#013: How to Live a Minimalistic Momlife with Allie Casazza

Allie Casazza Minimalistic Motherhood

Maggie: Hello, welcome back to the Indwelt Women Podcast and this is Maggie Baker. I am super super super excited to have our guest on today. I have been having a girl crush on her from afar for quite a while now and I just love what she does: she is an expert when it comes to living simply but also on purpose - that is something that I believe we all need but we don't know how to actually make it happen and so I'm so excited to have her on today so she can share her wisdom and tips and tools on how to make it happen. Without further ado, let's welcome Miss Allie!

Allie: Hi! Thank you so much for having me!

Maggie: I'm super excited to have you on! Can you introduce yourself a little bit?

Allie: Sure! My name is Allie Casazza, I say it in every interview because most people don't know how to say this weird Italian last name. I am married - I just celebrated 10 years of marriage with my husband.

Maggie: Congratulations!

Allie: Thank you! We met in junior high school so I have known him most of my life; we have four kids: my only daughter Bella, 8, my son Leland, 6, Hudson is 5, and Emmett, another boy, he is about to turn three. He is my Halloween baby. At the time of this recording, he's gonna be 3 in about a month. That's my family.

I work from home, I run my blog, my business, AllieCasazza.com - I'm the creator of Your Uncluttered Home which is a decluttering course; I am the co-host of The Purposeful Home Podcast. There's a lot that I've kinda got my hand in from the business world but really what I'm most known for is just my philosophy of minimalism as it relates to mothers.

Minimalism has become a trend over the last few years - the last two years I'd say - and it's funny because it's been a part of my life for about five or six years now. But the reason it's become such a the trend and it's funny because most of the leaders in the minimalist niche are single, no kids, not married, and it's just so funny to me - I'm grateful that they're spreading this message but it's funny because you can tell the way they deliver the message and the way they teach it is like you don't have anyone making messes in your house. It's easy to be a minimalist when you only have one dog.

It is such a gift for moms to just quiet the clutter and focus on the family.

I believe that a lot of moms need minimalism more than anybody in this earth. And it's funny because a lot of people will approach me and say something like, "It's such an oxymoron - minimalist in motherhood? That's impossible." for people  

People who think that tend to have the wrong idea about what minimalism really is and what it's about. It is just my passion; it is such a gift for moms to just quiet the clutter and focus on the family so that's what I do, that's the main blood flow.

Maggie: I love it so you kinda brought up - it's been a trendy thing to go minimalistic and all that. For us Christ followers, why should we pay attention to that? Is it biblical?

Allie: Yeah, absolutely! I actually pulled a couple of verses up that I wanted to refer your listeners to. Minimalism is biblical. One of my blog post - which has just gone super viral, which I'm so grateful that it did because the message really needs to be heard, I think.

There's a lot about stuff in the Bible and it's funny because it's one of those topics that I don't think anybody is really paying attention to that or maybe they're not looking for it, especially in America. There's just this culture of "all the things", "more stuff", "bigger houses and storage facilities" making over $1 billion per year. Our houses are so large; I drove the other day and it's funny because I was actually looking because I have a thousand kids and I need a big house like that but I was driving around and saw the signs for these upcoming houses, starting at whatever price that's way too much because I live in Southern California. It was like 6 to 9-bedroom houses and I just thought, okay, six is a lot; that's probably the biggest I would ever do and I would probably be miserable because I like smaller spaces. But 9 bedrooms?! I could adopt two families the same size as mine and feel very overwhelmed by that much space. 

Our homes are getting bigger. Everything is growing and expanding and now we have storage facilities and it's just like so much and there's actually a lot in the Bible on this topic.

Specifically, in Luke, there are several verses. One of them always sticks out to me, it's Luke 12:15: "Take care, be on your guard against all covetousness. For one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

I think that may be the new international translation, I'm not sure but I love this translation. It says the word abundance in there too. Because if you're familiar with all of my site, I use that word a lot.

We are called to an abundant life and I think a lot of the times women tend to think that motherhood is the exception to that. That it's all about servitude and not doing what you want to do, not taking care of yourself and giving your kids the gift of everything. 

The Bible says very clearly your life does not consist in the abundance of how much stuff you have, how big your house is, how much you fill the walls.

Also in Luke 12, "Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

That's just 2 verses - there are several that are close to my heart all the time for when I'm speaking on this topic but even just those two - that's incredibly straightforward talking about stuff, talking about our heart as it relates to staff. And so for me, minimalism is much much much much less about having white walls, succulent on my countertops and one IKEA couch and we mostly sit on the floor with our legs crossed.

It's not that stereotype minimalist, the popular view of minimalism that we mentioned earlier with no real reason for minimalism. But for us, oh my gosh, it's just about this gift of an abundant life, a life focused on the people you love and the people you serve and the people that are close to you and your home and in the outside world, too. Focusing on experiences with them instead of things.

Every single thing in your home takes something from you. I feel like the Scriptures I just read are so very pointed and obvious that Jesus did speak to us about this and it's easily overlooked because it feels unimportant, especially in America; but it is important, it does matter, it is biblical. We are called to be un-tied to our earthly possessions.

Maggie: For sure. I love it. it's so true and a lot of times when we keep pursuing stuff we get clouded by those things and we can't really see God Himself, we can't really be available and present to do what He wants us to do.

When we keep pursuing stuff we get clouded by those things and we can’t really see God Himself, we can’t really be available and present to do what He wants us to do.

Allie: Absolutely, you know, I think if you have kids and have people in your house, you're gonna have clothes that need to be washed, dishes to be loaded in the dishwasher. These things they're never going to end but how much more do we create for ourselves just by having an abundance of stuff we don't need and then that's more picking up, more putting away, more dusting or organizing; a weekend spent catching up and organizing the toy room again or whatever.

It's a needless task you're always doing again; that's time we could be spending in his presence, that's time we could be pouring into our kids. We don't get a lot of weekends with our kids so we could be out doing something; it's money saved; it's time spared; no more cleaning up after this life that you wish you were actually living.

Maggie: That is so true. So, we want to declutter and all that but if we truly want to keep it decluttered, I think we really need to tackle the root issue. Do you see why we've become such a culture of acquiring more and more and more and more and more?

Allie: Yeah, I think about this a lot because I deal every day with women who have chronic issues with collecting things and having a hard time letting go. I feel like it just keeps stacking onto itself - the idea of keeping up with the Joneses and another thing I see is people coping with life with their stuff.

Maybe you came from a poor family and so it makes you feel very safe when you shop, when you have money to burn, money to spare, or maybe you don't but you would act like you do. Anyways it makes you feel safe somehow. I mean we can get into that all day but I think that there's a lot of heart issues that are leading us to be very overwhelmed with our stuff; sometimes it's keeping up with the Joneses, sometimes it's dealing with some insecurities from your past or your present time, sometimes just filling the void that you know is only God shaped and there's a lot of issues but basically I do feel like it stems from different kinds of heart issues. Everyone is different but it's usually something like that.

Maggie: When it comes to getting rid of stuff, what are the common problem areas that you see in a cluttered home?

Allie: Toys, kids stuff; I think moms feel guilty limiting that. A lot of women I speak with will say things like, "well, it's not mine, it's theirs." But you're the mom and you bought them. Or you got them from someone else or whatever the situation is.

You're not scarring your kids by limiting their toys. I encourage everyone listening to research this for themselves. There was this German study that was done - there have been many many scientific studies done on children and toys - and every single one repeatedly points to the fact that kids play much better with less options. They getting overstimulated and overwhelmed.

And so find nothing but freedom in letting go of your kids' toys, you're doing them - and yourself - a huge favor. So that's one area that is usually pretty over cluttered and very difficult for people to work through.

And then I would say the other two is just the day-to-day things like laundry and dishes. It never ends because you have set up a home in which it can never end again. Now you're always gonna have to wash things because you have a family, but the fact is less clothes is less likelihood of you getting this massive amount of laundry you have to spend the weekend catching up on.

Simplifying the dishes and not having four spare sets in your main cupboard so it doesn't continue to add to the pile of dirty dishes. Simplifying that eliminates it so that you're just doing your normal routine, rinsing the dishes at the end of the day. There's a lot of control we have, I think we can act like martyrs sometimes. "Oh, it just never ends!" Well, it won't ever end but you can definitely take it into your own hands and make it a lot simpler for yourself.

Maggie: Yeah, definitely. And you kinda mentioned it but can you elaborate a little more on the practical tips on how to tackle these areas and keep them uncluttered for good so that they don't keep coming back?

Allie: Yeah, I think there're a few different key questions that I usually give people in specific areas. But just more in general, I think it really helps... well, first of all, I just want to say I'm not a fan of the whole "does this spark joy" thing. I feel like, again while I'm so glad that any voice for minimalism is a positive voice, I feel like that doesn't really get to the root issue. It also brings up a lot of issues like, okay, well this screwdriver does not spark joy but I need it to fix things. I think it's just not really a problem solver; I think it avoids the heart especially as a Christian woman. It avoids dealing with these verses are saying. I think we need to look at the heart and pull out that root.

So for me, usually asking my students things like "when was the last time that you remembered using it?" More often than not, it's like crickets because they don't remember. If you can't remember it's probably been a while. It's kinda like an eye-opening kind of realization of putting it in perspective.

And then "does this item help me live a purposeful simplified life?" My journal that I keep in my purse? Yes, I jot down ideas when they come to me; it helps me run my business on the go - absolutely. The 35 T-shirts in my drawer? No, I can definitely pare back there.

Does this item help me live a purposeful simplified life?

If you don't mind, I would love to go over a couple of key points for dishes and laundry, just to help them get started.

Maggie: Please, go ahead.

Allie: Yeah, it's just because everybody struggles with those; it's such, like, constant.

Maggie: Yes! And the thing is, for me, I was not taught how to do homemaking, how to organize, and so I get so overwhelmed and so yeah I would love your wisdom and tips and tools.

Allie: Yeah, absolutely! And that's a great place to start, too, because with either of those areas - laundry, dishes, and toys are the top three areas where you're going to see an immediate difference and an immediate return on your investment of time because you use those things and they interact with you day-to-day, so it's easy to be like, "oh, I really notice I have more time this week!"

So, for dishes, I did touch on it a little bit before but think about where you keep your plates and your bowls - your basic eating-ware - usually it's in one cabinet in your kitchen and it's all kind of together, like you're setting up your kitchen and all the plates go together and all the bowls above that, they all kind of stay together.

But usually people have many different sets of dishes and bowls - I don't know why, almost everyone, I think I had one person when I used to clients and she was the only person that I've ever interacted with that didn't have multiple sets of spare dishes. I don't know why but we all have extra dishes. And it's so funny, you have four people in your house why do you have 12 dishes? Are you hosting elaborate parties that are not paper plate status all the time? It's funny most people have multiple sets of dishes, so what happens when you have your kitchen organized where they are all in one cabinet is: science shows this - it's very interesting to read about this, too, so maybe this is something you guys can back to and Google - but human beings always opt for the path of least resistance

So If somebody needs a clean dish in your house, no matter how many freshly rinsed, totally fine usable plates are next to the sink, they're going to reach into the cupboard for a fresh one because they know it's clean and it's just right there. This is how you end up with that massive pile of dishes at the end of every day and you're like "how does this happen? We only ate one meal here today! What the heck?!"

That's how it happens: it adds up every snack, every cup of coffee, you know, another afternoon cup of coffee, another drink of water, "I forgot which glasses I used last night, I'll just get another one." It adds up and up and up. So, get rid of the spare dishes - you don't need them. If you are in some situation where you do need them like you host a weekly gathering or something like that, that's fine, keep the dishes but don't store them in the same cupboard. Pick a different one, like the one closer to the bottom half of your counters. I, at one point, just had my spare set, in case I ever hosted something, boxed up with bubble wrap in the garage because I never ever used it but I didn't want to not have any other dishes than just ours.

So there's always an alternative but just simplify your life; that's one such a small - almost obvious kinda life hack - but most people have this lightbulb moment of "oh my gosh, it totally makes sense." and so they try it. It doesn't even take time, just the next time you do the dishes, just move the other ones somewhere else. And you'll notice so much more time so it is much much better to kind of like quickly wash or rinse your dishes after you use them in the drying rack outside of the sink and then reuse them.

It's much easier to have to rinse them off that way after you use them than it is to be able to grab a bunch of other ones and add that huge pile up at the end of the day. And really it is the same for everything. I think for laundry, you know, people always ask me "well if I get rid of my clothes, aren't I gonna have to do laundry even more?"

And my answer is always "what would you rather have? Would you rather get yourself in a nice rhythm that makes you feel strong and in control and confident and happy where you're doing a load of laundry every morning or as you go about your day? And then by the end of the day, you have them folded or put away.

Or would you rather have drawers and dressers and hangers full of clothes you don't need because most of us only wear 20% of our wardrobe 80 percent of the time, and have the ability to build up that laundry mountain that sucks up your weekend or your nighttime and the only time you have to spend with your family?"

And that's the perspective that most people are like, "oh, I know which I'm gonna pick." because none of us want to willingly volunteer our free time to something as stupid as laundry. And so, you know, you have that control; it's just a perspective switch that some people need most of the time; it does not need to take up your whole life, you know, we got a lot of clothes. We have four kids and a husband who does a lot of physical things - he's always getting dirty, always working out and sweating and having to change amd all that and so it's like, I get it, it's never-ending seemingly. But I know I can never really get so behind and that's a really good feeling.

Maggie: Yeah, totally, I am swimming in the laundry right now because my husband does construction and so he always has clothes - dirty clothes, muddy clothes and so, especially in the winter because, you know, there are different layers, so that really doubles the laundry and so yeah, I always feel overwhelmed.

Allie: Well, and when somebody gets sick, like today, my kids are all sick and one of them is throwing up and I knew right when that happened, okay well we're about to get into a bunch of laundry. But it feels good to know that, you know, with rhythms and just simplifying everything - my stuff and my time - I'm not dreading "oh my gosh, I already have five hampmers full of clothes and now the comforter! That's gonna throw everything off!"

Minimalism just makes life have more breathing room and white space so when something does, you know, mom life, if something happens it's not the end of the world. That's not even really a stress point.

Maggie: Yeah, totally! 

Maggie: I love these practical tips. I would love to have them keep coming, I have three other problem areas that when I asked my community, they're like, 'okay, top three: paper clutter, sentimental items and clothes." Well, we've kinda touched on clothes but yeah I would love some tips on how to get these areas tackled.

Allie: Yeah! Sentimental items - that's a really good one because it's just... when you get the heart involved in anything, especially the mother heart to baby stuff, It's SO hard and so just to give a couple of examples with sentimental stuff. You know, I think people think automatically I'm not sentimental just because of what I do. And it's funny because I'm very sentimental but you know I have, like, okay there used to be this box of my daughter's baby stuff because she's my oldest so she's my first baby. When I was on my journey in minimalism, I came to the box cause I've already avoided it, I've already done everything else in the house. This needs to happen now, so what I ended up doing was I removed my memories from the things.

I'm getting rid of this pile of Bella's baby clothes, that doesn't mean that I have no memory of her. So usually that's what I say to people who are struggling. Now for me, just to get a little bit personal, with that box of baby stuff, it was very hard for me because when Bella was born I got hit with postpartum depression really bad. It got to the point where it affected me physically and I was really ill, I couldn't get out of bed and I just didn't have a connection to her. I didn't care when she cried, it was like months of this detached time and it got so bad that, you know, through therapy I kinda realized my brain went into this protection mode and deleted some memories of that time so I'll look at my daughter as a baby and think "I don't remember that". So when you have something like that, people have stuff like that all the time, like her husband passed away or something like that, it's even worse because I'm going to the baby stuff saying things like, "okay, I'm getting rid of the stuff from Bella being a baby" that doesn't mean I'm erasing the memory.

I was depressed so that's even worse and this guilt comes in and the thing is that, especially as a Christian woman, again you can't rely on things like that, you can't keep things out of fear or guilt or dread or sadness or depression because you're just holding yourself back. That's only one box of stuff, if that's all I'm gonna keep, that's fine! But then where's the boundaries for the next box of stuff? For grandma's stuff and grandpa's stuff? And your son's stuff? it never ends so for me, minimalism will make you deal with a lot of your behind-the-dark-door stuff and just use it as an opportunity - I encourage you to run to Jesus and deal with the heart of it.

And so, going back to the box of Bella's stuff, I ended up dealing with my stuff, I'm just like really seeking healing, I let go of everything of hers except for my belly book when I was pregnant with her and this little white dress that she wore when she was dedicated. So, you knkow, huge box full of stuff verses a journal and one dress that, I'm hoping, cause you know, it's vintage and it's adorable, I'm hoping it'll get used later and it's just sweet to have it.

Less doesn't mean none, that's my point.

It doesn't mean you have no sentimental stuff, it just means that you're intentional about your space. Sentimental stuff can be used; a lot of people have things like vintage China sets from their grandmothers and they just put them on display and they gather dust. They don't like them but they can't use them so they're just there. Use it! It is just plates! If you like them and you want to keep them, use them! Who says you can't eat dinner on fine China? It reminds me of something special, you know, I think there's just a lot of fear and these unwritten rules that are silly and that we follow a sentimental thing.so no work for your staff or for your heart issues you know less

So, work through your stuff, work through your heart issues. You know, less does not mean none, and consider using it. Don't let sentimental things hinder you.

But also don't start there either. Save sentimental stuff for when you've gained momentum, like you've done your dishes and your laundry and your toys and your master bedroom and your closet and then like, okay now that you know who you are when it comes purging stuff, then do the sentimental stuff.

Maggie: Yeah, that should be the last.

Allie: Yeah, definitely, it was for me and I felt very confident - I knew who I was, I knew my key questions, I knew the effects of minimalism had on me as a mother and my family and my home and it was so great. I really wasn't going to keep much of anything that was gonna get in the way of that.

Maggie: Yeah and I think, at this point, everyone listening is ready to go, ready to purge stuff, but what about our spouses? How do we get them on board because... what if they want to keep a lot of the stuff that we want to grow away?

Allie: Yeah, and that happens a lot. I would say that's probably the top problem that people that I speak with right into. You know, the thing is, just like with anything else, we can only control ourselves. We cannot control somebody else and I think, I always think about, like, okay, going back to Proverbs 31 woman, and I don't know if you've read The Power of the Praying Wife and things like that, it kind of gives you a heart check in this area.

What a blessed husband you would have if you decided that you didn't need to impose your values or impose what is currently getting excited and lighting you up, the thing you're really into right now but you didn't impose that on him. We don't have to get our husbands on board with every single thing we do, you know, I can go and start Whole 30 tomorrow and I don't even need to have my husband even know what it is or be on board with it.

That is a choice I can make and to do for myself so with minimalism when it has to do with your shared space, don't nag, don't push, don't force - it doesn't do anything except make it even harder in the future for him to get on board.

So for me, in the beginning, I didn't know minimalism was even a word that it had anything to do with this. I thought it was an art style or something, but I had just kinda stumbled upon this idea of "what if I got rid of all the things that are taking all my time, so I can actually enjoy my motherhood?" and as I'm pursuing it and figuring it out and finding that it worked on. My husband came from a childhood that led him to - I do not use the word hoarding lightly but it was legit hoarding - and I mean just like a garage full of little random things and knickknacks that were of the utmost importance and "going to be used in some project one of these days" but they're there for years.

What if I got rid of all the things that are taking all my time, so I can actually enjoy my motherhood?

It was all over our house. It was kind of hidden in closets and drawers. He was very very resistant at first and for about two years of my journey, he was very resistant and so we came up with a compromise where he could have the garage and our closet, the master bedroom closet, to do whatever he wanted, he could keep whatever hr wanted. It could be messy, it didn't matter. You have your space and that's a lot of space, the garage is huge but "is it okay with you because after explaining this is changing my life, it is changing my heart and it's making me a better mom, it's making me enjoy my days more. This is how overwhelmed I've been. You know, you've seen it. You've taken a lot of the grunt of it. This is changing my life so is it okay with you if all the areas of the house that affect my day, if I can have free reign to simplify. Anything that's yours I'll just throw it in the garage, is that cool with you?" And that was like, "okay, yeah, let's do that."

And so we went on that way for a couple of years and honestly I could've gone on that way my entire life and been totally happy with that setup because it didn't bother me, I knew that I wasn't nagging and ruining my marriage over this - that's not worth it - he can be his little hoarding self over there but the stuff that affected my day with the kids, I could do what I needed to do. I got rid of all my stuff and all the kids' stuff and we had free days that's why I started my business - I had free time, if you can beleive that, with that many kids. It was amazing.

Eventually, we had this one move where it cost us a bunch of extra money and a bunch of extra days just because of his stuff. And so we had this realization of "um, please help me." Since then he's been on the bandwagon with me. It gets better.

Maggie: Yeah, I think, don't push, don't nag; if it truly changes you, your husband will see it and he's gonna want to be on board because he wants that for himself too.

Allie: Exactly, and then, like I said even if he never had, I know I can say with a 100% confidence that I would've still started this business, I still would've been, you know, Allie Casazza, the minimalist one. I still would've done it and pursued it because it didn't bother me. My days were so freed up that I have free time and able to do what I love and I mean this is so amazing,  it's so nice when your husband gets it and he's on board but it's not a necessity. We shouldn't be the ones trying to force it.

The same thing goes with a lot of other people in our lives, too. If relatives are pushing back, and they don't like it; they feel limited with toys and stuff. We are not the ones who should be forcing anyone to get on the same page as us. Just do your thing, have healthy boundaries but just your family and leave everyone else alone.

Maggie: Totally. So what other resources do you recommend if we want to learn more about the practical steps to decluttering our homes and live simply but also purposefully?

Allie: I really love Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist. He is one of the only other minimalist, kind of an expert, that I really agree with everything that he has to say. Being a guy, too, he's logical and just like "well, here's a box. Here's what it is and here's how you can do it." I tend to be a little bit more emotional-based, getting to the heart behind it all. But he's just got this awesome blog that I always point people to BecomingMinimalist.com.

And then my site, too. I've been blogging for years about this and there's just an archive of videos and blog posts and downloads,  all kinds of stuff. So there's really no shortage of anything.

You can get overwhelmed easily so I would say, go learn the research, do all the things, but pick one thing to start with.

Maggie: Totally. And you also have courses?

Allie: Yes, I do! So just kind of in response to my audience, like blog posts are great but I would really like it if it was all spelled out. So my course, my main course, is called Your Uncluttered Home. It is massive. It's about 11 hours of content - audio lessons and video lessons and PDFs of the a to z of minimalism for your home and what that lifestyle change looks like for dealing with your husband, dealing with relatives, dealing with Christmas time and birthdays, and paperwork and Google Drive filing systems and every room in the area your house - totally decluttered from step a to step b.

And then I've got a smaller course at a lower price and a lot less content. Sometimes I feel like women just get so overwhelmed, they don't even know where to start; life is just like this nonstop tornado that they're trying to survive. So that course is called Unburdened, it's kind of like the beginning of minimalism for your whole life. We simplify reaching goals, we simplify your meals and we simplify a little bit of clutter in your home but a lot of schedules and calendar stuff. It's like getting a grip on your whole life when you feel like it's just really out-of-control.

Maggie: Love it. I will include the links in the show notes and if we want to hang out with you more in the social media world, where can we find you?

Allie: I am on Instagram. I am always really honest that I have to be on Facebook, it's part of my job but I've delegated that to my social media manager. I hate Facebook so much but on Instagram, it's always me. I'm there every day. My username is Allie_thatsme. That's where I share day-to-day staff and that's probably the best place to connect with me.

Maggie: Love it. Thank you so much for spending time with us and sharing all your wisdom and tips and tricks. I love it.

Allie: Yeah! Thank you again for having me. This was awesome.