How far do you want to go?

Do you often wonder what your end game is with minimalism or decluttering? How far do you want to go with it and what will it look like? And if you go to the edge, eliminate ruthlessly, will you some day add back in?

Katy of the Non-Consumer Advocate had a great post up at Get Rich Slowly: When Does Minimalism Go Too Far? Katy’s been blogging about her efforts at simpler, frugal, green and sustainable living for three years. She’s been at this a good while and she’s watched the bloom of minimalist bloggers and the wave of radical minimalists come and go. I value her point of view. She also just made a killing on eBay from a jar of marbles she bought for $3. Smart woman.

If you have time read the post and then take a look through the comments section. Good stuff there and a lot of comments that I identified with.

I think you go to far when a lifestyle choice becomes an obsession. Or you’re not enjoying the process. Sure, the initial phase of decluttering was a lot of work. And some of it was painful but not because I was sad about getting rid of things. I was mad at myself for wasting money on them. That hurt.

Now we’re in what I consider a sweet spot. We still have stuff and a lot of it is nonessential. Because when you get down to it what’s really essential? A spot to sleep, a pot to cook in and clothing on your back. You could even get by without a plate. Just use your Spork to eat right out of the pot. Instead we have a home with things that we use regularly and I know exactly what’s hiding in our little storage cubby (seasonal clothing, Christmas tree, fan, little step stool, two camping chairs, luggage).

Our move overseas will probably take us to the edge of not being comfortable. Even with shipping 3-4 boxes and taking 3 suitcases on the flight, we will arrive with a lot less than we currently have. No furniture. Just a few toys for Henry. No dishes or cutlery. Even if we rent a furnished flat we will be buying some new, or new to us, housewares.

I’m excited about going to the edge and coming back. I’m excited to have some patience and stick to a list and not drop hundreds of dollars at the UK equivalent to Target on random household items. I want a trip to IKEA to be a last resort. I’m not going to force my family to sit on the floor for dinner… for too long anyways.

The thing I’m focused on most is the process and not the result. I’ve spent a lot of my life living in some day instead of today. Moving overseas will be challenging. I’m not looking forward to a toddler adjusting to a nine hour time change. But I am up for the greater challenge of continuing on with a rich life with less stuff.

Do you have a vision for what your home and life will look like at the end of the process? Are you living in the vision or living the sweat and fun of the process?

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  • “I think you go to far when a lifestyle choice becomes an obsession. Or you’re not enjoying the process.”

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this statement. I try to keep my goals of minimalism, frugality and environmentalism from taking over my thoughts and my life. Sometimes it’s hard, because I can tend to be a bit obsessive about things I am passionate about, but I try not to share it very much with friends and family in real life as they don’t tend to share the same values. I think it’s fair to agree with one of the commenters in the other article that not too many North Americans can get to a place to “too minimal” – however, I know that there is value for our family in living simply and lightly, so we will continue on our path. Sometimes I feel like I’ve gone too far (like getting rid of some of the kids toys, oops), but then I add some stuff back and it feels like too much again. My only vision for improvement in our home at this point will be to use up and eliminate the three extra bins of kid clothing that we have in the closet – because that doesn’t feel so minimalist. :) Otherwise, I think we’re almost at our sweet spot.

    If we were undertaking a big move like your family, I’m sure I would too feel discomfort at swinging to that level of minimalism – here’s hoping you can enjoy the process of creating a new, cozy, “minimalish” home on the IOM!

    • I get obsessive too. It can be a great thing for motivation but I often end up staying up too late working on something. Been ripping through a series of books in the last week and taking every spare moment to read. I often have to give myself a talking to about stepping back and relaxing.
      Good words from you on not overly sharing with family. I find people take others lifestyle choices personally. I never want to make someone feel bad about their choices – they work for them and we do what works for us. Luckily I can talk about the benefits here.
      Great to see you last week. Your hair is so cute at that length!

    • I could have written this!!! Except I am not sure we’ve found the sweet spot yet.

  • I’ve been wondering the same thing lately Rachel. At what point will I be satisfied with the downsizing of stuff?

    Since I know myself well, I’m betting that I will take it too far, and will then need to add some stuff back in. I can be extreme in most things I tackle. Tunnel vision sets in and I don’t always see the finish line until I’m so far past it, I have to squint when I look back to find it.

    I enjoyed Katy’s article at GRS this week too! She did a great job and I loved hearing her perspective. I’m going to have to check out some of the comments again.

    • Really trying to focus on the process here instead of a mythical finish line. I was feeling pretty good before we knew we were moving. Had a few bins of swap meet items and we had just unloaded a lot of furniture. Interested to see how getting down to very little will feel. I’ll be holding myself to a budget and patient planning at the other end of our move. But I’m not going to put limits on the number of items we have.

      And I have you to follow to see how far your family goes with it =)

  • The more I simplify the more I want to take it further. perhaps that has something to do with forming new habits, as I learn to ‘chuck not store’ I find myself able to take it to the next level. Still haven’t conquered the sentimental hoard, but I am wondering whether this is due to needing to form new habits before I try and deal with something that is so deeply rooted in previous behaviour that it is could be extremely tough for me. I love Katy and her blog, it was one of the first I ever read.

  • I see this whole process as a journey, not a destination. I enjoy filling my charity box and today filled it with another 6 items. I am never going back to my shopaholic lifestyle and each day i appreciate the space that de-cluttering has given me. Cleaning is easier and i have more time to spend time doing things i want to do (like watching a certaian royal wedding with my 8 year old daughter)
    When you move you will have an oppurtunity to have a clean slate and only bring things into your life that you truly need or Love, i would grab that oppurtunity and enjoy every minute!

    Sharron x

    • We don’t have cable but, confession, one of the first things I did this morning was check out photos online of the dress. I love wedding dresses.
      So true, it’s about the journey.

  • We are living in the sweet spot :) Our home is sparse but comfortable. We don’t have redundant stuff. I feel calm and cleaning is a breeze. This is about as ascetic as we can go having a kid. If it was just me, then heck yes. But I’m happy and I can still get rid of stuff -as it’s grown or worn out or broken beyond repair. But there is nothing I want to upgrade or replace or add. It’s a great place to be :)

  • Congratulations on your mission – such a great trend is emerging that will do the environment a great favour.
    I don’t often get to watch the Queen of t.v., but recently caught a great Oprah show about a Hollywood director who gave up his mansion to live a simpler life in a trailer. As a result, he is so much happier.
    I am not a minimalist yet, but am hoping to go in this direction, and this inspires me to do so.

  • I’m starting on the “simplifying” path (as I call it). I’m having the feeling that it’s going to be a constant. consistent process. I will have to come to an agreement (that may shift over time) with my partner as each of us has different feelings about how much stuff is enough. Part of me would like to live out of a backpack and travel for 6 months with our two kids and my partner would rather acquire new gear for our various outdoor pursuits. We’ll see where this process takes us.

    Thanks for your blog by the way. I’ve been getting lots of ideas and inspiration. Good luck with your new move.

    • Having to negotiate decluttering – with a partner or kids – is a challenge but sometimes a good safety for not going too far. I’m like you though, would love to get rid of it all and go backpacking. Our move overseas is a small step in that direction.

      Good luck and thanks for commenting =)

  • I’m also in the process of de-cluttering at the minute and the thing that is breaking my heart is all the wasted money! it feels great giving so much stuff to charity, but nothing can overcome that powerful guilt of spending money that could of been saved!

  • I get obsessed about things like this and I actually kind of like it. I know my process. I get obsessed and then I get “normal.” That’s my process. Right now I’m on my way to be obsessed and then I know I’ll be normal about it.
    Right now we have a table and chairs to eat. But I have no problem about eating on the floor or at least sitting on the floor and eating on a coffee table. They do it in other cultures and even in some fancy restaurants, right? I can do it, too! It would actually be more comfortable for my 5 year old to eat that way.
    I’m excited about getting rid of almost everything and try living life that way. We’ll see what happens.

  • We are consantly changing, developing, have new experiences, hobbies, friends, we travel, our kids grow up. This means we always have “stuff” to part from. Also, as Jo said, your minimalistm will go through changes, and you might even decide some time that you do not need your pretty wineglasses.

    • Keep reminding myself, it’s about the journey, not the destination. Thanks, Laura.

  • I’m not sure I have an end game with anything anymore. That sounds kind of bleak, but it’s not, really. I used to be a big fan of long-term plans and all that stuff. But as I am now, parenting two kids and not working in a traditional job, I find it more effective to think a few days or weeks at a time. So I do what feels right today, and let tomorrow take care of itself.

    • I’m hearing a lot of friends, and HR/workplace gurus, talk about the end of the five year plan. That with the change in employment culture – no more 25 years with one company, shorter jobs, changing careers, etc – the best route for success/happiness is just to do what you love, work hard and accept opportunities as you create them.
      I like the idea of letting tomorrow take care of itself. Speaks to my goal of being mindful and present. Thanks, Amber =)

  • Just a side note about the time change: I have a feeling your tot will adjust much more quickly to it than you two adults will! 😉
    Good luck on your journey!

  • I just want to let you know that I have been following the grocery planning and I like they way it works for us. However, I think that maybe everyone needs to assess what they have in terms of an emergency. Recently in north Alabama we had tornadoes that left us with no power for five days even though we had no actual damage to our house. The first day we took stock of our food situation and we were afraid. For the first time I told my daughter she couldn’t have a snack. You see, the next day was to have been my grocery day. Fortunately, when we got out our emergency kit (what little we have of it) and put batteries in the radio, we found out that a town 12 miles from us had power. We loaded up hoping to buy groceries, but found car lines up to 3 hours long. We stopped at a roadside diner for a hot meal and went back home. Later that day a small local grocery put a generator to use to light their aisles and sold non-perishable foods. We were okay. We couldn’t heat food, but we traveled up to the diner a couple of times for a hot meal. We’ve decided that a box of canned goods and a camping stove will be essential items. Thanks to our minimalist shopping strategy, we only lost about $20 worth of frozen food unlike some of our friends who lost much, much more. Just consider what you would need if you were to lose power and phones for an extended time. We had gas, medicines, and most importantly, we are all okay.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience here and glad to hear you are okay. There were a few comments on a post about “minimalist grocery stocks” that said the same thing: you should always have emergency food on hand. This is living proof. Take care =)

  • My end goal is to be able to fit everything we own into our minivan with the exception of the furniture. We will be getting rid of that when we move. We’re actually pretty close to our goal right now. We’ve moved 5 times in the past 6 year, 6 times if you count the move my husband made when he moved in with us when we got engaged. Anyway, every move except the one we made last month I got rid of half of what we owned. I still have a lot of things that I would like to get rid of around the house, however they aren’t my things so I can’t get rid of them. All of my personal items fit into two 18 gallon rubbermaid containers and a legal box.

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