by Ellie Kate, Guest Contributor
Stuff. We all have it, we all move it, we all box it, and many of us even store it.
When you are a military family, you can find yourself doing this quite often. Whether you move to a new base, stay in temporary lodging for a stint of time, or you go back home to be with family in your home state, various situations do arise and you find yourself faced with boxes upon boxes to shuffle around with you wherever you go.
And we can all attest, moving isn’t easy.
Moving is a major stressor in the military community.
But what if we owned less stuff? What if we intentionally said “enough is enough.”
What if you chose to live a life with far less possessions? Could you do it? Would it be worth it?
Could you become a minimalist?
Minimalism is simply choosing to live a life with fewer material possessions, which can in turn give us a freedom never experienced before.
A freedom from stuff that is weighing us down, holding us back and wasting our time.
Free from the stress of moving our stuff. Free from the stress of boxing it, free of the stress of storing it, and free of the expense of shipping it.
I believe that it is possible. I believe that I don’t need nearly as much as I have and I am ready to live more like a minimalist.
The eye-opening moment for me happened over the course of the last six months.
Many of our possessions were driven in my car 2,100 miles across the country to my parent’s home while my husband was deployed overseas. I lived with what fit in a Toyota Corolla and in our suitcases for six months, and here is what happened. I realized I had too much stuff with me and it was quite stressful.
During my husband’s deployment, I learned that our next duty station would be in Germany. In that instance it all changed.
The car that I thought I was driving back to the Midwest (where I was living) would now be sold in the Pacific Northwest, as we are only shipping one vehicle overseas and we didn’t want to drive it back 2,100 miles during the winter to only have to sell it once I was back.
I was left with a car full amount of possessions plus much more since I accumulated a ton while I was there. Now what? How was I going to get all this stuff back to the Midwest?
Nearly two weeks before my scheduled flight back I made three piles. Keep, donate and ship. I learned quickly just how frustrating that decision-making process was. I couldn’t make decisions. I could only make justifications.
I gave up many times and put the process off for another week. Once my allowed six suitcases were packed for me and my kids, I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to bring very much of my stuff with me.
What was I to do?
I donated three giant garbage bags to Goodwill and stuffed my bags until busting at their seams.
Then I shipped things. I shipped many things. So much stuff I couldn’t see straight and felt like I was losing my mind and felt completely and utterly overwhelmed.
On one hand I wanted every single thing to magically make its way home, and on the other hand, I wanted to never see any of it ever again.
My light bulb moment though, didn’t quite strike me until I was back to the Midwest, believe it or not. It was when my shipped packages sat for over a day in our living room. It hit me and I was disappointed in myself. If I lived a day without the contents in those boxes and didn’t rip into them the minute they arrived at my door, why did I even ship it in the first place?
When I opened these boxes I asked myself, “Why did I ship this again?” Some of the contents I happily marched up to their places, but the rest? My heart sank. The now paid for shipped item got tossed in my newly formed donate pile and I couldn’t believe it. I needed a change.
If I lived a day without that stuff, I knew that I could live many more days without what was inside those boxes.
That was the moment that I knew I was ready for my new minimalist lifestyle. I was ready for a lifestyle that didn’t involve so much stuff.
In the next few weeks, my husband and I made some big changes…we began donating and selling a lot of our stuff. It wasn’t anything too earth-shattering at this point, but enough to see the difference and we aren’t feeling deprived.
And neither are our children! In fact, I feel they are doing much better. I can see their happiness when they can find that action figure with much less effort then it involved before, and with freed up space in the living room, they instantly began doing summersaults and flips, and it was happening.
We were less stressed by having less stuff.
We were feeling a sense a freedom, we were experiencing a different joy, and we weren’t wondering about what was given away in those boxes anymore.
It was as though things were starting to fit together and the kids were even appreciating a much more tidy and organized play area. And I’m terrible at organizing. This was huge for us and it is just beginning. I can’t wait to fully understand the benefits of minimalism and live a life with less possessions as we continue our journey in the military overseas!
Minimalism is hard and we are learning. It will be a process and a lifestyle change that we are beginning to implement into our home.
Will it take time? Lots…but we are ready to make these decisions and free up our time spent putting things away and more time out enjoying each other and making more memories.
With a minimalism lifestyle it feels like we will have more time for other things such as happiness and less stress. I am believing it and I am seeing it, and I can’t wait to experience more of it, on this journey to live a more minimalist life in the military.
Ellie is a military spouse and mother of two children. While attending the University of Nevada Las Vegas, she met her husband who serves in the Air Force. For over a decade they have moved base to base with their two children. Ellie has found great joy in sharing her experience as a military spouse and what she is learning along the way. She aspires to live more simply and minimally in a thrifty way. You can connect with Ellie on Facebook, Twitter and on her blog, Thriftcents.