I read back through one of my notebooks this morning while I was drinking my morning coffee, in my effort to stay away from social media. It’s a notebook I have to just jot things down as I think of them. More often it turns into to-do lists and appointment dates, but every once in awhile I write a few pages of whatever is on my mind.
At the beginning of this notebook was some writing from when we’d first moved into our house. I was amazed reading about how overwhelmed I felt at the time. I felt like everything was going wrong, I felt like everything needed to be done all at once, and I felt like I needed a bunch of stuff.
I wanted new things and nice things. I wanted things to not be broken. I wanted the new house to feel like it was my own, and not a hand-me-down filled with hand-me-downs. I had such high expectations for how my home should look.
It’s amazing how my attitude has changed so drastically in the past year. I now know that things will get done when they get done. And not everything is a dire emergency. Some things will just have to wait because we don’t have the money and other things come up that were not even planned. And whatever is in my house is not the source of joy or happiness.
I think we were completely unprepared to own a house. I’m sure most people are unprepared to be homeowners, but us especially. It just happened so fast. We had barely thought about it, we barely had enough money for a down payment, and we definitely didn’t know what we were doing. All we had was a dream of owning a space that was completely our own. And suddenly the perfect house came on the market and it all just worked out. And before we knew it we were standing dumbfounded in our very own living room looking around in shock, like what did we just do?
I think the process of owning a home and making it our own has contributed to my steps toward frugality and minimalism.
(By the way, I still don’t consider myself a minimalist in the traditional sense of the word.)
I slowly came to realize that I couldn’t afford everything that Pinterest told me I should have in my house. And in not being able to afford it, I realized that I truly didn’t need it.
So much of what we think we need is just what was told to us, by our friends, the media, family, neighbors, whoever. We have this need to please other people and other people have expectations of how we all should live. We take on these expectations as needs and we get these inflated standards.
We think we need the fireplace, the kitchen island, the granite countertops, the open floor plan, the master en suite, and the walk in closet. We think that three to four bedrooms is commonplace for a starter home and that if it’s less than 2,000 square feet it couldn’t possibly be livable.
But when we don’t have that and we can’t get that, what happens? We still live. We still have a great life. We can still curl up on the couch, even if there isn’t a fireplace in front of us. We can still cook delicious meals, even if the laminate countertops don’t give us quite enough space. We can still get ready for work in the morning, even if we have to (gasp!) walk out into the hallway to get to our bathroom.
There may actually be some upsides to all this. One less bathroom is one less toilet to clean. You don’t have to call a chimney sweep every year. Less counter space is less to clean up and you end up cleaning your dishes as you go. A smaller house is less stuff needed to fill it and more money in your wallet.
I once thought that when I owned my own home, I could make it beautiful and I would feel happy, just being in that space. I thought that a new coffee table styled with a pretty glass tray topped with delicate trinkets would look exceptional in a room with warm neutral colors and a plush suede couch. I would make it cozy with vanilla candles, soft throw blankets and carefully hung framed art. Can you picture that? I’m pretty sure it’s directly from Pinterest.
I have since come to realize that happiness doesn’t come just because my living room looks magazine-cover-perfect. I’m not a better person because I bought a new couch. I’m not closer to “success” because I replaced the carpets.
Here is reality:
My coffee table is the one I grew up with in my parents house. It’s the one that my brother hit his head on as a kid and caused a trip to the emergency room for stitches. It doesn’t have a single thing on it, unless we’re drinking water or wine, and then we promptly remove the glasses when we’re done. Why? Because our dog will knock them over with her long tail, and she’s been known to chew on enticing decorations. The couch is from my in-laws’ basement and it’s plenty comfortable and quite durable. I know this because I fall asleep on it almost every night and the dog has yet to rip the fabric with her claws. The blankets are covered in dog hair and I actually have pillows hidden away for guests because the every-day pillows are covered in dog slobber. And we just finished hanging all our wall art almost a year and half after moving in. Most of the art was done by ourselves, either in middle school art class or at Paint Nite.
And you know what? I’ve never been happier. Every morning I walk the dog around a quiet neighborhood as the sun comes up. I love my job and I get to hang out with amazing co-workers. The dog greets me when I come home like I am literally the most amazing person on earth. I cook dinner with my husband, and we talk and laugh as we sit down to eat. We get to hang out together all night, sipping wine, watching movies, or going for a walk.
None of that has anything to do with the size of my home or upgraded furniture. If I had figured all this out a little sooner, I might have saved myself some stress when we moved into this house.