My heart wants to be a minimalist. I love countertops that are empty of appliances or other things. I do not like trinkets that need dusting set around my home. The more things that I see out, the less my brain can function well. My heart also loves all things vintage. Old coffee mugs, plates, serving dishes, an old trunk, old furniture, and quilts from family members all are proudly homed within our walls. Belongings that have a story, that are imperfect, delight me. My heart also needs to feel well-supplied for whatever my family may need within what a person can reasonably anticipate. I do not want to be out here in the middle of nowhere and discover that we are out of bandages or milk or hairspray.
When we moved into this house, I had all the perfect plans of never having a thing out of place and starting with a good organization system that would keep me from having things that we did not need. I have specific places for keeping the “extra” supplies I like to keep on hand, and all those items only go there. It was a great plan until I tried to do things the way I had at our old place. The old house was almost double the size of the usable space in this house, and the same system simply did not work. I had purged everything I thought I would need to purge before we ever moved from our valley house, but that was based on the current realities of that place. We are finding the systems that work for this house, but it has surprised me how different the same four people function in the smaller space versus the larger space. I love lower bills, but I miss the space for solitude if I am completely honest. I love looking out to see mountains all around us, but I miss reliable, efficient internet service. I love how functional our open floor plan is, but I regret how constantly in use the kitchen area is. My counters are NEVER clear of things anymore. Seedlings and a coffee maker take up one side of the stove, water jugs are beside the sink, and appliances take the corner by the refrigerator. I want to be rid of all the things, but they are used constantly. There is also no other place to put them in this small house. The kitchen island is used for meal prep, school, work, and sometimes even folding laundry. I love its functionality, but it does not stay clear often. I clean it often, but it goes instantly from one task to the next.
To justify the part of my soul that requires the old things with a story with the part of my soul that requires clear and open spaces, I have made myself some rules. Younger me would keep the things that were sentimental and never use them for fear of ruining them. My perspective changed after a conversation my mother had with a visiting missionary. She had sold all their belongings to move to another country with her husband, while her grown kids remained in the States. A simple reply of, “I came to accept that it was just stuff,” resonates with me still. I started looking at my stuff differently after that. One of my priceless treasures is a set of bowls that my grandmother gave me when I moved into my own house. I was a single young woman, and it was one of the last things she gave me. I would not use them simply for that reason; to me, they are irreplaceable. After hearing the missionary’s comment about stuff, I decided to use them. I would rather use them and have them break than to have spent years just cleaning dust from them never serving their proper function. My new rule for myself became this: If I love it enough to keep it, I love it enough to use it. If I will not use it, I cannot keep it.
Is there such a thing as a sentimental minimalist? If so, I think that is the category into which I fall. I keep more than what could qualify me as a minimalist, but I feel like there is a certain amount of keeping and reusing supplies that is necessary to be a homesteader. What we keep, we use. The old quilts stay folded in the old trunk, and it is center stage in our living room. They are ready for when we want to curl up on the couch with a book or a movie or a cup of coffee in one of those old mugs. I am slowly getting rid of the items that do not fit easily into our smaller house, and the more of our farm-type systems that are in place, the less will have to work in my kitchen. In the meantime, I will keep my “stuff” without regret if it passes the usable test. I will embrace the sentimentality of the old things, and I will progress toward the minimalistic vibe of a place for all things and keeping only things that fit in that place.