Out on the farm, it’s hard to keep a balance between stuff you MIGHT need and stuff you THINK you might need.
There is no true minimalistic lifestyle on a farm in the middle of nowhere. You have to keep stuff for the blizzard that might happen, because if you don’t, WHEN that blizzard happens – whether tomorrow or 12 years down the road – you will NEED that stuff to keep your animals from getting sick or dying, or to keep your house warm, and your family clean and fed when the power doesn’t come back on and the roads are blocked for weeks.
So, what does that look like? Where do you begin to identify what is too much and what needs to go away?
Start with one room
For me, let’s go to my living room (that is on the opposite end of the house from my bedroom that I really should work on but am admittedly procrastinating on). In my living room, it’s movies, books, office stuff, and knick-knacks that hit me in the face. It looks like a mess. I want to come into this room to relax and enjoy the company of friends and family. Right now, I can’t relax. It’s overwhelming. There’s so much stuff! As I look around right now, I see that I could minimize MOST of this.
We have a lot of blankets and pillows, more than we technically use at one time. However, if we have one of our rare but dangerous Oklahoma blizzards that no one is ever prepared for, and the power is out for almost 2 weeks straight, those blankets and pillows are going to become very important for keeping kids, pipes, and animals warm and dry! What do I do to make them less of a clutter object? Keep the blankets folded and use a ladder or quilt rack to hang them from, and keep the pillows on the couch or on beds.
There is a box – a literal BOX – of office supplies. It sits right next to the file cabinet and desk (our house is rather small, so the office is in the living room). It’s stuff that we already have plenty of – staples, sticky notes, highlighters, etc. and it is also where we have thrown the instruction manuals for everything. For our larger appliances, I can put the manuals in a baggie and tape it to the appliance. For the smaller appliances, I should file those manuals into a smaller box and probably put them into the garage. Or throw them away. Who really reads instruction manuals anyway?
As for the extra office supplies, why do we need so much extra? I’m not going to staple an intruder to death, use sticky notes to feed a fire, or feed my dog a highlighter during a food shortage. If those extras don’t fit into the drawer with the other supplies, then they need to go to someone else who will use them. They don’t need to take up precious space in my house.
Books, books, books!
Okay, enough about the books. They all stay. Moving on.
Usefulness vs. emotional attachment
My Windstone Edition dragons are big-time dust collectors, but they are heavy and can be used as bookends. So, I have found a use for them. I can also sell them for very good money if I MUST get rid of them. (I collect dragon stuff like a dragon hoards gold)
My Bobble Head Baby Groot, however, is only useful for keeping me amused. And believe me, he amuses me greatly. Any time one of our teenagers stomps across the house, a door slams, the baby throws something, or my husband drops a weight on the floor, Baby Groot dances and bobbles to delight me. However, he collects dust and takes up space. One arm is broken off. He often gets lost in other clutter that collects around him. He is not even worth anything if I were to try and sell him. Most of the time, honestly, he brings me no joy. The most I could do is move him out to my car, into a flower pot on the porch, or simply throw him away. Poor little guy. I love him so, but he’s otherwise not good for my mental or physical health.
My stereo is also useless. It has AMAZING sound. However, it can’t find a radio station to save its life, and if the power goes out, it’s useless. I only use it to save the battery in my Bluetooth radio, which is smaller, CAN find radio stations, and has a weather radio, a light, a solar charger, and can be hand cranked in an emergency. There is literally NO REASON for me to keep my giant dust collecting stereo, other than my daddy gave it to me, and it is therefore precious.
Things could be gone in a heartbeat.
All of this to say that THIS is how you minimize in an environment that doesn’t allow you to live as a minimalist: Look at what is around you. Even the stuff that you have a mental attachment to (which is mental clutter, let’s be honest). How often do you clean that? How much time do you spend with it? How does it serve you? What kind of situations can it serve you in? And if a fire were to come leave it a mess, would it be worth trying to save? Would it be replaced immediately, like a tent, underwear, or a phone? Just how important is it to your survival? Could you take it with you to live in a small apartment?
Organizing the Barn
Sometimes, you will have good answers and reasons for holding onto things: you often DO need more than one screwdriver. You sometimes need a spare saddle blanket. It’s good to have more than one radio in an emergency. Those snow shoes will be a huge life saver during the next blizzard. That bottled water is important during a boil order. That stockpile of food will come in handy if the road is blocked for a couple of weeks. You DO go camping once every year, so the tent and sleeping bags need to stay.
Other times – many times, in fact – you need to own that it is just clutter and if you don’t use it regularly, you’re not going to use it, and it needs to go away.
Sit down with yourself and learn the difference between what you use, what’s really important for your survival in a catastrophe, and what is just taking up breathing/mental space.
Oh, by the way, this goes for the stuff in your storage shed too. If you don’t use it to the point that you need to store it, and you barely remember what all is in there, it’s time to have a garage sale, donate it all, or have a bonfire. Just sayin’.
The harshness that is Western Oklahoma has never left Kathryn lacking for a story to tell. When she’s not outrunning a wildfire, chasing a tornado, or watching the sun set in the West, Kathryn can be found on her couch, transforming the scenery she has seen into words and blowing them into her imaginary world, where dragons fly free. Learn more about Kathryn on Instagram.