It all started when we decided to sell our house. Our first home as a family was in a brand new area, and we had chosen all the features of the home, from the floors, to the tiles and the cabinets. It was shiny and new and "perfect". What we didn't realize we were choosing at the time, was how far away it was from trees, birds and parks. After 6 years of living in this area, despite the fact that our tiny tree had almost grown to reach the upper floor bedroom window, we knew we were ready for a change, and wanted to move into an older house in a more established area. We knew it wouldn't be as pretty or perfect, but that it would better align with our values as a family - values that we had just begun to think about as we were raising our two children, including more time spent outside, more walking and biking, and living closer to our family, and spending more time with them.
We immediately began to stage our house to sell. The open concept main floor was quickly stripped of our big bookshelf, extra chairs and knick knacks. The kids' toys were drastically pared down to a small collection that could be quickly tidied into our storage ottoman, and we went through each cabinet and closet to take out anything unneeded to create a feeling of space.
When it was all done, I looked around and wondered why we didn't always live like this. I was so happy living with less. SO happy. Like, ridiculously happy. It was so easy to keep tidy, and to quickly clean before showings, and I loved the feeling of peace and space our more minimalist home gave us. Most people dread selling their house with two small children, but living in this way was a joy for me, and the beginning of an intense curiosity about living this way all the time.
I had realized that life was easier, more beautiful, and more enjoyable with less.
Once our house sold, we lived with our in-laws for 8 months while we searched for a new house. Living with only our favourite books, toys and clothing, we found that we did not miss anything that was stored away. We stopped shopping for entertainment, since we did not have any storage space to keep things. We used our extra time to get outside more, to spend more time as a family and to dream about the different kind of life we wanted to live when we found a new home.
While living with my in-laws, in this fruitless house search that seemed to drag on and on I began to feel a bit hopeless that we would ever find a home that fit our family. I was yearning for the magical moment when we would finally find it and missing out on appreciating the everyday moments of joy living with grandma and grandpa in the here and now. I realized something: home is anywhere my family is. I saw the quote - home is any four walls that enclose the right people and made my own print of this to display in the room we stayed in to serve as a reminder of this truth, that as long as I was with my family we were always home.
When it seemed like nothing was going to come up for us to buy, we tossed around a few ideas, including an international teaching position, but eventually decided that at this point in our lives, we wanted to make Calgary our home, and we would be patient, and have faith that the right house would show up.
It seemed like as soon as we dropped out of scarcity mode and into gratitude, we found our home.
It was snowy day in May (these things happen in Canada) and it all seemed to good to be true. We walked in, and saw past the old gold carpet and the tired kitchen, and saw the light streaming through the windows and the towering trees in the backyard. We knocked on the neighbour's door and learned that most people on the street had lived here for over 30 years, but that there were a few families with young children for our kids to make friends with.
We made our offer, and spent an anxious afternoon crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. We were overjoyed when we found out it was accepted.
When we moved in two months later during a July heatwave, I turned the key in the lock with shaking hands. This was the beginning of a new simpler life for us. We were bringing a new perspective and more defined values with us. The house represented a shift for us from appearances and perfection to more presence, meaning and gratitude.
I burst into tears when I saw the yard, The peonies were in full bloom, the yard was filled with green and flowers, and it just felt like home. We woke the next morning to a chorus of birds and were filled with gratitude once more.
I spent weeks in awe that we had finally found a place to call home. We ripped up the gold carpet and painted the subfloor white, knowing that we would one day install new floors when the money was in the bank, but that we would live with our inexpensive, makeshift improvements (happily) until then. We painted the tired old kitchen white, and I still smile each time I look out into the backyard from the sink as I do dishes.
The intense gratitude that the whole process invoked hasn't yet worn off.
Over the past two years, we have appreciated this place every day, and we have settled into a more minimalist, mindful and meaningful life in many ways. We shop less and appreciate what we have more. We take more time to get out into nature and explore the beauty in our own province. We learned through the whole process to live more in the present moment, and to be grateful during each season of our life, and that happiness usually doesn't cost anything, just the right frame of mind to appreciate what is right in front of us.
I am so grateful for that day we minimized our home, and for the months we lived without our "stuff" and for the profound growth that occurred when we realized that the place we call home and our stuff did not define us. Of course, I'm thankful that this story ended with us finding a home that fits our values so well, but mostly for the way it's marked the beginning of our journey towards a simpler life.
What is your simplicity story?