In early March, we ran to the grocery store like most Americans in the Northeast preparing for quarantine. Once our pantry was full, we hunkered down for the next 6 weeks. In that time, our emotions changed from relatively content to depressed to sad to annoyed. It was a difficult time for most of us.
As we came out of quarantine, we went back to a different version of our lifestyle. We continued to hike but packed lunches instead of eating out. We made sure we had enough water to avoid unnecessary trips inside. Our weekends didn't change much. We love being outside and continued to do so. Despite continuing our normal weekend routine, things were different.
We were home, a lot. Summer was spent in the pool. We used it more this year than we have in the past 5 years. Evenings were longer. We watched too much tv. Work got slow. With being on one income, being under-utilized at work made me nervous. I started having more time. Being at home more, I noticed most of my house was full of clutter. I started cleaning out messy drawers. I started organizing. I started making sure everything had a purpose and a place to go.
I realized how important removing clutter is for my mind. The less mess I see, the more I can focus on other things.
You tube has become a good friend of mine these past couple months. I watched videos on organization, home decoration and DIY projects. Many of the organization videos seemed to move clutter from one spot to a neater spot. I didn't understand it. I still don't understand the purpose of adding furniture to hold decorative objects. It seems wasteful.
I’ve noticed my interests shift. Instead of wanting to buy something, I want to make it. Instead of purchasing a new item, I think about repurposing an existing item. My son wanted an end table. My daughter had one that was broken and full of clutter. I decided to clean hers, fix it, paint it and repurpose it for his room.
Being on one income has forced me to question my expenses. I noticed how much we were spending on food prior to Covid. We cut down on our ordering. I enjoy going out to eat. But ordering in isn’t the same. You're not as relaxed. You still have to wash dishes. And you’re missing out on the experience.
The money we saved on dinner was spent on some items for the house. The ugly ceiling fan that came with the house was finally replaced. I discarded items and added some plants to our life.
While I still don’t classify myself as a true minimalist, I do think I am gradually becoming one. Here's how I know.
1. I have less interest in temporary things.
I was the girl with her nails done. The one that needed to get her hair done once a month. Being in quarantine has made me realize I don’t need these things. I went 8 weeks without dying my hair and felt freer than I have in years. I now go to the hairdresser every 8 weeks to save money and reduce the time spent on maintenance.
2. I think twice before purchasing.
I have more time to make instead of buy. Pre Covid, I wouldn’t think twice about purchasing shelves. Now I watch videos to learn how I can make them myself. It’s cheaper and more rewarding.
3. I am saving more money.
I’ve managed to save over $12,000 this year in a one income household. I am making conscious decisions to save for what I truly want. Due to our love of hiking and the outdoors, I want to buy a cabin for weekend getaways. When considering a purchase, I now consider saving money for the cabin instead. The cabin seems to be winning.
4. Clutter gives me stress.
I live in a small home. I have two children, a husband and two dogs. The house gets dirty easily. With extra time, I’ve been more relaxed. I take five minutes every evening to put things away in our family room. This room gets used the most. I’ve realized that my stress decreases when it’s tidy.
Waking up to clutter isn’t a good way to start your day. Take five minutes the night before to tidy up to ensure you start your day with a good mindset.
5. I have a desire to be organized.
For years, I assumed the clutter in our home was due to it being small. I left bins of clothes on the side of our room due to lack of storage space. I told myself there’d be a place for my clothes when I redid my bedroom. It never occurred to me that I have too many clothes. It never occurred to me that I may not be making the most of my space. It seems silly to have this thought suddenly. Since I’ve realized it’s not the space that’s the problem, it’s the amount of things I own, life has been easier. By removing the unnecessary things, I have made place for the necessary ones. And when I use these items, I put them back where they came from.
6. I have realized the importance of how I spend my time.
You choose to spend your day a certain way. After a long hike, I feel accomplished. After organizing drawers filled with random stuff, I feel productive. I crave these days. The days where I have accomplished something other than work, taking care of the children and exercising. Nowadays, I look for ways to feel accomplished during the day. Taking a long hike may not be possible during the week but doing small things around the house add up.
I am gradually adopting a less is more mindset. The lack of stress and simplicity in focusing on experiences has allowed me to become more self-aware. I’ve learned what I enjoy doing and where I want to spend my time. It’s a very freeing feeling.
Despite all the awful occurrences this year, I am thankful to have learned these lessons. What have you learned during COVID? Are you finding joy in less as well?