Crafting a happy home, family and life through simple living.

How I Became a Minimalist: The “Why” of Ownership

How I Became a Minimalist: The “Why” of Ownership

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 pileEverything 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.

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 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!”

Related  The Minimalist Guide to Mother's Day

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.



70 thoughts on “How I Became a Minimalist: The “Why” of Ownership”

    • Yes, most of my transition to simple living has been very small changes. My last post was about using all white towels in our bathroom- so easy, yet so impactful on my laundry!

  • I can only hope to one day follow in your footsteps. I go months without buying unnecessary items and then wham! I go on an unintended shopping spree. Mostly it’s because I want to “buy in bulk” so I don’t have to come back to the store. It works half the time, the other half I end up with stuff I will put away and never really use.

    • I buy some items in bulk too. My laundry room has a shelf where I keep Kleenex, paper towels, and toilet paper from bulk Amazon orders. My biggets issue is going to a big store like Costco. It’s too easy to find something that wasn’t on my list that I “need”.

    • It’s such a mindset for me- and one that I work on every day! Just yesterday I went to the mall with my husband to buy him a new pair of sneakers and I didn’t feel the urge to buy anything. That was a new one for me!

  • This is a timely post for me. I have just started my minimalist journey and your thoughts on minimalism have really put things into perspective for me. I realise that I buy things to try and make myself happy and it is something I am going to have to stop and get to the root of why I need to buy these things. Thank you.

  • This was beautiful to read and I am so happy you became a mother! I absolutely hope to do the same and adopt!
    Reading this I immediately thought: maybe this is my solution.
    I don’t necessarily have a “coffee table” (although I do hate mine), it’s more that there is something negative owning me. I shop when I am depressed or when I have achieved something (two ends of the spectrum), maybe I need to shift the way I use my energy!
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you! Someone else mentioned that maybe we all have a proverbial “coffee table” and I think that is so true! Shopping brings such instant gratification, but those feelings fade which is why we shop more. Good luck in your simplifying journey and shifting your energy!

  • What a beautiful story! In the end it is always just a few things that we really love, and these are the only ones we should keep close.

    • Absolutely! Stuff doesn’t matter in the end. I read somewhere (can’t remember where) that at a funeral no one says “she had the best shoe collection!” Instead, we talk about our relationships with the person and memories. In the end, that is all we really have 🙂

  • Such a great reminder to be true to ourselves and intuition. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story! I am in the process of going back to the basic needs of life and it feels SO good.

  • Wow I love this! I am slowly growing closer to becoming more of a minimalist, simply because the clutter and mess are so overwhelming at times, that it’s easy for it to “take control” of my emotions. I’ve recently transitioned to *mostly* chemical free cleaning, and hope to spend this summer getting rid of the junk that we absolutely don’t need.
    I loved your story, your honesty and how applicable this post was- great job!

    • Thank you! Good luck in your decluttering this summer! Things can definitely control our emotions and the more we own, the more of our time is controlled (cleaning/organizing/etc).

  • This is such a timely post for me! I always seem to struggle to get rid of things, but if I approach it from the more emotional, power perspective, it changes how I view the things I own. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • What an interesting way to become a minimalist! i became one after cleaning bathrooms at a campground. I learned I liked things clean and orderly. And i had a coffee table with a glass top once that I hated too 🙂

  • I love so much about this! I have a similar story about our coffee table. We always put it away at Christmas time because our cozy living room just couldn’t fit it with the Christmas tree and all the extras that come along with that time of year. A few years back we decided to leave our coffee table put away. It was such a freeing decision because now our cozy living room continuously has more room for our children to play. And I love being able to see them make living room forts and set up pretend school rooms in the place where that piece of wood sat collecting dust.

    And I loved reading your journey to motherhood. How interesting that letting go of that coffee table led to so many more blessings. 🙂 Our road to becoming parents was also filled with letting go of certain things before we finally got pregnant. Funny how the Lord does that!

    • I love that story! Our living room is much more of a family room without the coffee table because we have plenty of room to play!

  • Oh gosh, I resonate with SO much of this post! My journey to minimalism had a different starting point, but I found myself nodding along anyway. I get the feeling of being controlled by your stuff. I get the felt need to buy things just to fill a space, even if they’re not really your style. I have found minimalism to be such a freeing way to live both physically and emotionally!

  • This is such a beautiful picture and different than the usual “I got rid of a bunch of things” minimalism posts. Glass coffee tables are the worst. They look pretty, but cleaning them stinks.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • Thank you! I think it’s just as important to share the “why” of minimalism (like I did here) as it is to share “how to”. Hope you found inspiration!

  • I’m shedding tears right now as I write this comment. You’re so brave and so determined. It’s amazing how a “thing” like a coffee table can own up so much of your time and kinda makes your world revolve around that thing. Your story is so inspiring and touching. I’m so glad you now have a daughter. Btw, I cracked up when I read you guys took 2 years to choose a dining table… I can relate. Loved this post! Made my laugh and made me cry. Thanks for sharing it 🙂

    • Yes 2 years! haha. And the best part is we’ve probably only eaten on it 5 times in the past 4 years (we have a table in our kitchen where we eat our meals).

    • That sounds like me a few years ago! I finally put a word to what I was doing in my life. Thank you! She is the biggest blessing!

  • I love this and truly believe that stuff can get in the way of our joy. And the more stuff we have, the more time it takes to take care of and pay for it, which means less time for the important things in life.

  • I think I am an accidental minimalist lol. I don’t like clutter, and I don’t like constantly cleaning so I started getting rid of things as well as not purchasing new things so I won’t have to clean so much. I also noticed that I was minimal with my daughters toys, only certain kinds of toys, specifically asking for certain things for her birthday to keep down the clutter.

    • Sounds like you are! I’ve always been a big organizer and after reading the Simple Magic of Tidying Up, I realized if I had less stuff I wouldn’ thave to organize it!

  • I was able to relate to your post so much! I used to be obsessed with cleaning my house like it was a disorder and because of that I was losing on other important things that were my priority. It is then that I took time in April to do a complete detox – get rid of things that were actually stopping me from living my life and not becoming someone I didn’t want to!

  • this story is beautiful. I teared up a bit while reading it. While we aren’t “minilmalists”, mainly by sheer number of people in our home, we try so hard to be intentional about what we buy and keep in our home.

  • Thank you for sharing your minimalism journey! Love it so much. I can’t wait to buy our first home and start for real, for real our journey.

  • I can totally relate to the “accidental minimalist”… One day, I was living with my ex and was folding laundry and the closet rod broke. I had had enough with not having enough space in my closet so I just decided that I was going to give away all of the stuff I didn’t wear…. And the accidental capsule wardrobe was created.

  • I love the explanation of minimalism. It is a term you hear so much nowadays, but not many really understand it. Being selective with what we choose to bring into our lives is such a great idea.

  • This is an incredible post – the most incredible piece on minimalism that I’ve ever read. THANK YOU for not just writing about cleaning out your closet or resisting shopping – those might be facets of minimalism, but they always avoid getting to the heart of the matter. Minimalism is about soul-searching and prioritizing!
    “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.” That line broke my heart. I’m so glad that your story went in a happier direction all at once – isn’t that how it always goes?

    • Thank you so much for the kind words! Minimalism is not an end destination for me, but a tool- so your comment of soul-searching and prioritizing is so true!

  • I’m an accidental minimalist too! We moved to a TEENY TINY apartment in Tennessee. Compared to our two-bedroom apartment in California. (Surprisingly, my apartment in CA was bigger than the place in TN?!) And the storage space here is absurd. So, we had to get rid of a lot of things after we moved here! Funny enough, I don’t miss that stuff like I thought I would!

  • What a wonderful post! I’ve been getting better at editing my stuff but we definitely have way too much and it takes so much of my time and energy to sort it and clean it-what a waste of time! Thanks for the motivating post!

  • I’m so happy for you Davi <3 Isn't it amazing how it often takes us a while to realize what's really important in life, from a glass coffee table to the beauty of being a mother. No-one has time to polish a material thing, but the feeling of seeing your babies first steps, man nothing comes close. May you always live a life full of love and lots of baby hugs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *