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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Comments

  1. Cherrill says

    That’s interesting to hear you’re “in the closet” (I suppose there’s more room in there now–lol!) I’m that way too. I’m not a minimalist (yet) by any stretch, I’m just plugging away at my quest for a less cluttered house. But even that I don’t say much about. I also started a weight loss goal with my husband, but that something else I don’t like to talk about outside of family.

    People are funny–they can get offended to hear you’re decluttering or dieting or whatever. As though by making a liefstyle change for yourself, you’re somehow judging them for not making that same change. Even when the fact could be that they already live that lifestyle anyway!

    Oddly enough, despite my efforts to downsize, my FIL made a comment to my husband a few weeks ago that we had entirely too much stuff. Now there’s a man who could easily own just 50 things and be a happy person!

    Thanks for keeping up your blog. I really enjoy reading it.

    • Charlotte says

      “People are funny–they can get offended to hear you’re decluttering or dieting or whatever. As though by making a lifestyle change for yourself, you’re somehow judging them for not making that same change. Even when the fact could be that they already live that lifestyle anyway!”
      So true. Recently, a co-worker was telling me how she bought lots of dresses because they were inexpensive and everyone seems to wear dresses, and she also likes them. I added my story about wanting but not really needing a skirt and also adding that I try to buy only what I need. All that without judgement but it have put her on the defence by saying that she wishes she could do that…
      I don’t know why I had to add my reasons; I regret it now.
      I also wonder if I have ever been on the receiving side of a conversation where I got defensive.
      As a renter we are not in the majority and it does not bother me, having people over in a plain apartment always make me wonder: what they are thinking about our “style”.

      • theminimalistmom says

        Back in Vancouver there seemed to be a big distinction between those that rented and those that owned. I guess because the real estate market was so expensive. I will admit I often inquired if friends owned or rented, mostly because I was curious as to how some of them could afford to live in $800,000 waterfront condos.

        Since moving no one ever really asks if we rent or own.I think most assume we rent because we aren’t from here.

        As for what people may think about our “style” in our little apartment – I don’t care! It’s hard to break the cycle of comparing what we have/own to what others have. I’ve worked a lot on getting over who has what and what we have. It’s challenging but ultimately is making me a lot happier with what we have. And isn’t happiness when reality meets expectation? So true for me.

  2. Amy says

    My family knows of our desire to live with less. Mostly because it’s something that most of my siblings are trying to do. We come from a long line of pack rats and most are trying, successfully I might add, to not become that person. Other people we don’t discus it with unless they come to our house and make comments on how little we have and offer to start finding furniture for us.

    We had a man from church stop by one day. He saw how little furniture we had in our living room, it was a couch, chair and a small 6 cubbie toy/child bookshelf. He started asking us what furniture we needed and sent out a few text messages asking people about furniture for us. He was worried that we didn’t have enough money to afford furniture. We thanked him for his concern and his willingness to help. Then we explained that we desire to not have a lot of “things.” He found it interesting that a family of 5 would have a little as we have, but for us it still feels like a little to much.

    • theminimalistmom says

      What a wonderful compliment to you, Amy. Not only that the man noticed that you have kept your furniture to a minimum but that he wanted to help your family.

      Nice to hear about families de-cluttering together. A support network like that is invaluable.

  3. Lauren says

    I never realized how much we don’t need until I helped my boyfriend move to his new apartment and had to furnish it. There were a lot of tempting things to buy just to fill cabinets and space but ultimately he only needed 2 pots, a frying pan, some cooking utensils, microwave, toaster, 4 dishes, 4 cups, (keurig for me) and a 20 piece silverware set. As for furniture he only needed a couch, ottoman, desk, nightstand and bed.

  4. Allison says

    I lightly joke about clutter and having too much of it, but, no, I don’t talk much about minimalism with people in the rest of my life.

    It’s pretty new for me still, so I feel like I want to solidify my own sense of it and my commitments before getting into it with others. As you say, people will make their own choices when they’re ready to, and I don’t want to come off as preachy.

    I’m vegetarian too, and had a similar process – quietly changing my own habits before finding ways to talk about it that didn’t come off as too critical/judgemental. Most people around me now know I don’t eat meat, but I haven’t necessarily had deep discussions about the whys and wherefores of that choice with everyone — it’s not always relevant.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Apple (Laura) had a comment below that being in the closet about life changing/improving efforts is really just a form of good manners. After reading that, I had to agree. You probably don’t discuss your health improvements and the changes to your nutrition because you don’t find a need to boast. I guess minimalism and paring down is the same for me. I get a lot of satisfaction from the work we have done and the changes in our life. I don’t need to share those things with others to validate them or enjoy them.

  5. Starr says

    Ah, yes. The danger of making others angry and defensive when you make a choice to change your life.

    I am not a closeted minimalist, partly because I probably do not qualify as a true minimalist.

    I had one family member who talked about wanting to put an addition on the house for more closet space despite the fact there were only 2 people living in the house, and 4 enormous walk-ins. I suggested (at a large family dinner) a healthy downsizing of stuff and a nice trip to the Goodwill. I was met with scorn. But she didn’t do the addition. Maybe I annoyed her, but maybe I also got her thinking. I wouldn’t choose that method again. It caused tension despite my good intentions.

    You are right though that you can’t change people, so I’ve stopped trying. I hounded my mother for years, and it’s been a waste of energy. These days I use my blog to describe what I’m doing and leave readers to figure out if that works for them. It’s less invasive, although I do get a lot of comments from friends in real life that it wouldn’t work for them for various reasons. The smile and nod method works well as a response.

  6. Sara says

    I don’t like telling people I send my daughter to private school because it seems to put people on the defensive, like I am judging them for sending their children to public school. I know they also know how much the tuition is, so I can see them processing that, too.

    I remember when I was a vegetarian, people would get so defensive about eating meat. It was like me being a vegetarian was an indictment on their eating habits.

    I can’t explain why people react as they do, but I understand why you aren’t more open about your “alternative” lifestyle!

    • theminimalistmom says

      I can see many reasons not to talk to other parents about education choices. Parenting is the most widely held job in the world. Everyone thinks they’re an expert (and they are, just on their own family, not everyone’s!).

  7. Minimalist Mommi says

    I’ve been in the closet to friends until I started my blog, which I “promoted” through FaceBook. Now I wonder if I have alienated friends, and if it comes across like I’m looking down upon how others live when my true intention is to share my thoughts, joy, frustrations, etc. on living with less. I guess you could say it’s my main passion in life. Some love surfing. Others love to read. I love to get rid of stuff and see how little we can live with. This is such an amazing article that basically says everything I want to tell people. Sharing now!

    • theminimalistmom says

      If I had to do things over again I probably wouldn’t put my blog on my personal Facebook page (when I had it). It definitely made some friends uncomfortable.
      Glad you enjoyed this piece =)

  8. Rebecca Halpern says

    The area we live in (a town next to Gatwick Airport, about 30 miles from London) is one where everybody aspires to live in a bigger (i.e. 4 bedroom) house, whether or not you actually need to. We have come to realise that we do not have the same aspirations – we have three children and want the best for them, but that includes travelling with them, giving them lots of experiences, good education (not private though), not just providing them with a large house for the sake of a large house. We will therefore probably be downsizing from a 3 bedroom house to a 3 bedroom flat nearer London in a few years time, to send them to better secondary schools than those in our area. Family are all too keen to give us things we may “need” but which we really don’t, it is difficult to say anything without hurting their feelings.

    • theminimalistmom says

      It is challenging to avoid hurting feelings when you have made choices that are against that status quo. My biggest tactic is to avoid conversations about our choices and discussing the reasons behind them. I’m very aware that how we run our household and the choices we make aren’t right for everyone.

  9. Apple says

    Not boasting about what makes us happy is part of being well mannered, I think. May this minimalism, being a vegetarian, liking to play computer games or going to the hairdresser every week. The fact that you tell people about your minimalist lifestyle if they are interested, yet do not shove it down on everyone’s throat probably means that you are comfortable with your lifestyle. That’s the most important thing, isn’t it?

    • theminimalistmom says

      Apple (Laura) you are spot on with this statement. It is about being well mannered. I do have a few people in my life that get on a soap box on day 2 of a lifestyle change. As expected, I do the smile and nod and don’t act too shocked when they decide a week later that X is not for them.

  10. Erin says

    I am totally in the closet too. The only person I talk about it with is my mother, but she totally gets me and has been calling me a minimalist for 25 years. Ha.

    Some of my friends are more naturally minimal, while others are not but aspire to be. Some aren’t at all minimalist and have no desire to live a more simple life. I tend to think people’s level of consumption is closely related to finances, and we all know that finances are a contentious subject for a lot of people. Thankfully, my friends and I do have other things in common, and so we find other things to talk about. So, as much as I would like to share with my friends that I’m on a major decluttering kick, I tend not to for fear that they will look at me like I have three heads. :)

    Thanks for giving us closet minimalists a place to chat!

    • theminimalistmom says

      I really find that in my circles of friends we’re too busy talking about parenting, hobbies, fitness or catching up on news to get into the nitty gritty of consumerism. Sure, it might come up that I’ve been using towels and clothes pegs to darken my son’s room at night (instead of buying something to stick to the window to block the light) but no one seems to care. Most of us are too busy living to worry about how others are spending their money, time or space.

  11. CatholicMommy says

    Great post! And although I rarely comment, I love reading your blog. I’m just trying not to clutter your comment area. ;-)

    Also, I thought the minimalist t-shirt was pretty funny… Doesn’t buying a t-shirt just to declare yourself a minimalist seem a bit hypocritical? :-)

  12. Rachel Denning says

    You make an awesome point here that I totally agree with.

    Personally, I used to always try to share with (and convince) others to do what I’m doing – simplifying, homeschooling, traveling, eating locally, etc.

    Now I am much wiser, and I realize that those who are interested will ask, and those who are ‘convinced against their will, are of the same opinion still’ (Abe Lincoln)

    Plus, I’m also much more respectful of others lifestyle choices as well, and believe that we each have our own journey. If what they’re doing now isn’t right for them, it will change on it’s own timing. You can trust in that process.

    Thanks for the post!

    • theminimalistmom says

      “If what they’re doing now isn’t right for them, it will change on it’s own timing. You can trust in that process.”

      So true. People change when they want to and when it’s the right time for them.

  13. Mary says

    Great post and great comments that followed. I’ve tried a few times to explain our simple living lifestyle and most of the time I receive very sad faces like there is something wrong with us. One person asked me if we were turning Amish or something. Funny how they said it like it was a disease. It’s O.K. I have all of you for my inspiration and that keeps my heart singing!

    • theminimalistmom says

      Turning Amish!! Hahaha! I think people were worried that we would eventually get rid of the couch and they would have to sit on the floor when they visited.

      I think minimalism has been a milestone in my gaining a better understanding of what really makes me happy and how I perform best. It was in my late 20′s that I finally realized I am an introvert and there’s nothing wrong with that. I learned to find my alone time to recharge so I could really enjoy when I was in groups of people. The living with less stuff has given Chris and I more clarity about what’s important to us.

      Glad your heart sings from reading and commenting here. Mine too =)

  14. Carol says

    Well, it’s my personality, I just can’t shut up about the things that happen to me (at least when it comes to the ones I have frequent contact with, like family and colleagues at work), at the same time I don’t want to preach either. So I always get to work on Monday excited, telling my coworkers that on the weekend I organized this and that, got rid of this and that, and about how it makes me feel good and relieved. Most people usually respond to this by encouraging me and say they’re just like me, that they try to be organized as well, that they do not have anything in excess, etc. After they say this, I do not go any further. I know that their notion of excess is different from mine and I just do not want to shock nor preach. Sometimes I wonder if I am not being sincere enough about who I am, because at this point people just think I’m an organized and practical person. Am I fooling everyone?

    • theminimalistmom says

      Let them be fooled. I wouldn’t worry about if you are being sincere enough or if your co-workers truly understand how much you have pared down. It doesn’t really matter. You’re happy and excited about your life – that’s what matters!

      • Carolina says

        I guess you’re right. Sometimes I am so worried about being honest that I forget I deserve some privacy!
        Cheers from Brazil :-)

  15. Sharron says

    I am mostly in the closet to, apart from my close friends and family who notice that my house is really sparse, i really don’t see the need for me to tell anyone. I certainly wouldn’t preach to anyone about it as i don’t like being preached to about other people’s lifestyles. If someone asks, i will tell them how i create order but i stay away from the word minmalist as i don’t want to put a label on it (i love labelling things, not lifestyle’s or people :) )

    I agree with you wholeheartdly about it being a catalyst for other changes, my life has just ‘took off’ since embaracing this lifestyle!!

    Sharron x

  16. Eva says

    Funny you consider yourself a closeted minimalist while writing a blog about it under your real name ;-)

    I’ve talked about minimalism with my parents, but try not to preach. This is sometimes hard for me, especially when I am very enthusiastic about it. I just try to remind myself that, as you said, people change when they want to. If I talk about it, it’s more to explain how it has helped me, not how it can help them.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Touche!

      Yes, I do forget that people Google names regularly. I am assuming that is how new acquaintances found this blog.

      I feel closeted in that it’s not something I bring up in conversation.

  17. Karen (Scotland) says

    Hmm, I do tend to bring it up quite often, through enthusiasm more than anything. The decluttering has taken (and still is taking) a lot of time so when people ask what I’ve been up to and I say “Oh, sorting out another cupboard”, it usually expands into explaining why I’m steadily emptying our house of excess – cupboards, TV channels, books, DVDs, kitchen equipment – and why I’m not replacing “stuff” with more “stuff”.

    My minimalism has a very green tinge to it so I have to be careful not to judge friends (actually, family, as in my sister!) for whom shopping is a ritualistic exercise of consumption.

    I find that most people are positive and understand the WHY of decluttering. Not sure if that expands to them understanding why I’ve worn the same three or four tunic/maxi dresses all summer…

    Karen (Scotland)

    • theminimalistmom says

      Do people really notice if you wear the same thing often? I really think they don’t. At least most people don’t. Maybe if you are really into fashion you might notice and mentally catalog your friends outfits.

      Been wearing the same pair of jeans, two skirts and leggings all summer. About to switch over to fall clothing. Stormy here today.

  18. Barbara says

    Good topic! Close friends and family know that I am a minimalist at heart and wouldn’t dream of buying me a gift on my birthday or other events…they’ve all been well trained! :) But I don’t talk about it much at work unless someone else brings up needing to de-clutter but even then I don’t go into great detail. I have the cleanest, most minimally outfitted office at work and people always want to meet in my space since it is “nicer”. It isn’t actually any nicer than the other offices but it feels airy and bigger since it isn’t full of clutter. If I get compliments on my clothes I often tell folks that they were purchased at Goodwill or a resale shop (when they were) because I dress very professionally and everyone is shocked that I don’t spend a fortune on my clothes.

  19. Idania says

    I find that your blog is an inspiration! But I think that you are balancing yourself well; you do your own thing without being preachy, and if anyone is interested, then they can ask you your opinion or read your blog!

    I am by no means a minimalist, but:
    -we have sold our house and moved into a rental for a year, because we will be heading overseas next summer. We decided not to keep the house because the rental market is not good where we are.
    -I have my work cut out for me at the moment, because although we de-cluttered the house in order to stage the house, it was really pushed into the garage.
    -on a positive note, it showed us how we can live well with less. And my husband is totally on board with de-cluttering-and I didn’t have to nag!

    The biggest challenge I have now is to go through our ‘precious belongings’ and let go. Funny thing is, I enjoy visiting my friend’s houses, and seeing their new purchases, and their cool gadgets! But I know that since we will be moving overseas, there’s not much point in putting things in storage if I’m not going to be using it for 8-10 years at a time!

    Sheesh! I’d better stop with the verbage! But I hope that I can make big strides over the next year. I always look forward to see what you have written!

    • theminimalistmom says

      We did something similar to stage our condo a few years ago. Most of the clutter was shoved into our storage locked. The condo sold quickly but we just lugged the clutter to the next place.

      Good luck on your move. How exciting!

  20. s.e. says

    For me, it’s like other unusual areas of my life I don’t talk about minimalism. I just tell people that we cutting down on what we own so that an eventual move will be easier on us. I know that I will have my parents’ really full house to deal with and I also tell people that I am getting rid of extra stuff now so my kids won’t have to do it. We have lived in this house for 15 years and we have 5 kids, only 2 now live at home. We lived in this house without the extension for 8 years and all 4 boys shared one (small) room. People have always thought we were weird (for example we never ad more than 1 bathroom for all 7 of us and we haven’t owned a car for 2 years).
    I really enjoy reading your blog even though I am long past the baby and toddler stage, we live in Canada too:)

  21. Momma Jorje says

    I… am a big mouth. When I’ve got a new obsession, I just can not keep it to myself. And I will talk about *anything.* Perhaps, however, this is why people sometimes think I come off as “better” than them. I certainly don’t suggest minimalism for everyone, but when you watch things like The Story of Stuff… its hard to deny that our species could benefit from some minimalism ideas.

  22. Lauren says

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/all_UpOxVI0fL4OANQb7mlaGoO?utm_campaign=Post10&utm_source=Post10Alpha

    This NY Post article is an interesting read on how we’ve been primed to make 9 out of 10 purchases going as far back as utero. Makes you think about what our “needs” really are.

    “All consuming
    How stores scan you, suck you in and make you spend more”

    Last Updated: 6:07 AM, September 18, 2011

    Posted: 10:07 PM, September 17, 2011

  23. gwyneth says

    When I suddenly found myself a single mom of four, I decided that it was time to clean out the house, and found myself more and more attracted to minimalist living and simplifying. For the peace it brought, and the ease it added to my already full plate of things to do. Plus, it was better than choosing to wallow, by getting more ‘things’.
    I set out to reduce by 50%, the things we owned. Many donations, ebay, and one huge tag sale later I was down about 35%. But, I can see even now how I can reduce what it left by 50% again.
    The kids have been great with it. Probably the worst part for me (and something I yet to fully tackle) is getting rid of books. Things like Cable TV, extra dishes, games and movies were so easy to get rid of, and never missed since.

    I really enjoy your blog!

  24. Paula says

    What a great blog!

    I like your concept of keeping it in the closet. I to the contrary tried to convince my mother of letting go of stuff and all attempts ended in arguments. I would love to support my dad, who would love to de-clutter, too. Since the last arguments (half a year ago) I don’t bring up the concept of a minimal lifestyle but rather support my mother when she tells me what clutter she just gave a away recently and how she finanlly started to get rid of those walls of books.

  25. Kim says

    I’m from Vancouver and just found your blog last night as Iwas searching for some inspiration to tackle decluttering in my 3 kids’ rooms before the start of school. I am happy to report that as a result of this morning’s activities we now have 8 grocery store bags full of clothes for the donation bin, 2 large bags of boy clothes for friends with a young son, and 2 HUGE bags of girl clothes for another friend with two younger girls, plus a bag of stuffy toys for donation. It feels good! I also feel like I’m just scratching the surface. I plan to keep checking your blog for future inspiration.
    Cheers!

  26. Valerie says

    Minimalism as a lifestyle choice, with a name, is new to me, to our family as well.
    I was so excited when I realized that stuff was dragging me down, that I didn’t actually need everything I owned; and it was actually making me unhappy to have it all. I wanted to purge 50% of what we had. I couldn’t help telling everyone about it. My friends and my mother were/are very supportive. However, in my quest to also teach my children “more is not better, it is just more” and asking family not to purchase so much for the kids, I have deeply offended and upset my in-laws. It is something that seems to important and so silly all at once. I will definitely be far more careful about what I say from now on.

  27. Marie says

    Hello,
    I discovered your blog recently, and wish I had read this post earlier. I am on my way to becoming a minimalist (it as a journey after all, to minimalism, I don’t know if the goal is ever achieved…), and as I usually like to share about things that makes me excited and happy, I have tried to convince a lot of people, both family and friends… And probably alienated a lot of them… The idea of sharing in a blog is good, as only interested people will read it (and enables us to let go of trying to convince people who are not ready or receptive…) Being a minimalist is also being able to be someone of a few words as well as a few things, to listen instead of talk, and to know when not to share something that the other person is not ready to ear, even (and especially) if we are convinced to be right. The path to minimalism is hard! But I am learning. Thanks so much for your great blog!

  28. Erin says

    Crusading around never gets anyone to change. If I feel the urge to do this, I get to look at WHY I want them to change; it is always about me. What am I uncomfortable with, and why? Kuddos to you – this is a lovely, helpful blog for this minimalist!

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