I started jotting down an outline for this post three weeks ago about how my outlook on basic things has changed since going tiny. Traveling back to our old house in Virginia for our final clean out changed my perspective…again.
The first few minutes back in the old house were surreal. Did we really live here? Was this place always so ginormous!? Oh, and the memories; my heart broke.
Just as I was settling into the discomfort of our twin-sized air mattress, the thoughts began to flood in of all that we had left to do. To the onlooker, the new home buyer, our house looked like a home. In my anxiety-ridden mind, I was writing the never-ending to-do list of unpacking, organizing, making trash, donation, and storage piles, cleaning things out and scrubbing clean—ceiling to floors—the life we were leaving behind. Sleepless nights—I don’t miss them.
So, after three weeks without writing, but with lots of reflecting, here is the list of The Top Five Things Going Tiny Is Teaching Me…
1. Deciding is Difficult: When you downsize you have to make decisions…a lot! We had to take 11 years of life’s “stuff” and decide which things were important enough to take with us. That is harder than you think.
If you haven’t met me, I am not the materialistic type, but I am the sentimental things type—or as my husband affectionally calls me, “hoardie”. So reducing my clothes and shoes was a freedom I enjoyed. I didn’t wear most of it anyway. However, I have amassed a collection half a file cabinet drawer deep of old birthday cards, notes from former students, campers, and friends, pictures from life before marriage and kids. It all seemed so important to me at one time.
I’m learning that, while deciding is difficult, it isn’t impossible. I kept a few things from family members that have passed on or pictures that our kids drew so I have tiny reminders, but the memories of what I left behind are still there. I will never forget my aunt Bevy’s handwriting or the rock picture frame I first gifted Spence. I don’t have to keep it squirreled away somewhere for me to maybe never actually look at again until we move or I need to empty a cabinet. Deciding is difficult, but rewarding.
2. Presence Over Presents: We aren’t the type of parents who buy our kids a lot of toys and things, but because both sides of our families are large, it is nothing for us to bring a carload full of toys home after a birthday or Christmas. While we teach our kids to serve and give back, it just seemed like we were constantly giving away things.
We realized this had to be Briggs’ decision and not ours. So, after much inspiration from a book called Simplicity Parenting (which is well worth the read, by the way), we had Briggs lay out each type of toy, count them, and divide them by half. We repeated this process about four times before moving and have already done it once again since going tiny. He took to it much more quickly than I imagined. And, as the book explained, I was surprised by the freedom with which he cut things loose. Some things were harder for me to let go than him!
What we are experiencing is a freedom from things we thought we needed. I thought I needed to hold on to mementos from my past and Briggs thought he needed every little trinket and toy. Spence and I thought we needed time to unwind after work with a mindless TV show, but now we rarely even turn on the TV and we don’t have satellite or cable.
We are, however, making our own memories. Every weekend we are experiencing our community, visiting new places, being active together every chance we get. We are getting dirty, building things, learning things, and enjoying building our tiny lives together in a big way. It is pretty incredible and costs next to nothing.
3. Intentionally Be Intentional: Admittedly, this is not my spiritual gift. Emotions make me clammy and uncomfortable. However, allowing myself to let go a little is kind of amazing.
Since going tiny, we have freed ourselves from the mundane but necessary parts of everyday life. We no longer have a yard to mow, fence to fix, barn to clean, house to sanitize from a week of baby goo, mountains of laundry to wash, forget about, rewash, smell to make sure we didn’t leave it too long, and then forget about in baskets for the upcoming week.
All of that is gone. What we are left with is ourselves and each other.
Our job now—our primary goal—is to be together and enjoy life. Yes, I have to go to a full-time job that is more stress than they pay me for, but I am able to focus during my ride home on doing my best to rid myself of what is leftover so I can give my best to my husband and kids when I get home.
Now we can let ourselves have time to feel things, discuss things, and experience things we just couldn’t or didn’t make a priority before.
We are intentional about what we choose to eat, where we choose to visit, what we teach our kids; every decision is intentional because we have freed ourselves up to have the time to make those choices on purpose. It is eye-opening to look at your budget and see how many times you opted for drive-thru and take out over homecooked meals because you didn’t have time. Look, I am the queen. Chick-fil-A workers back home knew me by name. I was getting free food from that app errrryday!
I still don’t do it perfectly. Spend a day with former convicts and see how tired you are. I teach them and it is exhausting. Fellow mamas, I am like first trimester tired…ev-er-y-day! So this week, we have already eaten out twice and it is Wednesday! However, we sat around the table together and we talked about school, our day, what we learned. We were intentional.
I can now read bedtime stories to my kids each night and kiss boo-boos and remind our son who struggles with his emotions that mommy does too and that’s okay. It is a change I may never have experienced otherwise. And, again, not my spiritual gift, but I am learning. Briggs still rarely sees me cry, but now we can talk about it because I don’t have the excuse that I have too much to do, and that is pretty amazing.
4. Simplicity is Bliss: Full transparency, I wear my jeans at least three times before washing them. And honestly, if you are the type of person who washes every item of clothing or bath towel each time you use them, I don’t understand your life.
Now that we live tiny, I own about 50 pieces of clothing. Yes, that includes undergarments. So from work/church clothes to t-shirts and jeans, shoes and accessories, I have about 50 things. Do you know how much easier it is to get dressed in the mornings!?
I used to change three times some days before even going to work because I just felt like a blob of horribly dressed goo. Now, I am able to accept where my body is at the time because I only own clothes that make me feel good. If I don’t feel good in something, it has to go. It’s that simple. I have already made three additional bags/totes of donations since moving. Why did I still have an ENTIRE TOTE of “skinny clothes”!? I am not skinny!! To be fair, they were sizes 10-14, but that is skin and bones to me, folks! Let it go! I am plus sized. Skinny jeans are just “tight jeans” on my body. I am proud of this frame. It might have to get tucked into leggings, but guuuuuurrrrl, this body birthed two amazing kids and those labors liked to kill me! Own it!
So now, not only with clothes but with everything, I choose to keep things I sincerely love and get joy out of having. Each dish, each decoration, every picture, and blanket were chosen on purpose and that simplicity is a gift.
5. In Everything Be Thankful: To all of those sweet grandmas who assure me in the line at Kroger when our son has thrown himself in the floor and our daughter is crying because she just thinks that is how we communicate in our house, that “you’ll miss this someday,” thank you, kindly, but no. I am not the mom who feels like I will miss this. I am literally biting my own tongue so I don’t respond with, “Really? I will miss dragging Briggs behind the cart by his ninja turtle shoe while he screams about how I am the worst mommy ever, as Sparrow throws an entire canister of Cheerios in the used van we just bought and smiles at how proud she is of herself!? THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!”
However, I am coming to learn that having the mental space to breathe and to be thankful when our daughter does something new, our son learns a lesson he is excited about, or we just have a campfire on a weeknight to unwind is something I never knew I was missing until I did.
Moving on is never easy, but it isn’t the place we miss. We miss the relationships—the people. There are so many memories of warmth, laughter, cookouts, birthday parties, and late nights up rocking our babies. Decorating nurseries and going into labor aren’t things that will be soon forgotten. The thing is, no one can take the memories from us. We are choosing our new lifestyle. We are trading in the feelings of being overwhelmed with debt and never-ending to-do lists for a life of freedom to enjoy the things we love and to have the time to be intentional—to be able to afford to make the memories we have always wanted for ourselves and for our children.
A transition is never easy, but the liberation that is being born from this type of simplicity is indescribably beautiful.
Brynn Burger is a….Wife. Mother. Teacher, Friend. Writer. Lover of all things outdoors. Sometimes a shell of her former self. Visit her online.