one size doesn’t fit all

Source: via Rachel on Pinterest


I’m officially calling the last nine days “PlagueFest 2012” for our family. The previous weekend saw me bed ridden with the flu. I knew things were serious when I had no appetite and my internal organs felt bruised. Chris took care of Henry for the weekend while I sipped water and alternated between shivering and sweating.

Chris left Sunday afternoon for a week long work trip. By that point I was upright on the couch and things were improving. I was hopeful that with the worst of it over I would rally for a productive week of solo parenting.


Henry had a fever early in the week and spent 24 hours clinging to me. He seemed to rally for a day and then… stomach flu hit. I was thrown up on a few times and again, have spent most of my days holding him and doing not much of anything (except vigilantly washing my hands so that I didn’t get the stomach bug from him).

Oh, and Chris fell ill with the flu while on his trip. Not sure which one of us got the worst deal: travel when sick or almost a week as a shut-in with a sick child.

How does this tie into minimalism and simple living?

I am so thankful for lots of towels and the three sets of bedsheets in our home. Our flat is a furnished rental and it came with a well stocked linen closet. Lots of bed sheets and towels have been a good thing with a toddler with stomach flu.

I’m also thankful for multiple sets of pajamas. We have three that are the current size, two that were in the ‘box away for mythical second child’ pile because they were a touch small and one wearable but too large set that were a Christmas gift. I used all of them in a 48 hour period.

Are lots of pajamas and linens minimalist? No. But as I’ve written here before, I’m not into count it all and live with next to nothing type of minimalism. I just don’t think it’s possible for most people in the first world to get down to a backpack and one box of possessions and still enjoy their life.

However, I continue to be excited by the idea of making less stuff work for the rest of us. You can pick and choose. You can scale to your lifestyle, hobbies and home. You can empty out your garage but still keep your treasured coffee mug collection. You can donate 20% of your wardrobe and reap the benefits of less.

It’s not all or nothing. It’s not one size fits all. Sometimes that feels like a burden, there are no checklists or one right way to scale down your possessions. But it’s also what makes it possible for everyone to get the benefit of less. Even if it’s just emptying one closet in your house this year. Even if it’s not doing any de-cluttering but making a commitment to buy less stuff.

Are there any areas of your life, any collections or equipment for hobbies, that you have left as is? Our big one is electronics. We did get rid of a few things of my husband’s before we moved overseas but between us we have three iPods (one is a tiny running one), an iPad, two laptops, work laptop, work keyboard/monitor/laptop dock, external hard drive, AppleTV, two cell phones, wireless router and printer/scanner. Not minimalist in the slightest.


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  • The thought of a stomach flu has crosses my mind. The year we had it, DD only threw up three times during one night. After the first time we put her on top of a large towel. We only have two sets of sheets, but I think three sets would not be excessive, then potential house guests would be covered too, as well as soiling the sheets for one reason or another. DD has two pajamas which we rotate, they are wool terry to keep her warm in the winter. We also have a spare one which is velour and not so warm, and it’s almost too small for her. If we ran out of pajamas I would just dress her in sweats during night until we had a clean dry pajama again.. I think two pajamas is enough and three is not excessive either, but more than that we don’t need.
    We are like you in that we have a lot of computer stuff, we have two desks for our computers, but my husband has also a couple of laptops and some other stuff that he uses to work. I hate using laptops so I’m not going minimal there.. I don’t have iPads or iPods or whatever though, just a crappy old cell phone.

    • There was a lot of throwing up :( Did some sheet changing and then put him on a towel. Then another towel. Then another towel…. poor thing!

      Our home doesn’t have space for a desk but we really need one for my husband’s work monitor/dock/keyboard. Right now we have it set up on one side of our dining table. We’ve considered getting a small desk but there isn’t a good place to put. This is the downside of living in a furnished flat!

      Oh, our cell phones are crappy and old too :) I’ve been surprised at how poor the sound quality is on these older phones. Don’t use it much so it’s not a big deal.

  • I think the point of minimalism to me to to only have stuff that I want, need and regularly use. All of the items you have mentioned (kids’ pyjamas etc.) are things that get used. Your technology also gets used, especially as things like computers do so much now. I think the things I still want to get rid of are things that just sit upstairs in the cupboard and only see the light of day when we move house, only to be put into a cupboard at the new house. Things like wine glasses, for example, may seem useful for that (non-existent in our case) potential party, but if we really did have that party, we could get some cheap plastic glasses. I have got rid of a lot of stuff in the last year, but still seem to have so much, but with three children it is easy to end up with quite a few “things”.

    • only have stuff that I want, need and regularly use.

      Yes! And I say this and we stored our pretty, expensive and fragile wine glasses back in Canada. Wonder if/when we will use them again…

  • One size doesn’t fit all describes very well my approach to simple living. Many things have left our house and I try to be mindful of what comes in except for books ;o)
    Those are my lifeline and I can’t imagine living without it. Once I year I go through my shelves and donated every book I don’t have need for or that I will never read. A couple boxes go to the local library and I feel so much better for it

  • Thanks for this. I tend to go through phases of trying to pare down what we don’t need, and blowing the idea off altogether because it doesn’t feel right to get rid of certain things, or to pare down just for the sake of it when I’m not able to find a responsible way to get rid of things. I really appreciate your reminder that we don’t have to get rid of everything to minimize.

    In our household, the toughest thing to part with is books. We value them so highly that we hang on to every one, and many I know none of us will ever crack the cover of again. Going through those is a big goal of mine for the near future!

    • You don’t have to get rid of everything and you don’t have to do it all at once. We’ve probably gone to the more extreme end than a lot of families but I know we got a lot out our early decluttering.

  • On size certainly does not fit all, neither does it every situation! Agree! It’s about applying common sense. To pare down to a point that is unworkable for you as a family is counterproductive, and will make a simple life more complicated. I’ll use loo rolls as an example! :-) We have so few things in our bathroom cupboard that I can buy double the amount of loo rolls we require and store them effectively. Therefore why not? It’s because I do not have an abundance of useless items that I can have copious amounts of toilet tissue!

  • I can definitely relate to this! My linen closet is something I struggle with paring down for this exactly reason. I have 3 children ranging in age from 2-5. When the sickies hit our house there is no such thing as having too many blankets. We have 3 sets of sheets per bed: 1 fleece set, 1 flannel set, and 1 summer cotton set. My worst nightmare happened when my eldest son got the stomach flu and my washer broke on the same day. I was definitely glad that we were prepared because we used every single sheet and blanket in our house that weekend.

    • I keep reminding myself that we’re in a ‘stage’ of life with a young child. As we all get older our household needs will change. For now, thankful I had enough around to get through the stomach flu :)

  • Oh no that sounds nasty.
    We too have been plagued by sickness, in 3 weeks I’ve had 3 home from school with stomach flu, anxiety issues and strep… and I agree with the sheets. Thankfully we have 3 single beds so the sheets are interchangeable and we have 4 duvets. The extra is 100% necessary, it was great to have while potty training, amazing for sickness and is also great for the sleep overs.
    We also have LOTS of pajamas, most were gifts and as long as they fit into the drawer I don’t worry about it. I think my youngest has at least 12 pairs, but my eldest only 2 or 3.

    You are completely right about the one size does not fit all – I applied this to my kids this weekend, when I needed to cut down my eldest daughters clothes. She was taking far too long getting ready each morning because she could not decide what to wear. I came to the conclusion that I should take half of her stuff an give it to her younger sister, surprisingly both are VERY happy about the situation.

    Hope you are all feeling better now!

    • Thanks, KT. Good reminder about potty training and the need for extra sheet sets. I don’t see us having a minimal linen closet for a few years. Hope the sickness has left your house – almost done here, husband is still under the weather.

  • Camping gear! When you are trying to replicate a complete home somewhere remote it’s next to impossible to downsize. I know I have less camp gear than most of my friends and they compliment me on my organization, but at the same time, I know some backpacking friends who have no problem skipping the tent and the sleeping bag for the sake of making it all fit in their pack. It’s just not for us, we’re a family and I have to be able to lay my kids down for bed in a tent and have a hot meal ready the next day. Minimalism makes me look at my things with a critical eye yet lets me keep the things that mean comfort and function.

  • Sorry to hear you have all been under the weather! We have a minimal linen closet, but do have at least one set of back-up sheets for each bed – I seem to have an abundance of fleece blankets, so if I am ever in a pinch in the middle of the night, I would just use the fleece blankets instead of sheets until I could get the washer running. And for pyjamas, my kids have now gotten to an age where they don’t even wear pj’s, they like to wear comfy pants and t-shirts to bed – which makes it even less likely that they will run out of things to wear in the event they are sick (given that t-shirts seem to multiply all by themselves in their closet!) There are a couple of areas of my life that are decidedly un-minimalist (bath products, anyone?), but I’m working hard to not add anything more to them this year!

  • With 5 kids, I definitely have a large pile of towels and extra sheets. I don’t have lots of jammies, but then my kids like wearing sweats so I figure the sweats serve as backup.
    I agree about the one size does not fit all. We’re a larger family with a wide range of ages. I’ve pared down where I could, and certainly when my youngest is potty trained, I’ll be able to pare down more. However, right now, I save money by holding on to certain items like clothes and bikes. If I’m not using these items, I’ll lend them out until we need them.

    • Lending stuff out until you need it is a great way to let other people store your stuff :) I recommend it for baby gear if you’re done with it but planning on having another child.

  • Thank you for this reminder, and hope you all feel better soon.

    Having struggled and reached equilibrium in the electronics and books departments, I find three areas in my life resist the minimal approach:

    1. Kitchen things. If I didn’t have to earn a living and did not eventually run out of groceries and counter space to dry things on, I’d cook all day. It’s relaxing. I’m not that fond of washing up at once, however, so I’m liable to reach for a fresh baking tin or pot. But I really need to let the less-used, lower-quality pans go and keep the ones more frequently called on because they are versatile and a pleasure to use. And I’m still cooking for a better, practical alternative to my overflowing cookbook library.

    2. Underclothes. I’m paranoid about running out of clean undies. Pajamas, not so much — as long as there are clean vests (or bras) and pants, you can make do. But I suspect 10 pairs per person should be enough, and I don’t REALLY need the 24 (or so) I tend to lay in to get through the week — much too many, short of outright calamitous scenarios.

    3. Keepsakes. The hardest one. The dress my Dad made me when I was one. My grandmother’s iron chest and wedding ring. A portrait of my mother I drew when I was 10. I’m trying to see if I can at least put them to ‘use’ around the home, rather than having them boxed up. Maybe I’ll frame that little dress and the portrait one day, maybe I’ll wear that ring sometimes as special-occasion jewellery. For now, the iron chest is my coffee table — even if the ornate top is not the most practical surface, it cheers me up and makes a great conversation starter.

    • You’re Dad made you a dress when you were one? That is so sweet! I still have a very small dress that I must have worn between 3-6 months. It’s the pair to a dress my twin sister has :)

  • Excellent post! thanks for sharing! I am married with two grown children — so simplying/decluttering involves not just no longer buying/desiring THINGS and going through our things we no longer need, but also sorting through things my kids have left behind, some of which they have specifically requested to store here.

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