked home, forgetting about the dishwashing tablets, as Oliver needed to be fed.
In one fleeting moment, I dropped an exorbidant amount of money and didn’t think twice. We lived a fortunate life, but at no time could I really afford a $600 pair of boots. However, I thought I could. I was on a 6-figure salary, we were renovating our 3rd home, and I spent what I wanted. If I saw something, I bought it. Didn’t think twice. I wasn’t usually frivolous like I was with the boots, but I also didn’t hold back if I liked something, or the kids wanted something. I bought it, put it in my closet and felt better about myself for the moments when I got to wear it.
I look back now, not with a longing to drop $600 on a pair of boots or for the full account balance, I never looked at. I look back in awe and a sense of guilt, for the blur I was swept into. The life we literally, bought into and stored in our closets. It’s impossible to pinpoint any point in time when the consumerism started, but I can pinpoint specifically when it stopped.
Before we packed up the entire contents of our house, into a container, I purged. I threw out bags upon bags of junk. Small bits of plastic, broken toys and tat from the drawers in my kid’s rooms. From their desks, our desks, our kitchen, our closets. I put good toys that we didn’t use or I knew would find a better home, into bags and donated over a dozen garbage bags full to our local charity shop. What was left was approximately 6 plastic containers of ‘stuff’ I declared had sentimental or very useful value. Puzzles, books, toys, games. Each boy has a plastic box with school artwork, reports, photos and special goodies that remind us of their years growing up.
For our trip, each of our boys was given one bag for their clothes and one backpack for anything they wanted to bring with them. Spencer packed some bits of lego into a ziplock bag, lots of soft stuffed animals (his comfort toys) and some others memorabilia he’s lined his desk with, to remind him of home. Oliver was less emotional about his items, and filled his bag with things for the plane and stationary items that he always loves. A few books lined the bottom of our suitcases and we kissed our stuff goodbye, to the suburbs of Melbourne, where it sits, relatively forgotten.
Fast-forward 6 months, where we live in a rented home in the south-west of France. Since our arrival, we’ve slipped into a much simpler life. French country-life and its slower style, is making its way into our personal habits and daily life. For me personally, I’m learning to accept & perfect living in the moment and living in limbo. I’ve embraced so many aspects of the slower life that I adore. Time to plan meals and cook a less hectic dinner, pottering in the kitchen and baking nice things for the family. Listening to podcasts, reading, writing all fill my days in between running the kids to and fro.
What our more minimal life also includes is less stuff. In a way, the minimalism has been forced on us and wasn’t really a deliberate decluttering because we felt suffocated. In making the choice to take 2 years out to live in France, for all the reasons I’ve talked about before, we inadvertently bought into a life, living with less. Because we are also on a strict budget, living in someone else’s home (that we don’t need to do up, buy cushions for or improve), and don’t want to amass unnecessary items we’ll have to ship home, we are collecting less and feeling all the more free for it. I’m finding joy in spending our $150 a week personal allowance (each!) on a nice, long lunch with Rob (and Charlie!) or on something yummy from the market. I savour the moments longer when it’s not an everyday occurrence. I think about where I’ll spend it, instead of just spending it and taking out more from the ATM, like I use to.
As Christmas is upon us, I get excited about the thought-out gifts we’ve bought the kids. Yes, they’re getting some toys but they’re also getting a lot of useful things they need. I know that Charlie will love the boxes turned into barns, just as much as the tractor & trailer Santa is bringing. Ahead of Santa’s arrival, I’m decluttering again and putting some toys away so the new ones are the focus and our living room doesn’t look like a dumping ground. I’ve realised, Charlie especially, is happier playing with just a few toys, rather than having boxes full, which he just dumps out like a game.
I encourage you to try it with your kids. Put things away (or maybe even give them away) and guess what? You’ll have less to clean up. You won’t constantly be reorganising their toys and drowning in the clutter. When you declutter toys, clothes and useless stuff in your house, you also declutter your life, feel lighter and can focus on what’s important. What better way to start the new year than with a fresh, organised, clean slate to start smashing your 2018 goals out of the park. You don’t need to move countries and put everything you own into a container, to achieve what we have. You can do the exact same at home, before or after Christmas and I promise you, it’ll be the best start to a new year ever.
I reflect on 2017 as a year of closing certain chapters and making a new start for our family. We are more in tune with what is important in our lives. We are more aware of who is important in our lives, what friends are truly friends and who we want to spend our time with. We are so so grateful for the abundance we have, the experiences we are creating and the lives we are now truly feeling. I hope you too can reflect on a brilliant year and plan for an even better one next year. We all have the power to change and I encourage you to dig deep if that’s what you need in your life. It can truly be life-changing.
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