by Karen Koch
Sometimes more is just more.
For the past school year, I have been deeply pondering minimalism. No one in my house is wearing diapers anymore, and my first two children are mainly self-sufficient at this point, so maybe I just finally have enough sleep and time to think about this after 17 years of homeschooling. Minimalism is the catch word for a new movement that isn’t really new at all, but is a natural result of a country run amok in consumerism over the past 70+ years.
I think many of us are collectively weary of “the stuff,” and want more peace, meaningful relationships, and spiritual focus. With all the time we spend tending to our ever-accumulating stuff and crowded schedules, it’s hard to visualize this.
Of course Jesus was way ahead of all of us:
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15, emphasis mine.
I was recently doing some research for an article I was writing on this subject. Here is what I found. The average size of an American home has more than doubled since 1950, largely just to contain our belongings. Studies show that we tend to regularly use just 40% of the square footage we live in. We also have an average of $7200 worth of unused items in our homes.
And as our homes are overflowing, we, as Americans, rent a lot of self-storage space. According to IBISworld, annual self-storage revenue was estimated to be about $32.7 billion (that’s billion with a B) in 2016. That figure is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.5 percent over the next five years.
We as a nation are literally drowning in our possessions.
Well obviously this isn’t true of everyone. We have personally never rented a storage unit, and we can park a car in our garage. Being a mostly one-income homeschooling family doesn’t generally allow for a lot of ridiculous excess, but we have excess in other areas of our lives. I have hundreds of books, lots of science experiment stuff and math manipulatives, globes, craft project items, instruments, and more that we use in our homeschool. But as the caboose child is now in fourth grade, I’m realizing that it is finally time to move along some of the younger-student items.
I have boxes and boxes in my garage that are likely mostly filled with items I will never need again. Everyone in my house owns too much clothing and shoes. I have far too much unnecessary paperwork that could probably be tossed or shredded. We have non-working electronics and the accompanying mystery cords galore. And don’t even get me started on the garage. We, as many other Americans, simply have more than we need.
Two Suitcases/Two Years
When I moved to France in 1989 for a two-year stint, I took just two suitcases and my Macintosh computer and printer. I mailed myself a box of winter clothing before I left, and that was about it. My belongings were sparse but my spiritual life wasn’t. If anything, I needed to depend on God even more for my daily needs than I am often aware of now in our relative abundance. Obviously now that my family unit has gradually expanded from just me to six people over the past 24 years, owning just that tiny number of possessions would be challenging, but life was certainly simpler with fewer things!
And as Jesus also called for us to care for others, I’m now working on a few ways to not just simplify our lives but bless others at the same time. Here are a few suggestions for 2018 if you want to join me in my mission/resolution to de-clutter and simplify. First, think about your goals. Do you want to reduce debt with the funds generated, help a particular ministry, clean out the garage, bless other homeschoolers? After thinking that through, here are some suggestions.
Ways to Move Along Unwanted Stuff
- Sell your curriculum or household items. CHEA holds an annual Used Curriculum Exchange at the Homeschool Convention. You can sell what you don’t need (and bless others in the process) and purchase items you can use in your homeschool. I plan to do some of this to generate college textbook funds for Child #2.
- Donate your items (school and otherwise). It may take some time, but take some time to research who may best use your items. Donate items to your favorite charity, or use Facebook or another social media platform to give things away, or do it the old fashioned way by calling or emailing people.
- Look into Better Finds. I love this option and just downloaded the App. Better Finds is mainly launching in the Seattle area but they will be expanding to other geographic areas. In short, it’s a donation/ebay sort of mechanism where you select things you might normally sell or donate, and instead you post the items in an App to sell, but first select the organization that will receive the sales money as a donation. No money changes hands between buyer and seller. The non-profit gets the donation money, the buyer gets something they want, and you (the seller) get a receipt for the donation. This way instead of giving your old couch to your church, you can donate the $100 generated from its sale directly to the church instead, for example.
- Find a Buy Nothing site on Facebook. I have recently given away some old VHS movies, a beanbag, some leftover “snow in a can,” a wooden trellis, and more, all in my own community.
Karen D. Koch works as an editor/writer for CHEA. She homeschooled her first two children K-12. One has completed college and the other is halfway through. The two younger children are in 9th and 4th grade. Karen enjoys making lists, drinking coffee, reading, and making more lists. She would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. [email protected]
CHEA’s 35th Annual Homeschool Convention, June 28-30, Pasadena Convention Center. #cheacon18 #homeschool #cheaofca