Health

Why Rachel Jonat's life is so rich

What happened to my home office? There’s an unused TV lying in there, a box of hand-me-down clothes, a five-inch high stack of magazines, a mirror that’s yet to be hung, a box of DVDs, my daughter’s pink foldable playhouse, a sweat-inducing wool blanket, a box of baby toys — in other words, items that certainly have nothing to do with my work.

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What happened to my home office? There’s an unused TV lying in there, a box of hand-me-down clothes, a five-inch high stack of magazines, a mirror that’s yet to be hung, a box of DVDs, my daughter’s pink foldable playhouse, a sweat-inducing wool blanket, a box of baby toys — in other words, items that certainly have nothing to do with my work.

I was on a decluttering mission that seemed to go well. We’d donated boxes of items to the Goodwill, an old television and hutch to Habitat for Humanity. Yet I still feel like I’m drowning in my stuff. My office in particular, looking around at these items lying throughout my office, taunting me to do something with them, I feel overwhelmed at the thought of sorting them, frustrated that they’re there, crowded by their presence. Certainly not a happy moment for me.

So I called Rachel Jonat, the Vancouver-based author of the blog The Minimalist Mom (you’ve read about her here before) for some advice. After a burst of minimizing her life starting last September, which included getting rid of the family car five months ago, Jonat’s kept track of her minimalist activities and says that today, she, in her words, leads a richer life with less stuff.

Q: What attracted you to the minimalist lifestyle?

A: I’d been reading about the minimalist movement and the live with 100 Things Movement all summer and was fascinated by it, but didn’t really see how we could do that because we have a home and a child and I just wasn’t interested in getting down to nothing. But I thought there were some things there that we could apply to our life that would make things easier for me. I’m really not into housekeeping so we always had junk-filled drawers and closets filled with stuff and a lot of things we didn’t use. So I started a bit purge in September and kept going.

Q: What do you mean by a “rich life”?

A: For us, a rich life with less stuff means we have more time together as a family, we are more relaxed, less stressed out. To me that’s a rich life now. I’m just being really aware of what buying things means. I think for many people they think they need more time and more money. And for our family, the solution to getting that was to stop buying as much stuff.

Q: So is living minimally a road to happiness?

A: Definitely. For us it’s been a catalyst for change in terms of what do we want in our life? What do we want for our son? For ourselves? It’s opened us up to a lot of different opportunities because we’re no longer big spenders and we’re aware that time is precious to us. We shifted ideas — for gift-gifting seasons, if people want to give us a gift we ask for experience gifts such as art gallery passes or aquarium memberships and things like that.

Q: So if someone wanted to attain this lifestyle — how would they get started?

A: Start small — it’s really overwhelming and I hear from a lot of people that they don’t even know where to start. Initially I thought it’d take me a week to get our place in shape, and it was actually two months of a lot of work and I’m still paring down today. Start small and create one space in your home that you feel is reduced and tidy as soon as possible and that will usually motivate you to keep going. It’s like a diet and losing a lot of weight — there’s that initial momentum of losing some weight, but the real work comes in maintaining that and new habits.    

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