Anything you lose automatically doubles in value. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, 1966
In March of 2019, I got the opportunity to talk to a reporter for a story for The New York Times about people who organize their homes using various philosophies; she wanted to speak with me about my experience with minimalism and with Joshua Becker’s method; I had been an active member of Joshua Becker’s 12-week online course called “Uncluttered” a course that provided me with resources as well as challenges, accountability, and community to help reach my goal of owning less stuff.
During the interview, I told the reporter “I’m a minimalist with training wheels” – I felt I was still trying to figure out what minimalism really meant to me as I was still navigating the process. Even though I thought I was efficient about removing things I didn’t need or use, I still had the feeling that there was more to my journey than having less stuff. I was discovering that the journey I had embarked on had brought me to the point of honoring my goal of living my life with purpose and intention each day. I had more time, there was less stress, anxiety, and worry. I was seeing the benefits of having more in my life by having fewer things.
Being a minimalist with training wheels means that I was learning to value myself more than material things and that leading a simpler life would give me more time for myself, my family, and friends. It became easier to make decisions based on “needs” rather than “wants”, and finally realizing that being a minimalist is unique for each person, each person has their own definition of minimalism, so minimalism is really a state of mind, not a set of rules.
The journey I embarked on wasn’t going to happen overnight nor in a matter of days or weeks; I knew it would take time. In addition, the process of removing items from one’s home sometimes ruffles the feathers of family members, and one were those of my husband.
About six months ago, when I was decluttering the kitchen, I removed and donated a small, 2.8” high, 4 oz. mug with the sentiment “Bless your fuzzy little heart.” I had had the mug for a long time, and I couldn’t even remember when or where I got it. The mug had traveled with me from my first apartment as a single woman to my first home with my husband, to a temporary/while-we-remodeled home and finally into our current home. I don’t remember ever using it until my kids were young, and even then, it wasn’t used very often. It had always sat on the shelf with the other mugs. During the kitchen declutter, I had reached into the cabinet and held it in my hands. I wasn’t using it and the kids hadn’t had hot cocoa in it for years. I hesitated for a moment and then plopped it into a donation bag.
One evening as my husband was rooting around in the cabinet, the coffee cups making “clinking” sounds as he shifted them around on the shelf, he paused and turned around to look at me.
“Where is the ‘Bless your fuzzy heart’ mug?” he asked.
“I donated it,” I replied.
The kitchen was silent as three sets of eyes looked at me.
“Mom!” my oldest son said.
“That’s my eggnog mug!” my youngest son said.
“That’s my chocolate chip cup!” my husband said.
“Well, I had no idea. It’s been over a month and nobody’s asked until now,” I muttered.
I could get over my kid’s disappointment, but not my husband’s. I had no idea this mug was the mug he used when he craved chocolate.
Apparently, the small mug was the “scoop” he used when he secretly dipped into my bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. The chocolate chips have always been a game with us. I stock up on 72 oz bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips for my famous homemade chocolate chip cookies but must hide them from my husband, who ends up finding them in my various hiding spots in the kitchen and pantry. He had used the mug specifically to measure out a generous helping of chocolate chips.
The look on his face when I told him I’d donated it said it all: I gave away something he enjoyed using.
“I’m sorry! I had no idea you were using it, and certainly not for chocolate chips!” I told him.
“It’s the perfect size for chocolate chip snacking,” he said.
As he walked away from the cabinet, I imagined “F@#(-ing Minimalism” was going through his mind. I felt terrible.
We always seemed to keep items for “just in case” or “what if we need it” so during the course of my decluttering we talked about implementing the 20/20 rule: if you can replace something for less than $20 and in under 20 minutes, it can safely be decluttered.
I guess I had applied the 20/20 rule to the mug.
Over the course of my decluttering, there had been very few, if any, items that I had removed and later regretted. The look on my husband’s face when I told him the mug was gone broke my heart and niggled at me for months. I stopped at the thrift shop several times to see if perhaps I could find the mug and purchased it back. The mug wasn’t there, it was long gone.
My husband’s birthday was January 3rd; I wanted to give him something special, something he would enjoy, something meaningful. The idea came to me that morning, but it would take some time.
The small box arrived exactly a week after his birthday. I handed it to him after he arrived home from work and when he opened it, he was surprised when he pulled out the exact mug I had given away; you see, I was able to source it online. It had taken me less than five minutes to find it and cost me $21.99 to purchase it. Not quite 20/20, but close enough.
As we question whether to keep it or toss it, I can attest that if there is an “Uh oh, I got rid of it” moment, rest assured, it’s often easy to find another one.
My husband’s grin said it all: “Best birthday gift ever!”
This morning when I opened the cabinet and pulled down a mug for my coffee, I must admit, it was comforting to see the familiar “Bless your fuzzy little heart” mug sitting on the shelf exactly where it was supposed to be. Home.