This story isn’t about purging my kitchen drawers or donating half my clothes to a local charity. It doesn’t begin with selling, eliminating, or decluttering.
The story of how I became a minimalist begins with a purchase (a financed purchase at that)- a coffee table to be specific.
The “why” of ownership and how something came to be in your life, is a much bigger and far-reaching decision than contemplating if an item should go in the sell/donate/trash pile. Everything you eliminate in your minimalism decluttering frenzy, you also allowed to enter your life at some point.
This is why my minimalism story begins in a 35,000 sq ft furniture store.
How I Became the Owner of the Coffee Table
My husband and I were 24, newly married, and were first-time homeowners of a 3,000 sq ft home. 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a game room, office, and 2 people + 2 cats. Moving from an 800 sq ft apartment, our new home was overwhelming. However, we were proud (and still are) of the money we had saved for a down payment and were excited to start filling the empty spaces with furniture.
The first room? The living room. One weekend we drove to one of the big box chain furniture stores to “just look” for a couch and loveseat. We found a set we loved, but “just for a little more” the salesperson said, “you can bring home the entire room- couch and loveseat + 2 end tables, a coffee table, an entertainment center, 2 lamps, a rug, and a tv.” We signed on the dotted line and the next week our “living room” was delivered.
The Not So Intentional Purchase
From the beginning, it was clear that this was not a very intentional purchase. The rug and lamps were a little too modern for my taste, but hey- maybe I could be a little more modern? The living room was not big enough for all the furniture, so after several different layout configurations, we decided to move one of the end tables to an upstairs bedroom.
Throughout the next year, I realized I was never going to be a geometric print loving, modern design girl. Eventually, the rug was replaced with a neutral, natural fiber rug. Next, the oversized silver hammered lamp with its crisp white lampshade was replaced with a more subdued, smaller lamp with a burlap shade. The orange geometric patterned throw pillows were sold at a garage sale and replaced with black-checkered pillows that I spent days contemplating buying (and still love to this day).
Finally, the room felt like “us”. In the end, we learned a life lesson and made better, more intentional decisions in furniture shopping for other rooms (It took us almost 2 years to decide on a dining room table).
I loved our living room…..
How the Coffee Table Became the Owner of Me
….but I hated cleaning the coffee table. The coffee table was glass top, with 2 glass inserts. The fingerprints and smudges on the glass were never ending- and this was a constant pain to me. Even more, dust, dirt and whatever else would collect on the wood rim where the glass sat. I would literally use a Q-tip to try and clean the edge (meticulous, eh?), but by the next week, I would need to clean it again. Every week when I cleaned it, I swore “the next coffee table will be solid wood. I will never buy another glass top coffee table!”
In our personal life, we had just lost our fourth pregnancy. The grief was overwhelming and I cried almost daily (and this continued for months). We were receiving invites to baby showers and gender reveals and it seemed like every day my newsfeed had a pregnancy announcement from a friend. Looking back, it was a tough season of my life. My body had failed me over and over again, I had a box of grainy sonogram photos of babies I would never meet, and my damn coffee table would not stay clean. My grief spilled over into all parts of my life, and the menial coffee table issue manifested into something much bigger.
Out of Control
As a result, I did not feel in control of my life. My plans and expectations of becoming a mother had fallen short, no matter what medication I injected myself with. My coffee table would not stay clean, no matter how much I cleaned it. I no longer owned the coffee table. The coffee table owned me. It controlled my cleaning routine, my time, my energy, and sometimes even my emotions. Once I realized the power had shifted, I moved the coffee table to a spare bedroom, out of my sight. Immediately, I felt relief. I was in control. I made an intentional decision to remove a negativity in my life.
I felt good. Really good.
An Accidental Minimalist
The decision to say goodbye to the coffee table had a ripple effect in my life. I started making little decisions that had a big impact. Slowly, I started editing my life- my belongings, my routines. I don’t know the exact moment, but somewhere over those weeks, I found a word to describe my outlook: minimalism.
“Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.”- The Minimalists
By the way, the ripple effect of the coffee table eventually reached my journey to motherhood. Eliminating the unnecessary from my life allowed me to reflect on my values and create priorities. I realized the end goal was not a successful pregnancy- it was to become a mother. Less than a year later, we became the lucky parents of our daughter through adoption.
Our daughter loves spending time in the living room with her building blocks. She has plenty of space to play where a coffee table once stood.