be adaptable

 

using a regular old salade plate *note use of car seat as play seat in background

We received a very nice bamboo child’s spoon, fork and bowl set before leaving Vancouver back in May. It was a gift from our realtor and I decided it would make the move with us in our suitcase. We could use it as Henry’s all purpose eating vessel as soon as we arrived in the Isle of Man.

Sadly, after being used three times a day for a month, and being washed by hand after each use, it bit the dust. The veneer cracked and started to mold. The only other bowls in our furnished rental flat are mammoth and, some would suggest, not suitable for a toddler to eat out of. I had notions of purchasing some smaller bowls, maybe even those plastic ones marketed to parents, just for Henry to use. But, as we do now, I waited on the purchase. And in the interim Henry ate out of a big bowl.

Guess what? He did just fine.

Another way to think of living with less is to be more adaptable.

Before moving over to the UK I couldn’t have fathomed living without a freezer. But it’s been four + months and, yes, we’re still living with just a fridge and a very small fridge at that. ** I wrote in August that we were going to move into another flat that had a fridge/freezer and a bit more space. We ended up negotiating a rent reduction with our current landlord instead. So, still no freezer! But, somehow, we survive.

It’s surprising how you can get by without those things you once thought you needed.

Henry eats off the large salad plates and out of the big bowls. Stacking plastic measuring cups are great holders for little snacks of raisins and cheese slices. He has a small toddler size fork and spoon but often uses a teaspoon to eat. At this age he’s fascinated with the forks we use so is often making demands to use one himself at dinner time.

So no toddler dishware here. No freezer. Still no car. I just have one pair of jeans right now and manage to clothe myself just fine.

We’ve adapted to live with fewer things. We’ve adapted to use what we have for what we need. It works.

We take the bus. We don’t buy frozen food. I wear those jeans A LOT (trust me, no one really notices or cares. Throw on a scarf and change your top. No one notices you’ve been wearing the same jeans all week). We probably spend a bit more time telling our toddler not to throw plates because we don’t want shattered porcelain all over the place, but really, is it that much work? Nope.

What ways have you adapted to buy and own fewer things? I’d love to hear about everything from sharing a cell phone with a spouse to having children share a room so you can stay in a smaller home. Have you ditched the vases you rarely use and put flowers in a water jug instead? Have you switched up your school pick-up/drop-off scenario to drive less? Have you changed your grocery shopping habits like Jo to spend 50% less?

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paring down for fall: toddler clothes

already getting a lot of use out of these wellies

The other week I asked about end of season sales for children’s clothing, who uses them to stock up and what your experiences have been with guessing sizes. They were some great comments here and on Facebook and a few people even emailed me. I’ll share a few of the responses with you:

      • I used to shop these sales extensively for clothing for my six children. I also used to store up clothing from thrift stores and garage sales a couple of years in advance for each child. Over time this became a complexity nightmare. I would end up forgetting what I have in storage no matter how carefully I organized it. I don’t think I saved any money because I would end up getting rid of 75% of what I had  when I became overwhelmed and began simplifying, or someone would give me clothing and I would be overwhelmed trying to sort out clothing for six children. – Tiffani (by email)
      • My best advice is: take advantage of the sale if it is less than half price and only buy 2-3 items of the same kind, this way you can save it for the second kid. – Charlotte (blog comments)
      • I used to try and pick up items “for next year”, but now I don’t. It always seemed like when next year came around, we were gifted (generous grandparents!) or received hand-me-downs from nieces and just had way too many clothes. – Melissa (blog comments)
      • It’s a must for our family. I never pay full price for our clothes, and buying new is a rarity. When things are purchased new, it’s on clearance. 90% of the time my daughter is clothed in brand names and recent styles for children, but instead of getting them new, I’ll always buy up a size used. Nice when Goodwill has 1$ prices on all clothing under size 4T. Got some adorable Polo jeans that sold for 95$ last year for a whole buck. That sort of thing I’ll always buy for next year. I can always sell it if it doesn’t fit. – Memie (Facebook)

Once again, every family finds what works for them. We’re not all the same, we have different needs, different numbers of children, ages and sizes of children. Some families live in areas with drastic climate changes during the years. Others live in more temperate cities and don’t need to switch out clothing. I also think we naturally gravitate towards our strengths. If you’re highly organized and are savvy with reselling clothing you can turn end of season sales into a money making venture.

Reading about all of these different systems helps me keep my mind open about my own plans.

One thing that will not change: do a thorough wardrobe review before buying anything new.

Before I even made a list of what Henry already had for fall I had mentally, and verbally to Chris, committed to buying 2-3 new pairs of jeans or chords for him.

After determining what still fits, and what is too lightweight to keep in rotation, I think he should be fine as is. No need to add any pants to his wardrobe. So, until those jeans are mid-shin or don’t button up, he’s wearing them.

most of the Henry's fall wardrobe

 

Wardrobe List for a Toddler

  • 6  x  jeans/pants
  • 5 x pajamas
  • 1 hooded sweatshirt
  • 1 button down shirt
  • 1 sweater vest
  • 2  t-shirts
  • 3 polo shirts
  • 6 long sleeve t-shirts
  • 3 onesies
  • fleece jacket
  • rain jacket
  • rain suit
  • wellies
  • walking shoes

If our laundry system didn’t require 24 hours + per load we could probably get by with less. We’re a touch over Project 333 requirements but I’m not sweating it. This is what works for us right now, this season and at this age. Our outerwear list feels long but… we don’t have a car. Or a very big home. We’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors through a  rainy season. Proper clothing and footwear can make those outdoor adventures fun, instead of cold and miserable.

We are sad to see summer go. The horse tram shut down for the winter the other weekend. No more horse hoof sounds outside our window or tram drivers waving to us as we walk along the Prom. Chris and I took Henry on a few farewell rides. I’m irked I never got a good photo of all of us on the tram but here’s Henry on one of the last runs. We actually used the service both for fun and function: it was a convenient way to get to the park without the stroller.

we love horse trams!

 

So who else tackled kid’s wardrobes recently? Anyone drastically reducing for the first time? I switched out my own clothing as well and will have a post about it soon. One thing I really like about the process of unearthing last winter’s clothing: feels like shopping. The best kind of shopping because it’s free and you already have space for it.

Like what you read here at The Minimalist Mom? Sign up by RSS or Email to get posts delivered to you. You can also find The Minimalist Mom on Facebook. Comments are always read, appreciated and responded to – even if we don’t agree on the subject at hand.

toddler wardrobe: are end of season sales worth it?

 

September 2010

Henry was a beautiful chubby baby.

He was 20 pounds at six months and eeking off the growth charts. By the summer 2010, he was a 10 month old packed into 12-18 month size clothing. Logic would suggest that by the summer of 2011 he would be in two year old sizing. At least. Have I mentioned Chris is 6’5″ and I am 6′? My mother tells me I was 30 pounds at a year old.

I was still in my pre-minimalist days in the summer of 2010 so I took advantage of some end of season sales and bought a few pairs of shorts in larger sizes for the next summer. I tucked them away and when fall rolled around I put the good condition old shorts in the ‘for next baby’ bin.

June 2011

I was wrong.

It seems I can’t predict the future.

Henry is a slim 26 pound almost two year old now. And he’s worn all of his shorts from last summer again. The two pairs of two year old shorts I bought in advance are huge on him. I have no idea if they will get any wear from our family at all. He may jump two sizes over the winter.

The good news: we got a lot of wear out of these shorts and a few others. They’re still in good condition and we, or another family, will get a lot more use out of them.

I’m transitioning Henry’s wardrobe to fall right now and pruning the items he isn’t wearing much or that are just a touch small. I’ll have photos and a list of what stays soon.

More about toddler wardrobes:

Question: do you buy children’s clothing in advance at end of season sales? Do you find it worth the risk? Now that we are keeping smaller wardrobes I’m not as concerned about having to buy in season at non-sale prices (also helps that I am into thrift stores and buying second hand). I figure four items at full price that I know fit are better than a dozen items at sale price that may never get worn.

 

 

The Minimalist Mom is One!

a before photo of our overstuffed storage closet

One year ago today I published my first post on this blog.

The day prior, amidst excited discussions with Katy about de-cluttering and the minimalist movement, I went and registered the domain theminimalistmom.com, set up a WordPress site and decided to document the journey.

In the beginning I linked to my posts from my personal Facebook page. Most of my friends were intrigued but not on board. A few were excited about the discussion and soon passed the link to my blog onto other friends. A very small group of people were reading my accounts of purging my home, my wardrobe and getting rid of stuff. It was fun. Occasionally I would get a comment from a friend of a friend and it was a exciting that someone I didn’t know personally was reading my blog.

For the first month my blog was up I didn’t know how to check traffic or the number of subscribers. Prior to writing here my blogging experience came from a personal Blogger account I had to stay in touch with family. WordPress, the platform I use to publish posts, was completely new to me.

.... and after. Most of this was sold or donated before we moved to the UK.

In addition to the massive changes in our home in the fall of 2010, I also had some fsurprising media attention. I was interviewed by CBC radio for a series they were doing called Pinched. This was where we first came clean about our consumer debt situation and how we were attacking it. It was a bit scary to tell radio listeners, and subsequently family and friends, that we had been $80,000 in debt. But it was cathartic. It not only gave us motivation but it let us let go of our guilt and shame over it. We were making changes and moving forward. That’s what was important.

The next big thing to happen to this little blog was that a piece I wrote for the Globe and Mail’s Facts and Arguments section was published. It happened quite suddenly. I had submitted the piece at least a month prior and then one week I got an email that it would be published the following week. I was ecstatic. The Globe and Mail is Canada’s version of the New York Times. It’s a widely respected paper and my writing would be in it.

I never could have guessed what my little piece about being a minimalist family, a piece I had written quite quickly one afternoon between Christmas and New Years, would bring. First of all, massive traffic to this blog. It was fun to see my stats go way way up for almost a week. Another byproduct of the Globe and Mail piece was requests for interviews from other media outlets. I had two radio interviews and even made an appearance on local television. The Globe and Mail piece has continued to bring reporters my way asking for interviews about living with less.

It was the Globe and Mail article that gave me a little push to reach out to other bloggers and online magazines. There was interest in my story and what we were doing and I wanted to share it with people. I wrote a three part series for Mothering.com that brought a number of new readers to my blog. New readers brought new readers and readers nominated me for things. Tina nominated me for a list of newer bloggers that Joshua Becker put together. That brought another onslaught of traffic.

Here are some fun stats about this blog in the last year:

Number of comments: 3067

Number of posts: 141 (including this one)

The numbers are fun and interesting but what I’ve enjoyed the most are the comments. This is where I keep learning about living with less. Some of the readers here are born minimalists. Their suggestions, encouragement and insight have been invaluable to me on my journey.

It’s been a year and we’ve let go of most of our stuff. The overseas move gave us a huge push to downsize even more – deadlines help! We’re also conscious consumers now and don’t casually buy things anymore. We talk about the purchase and wait it out before adding anything to our home.

I’m still learning.

It’s a journey, not a destination. As we shed our stuff I started to evaluate how we spent our time and money. It lead us to ditch our iPhones and rent smaller accommodations. I know there are more hurdles down the road for us. I know that life will change, we might find we need a car or we have a second child and reevaluate living space. I’ll constantly be balancing leading a healthy full life with our need to own things. I’m excited for the challenges ahead.

I love writing here.

My blog posting dropped off in August and has been less frequent while I work on The Minimalist Mom’s Guide to Baby’s First Year. I’ve been tied up with other work but think about this space, and the things I want to write about here, every day.

I want to continue sharing what I learn, encouraging those new to the idea of living with less and getting feedback from those of you on the same journey. The topics here may lean to areas outside of stuff: simple travel with kids, reducing screen time and more ways that I’m using the mantra of a rich life with less stuff to inform how we live and what we do. Of course, I’ll always detail how we continue to edit our possessions and share it here. Because, it really is about the stuff. That’s where it starts. Living with less so you can do more. Even if the doing more means sleeping in or taking an extra long shower. Especially if it means those things.

Thank you for all of your comments, emails and support in this last year. Raising my glass (really a coffee mug) to all of you and the work all of us have put in!

a minimalist in the closet (a tidy, not overstuffed, closet)

 

not in my wardrobe

Confession: I’m a closeted minimalist.

Before we moved to the UK my fervor for downsizing our possessions was mostly known to friends because this blog was linked to my personal Facebook account. The topic of my big purge would only really come up in person because a friend had read something here and wanted to know more. I was otherwise pretty closed mouthed about it.

Why? Because when we decided to change our lifestyle, reduce our possessions and buy less I didn’t want that choice to define us or alienate us from friends and family. Buying, consuming, owning, spending and being in debt are touchy subjects. And our choice is just our choice, not a reflection on the choices others make. It works for us. We love it. It’s been the catalyst for a lot of positive change in our lives. But I know many happy people with lots of things and big homes.

Since we moved, and I deleted my personal Facebook account, there hasn’t been much talk outside of my husband and I about living with less stuff. I’ve met lots of new friends here but the subject of stuff has rarely come up. If it has, mostly around the work behind making an international move, I will mention that we drastically reduced our possessions before the move which made it a lot easier. My blog has come up but I’ve been quite quiet about the subject. I think my description has been that I do some freelance writing and have a blog about simple living for families.

I’m in the closet. I don’t like conflict or making anyone feel uncomfortable with their choices. And while I love writing here, discussing the merits of simple living in the comments section, and getting rid of stuff, the biggest factor minimalism has in my day is just my ability to live well, have time and focus on family, myself and health. It’s a lifestyle for me, something akin to being a vegetarian, a fervent runner or finding a scheduling system that helps you get things done.

A few new friends have stumbled upon this blog and were curious enough to ask questions. Most of them were surprised. I guess when I am out at the park or at a play date there isn’t a lot to suggest that my entire wardrobe fits in a medium suitcase or that I own just four hard copy books. We’ve had people over but they have mostly been Chris’s young single colleagues stopping in for a beer. They probably didn’t notice Henry’s relatively small corner of toys or that our tiny kitchen has surprisingly bare counters.

If friends do want to know more about minimalism I am happy to discuss the ideas and concepts and share what it’s given us. But it’s a challenging subject to talk about without having people reflect on their own level of stuff, or debt, or how big their house is. And I am very careful to caution that this has been a process for us, that it has taken the better part of a year and the deadline of an international move to pare down as far as we have. I’m also quick to say it’s not for everyone. That if your are content and healthy and happy in your current scenario why rock the boat?

I am also quite certain of this: people change when they want to change, not when anyone tells them to. I hope I am an example to my friends and family that you can live well with less than ten pairs of shoes. I hope that if any of them need support on getting rid of stuff or going on a financial diet they will turn to me for support. But I also hope that they know they can talk to me about emotional shopping sprees or big credit card bills and I will always lend a sympathetic non-judgmental ear.

What about you? Are you wearing your minimalist t-shirt and telling everyone you know about the benefits of living with less? Or are you quietly chipping away on the basement storage room without telling anyone?

PS. You really can buy that t-shirt here.

Good Reads

 

I bought Simple Mom’s One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler the day it was released. As a longtime fan I was excited for her first e-book, loved the price ($5) and was looking for some non-minimalist projects and ideas for simple living. Happy to report the book has been well worth the money and time to read. It was fun to go through the list and see that we have already completed a lot of the paring down projects (who doesn’t love checking things off a list that you have already done?). The projects I will be using are mostly based on creating routines around the home. Simple Mom’s un-fussy perspective on the good life made easy is one of my favorites. Big recommend on this book if you are looking for guidance on projects around the home for paring down and creating, or sticking to, routines.

 

 

 

The other week I asked for feedback on what you would like to see more of here. Among the great comments (and so many compliments – thank you!) was a request for ideas on re-purposing what you have in the home for new needs. I’ll be sharing more on this topic in the future but just ran across this new book, reuse refresh repurpose, from The Frugal Girl about that very subject. This e-book is focused on clothing and while I haven’t read it myself (yet) I have read some glowing reviews. There are projects in here for the not-so-crafty (like me!) and several that you don’t need a sewing machine for. If you want to upcycle clothing in your home this book will show you how.

 

 

 

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