A guest post by Lisa Avellan from Simple and Soul.
I stood in the garage, hands on my hips and my weight shifting from one leg to the other. What if, I asked myself, I just never come in here again? That might work. I’ll just forget we have a garage at all.
Eighteen months ago, at the start of this minimalism journey, I said this was the place I’d never touch. This was the forbidden area – the corner with my kids’ baby stuff. It wasn’t bothering anyone, neatly stacked with Tetris precision over there… no need to worry about it. Minimalism doesn’t need to go that far.
Yet, there I stood in the center of our garage, all other garage clutter removed, and I realized I’d reached a chasm in my compartmentalized philosophy: is partial freedom enough?
It was time to get serious. Not because minimalism is about getting rid of all the things, but because my “never-get- rid-of- stuff” was holding me hostage in my own motherhood.
If I’ve learned anything from minimalism it’s that minimalism questions everything. It’s not shy to call out the stuff I’ve refused to surrender. I had to choose: go further, deeper, and wider with my minimalism than I thought possible, or cut this trip short, pick up my chains, and go back inside.
The impossibly small onesies, the party dresses hardly worn, the first family photo outfits, and bins of all the things my babies used for every ‘first’ up to this point of their lives. Along with the cradle, the sensory toys, the high chair, swing and bouncer, and swaddling bags and blankets. Wraps and carriers, footie pajamas, and handmade summer dresses from Great Grandma.
Were these the things that my freedom teetered on?
I stood on the precipice I didn’t know if I’d ever be ready for, and yet as I neared the ledge I felt a confidence, an acquired sense of surety that came with the months of minimalism prior, that this call to go over the ledge wasn’t going to break me.
I felt safe, even, as if this was the point of the journey – travel the slow and steady road, growing confident and strong, until it arrives at the cliff of complete transformation. I was ready to go over, but how? And to what end?
I remembered a quote I heard a couple years ago.
My feet neared the edge, and I had to make a choice. Will I fall over the edge, or will I dive?
Will I fall into this next leg of the journey and miss the entire adventure in the chaos of flailing limbs and closed eyes? Or, will I dive with purpose, heart first and head strong, noticing the wild and free nature-songs and the artful sediment layered beneath the surface?
Minimalism, the removal of distraction and clutter in order to fully love all that remains, is always a dive.
It’s a lump-in- your-throat surrender to be present and vulnerable and fully here, in the moment.
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That day I dove into my kid’s baby stuff, and these are the lessons I learned about letting go:
Gratitude is the heart’s salve
My pursuit of minimalism has pivoted on gratitude. It’s my centering point and as I approached my kids’ baby stuff, my impossible to minimize stuff, I drew near to gratitude.
I knew that if I faced this impossible task unprepared I’d lose heart. My emotional attachment to the tiny hats and itty bitty skinny jeans and Mary Janes that never stayed on their chubby feet would outpace my resolve to let it go. Gratitude was my healing salve.
Gratitude eased the pain of letting go with joy – a joy for having had it and joy for the babies that once were so small. Gratitude replaced the ache of change with the comfort of provision. It reminded me that memories are not kept in things, but in the heart.
Blessing others with it keeps the love alive
After packing up the boxes of clothes and toys for donation, I bent over to rest my head against them and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. Overwhelmed with what I was about to do, I could only pray gratitude for the opportunity to give these clothes a second life.
I still hadn’t decided where I would donate these precious things, but I knew that giving it away would keep the love alive. My hope was that my gratitude for my ‘impossible to let go of’ stuff would bless some baby girl the way it had blessed both of mine.
The miracle came a few hours and an Instagram post later – a church friend expecting her first daughter wanted it all. Just like that, the love would transfer from my mama heart to hers, from my babies to her baby girl. A blessing for this sweet family, and for me, a mother releasing the past while watching a new baby girl grow up in it all.
This is how we keep the love alive.
Holding on to our kids’ pasts distracts us from who they are becoming
Every time I thought about my kids’ stuff in the garage my heart would ache a bit. Where has time gone? Where did my babies go? I’d lament the growing up of my kids. Then I’d lament that I was lamenting because it felt ungrateful.
I don’t want my motherhood to be focused on what was; I want to be a mother who is un-doing to witness my children’s becoming.
Involving kids in minimizing their own stuff is healing and (sort of) helpful
I admit that, for sanity’s sake, far too many times I prefer to do things myself rather than involve my kids. But when it comes to minimizing their stuff, I’ve found involving them in the process heals my heart and helps me process it all.
My girls loved looking through their baby clothes, asking who wore what and if they really were that small once. Their playful laughter and running off to get a doll to put the baby booties on filled the room with a healing joy for my weary heart.
What they lacked in actual helpfulness, they helped me understand the practice of simplicity isn’t heartbreaking; it’s heart-freeing. It’s a process fueled by love.
Letting go creates space for hope
Kids need space and kid stuff steals space.
A flagship principal of minimalism is creating physical space in our homes. This white space becomes a refuge of restoration and hope; two things clutter manages to steal from us. Letting go makes our home a place to dream and discover our true self with freedom.
But it’s not just physical space; it’s mental and emotional space that our kids need. I believe that my kids will benefit more from my mental and emotional clarity of being a present and purposeful mom, than by the bins of baby stuff stacked in the garage. I believe their security and self-image will flourish in a home with less distraction and self-discovery.
My kids won’t remember the day we gave away all but a few of their baby items, but I have more hope than ever that the space we created that day will impact their childhood (and my motherhood) in infinite ways.
Everyone has their own cliff that minimalism will bring them to; it’s part of the journey to freedom. It’s a safe journey, of love and gratitude and hope. My hope is that if you are nearing yours, you will dive. It’s where the best of minimalism is found.
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Lisa Avellan believes minimalism isn’t about stuff, it’s about the soul. She writes at Simple & Soul, a blog to help you simplify life and discover your best self. She is a stay at home wife and mom of two in California.