How Minimalism Helped Me Love My Mom More

How Minimalism Helped Me Love My Mom More

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[Please pardon the feels]

Mom, if you’re reading this, just know that this blog post is coming from a good place and that I love you 😙. Thank you for putting up with me all these years.

The Inspiration

What inspired me to write this post was seeing the trailer for the movie, “I can only Imagine,” where, from my understanding, the son grows up with an emotionally abusive father yet overcomes his hardships to become a singer who touches countless lives.

And that’s about as far as I’m willing to go with that. I have not yet looked up the actual song on YouTube, do with that what you will.

The trailer inspired me to reflect on how my relationship with my mom has changed over the years and how my current minimalistic lifestyle has affected that relationship (for the better).

The Backstory

Strained

Growing up, I would describe the relationship between me and my mom as “strained.” My dad always said that I got my fiery temperament from her, and as my friends would tell you, I can be a hot-head sometimes.

Not only was I an angsty kid growing up, you can read my introspection as to why here, I was quick to anger and instigate arguments with my mom, and she was quick to do the same with me.

We would argue over the littlest things and, in retrospect, a lot of them were stupid and stemmed from both sides not wanting to listen to each other. With anger and other negative emotions, we shouted words AT each other, instead of listening TO each other.

I was pretty arrogant when I was younger (might still be now, though I hope not as much 😅). I thought I knew everything and was always telling my parents what they’re doing wrong in the house and how they could better live their lives (man, I’m glad I grew out of that phase). *You know nothing John Snow* comes to mind.

Before Marie Kondo

Before I found Marie Kondo’s style of spark-joy minimalism, I would just discard everything in the house according to arbitrary measures.

“Oh, I haven’t used this in a month. TOSS.” “Oh I don’t like how this feels. TOSS”

Didn’t matter if it was mine or my family’s, into the trash it went. WOOSH! This was all years before I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up where she said this was a BIG NO-NO. And we’ll get to why shortly, I promise 😃

I was trying to achieve the image of a nice, clean, and fresh home, maybe because I didn’t like coming back to a dirty and cluttered house at the end of a long day at school.

Though recently, I think it was because living in a house full of stuff felt like my soul couldn’t breathe; like it was constantly searching for freedom and fresh air.

This soulfully stifling atmosphere might be one of the reasons why I argued with my mom and was angry at her all the time (besides being a hormonal teenager).

She also tended to hoard more than my dad (think: clothes, jewelry, cleaning products, etc.) so this might be one of the reasons why my anger was more directed toward her.

After reading this article on minimalism from Adam over at his financial independence and minimalism blog, minafi.com, I thought about how maybe one of the reasons why I find the life philosophy of minimalism so attractive is the allure that it “promises” a clearer mind and soul, one that “sparks joy.” (Or for productivity nuts, it promises increased productivity because your brain isn’t’ bogged down by so much stuff).

This Is How Bad I was

Sharing some skeletons from my closet. Here’s a story to show you an example of how bad I was before I started working on KonMari minimalism.

When my parents went on vacation to Thailand for a couple of weeks, my girlfriend and I cleaned up the house. We wiped down everything, swept, and mopped. We threw away or donated A LOT. If I didn’t remember my family using it within the last week, we threw it out.

We Threw Out The Couch

We got rid of half of the couch because it took up so much space in our small living room (my parents really did buy a big, horrible red leather, overly pricey L-shaped couch for several thousands of dollars, with 0% down, and 0% APR for 12 months, or whatever those stupid commercialistic tactics are to get you to spend more money).

I Threw Away My Mom’s Shoes (Le GASP!)

I threw away most of my mom’s shoes because I never saw her wearing them. She only had 2-3 pairs that she ever really wore. There was no need to have the others.

[Updated: My mom read that and wanted to correct me: Apparently, I threw out ALL of her shoes, save one…]

Long story, short, when they came back, they marveled at how clean, light, and fresh the house was.

Then, my mom went through the refrigerator and asked where her frozen galangal leaves were (the leaves are used to make Thai curry). I told her we threw them out because they’ve been in the fridge for weeks before she left on vacation and she never used them.

Then, she checked her shoe drawer and asked where her shoes were. I told her we threw them out. She quietly went into her room and then cried for the rest of the day. My dad did the yelling that time around and told me to apologize to her and take her to the mall to buy her new shoes.

I remember how angry I was that they were so dense and stupid to not realize that she really didn’t F-ing need 6 pairs of shoes because she hadn’t worn any of them in months, and the 3 she did have, she wore all the time.

I did take her to the mall and she bought shoes in the same styles as the ones I threw out and I begrudgingly paid for them.

Yes, I paid for this life lesson, literally. The lesson: Don’t throw away other people’s stuff. Focus only on your own stuff and life will work out just fine.

Why You’re Mad At Your Family

Your Room

According to Marie Kondo, in her aptly named section, “If you’re mad at your family, your room may be the cause,” she talks about how we’re quick to blame our family for why our house is messy, or blame that our partner is unclean and that no matter how hard we tidy, they just mess it up again.

She voices and understands that it is very frustrating when you’re trying to create a tidy home but your family is uncooperative.

However, she mentions how, when she was forbidden by her family to clean any other room but her own from then on (she did roughly the same thing I did, throw out her family’s stuff without their consent), she noticed that her room was less tidy than she thought.

That’s when she came up with this notion, “To quietly work away at disposing of your own excess is actually the best way of dealing with a family that doesn’t tidy.”

marie kondo quote on tidying - minimalism KonMari style - for Pinterest and how minimalism helped me love my mother more

She noticed that once she started focusing on decluttering and tidying her own room, her family started decluttering their own stuff too, without her having to say a word!

As if drawn into a wake, they will begin weeding out unnecessary belongings and tidying without your having to utter a single complaint.”

MAN, if only I had read that part years ago, it would have saved me and my family so much trouble, heartache, and MONEY.

She finishes the section with this beautiful statement, “The urge to point out someone else’s failure to tidy is usually a sign that you are neglecting to take care of your own space.”

WELL SAID Marie Kondo! 👏👏

She helped me understand that all those times when I was angry with my mom and the rest of my family for how unclean the house was, I was really angry at myself for how untidy my room was.

I was blind to the untidiness of my own room and found it easier to focus on how untidy the rest of the house was. This was a classic case of thinking that the problem is out there, when in the end, the problem was within me all along.

How The KonMari Method Affected My Family

My Family Started To Declutter Too

I noticed that years later, when I started to really put the KonMari method into practice to spark joy into my room and my life, anytime I decluttered, my family would declutter too, without my having to say a word.

It was just like Marie Kondo said! As if drawn into the wake of my decluttering, they got the urge to do it too!

While they haven’t actually gone through the KonMari method, they have gotten rid of some clutter from their lives but I still label them as hoarders because they can’t seem to discard and move beyond the possessions that no longer bring them joy. (Maybe hoarders is too strong a word. How about “stubborn?”)

You can read more about how hoarding holds my parents back here.

And not to make it seem like I’m the end-all, be-all, arrogant supreme minimalist overlord, I’m still working on minimalizing (not the same as minimizing) my life via the KonMari method. I’m not perfect, and I don’t think any of us really are 😌.

But we can strive to make our lives a little bit better each and every day 😃

In Conclusion

This Is Why I Stopped Arguing With My Mother

(Or: This is how minimalism helped me love my mom more)

It might be that I’m older and have calmed down a bit. It might be because I’m KonMari minimalizing. Might be both.

My job at a small private liberal arts college was done and I almost managed to fit all of my belongings into one luggage as I moved back to live with my parents to save on rent (I don’t live in my parents’ basement BTW, so no to that millennial stereotype 😆).

Since being home, I couldn’t help but remember how when I was younger, I must have argued with my mom around 10-20 times a month over minor things.

Now, for the past month since I’ve been back, besides the 1 random spat (and I think it was because I was annoyed that my room was untidy), I would like to report that we have argued zero times. A 0% argument rate. Not too shabby.

I noticed that whereas my house was a source of deep, seething angst, anxiety, and anger for many adolescent years, I don’t have those feelings anymore.

Increased Understanding of Insecurities

I feel like I now understand more of my parents’ insecurities and how I can be a better son to them, particularly my mom. After all, she did give birth and raised me with love.

Renewed Sense Of Purpose In Life

The deep seething angst and low-level anxiety I used to feel have been replaced with a renewed sense of purpose as I strive to reach financial independence and build a passive income stream for my future, hence saving on rent right now. Not to mention I’m the most productive I have ever been so far (with writing, working, and investing).

Anger Is Replaced With Love

I’m now able to love my mom more because my anger has been replaced with love. The hatred and negative emotions I used to feel from our arguments are gone.

It’s as if by having less stuff in my life, I now feel more secure in who I am and who my parents are. I don’t need to argue with them anymore on whether they wore those shoes or not. Actually, I don’t need to argue with them over anything. I now use calmly, 99% of the time, use my words. GASP!

Comfortability In My Own Existence

I’m comfortable in my own existence, in my own space. I don’t have the urge to pick a fight with them anymore. I just let it all go.

I think it came about from having learned to let go hundreds of times while discarding books, clothes, and other things during an earlier KonMari decluttering period before coming back to live at home.

Decluttering has allowed me to talk to them from a more calm and centered view point because my mind and spirit are calmer.

Became More Receptive To Needs

By having less stuff, not only is there less clutter, there’s less mental noise. From less mental noise, I’m able to better listen to what my mom is trying to say whenever she’s voicing her concerns.

In a way, with less hubris around me, I’m able to be a better listener and help her out where I can.

I can be a better son and a better supporter. And that is how minimalism helped me love my mom more.

Thank you for reading!

What do think? 

What are your experiences with your family after you went minimalist? Let me know in the comments below! I respond to every single one 😃


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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Great post! I’ve certainly been tempted to throw out my wife and kids stuff, but I know that won’t actually accomplish anything. And possibly lead to an unhealthy relationship with stuff in the future (at least for my kids).

    I’ll have to add this book to my list, sounds like it had a big impact on your life!

    1. Lol, thank you MSF!

      The book is amazing, it’s short, simple, and beautifully written too. A great armchair read on a weekend. BE CAREFUL though! It’s so powerful, it might drastically change your life forever lol.

      And yeah, at least you’re aware that there could be psychological an emotional trauma/ramifications ahead of time lol. I didn’t have that foresight sadly 😅

  2. Haha I did that once. Almost “died” (Asian family). Thus my decluttering just maintained within my possessions and not another’s. I learnt not to touch what is mine, it’s an inherent violation of their privacy.

    1. Word! haha, Marie Kondo is spot on with writing about that. Glad you survived. Sounds like you had a much more brutal reaction from your family than mine. Though it’s interesting you look at it from an invasion of their privacy. I didn’t see it that way when I threw out their stuff because I naively thought I was doing them a good service 😅 (learned how wrong I was).

      It really IS important that we focus first on improving ourselves before working on improving others. Tidy and declutter our own souls before we can work on others.

  3. Your parents were very forgiving. I think if one of our kids had tried this we’d have practiced minimalism by tossing that kid out and seeing if we could get by just as well with only the other two kids!

    1. haha! Steveark…and thank you. Yeah, they are pretty forgiving. It might be the whole Buddhist spiritual mentality of letting go and learning not to get too attached to material objects. It’s something I’m still working on. Attachment to people though, might be a little tough 😅

      if you have a couple of minutes, here’s the other article I wrote about why I think our parents are so attached to material objects (borderline hoarding) https://jackthedreamer.com/how-parents-get-in-way-minimalism-money/

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