Rebuilding A Life- A Lesson On Simplicity - by Jessica Goodwin MotherHustle
“Buying a closet full of clothes seemed like such a frivolous thing to be concerned about when we didn’t have a house to go home to.”

Have you ever just wanted to start over?

Maybe it’s something little, like your wardrobe. You’re tired of wearing the same thing all the time, or nothing fits right, or you just don’t like any of your clothes. Or maybe it’s a project at work that you’re stalled on. In fact, maybe it’s just work, period.

Sometimes starting over seems like it could be the simplest solution to all your problems, but usually, there’s a price tag. Completely overhauling your wardrobe? Yeah, there’s literally a price tag involved. Scrapping a project or quitting your job? Yeah. Definitely price tags there, too.

But what if you’re forced to start over?

What if you just have no choice? Is that a blessing or a curse? A dream come true or a nightmare? Well, it happened to us.

Long story short, the week before Christmas, we lost our house to a fire. We weren’t home at the time, the brick structure is still standing, but everything inside – gone. We bought the house in 2014 and remodeled it top to bottom. So here we are in 2017, doing it again.

Starting over.

Some people have made comments like, “At least now if there’s anything you wanted to do differently, you have the chance!” Except there really hasn’t been. We just want our home back. Same paint colors, same cabinets, same countertops, same tile…

You’d think that it would be easy since we just went through all this, but if you’ve ever remodeled a home, you know that the process is painfully slow-going. How I wish it was like HGTV and somebody would fling back a giant cardboard version of the house and show us that TA-DA, with the magic of television editing, our house has been fixer-uppered. (Again!)

Some people have also made the comment that it will be “so much fun” to go shopping to replace everything and redecorate, as if we just won some giant shopping spree. But the thought of filling a house from top to bottom is daunting. I haven’t even been able to muster the energy to restore my wardrobe to what it was. We’re renting furniture and I’ve been holding off on buying stuff for the kitchen because I loathe the process of moving. I figure the less stuff I buy now, the less stuff we’ll have to move when our house is finished.

So we haven’t bought much. We obviously had to go out and buy clothes, but shopping didn’t hold the fun and excitement for me that it used to. I wasn’t buying clothes because they were cute or looked good; I had to buy clothes because I had NOTHING but the clothes on my back.

Buying a closet full of clothes seemed like such a frivolous thing to be concerned about when we didn’t have a house to go home to.

In a funk one day while my son was napping, I curled up in bed, looking for something to watch on Netflix. I came across a documentary called The Minimalists and eventually fell down a minimalist rabbit hole, reading about slow fashion and consumerism and people’s attachment to material possessions. And I realized that I could actually latch onto the minimalist movement, very easily.

I admit, in the past, I would have had a hard time parting with some of my designer bags and cocktail dresses that I was saving for who-knows-what special occasion I might need them for. But I didn’t have to make that decision; they were all gone.

I found a wardrobe workbook from a small Canadian clothing company, Encircled, that helps you narrow down your closet so that you can make the most of what you have and make smart choices about what to buy.

Trying to make some minimalist adjustments to my lifestyle has made everything so much simpler. I don’t have to worry about what I’m going to wear in the morning, because right now, it’s pretty much shorts and a t-shirt, every single day. (Thank goodness for working from home!) My entire wardrobe: White, gray, black t-shirts. Black, khaki, navy blue shorts. The ubiquitous black mom leggings. Two pairs of jeans. Some gray sweaters. Comfy sneakers and ballet flats, a pair of flip-flops for the summer, boots for the winter. A few pairs of summer pajamas, a few pairs of winter pajamas. One purse.

That’s it. I don’t need anything else.

My husband’s done the same thing with his clothes. Suits for work, shorts, jeans, and t-shirts for at home. Rather than buying oodles of clothes for our two-year-old son that he could grow out of at any minute, we’re just using up what we have. I can now walk past Old Navy without having to fight the urge to buy cute stuff in the next size up just because it’s on sale, because we don’t need it right now.

Same thing with toys. Our kid has so many toys… that go unplayed with and clutter up the tiny apartment we’re renting. So many of those toys have either been set aside to be doled out later when the current selection of playthings loses their novelty and shiny newness, or they’ll eventually be donated to charity.

Because we don’t need it.

We’re taking the same approach to considering our home furnishings. Slow and steady. What do we really, actually need? Sure, it will be nice to get furniture delivered and artwork hung on the walls – but we need walls first. The thought of buying a bunch of stuff just to fill the house up makes me queasy. We didn’t slam together the house in a day the first time around; there’s no need to do it now.

This calculated approach to re-buying stuff has made me realize that, while we may have lost everything, we didn’t really need it all in the first place. It made me realize that I can be happy with much less than I was used to. I already AM happy with less.

This process has been anything but easy; yet, despite the setbacks, dealing with the insurance company, the city permitting office, and the contractors… life itself has gotten so much simpler.

We have everything because we still have each other. And that’s all you really need.


Jessica Goodwin lives near Washington, D.C., with her husband, son, and their two cats. She’s written four novels and her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Baby Gaga, Chocolate & Chaos, Tribe Magazine, Mamalode, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Nope, she’s writing. Follow her on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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