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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  • Firstly Henry looks so cute – he has grown!
    Secondly thank you for the link, it was a great post to write as it is based on what I do in practice.

    In terms of adapting, as my one of my aims is to spend as little as possible I am always trying to think of alternatives and ways round things. For example we have started biking to school and I don’t normally wear a helmet (I know very naughty!) – the kids do of course. But I felt I ought to be setting an example particularly as we are biking to school. So instead of buying one I use the Hubby’s (mountain bike fanatic that he is – he definitely needs to wear one some of the downhills he does!). It fits perfectly. Job done, no cash spent and one less item cluttering the garage.

  • A friend and I take turns getting our children to and from school. I do mornings and she does afternoons, which means I don’t have to wake my son from his afternoon nap. SWEET!

    • Nice. Love this!! Time is a great thing to swap and save. I do a sitting swap with a friend of mine twice a week. Great playdate for Henry and we both love having some child-free time during the week.

        • It’s been a good arrangement for us. I really like the family we swap with and I LOVE my afternoon of ‘adult’ time during the week. Of course, we still shell out for a babysitter every other week for date night. We could swap for that too, and my someday, but right now it’s within our budget to get a sitter.

  • I´ve starting selling things on swedish ebay. Also instead of go grocery shopping I use what we have at home for example cous cous witch we usually don´t eat that often… And we always have something in the freezer we can use for a meal, even though I´ve stopped shopping for the freezer. There´s always something left for one or two meals. I´ve been reading your blog for about 2-3 weeks and I really like it, not that good at leaving a comment since I read and understand english but find it pretty hard to write down my thoughts… :) Tonight I´m thinking about letting my children (3 and years old) go through their clothes and sort out things that they never use and give to charity. I really like your blog, thank you!

  • Funny about the “toddler” bowls… I’ve been leary of all the utensils and flatware designed specifically for little ones from the start (especially because most of the are licensed disney whatever, in other words, ugly!) A couple of years ago the church we went to got rid of a massive amount of melamine ware that they used for potlucks in days gone by… in the process of downsizing our stuff in the last of 4 moves since then I pitched all of it but 4 little bowls, two cake plates and two teacups and saucers. These have become our 10 month old’s favorite kitchen toys, snack receptacles and dinnerware (when she eats, still mostly breastfed ;). Oh and we invested in one “training cup” that she already uses without the “sippy” component very well.

    As to other simplifications – I would have to write an essay! Down to one car that hubby uses mostly for work. Babe and I walk everywhere we can… we only go to the grocery store once a week, we got rid of several kitchen appliances – including our coffeemaker – because we never use them (we have a french press, teapot and electric kettle)… the biggest things have been simply giving ourselves a week or two to think about any purchase that would add to our home. We’ve talked ourselves out of so many things!

  • I definitely find myself using what I have more creatively as I work on downsizing and becoming more minimalist! It’s the same approach I used as a student really, with a minimal amount of things in my student house and no money to buy more…

    One pair of jeans will definitely last a week, with a couple of tops and some different scarves and jewellery to change things up. A shallow soup bowl works equally well for a portion of lasagne or for eating popcorn during a movie. My phone functions as my alarm clock and my flexible book light also works as a torch in winter when we’re struggling across a dark field back to our car after work. The more adaptable you are the better, I think!

  • love this post, this site everything! people look at me like im crazy if i even DARE talk about wanting to buy less or things i do to minimize what i spend/have/throw away. its obsurd really. i realise everyone has their own way abou thtings, but seriously, there needn’t be a ‘norm’ or set standard at what you HAVE to buy/have!

    for instance, i tel someone we dont have cable tv. i get the look, like i grew something on my face that could eat them. how can i survive without cable tv???? simple. for us its netflix. just the instant play so we dont have to buy extra things to watch tv. spending 100$ a month to watch tv on someone else schedule is beyond me! (btw we share internet with our nice neighbor with his permission of course, he mainly has the cable package for the tv and doesn’t even use the internet! so we do things for him like cook or bring in his garbage or paper instead of buying internet)

    also get the look when we say how bg our house is. we rent a modest two bedroom, for myself, my husband and our 4 yr old. (we will be having twin boys here in the next few months and our family will grow thats for sure) but we could find a bigger place, but i like our neighborhood, big back yard, etc so we are moving next door that has one tiny extra space on it so we can be ‘legal’. i dont see the point in spending 200+ extra a month for a bigger house when we all fit nicely and theres room for growth.

    i recently took away all the extra plates and bowls and cups that were cluttering my sink and countertop since we, if given the opportunity, are lazy at times and let the dishes pile up. much less piling up now and less clutter making me crazy.

    moving will be great for me as i declutter best in a pinch. sorry for the long winded post. i obviously havent learned to declutter replies! lol

  • When my kids were younger everyone thought I was crazy because I did not baby proof my house. I did not buy baby gates etc. as my theory was they needed to learn and I would never remember to close them anyway. I am happy to report that all are safe and sound.
    I try to teach them skills, my daughter was 5 when I taught her to use a knife to help me cut strawberries (helps at breakfast rush).

    Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, let them use glass glasses etc. just maybe not the crystal ones!!

    • Everyone thought I was malicious for not gating our stairs when my daughter was younger. Guess what? She survived and thrived. Everyone was amazed at how well she could walk up and down stairs when she was younger.

  • First of all, I love your blog and the idea behind it! I’ve been reading it now, for about 6 month, since I first found the link on the facebook page.
    Being Swiss, living in Switzerland, some things you write are natrual to me. Like not having a car, riding my bike to work and shopping and taking buses and trains almost everywhere. When we do need a car, are we members of a car sharing organisation, which has cars in almost every town in the country.
    The reason for me trying to go minimalist is all the clutter we have, and having a 14 months old daughter does not help. So I try to reduce our stuff step by step. But it takes time… specially as I work outside the house during the day, and my husband who stays at home with my daughter is not so much into it yet.
    Regarding the children plate issue, we give our 14 months old normal small breakfast plates to eat from and so far they stayed on the table. we got one plastic plate, which we were given, but this one goes flying much easier as it is very light… we just watch her when she eats, once she gets bored we have to take the plate away, other wise the food as well as the plate get cleaned of the table by her.
    We kind of did the “Baby let weaning” with her, so she started to feed herself as early as she was able to sit in her high chair on the table with us, which was aroung 6 month. By the way she loves corn from the cop (though I cut them in about 1 inch wheels).
    Thanks for your inspiration!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Claudia. We did a bit of baby led weaning too and it really easy a minimalist way to introduce solids. So easy to just offer whatever we are eating (within in reason, no tough foods or nuts) and let my son feed himself.

      • LOL
        Also in Switzerland… our youngest daughter demanded the curried shrimp the rest of the extended family were eating when she was just over 6 mths!!! We tentatively offered her one and she loved it, still one of her favourite treats. For her 1st birthday we went to a Mexican restaurant, thinking she could have the bland stuff, but oh no, when her big sister handed over her spicy dish after just a bite, it was Baby Girl who grabbed it and finished it with gusto: while being serenaded!! Very cute. She’s 16 now and took no harm from enjoying the odd spicy food from a very young age!!

  • We no longer have plastic cups or plates at our house. Once they get scratched they may leach out harmful chemicals and who wants that for their children. I did replace some of the plastic with glass. Especially for my oldest daughter and husband who like those very large liter size cups. In the 3 years we stopped using the plastic and use glass only, we have managed to break 1 glass, and that was while washing it. It was dropped in the kitchen. I understand that my children are older but at the time my youngest was 4, an age where many children are still drinking out of sippy cups. To make his transition easier we used tea cups or coffee mugs(handles made it easier to hold)

    • At almost two my son is pretty good with a cup at meals. It’s required some patience on our part and practice on his but well worth it.

      I think I have broken more glasses than you in the 4 months since we’ve been in our flat =( Don’t tell our landlord!

  • Shame about those bamboo utensils. (Looked great on a picture you posted before.)

    Once you set your mind to it, adapting is not too hard…and it can be fun! When the kids were very little, I had lots of terry cloths (they were used as nappies in the 60s-70s), and used these to wipe their face, hands, as a bib, rolled it into a ball and to play with, in the summer as a bandera and a few times even as a nappy. I still use them in the kitchen, instead of paper towels.

    • It was a really nice set and I know she spent quite a bit of $ on it =(

      Nice work on reusing those towels. I’ll but cutting some of our cloth diapers up into kitchen and cleaning rags when we are done with them.

  • What is with the bamboo? We too received some bamboo cutlery when T was born and it was ready to be tossed in the trash within a very short period of time. Kind of defeats the purpose of buying “eco-friendly” products when you just have to keep consuming.

    Anywho, here’s where I’m at: One pair of jeans and less than 30 articles of clothing total, with no desire for any more. Share a cell phone with my husband (and it’s 12 years old!). Kids share a room in our tiny condo. Donated a few vases at the beginning of the year, keeping only three special ones – but haven’t used those this year, so not sure what to do with them! Hubby takes the car to work daily, so we take the “walking school bus” to school each morning and home again. Wish I could pare down the grocery bill, that is like a pipe dream for me. We do still have some small plastic bowls and plates, but I assure you, if they were to break I certainly would not be replacing them. :) Looking forward to tossing the last two sippy cups in our home in the near future!

    • Wow! Nice work, Erin. Haven’t done a count yet but think I am around the same for myself for fall clothes.

      If you can believe it, groceries here in the Isle of Man are even more expensive than downtown Van. Eeek.

  • Love to hear ideas about this!

    When our microwave broke down a few months ago, we decided not to buy a new one. I realized I just used it to warm up milk for my coffee, and I can do that in a pan. I love our clear kitchen counter so much more without the big old ugly microwave sitting there!

    I am also in the one pair of jeans club! Love to hear other people are doing it too. I am a bit afraid people find me weird, but I guess you’re right and nobody notices!

    • Why do we worry so much if people notice? I couldn’t tell you what a friend was wearing yesterday or last week so I wouldn’t notice if they are repeating outfits. I figure others have the same poor memory or don’t care too. =)

  • I only have one pair or jeans too!! No one notices. I do like to have two pair. One pair to wear around the house and another pair to wear out! The knees in my jeans tend to fade/get white/wear out quickly. I am always playing on the floor with my kids. And unlike most people I know, I wash the floor on my hands and knees, so that will wear on the knee area of jeans as well. If my jeans didn’t show wear and tear so easily I would only EVER have one pair. Right now I am all most down to my next size in my weight loss program and so I won’t be buying another pair until the knees wear out and and I can fit into the next size down!!

    Love the website. I am slowly getting rid of my kids toys. They have so many they don’t play with hardly any of them. I have 4 kids, so you can imagine how many we have. They mostly play outside and that is the way I like it. They do have quite a few outside toys, but I’m ok with that! The inside toys will be mostly gone and only a few that they always play with will reside in their closet. The games, most will stay as we play them ALOT as well as the puzzles.
    To each his own!! right?
    My mother-inlaw didn’t realize how many toys we had until we moved and they were more in the open when we took her on a tour of the basement. The thing is, it is her and my sister in-laws that bought 99% of them. Every time we see them, they have some toy/piece of junk for each of my four kids. That slowly adds up and the bad part is we already had some garage sales and I tossed alot of stuff that was broken.

  • LOVE IT! I try and avoid anything geared specifically towards children because I often think about how kids didn’t have those things even 100 years ago, and those kids grew up just fine. We use our general ceramic dishes for our kiddos too. We bought an extra cheap Ikea set since we knew many would be broken by kiddos, and we would be able to have enough matching pieces even when some broke.

    I’m almost over doing an exclusive month of shopping locally, and I’m finding it much easier to adapt to (other than nuts and flour). Plus, it’s saving us money somehow. I love only having to go grocery shopping 1x a week to one place…and never having to bargain hunt.

    • Wow, that is impressive to shop locally for a month. I could do it for a month here but there are limited fruit and veg grown on the island so it would be a long month of root vegetables. We already eat local dairy and meat and could get local eggs too.

  • Henry is looking adorable! :)

    J and I have been talking about weaning (it’s a few months off yet, but hey…) and I am adamant that we won’t clutter our kitchen with a whole bunch of toddler-specific dinnerware. We certainly didn’t have sippy cups and special snack bowls when we were kids! The only things I think we can truly justify are one set of toddler utensils (ours are inappropriately sized and weighted for a baby/toddler’s hands) and plastic cups, because it’s just too easy for a wet glass to slip or get knocked over and break. But that’s it. I think it’s better to teach him not to throw his dishes/cups from the start – why allow him to do something inappropriate that he’s going to have to unlearn later?

    We have thus far managed to avoid the invasion of the big clunky plastic things (exersaucers, lounge seats, play gyms, etc.), and if we do eventually decide that we need something like that, I’ll be buying it used on Craigslist and then re-selling as soon as he’s finished with it.

    As Oliver outgrows clothes (way faster than I ever expected!!), I look at each piece and either put it in the give away pile, or into a box to save for a future kid. I’m being fairly ruthless — if it’s in somewhat shabby condition or if there was something annoying about its functionality, it goes.

    Also, thanks to one of your posts on what to do with baby gifts, I sorted through all of our gifts and quickly got rid of (returned, exchanged, Craigslisted or donated) everything that we weren’t going to need. Now I have a bunch of useful store credits for future use, and some clothes in bigger sizes (since I’d already purchased everything for 0-6 months).

    Although we are far from being minimalists, and probably never will be, your blog has made me much more aware of our consumption/accumulation habits. We are now much more judicious about what we hang on to and what we bring into our home, and it feels great to not be slaves to so many belongings.

    • Well done, C. I am impressed with no Exersaucer, etc yet. Great to hear you were organized from the start and returned things for store credit or donated what you didn’t need. It can build up so quickly!

      Hope you and little Oliver are doing well. Really enjoying your blog! Any chance you’ll post some workout from home videos or workout suggestions? I think they would be a hit.

      • That’s a great idea, actually – thanks! I’ve been cutting myself a lot of slack in the workout department lately because I was getting really frustrated by failing to meet my (perhaps unrealistic) expectations with regard to the amount of time I would have for working out in the early weeks. Instead I’m focusing on my diet and on just getting organized/settled/adjusted to our new life. But once I’m back in the swing of a regular workout routine, I think that would be a really fun addition to the blog.

        • I was very frustrated in the early days too. Workout consistency just wasn’t possible. You’re right focus on the things you can control right now: diet and getting settled and adjusting.

          Workout routines/videos: I think there is an untapped market for workout routines and short videos specifically for moms to do from home. Intense, Crossfit style, workouts that is (loads of others as you know). I looked for a while and didn’t really find anything that suited what I needed. There is (okay) and those Jillian Micheals Shred videos (good but not Crossfit intensity or lifts, etc).

          • is borderline pornography :) I mean, she’s in absolutely amazing shape, but I’m not so sure that the majority of her audience is women trying to emulate her…

  • Great post! We use small plastic food containers from the shop as the boys’ bowls. They have matching lids so I can also use them for storage. I use a wine bottle for a rolling pin. My everyday clothes are kept in a cardboard nappy box.

    I too feel the pain of family/friends giving too much stuff. We are making October “no new stuff for the kids” month. They need to get used to being ok with the heap of things they already have!

  • We sold our houses and finally moved into an RV. We got rid of most of our belongings. Our RV is 365 sqft. It came with furniture already, so we didn’t have to buy, but a chair for my husband’s office. It’s great. Because our space is so small I can’t buy anything because there’s no room. It’s great. Our goal is to live with only 20% of our income. almost there!

  • I like these kinds of posts. There is so much rubbish out there, and especially for young kids. It seems the market has grown and crowded out a lot of people’s common sense and instincts. When my grandson was born (my own girls are 27, 21, 16) the only thing I could find in the baby store that he actually needed was a car seat – my eldest daughter never even had that, she was transported in a basket on the back seat, it was just the times! – other than that, everything that was for sale for really high prices was basically unnecessary. Poor grandson still doesn’t get much in the way of gifts from us because he has everything and more and there’s nothing he needs! With our kids, we used inherited towels as bedclothes, blankets, underlay, wipes, you name it. We changed on the bed, sofa or floor without interrupting play and with little danger of falling. The babies were breastfed so we didn’t need bottles. They had cow’s milk, yoghurt and quark in quantities from the age of about 6 mths if they wanted it and have no allergies. They drank water or herbal teas or milk from cups or glasses. The ate what we did for the most part, no “children’s” foods. They played with what was around and didn’t need as many toys as they had. I grew up with stories of all that my mom and grandmother didn’t have and yet they had very happy childhoods… Nice to read of other moms who have plain common sense and healthy instincts!

  • Last year my in-laws gave us their old dinner wear set (I think partially because my mother-in-law hated that all of our plates were purposely mismatched). We just use the smaller type of plates for Peanut. We have some small made-for-kids bowls my mother bought for her (still trying to get her to realize Peanut doesn’t need so much) and honestly I’m thinking of throwing them out. I end up filling them up twice anyway.

    Also, I only ever have one pair of jeans. In the summer I’ll also have a pair of shorts and maybe a pair of capris, but I don’t see the point in more than one pair. My mother was really trying to talk me into a pair of maternity jeans at Target last week when I was shopping for some yoga pants, but I just couldn’t see myself spending $35 on a pair of jeans that I’ll wear for 3 more months. Honestly, the only reason I bought the yoga pants is because I refuse to leave the house in my pjs. 😛

  • I’ve been reading for a while, but this is my first comment. Time to stop lurking, methinks. :)

    I keep thinking that we really need to do more to minimalize the junk we’ve accumulated over the years, but then when I was thinking about what I could write about here, I realized that we do a lot already.

    We don’t own a car, we walk, bike, use transit or our local car share co-op if we absolutely need a vehicle. We borrow or use hand-me-downs for as much baby clothing/gear as possible. When we outfitted the baby’s room, we used some furniture we already had & chose other pieces that would work until he’s an adult. Instead of buying a change table we got a wide, low dresser & put a change pad on top. We did baby-led weaning too–I can’t imagine having to deal with the blender/food mill, plus all the spoons & bowls or baby food jars on a daily basis. We rarely buy books or magazines–we borrow them from the library or I often download free ebooks on my phone. We gave away our TV recently, which allows more time for the reading. :)

    On the other hand, we have two rooms in the house plus the garage that are taken over entirely by stored clutter, plus my wardrobe is ridiculously large. I keep putting off tackling those issues. :S

    • These are great examples of being adaptable. For us, changing our lifestyle hasn’t just been about hauling junk away. It’s about making smart choices, using what you have and reducing what you use. Sounds like you are doing a lot of that already.

  • Hello!

    I guess this is my first comment here.

    Just today I adapted to own fewer things because our gratin dish cracked. It was the 2nd of two, now there is no ceramic dish left.

    Before that I already owned my grandmother’s old gratin dish which is approx. 30% larger than the cracked ceramic one that fell apart today.

    I went to the living room, with the broken dish in my hands and informed Mr Paula “From now on, we will have to cook larger quantities, because the large dish is all we have left”

    It would be nice, buying a new ceramic dish, probably french made, blue on the outside, champagne on the inside. But I won’t. I will use the bigger dish and buy 30% apples for the next apple crumble I will bake. And the leftovers? Well, they won’t last long for sure. And would make a nice appearance in the deep freezer for a snack another day.

  • What a great post!! :)

    When my boyfriend and I moved into a smaller apartment this past summer, we realized we had very limited kitchen counter space (something we kind of really wanted anyway). So we decided not to purchase a microwave (our old one was built into the condo we were renting). We’ve been living without it for 6 months and don’t miss it at all. Whenever we need to reheat leftovers, we simply do it over the stove. The only time it was a ‘problem’ was the first week when I had a craving for popcorn – I bought the microwavable kind. We had a good laugh about it because we didn’t realize it until a week later. I ended up taking it to work, so it all worked out.

    It’s so fun to explore different ways to do things that aren’t always the ‘easy’ way. :)

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