One of the things I'm always grappling with as a content creator is the push to buy more, more, more. Because on the one hand, I am always getting DMs and comments asking for recommendations on certain products. And it's my job to make sure that I'm recommending only the best products from brands that I trust. So of course, I purchase as many of these items as I can before recommending them.
But it wasn't until we were living in Hawaii that I truly realized what it looked like to live with less. Not only did we majorly downsize (by thousands of square feet), but everything from the supply chain to the lifestyle is different on the islands. People are buying less - not just because it's so much more expensive and difficult to ship there, but because there is an emphasis on simple living. It forced me to be much more intentional about what we brought into our home.
And that's always been in the back of my mind since we got back on the mainland. Where do I find the balance between doing my job and doing what's best for me and my family?
My friend Becs started sharing her journey with redefining minimalism in her home and it really resonated with me. Like her, I've never considered myself a minimalist. More is more! But her approach makes so much sense, and I know it could be helpful to so many of you as well. I hope you enjoy!
What made you want to start this journey? I saw on your Instagram stories that you've sold nearly $1000 worth of your furniture just in January!
Becs: That's true! 2022 was a really difficult year for my family. We had so many changes, just like you did, and it all felt like it just came hitting us back to back to back. It was also the first year I really fully immersed myself in being a stay at home mom of my two girls. I always thought I was going to be the mom that went back to work and had the kids either with a family member or in day care, but life didn't work out that way, and it just made more sense for me to stay home with them. And I'm so grateful for that.
But 2022 was the most financially irresponsible year of my life. I was racking up credit card debt and just never satisfied with anything we had. I was always on social media, watching other moms who were freelancers and content creators, working at home with their kids. And anything they would do, I would say, "Well, I need that, too."
I can so sympathize with that! Hayden was my first baby that I was actually home with since his birth. And before him, I would always watch everyone else's routine videos on YouTube and think, "Oh, this is what it will look like for me when I get there."
Becs: Exactly! And by the end of last year, I just did not recognize myself. Of course in the New Year, I'm scrambling like, I should have a New Year's Resolution, right? But I couldn't even think straight. My brain was just so foggy and I was exhausted. And I sat up in bed crying to my husband one night, saying, "I just can't believe I let it get this far."
Every inch of our home was covered in stuff. Most of it, I didn't even like! There was not an inch of space that didn't have something on it - decor, coffee table books that had never been cracked open, tons of framed photos, toys, vases, bowls, antique plates, faux floral arrangements, room sprays, and just clothes, EVERYWHERE. I had spent so much money, and in the meantime, I had missed out on so much life.
I just could not stop crying thinking about all the times my husband had said, "Let's take the kids to do this or that," and I had told him, "It would actually be so much better if you would just take them to do that so I could stay behind and clean the house."
That hits so close to home.
Becs: I know, I think it's sort of a universal truth for moms everywhere. We want to be present, but we also have all of this homemaking responsibility to shoulder. So I said, I have to find the balance. And the next morning, I was making major changes in our home. Including selling nearly half of our furniture!
Becs: Financially responsible homemaking is creating a space that has all the comforts and necessities your family needs within your means. There are so many things available to us in an instant every day that can make life more convenient, or would just be nice to have. But for every one thing that you bring into your home, whether you know it or not, you're trading something else away. Money, time, your mental health. Sometimes all three.
For a long time, I thought minimalism and homemaking were opposing forces. You can either have a cozy home with all your comforts and necessities, or you can have an uncluttered home. But not both.
So what changes did you start making in your home that you felt like had an immediate impact?
Becs: The first thing I did was eliminate as many surfaces as I possibly could. There were so many places in my home that existed only to hold stuff. And at the time, I didn't even have stuff for them! So I would buy the furniture, then go shopping again for things to put on or in the furniture.
In the last month, I've sold console tables, entertainment centers, side tables, chairs, cabinets, and shelves. And once those "stuff holders" were gone, it forced me to eliminate anything that didn't have a true function in our home. There wasn't a place to put the rest, so it had to go.
And from a financial perspective, how has that made a difference?
Becs: I feel like I could cry just telling you this, but I can't even describe to you how freeing it is to know that the money I work so hard for as a freelancer is no longer already spoken for before I even get it into my bank account. Anyone who has ever lived paycheck to paycheck knows this feeling. But I felt particularly ashamed about it because we made more than enough money to get by.
I was just being so financially irresponsible with it all, and for what? The things I bought never made me happy. Because once I had them, it was onto the next thing.
This is the first month in years that I can say that I've come out in the green at the end of the month. I've always been in debt at the end of the month and waiting for my next paycheck to come so I could catch up.
I loved what you shared about the dollar in, dollar out concept for your home, and how you used that to redecorate your daughter's bedroom. Share a little more about that.
Becs: So many people who are starting to practice a more minimalist approach in their home do the item in, item out concept. But I'm really trying to come at this from a more financially responsible point of view. Saving money and making my home a space that is just as comfortable as it is functional, that is my top priority. So dollar for dollar, I want to make sure that I'm trading things out to level my spending.
My daughter turned four this month, and all she wanted for her birthday was a set of bunk beds. Not a very cheap gift! And that was just the beginning, because her room had been a growing problem. I didn't need nearly as much storage when she was itty bitty, but now between her love of Barbies and all of her clothes, she needed a new dresser and more efficient storage in her closet. And everything felt so expensive and out of my reach.
Normally, I would just say, "Okay, I have to work this hard to make this amount of money to make this happen." But again, that means that any money I was able to make freelancing would already be spoken for before it even hit my bank account. So instead, I found all the things in our home that I wanted to sell, and priced them to fit the exact budget I needed to finish her room. A $200 entertainment center, a $100 console table, a few antiques I had collected, an accent chair.
Once I had sold those on Facebook marketplace, I had the cash in hand to make Annie's dream room a reality, and I still had my monthly income in my bank account to cover our real, necessary expenses.
So what about the holidays? How can someone who wants to practice financially responsible homemaking still incorporate the home decor part that they love?
Becs: Well first off, you have to really define if you actually love it, or if you're doing it because it feels like something you need to do. My husband used to always joke with me that he never knew what kind of a house he was coming home to, because I loved to decorate.
But the truth is, I don't like constantly rearranging my home. It was just something I had to do to try to make all the things inside fit. Once I got rid of the things that I didn't love or didn't serve a purpose, I didn't feel the need to do that anymore.
But if you really do love decorating for the holidays, then you absolutely should, as long as it's within your means. And not just your financial means, but you also have to be able to store it in a way that doesn't make your life harder.
I really love that so many of your decorating videos incorporate recipes or activities with the kids, too. Because so many of us are doing this because we know how much the kids love it. And anywhere you can focus on creating inexpensive experiences with them, like cooking or crafting together, that has way more impact that any piece of decor you're going to find in a store.
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