SUGAR LAND, Texas – In 2021, Ashley Bodungen, of Sugar Land, let go of 2,021 items from her home.
Bodungen charted her journey using this graph. It’s all part of a popular online home movement called minimalism that helps people declutter and basically scale down their possessions and their lives. The deeper goal is to challenge people to need fewer things in their lives.
Minimalism in the pandemic
The mother of twin 9-year-old sons said, for her, the movement toward minimalism was all borne out of the pandemic.
Leaving her full-time job at a local homeowners’ association to homeschool her children, Bodungen quickly learned her home was stressing her out.
“It was an eye-opening moment for me, realizing that all of this visual clutter in my home is causing me stress,” she said. “...I get overwhelmed and I couldn’t keep up.”
Bodungen said she realized that her home had become more important to her and her entire family, and she wanted to do something to make it better for everyone, especially her kids.
“This is my life. This is where we’re spending all of our days. It can’t be in an overwhelming mess.… I realized we just had piles of unmade decisions,” she explained.
Where to start?
Bodungen said she began her minimalism process in her boys’ playroom.
“It was overwhelming to them and overwhelming to me, keeping it clean – it was just too much,” she said, adding with exasperation: “They owned over 200 (Hot Wheels) cars.”
Bodungen said she started by taking everything out of the room and going through everything, immediately taking out duplicate items and other things they didn’t play with. She said she put back their favorite toys and then placed most of the discarded toys into boxes and put them in the kids’ closet. Though the boys did ask for things, often they ended up forgetting those items existed and Bodungen donated or gave away the excess.
“It’s easy to let something go when it’s not special,” Bodungen said.
And that’s a core part of her method. She’s managed to go through some of the most guilt-ridden items such as child artwork and family hand-me-downs with this in mind.
“It’s recognizing that No. 1 -- memories aren’t tied to things,” she said. “My children are still here even if I didn’t keep that piece of art.”
However, Bodungen isn’t liquidating everything. She still has a memory box for each of her kids, but it’s one finite container, she noted.
“There are more things that I want to keep, but then something has to go,” she said. “It can only hold so much. I’m not going to get another box.”
The hardest things for her to get rid of were from when her boys were born. She said she managed to get rid of the little name tags that went on their wrists and preemie diapers that they had to fold in half to diaper the babies who weighed just over a pound each when they were born at just 25 weeks.
“We had a 50-50 chance of keeping them both alive. … I had a lot. I kept everything. It was quantity,” Bodungen recalled.
However, Bodungen found that when she went through everything the items all invoked the same memories. While it was difficult to let go, she knew she didn’t need to keep everything.
“That was hard,” she said. “I had to be in the right space at the right moment. … (Now) I don’t have that fear. We all have fear, but I don’t have that fear anymore.”
Bodungen said she knows this can be an upsetting experience.
“You have to build up the muscles to do that,” she said in reference to those birth items. “It took a year to go from couch to marathon. (From) ‘Yes, I can throw away a toothbrush,’ to ‘Yes, I can throw away this thing that is special and important, but I don’t need all the special and important (things).’”
When you go through the items, again, however, Bodungen said it’s easier to let go because things don’t have the same pull as they may have had on the previous pass.
Bodungen said her husband of 15 years is “barely on board,” but is seeing the difference around their home and appreciating the newfound space.
“My husband is prior military. He has a lot of things for its usefulness,” she said. “(Minimalism started with) just my stuff and then house stuff. … He’s started a little. He appreciates the master bath. The counter is clean. He’s a little more on-board.”
Bodungen called him “the collector” with a 200-piece shot glass collection and even a Tostitos bag featuring his beloved Dallas Cowboys.
Bodungen’s kids are definitely on-board. In a Facebook post about ridding her family of 2,021 items in the year, she explained her kids’ playroom now stays clean.
“They end with it clean every day. Same with their bedroom,” she said on social media. “(They’re) no longer overwhelmed with a huge mess pile. They even get annoyed when friends come over to play and don’t clean up. "
So where did all Bodungen’s clutter go?
A little here, a little there. A little to this author.
After seeing Bodungen’s post about her big achievement in 2021, this author recognized her name. Over 2021, I accepted three items from Bodungen’s home: a set of Disney “Cars” wall decals, some scary Halloween décor and Bodungen’s childhood dresser.
Like so many area residents, Bodungen gives things away on a Buy Nothing page in her Fort Bend community. I discovered this page (there are residency restrictions) after reading Amy Davis’ report and met Bodungen through her massive giving. By the way, you can join your local Buy Nothing group by searching on Facebook, and if your neighborhood doesn’t have one, you can start one. Here’s more on that.
I am happy to report that I regifted the “Cars” decals after my son’s birthday last year, have scary plans for a monstrous hanging head display for next Halloween, and refurbished the dresser (see the before and after shots below).
It’s all because of Bodungen’s decision to change her attitude toward stuff. She shared a post on the Buy Nothing group that read in part: “A THANK YOU post. This year I accomplished one of my goals, to remove 2,021 items from my home. With help from this group, I did it! Gifting here often made it easier to let go, knowing it was going somewhere it was wanted.”
Beyond the free Facebook page, Bodungen said she regularly off-loads her minimalism hauls to other local organizations like the Fort Bend Women’s Center and Goodwill Houston. She said it just has to go quickly.
And she’s already posting new items in 2022. Her goal this year? To remove 2,022 items from her home.
“I’m confident I’ll accomplish it and excited to see the results,” Bodungen said on Facebook.
If you’re inspired
If you’re inspired to try minimalism in your home, Bodungen recommends starting with your bathroom and other impersonal areas of your home and then work toward those bigger goals like grandma’s china cabinet or your cache of your kids’ things.
Here’s a video explaining the challenge Bodungen took on in 2021 and the free chart to do it if you’re inspired (like we are). Here are some notable minimalism video bloggers you might want to check out too: The Minimal Mom and Clutterbug,
We’re sending the best of luck to Bodungen on her ongoing journey, and to you all, Insiders, on your 2022 resolutions and journeys toward fulfillment. Happy New Year, y’all.