Minimalism

We don’t have a storage unit. We don’t have a crawl space or a basement. We don’t even have a garage.

Sure, there’s a tool shed out back and that’s where we keep our holiday decorations, and our summer cooler and tent, but there’s more room in that shed than we need. Our home has three bedrooms and one bath. It’s plenty of space for my husband and I as well as a comfortable home for my two stepchildren when they come to stay. I have a home office and a closet to store luggage, linens, cleaning supplies, stationary, and hide birthday presents. In its layout and functionality, my home is likely not much different than yours. It’s what my home doesn’t have that makes it different.

My husband and I choose to live in a minimalist home.

So, what does that mean exactly?

It means our home has only those items which serve a meaningful purpose or we truly enjoy having.

This applies to things like furniture, clothing, nick-nacks, artwork, kitchen utensils, and bath & body products. Everything that comes into our home is celebrated as a very special item and typically heralds the departure of something that we no longer need or want. We call this the “one in, one out” policy. I keep a donation box by the front door, and even with our limited possessions, I still make trips to our local thrift store a few times a year.

What began in 2015 as an attempt to purge unwanted or unnecessary items and tidy up our new apartment, rapidly turned into a lifestyle that fit us both perfectly.

Within weeks, our initial purge and tidy process was complete, thanks to the help of Marie Kondo (who wasn’t as well known then as she is now!) and we were bursting to share our experience with anyone who would listen. I lent out Marie’s book to so many people, I lost track of the copy and had to buy a new one – a purchase I was happy to make so I could refer back to her simple, effective strategies in the future and have this amazing resource on hand to lend to anyone interested in this joyful process. I’d be happy to lend it to you if you’re interested.

We lived in our “Kondo-ed” life for 2 years. Our apartment was tidy, clean, organized, and filled with items that brought us joy.

When we bought a 3 bedroom rancher in 2017, the process of packing up our tidy apartment was relatively painless and offered an opportunity to again hold each of our belongings and consider their usefulness. A few more items were donated that week and we were excited at the prospect of unloading our boxes into our new home.

We had the entire interior of our new home painted white, Oxford White to be precise (choosing the right white was quite a decision-making process, who knew?). We had the carpets removed as well as the laminate flooring and replaced them with vinyl plank in a soft grey-wood finish, spreading from the bedrooms to the kitchen to the bathroom. The entire home had the same feel from room to room: relaxing, calm, and cool. It was perfect.

When we unloaded our 4 or 5 pick up truck loads of possessions into our new home, we were surprised at how much more space we had truly acquired. Our little rancher felt huge on account of our lack of furniture and wall decor.

In the following days and weeks, I grappled with this feeling of needing “more”. I felt like our home looked unfinished, unpacked, sparse, naked, boring.

One day, I was home with a migraine, and while recovering on the couch, I found a film called “Minimalism: a documentary about the important things”. Reading the description, my interest was piqued. I had nothing else to do and certainly wasn’t moving from the couch that day, so why not? That decision changed my life.

If you haven’t seen this documentary, I would highly recommend it. My home was already tidy, organized, and pretty simplified. So much of what these guys were talking about was already how I was living my life, but I was missing the intention that they had. My motivation was simply enjoying seeing my home clean and well-ordered, full of things that make me happy and are useful. While this is still how I feel and a great place to start, it seemed Minimalism meant more than having a clean and simple home, it was motivated by more than just your enjoyment. I was captivated.

During the movie, I was logged into my library account, requesting book after book to be sent to my branch to further my research. I read authors like Joshua Becker, Francine Jay, Greg McKeown, and Courtney Carver. I sat down to the documentary a second time a few days later so I could share it with my husband. He too was inspired and moved by this concept. I knew right then that this was it for us – a way of life we had been coming to since we first moved in together.

To me, minimalism is about gratitude.

The possessions I own are beautiful, intricate, fascinating, functional, pleasing, accommodating, comfortable, sexy, intimate, unique, irreplaceable, and loved. They remind me of where I’ve come from and where I am going. They remind me that life is short, that things aren’t always what they seem, that less is more, and that one is often enough.

I love my warm, fuzzy winter boots. I make sure to oil them each year to protect their functionality – I only have one pair and I bought them in 2012. My winter boots are 7 years old and in great condition, so why would I need another pair?

My kitchen doesn’t have a junk drawer. Not because there’s no space or because I don’t have any kitchen utensils, but because I have no junk in my kitchen. I have no junk in my entire home.

I know where everything is. All of my possessions have a “home” within my house that makes sense and is where they are always returned after use. I value the items in my home that allow me to live a rich and satisfying life. I handwash my kitchen knives to prolong their lives and I make my bed each morning.

Minimalism might not be the right fit for everyone, but gratitude is a practice I can’t say enough about.

When I began to truly appreciate my belongings and dampen my desire to consume, the chaotic wheels of my life slowed down. I could see more clearly what I wanted, loved, and needed. My decision-making became easier, my relationships with others improved, my confidence skyrocketed.

I now know with effortlessly clarity what I want and need. The simple life is my idea of perfection. In it, I can see and hear myself better, I can share and give appreciation and love with ease, and I can focus on the pursuit of happiness without the clutter and chaos of the world standing in my way.

Minimalism is my desire to live simply; to elevate what’s important and remove the rest.


My Life with Migraine

Allow me to introduce you to my life with migraine.

I had my first attack in art class in the seventh grade. I was waiting in line at the teacher’s desk when I suddenly got tunnel vision and lost my hearing. I sat down with my head in my hands until I somehow ended up in the Principal’s office. The next thing I remember is being at home, throwing up, while my mom held my hair off my tear-stained face. And the pain. I remember the pain.

Although I wasn’t explicitly told what was happening to me, migraines lurked in the shadows of my life after that. They would show up when I got the flu or a bad cold. They were inconsistent in their arrival but always came with a solid dose of mind-numbing pain.

In University, I always wondered why my hangovers seemed worse than others. Why couldn’t I stand up to the stress of full-time studies and a part-time job? I didn’t put the pieces together at the time that it was migraine. I often ended up throwing up in a bowl on my way to the clinic and hiding in my car from embarrassment.

I thought it was normal. Maybe everyone goes through this?

After graduation at 24, I moved overseas to land my first teaching job in London, England. I distinctly remember calling in sick and spending days in bed, writhing in pain. By this point, I understood that I was suffering from migraine, but I had no idea what that meant. It was the last thing I wanted to research. I took as much extra strength advil as seemed appropriate and got on with it. As the British say, keep calm and carry on.

Everything changed in the late summer of 2012 when I moved back home to Vancouver Island.

Seemingly overnight, the migraines I had been dealing with for 12 years became chronic. The International Headache Society states that chronic migraine is “living” with 15 days or more per month with migraine for at least a 3 month period. I put living in quotations because when you have migraine that often, it’s questionable how much “living” you are actually doing.

You don’t realize how precious your health is until you spend half of your life in debilitating pain.

It’s been over 6 years at time of writing this post. I would say I’ve lived about 3.5 of those years. The rest of the time has been spent in bed, on the couch, in the hospital, crying, puking, avoiding my favourite places, my favourite people, sleeping during the day, heavily medicated, and basically being a shadow of myself.

This disorder takes everything from you.

My first thought every morning is, ‘How is my head today?’ I can’t commit to any plans or even a consistent work schedule. I am constantly canceling appointments, get togethers, date nights, meetings. Migraines have rendered me unreliable. I let people down. The people who mean the world to me. I have very little control over the attacks that dominate my life. I am at the mercy of my body.

And it’s all invisible.

No one can see the throbbing, stabbing, pounding pain. No one can see how heavy I feel on the inside. The burden I know I am to those I rely on. Invisible hammers smash against the bones of my face and something is stabbing into my neck and shoulders. I wear my sunglasses in the grocery store and you’ll have to speak up, because I probably have ear plugs in.

You know that moment when Spiderman first gets his “spidey senses”? When everything is coming at him with such vivid intensity? That’s migraine for me.

But there’s another side of this story…

Migraines have shown me just how strong I can be. They have gifted me increased empathy for others. I have learned that health is a top priority and that we can control more factors than we think. Migraines have taught me about honesty and moderation, about forgiveness and acceptance. But most important of all, migraines have taught me to never give up hope.

I am a migraine warrior.

I now know more than I have ever known about migraine and I’ve begun helping others in their migraine journeys. I am opening up about my illness to increase awareness and decrease stigma. Migraines are a seriously debilitating neurological condition that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and they are made worse when you suffer alone.

If you struggle with migraine, please reach out. Support, questions, ideas – I welcome it all and will help in any way I can.

If you know someone who is suffering with migraine, please consider sharing this blog with them so they know they are not alone.

And maybe one day, we will find a cure for migraine.