Leaving Minimalism

The title Minimalist Mom isn’t that accurate for me. If you’ve read a few posts here you’ll know that I aim for less and what we can live comfortably with rather than a rigid goal of a handful of possessions.

I chose the name while in a burst of zeal for the idea of what Minimalism could give me. I was excited, hopeful and had grand dreams of sparsely furnished rooms and a wardrobe that could fit in a small carry-on suitcase. After many rounds of decluttering I’ve found that the things my family want in our home, the things we use, is often in flux. I’ve found that I’m not interested in counting our possessions or living a nomadic lifestyle. I am interested in the space, time and money having less can give me and my family.

I’m not really a minimalist. We have a television, my son has a push bike he has yet to master and I recently bought a blender and a crock pot.

While I’m not a true minimalist I’m still fascinated by the idea of fewer possessions and the many returns from living with less. That’s why I keep writing here. That’s why I deliberate a lot longer on purchases than I used to. That’s why I have just two pairs of jeans, why we don’t have a car and why I keep a pretty sparse pantry. I like what having less gives me.

Friends Saying Goodbye to Minimalism.

Recently two of my blogging friends have discussed why minimalism is no longer right for them.

Rayna, a contributing writer to Frugal Mama, wrote about shutting down her blog The Suburban Minimalist almost a year ago. Embracing the movement had been positive at first and then lead her to a place she wasn’t comfortable or happy with.

 I’d learned the hard way that although there’s much to be said for living with (much) less than the average American, there are also quite a few things to be said for creature comforts and man-made beauty. Fluffy towels and familiar mugs sweeten our daily rituals. A closet with enough flattering choices makes me feel feminine and confident on the days I’m just not. – Rayna St. Pierre

Her new blog, Bright Copper Kettles, explores simplicity, design and the small things that make her life wonderful. It’s a nice read and I recommend popping in particularly for her links round up. Rayna has a great eye for articles and design that will inspire you to find more beauty in your life without making you feel bad about your living room that is covered in children’s toys or that you have yet to replace the glass on a picture frame that broke three months ago (guilty).

Faith started writing at MinimalistMoms around the same time I started this blog. Later she moved to MinimalistatHome and has written several e-books on minimalism and families. Recently she decided to move her writing away from minimalism.

… it became harder and harder to write a “minimalist” blog after two years. I’ve grown tired of wondering if what I have to say is minimalist enough or even if I am minimalist enough.. – Faith Janes

Faith’s new home online for living with less is a digital magazine called Simplify that launches October 1st. You can sign up to receive the first edition here.

Still Sticking With The M Word

I’ll still be here writing about my own brand of minimalism, the challenges of living counter-culturally and if I really needed that crock pot or blender.

While the term minimalism sounds extreme I think there is a lot to glean from the movement for even non-radical folk like myself. I like the discussion here about how to live with less, the benefits of it and how to go about it happily in a world that doesn’t support slow and simple living.

Real Simple magazine always told me that it was ‘life made easier, every day’ but I found that when I read it, I hated my home and felt the pressure to buy a lot of baskets and label makers and organize instead of truly simplify. I used to flip through those glossy pages and tell myself that I’d have a show worthy home if I just tried harder and made bread from scratch and a jar of lemon curd for an Amalfi Coast inspired luncheon replete with Limoncello ordered direct from Sorrento, Italy.

Life wasn’t made easier. Life was harder and the expectations bigger in ways that just made me tired. I had zero of the 20 must-have classic wardrobe staples for a woman in her 30’s. My vintage mason jar collection was nonexistent.

I wasn’t inspired by the supposed ease of this everyday beautiful simplicity. I was overwhelmed.

There is room in my life for beauty and minimalism. I keep fresh flowers on our kitchen window sill, not the dining room table, because that is where I enjoy them most. When I’m washing dishes I see my vase, sometimes it’s just a water glass, filled with the cheap and cheerful white carnations I buy myself or roses, a gift from a friend, and it’s enough for me.

Because I have less I appreciate what I do have more.

I’ll still be here writing about minimalism and how we’re making it work for us. With our roses on the window sill, our blender and even my expensive ballet flats that fell apart.

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  • I definitely hear what you are saying. My husband and I have been editing for a while now and we’ve just found a good balance- also dramatically reducing the debt that nearly sent us bankrupt.
    I love beautiful things and Husband is starting up his own IT repair business so the transient/bare essential life is not going to work for us. We both LOVE books and have quite a lovely collection that we do not intend on letting go.
    We still however consider ourselves Minimalist. Minimalism really is more of a state of mind I reckon. Just like money can enslave us so can the term Minimalism and to us it a philosophy/lifestyle influence that helps us stay accountable to our values. Our things do not rule our lives.
    Like any ‘label’ in society it is always a generalisation and the ‘label’ sometimes outlives its intended purpose- just as you said,- it’s merely a starting point for finding direction. I for one am entirely grateful to you, Rayna, Faith and a few others for blogging your journeys as its been a great source of inspiration in times where we’ve felt that we’re the only ones in the world seeking simplicity. Your honesty and transparency is refreshing.

  • Personally, that’s why I like your blog. We are a family of six, homeschooling, hubby works from home, and we have a guest room that is often occupied. I have no desire to be a minimalist (I love my pretties around my house and such), but I do desire to purge and think more about purchases. So thanks for keeping it minimalist. 😉

  • I hear ya, especially about Real Simple magazine. I had a subscription for a while and it is really just about Real Expensive stuff and made me feel Real Inadequate. Minimalism should be a means to an end; for me its about spending less time caring for things so I can spend more time caring for people (including myself).

    • I just had a look at the website and it didn’t look any more simple to me than all of the other ‘girly’ magazine websites…

    • In reading the part about magazines, I wondered about why those weren’t cut out. The most time consuming part of life is throwing out paper clutter – including magazines.

  • I think a lot of minimalism is living with intent. If someone saw my bookshelves stuffed with books or learning toys, they would laugh and say I’m not a minimalist. Or my variety of coffee/tea mugs. But it’s helped me pare down my to do list, not yearn so much for different things. I pick my few categories of splurges instead.

      • Agreed.

        I often think “Live with purpose and intent.” I tell my 3 year old all the time “Move with purpose and intent” instead of always trying to rush her along. Just the change of words has changed my thoughts enough that the last rush/push to get out the door in the morning is less stressful.

  • P.S. Also agree about Real Simple and even some of the former blogs I loved like Soule Mama. I’ll just never be there, that’s not my life and I gave myself a hard time for that until I let them go.

  • Since there isn’t really an authority on the matter of minimalism, why can’t you define yourself as such? A TV is hardly a deal breaker; in fact, when extremism takes over a movement (i.e. you can only own 20 things and if you own more than that, you’re a materialistic capitalistic pig!) it becomes useless to the masses. Helping overwhelmed people, which I think is one thing you do very well, is such a fantastic contribution in the age of rampant consumerism, which has become its own extremist movement. How refreshing to find the voice of reason here. Keep up the good minimalist work!

    • I was thinking that same thing….who defines Minimalism? Buying a blender and crock-pot may keep your life simpler, healthier, and less stressful. I consider those results an important part of the minimalist lifestyle.

  • I agree with much of the general sentiment from above commenters. Minimalism doesn’t have a diocese, there’s no specific rule book or anything. It doesn’t have to be about living out of a backpack (though that’s incredibly cool!) or not buying flowers. I think what you’re doing, for yourself and your son, is fabulous at any level!

  • It’s funny how one word that you like or feel connected to, can morph into something different. Or also become something you weren’t expecting, like in the movement you describe. In the end, reading about other people’s experiences, can only be adapted to what works for you and your family. AFter all, we are different, with our own quirks, wants and needs. I love the roses, btw!

  • I watched Grand Designs last night which had a couple building what was consistently referred to as a Minimilist Home and I had real trouble equating it with what I feel is minimilism to me. I can’t disagree with Kevin McCloud when he said the house was beautiful but it was soooooooooooooooooo bare. There was only one area where there was anything visible and this was a four storey building!! I think this just re-inforced that to me minimilism is having ‘enough’ for you and your lifestyle. That house was right for the couple that built it but we didn’t get to see inside all the storage. There was nothing to say they didn’t have a dinner service for 12, auntie’s cherished patchwork blanket and clothes that they were hoping to slim into stored away behing the gorgeous doors of the many cupboards…

    • If you can call four -storey house minimalist 😉 In strictly design sense you can, but what we are talking about here… it’s sounds more like maximalist, as far as houses go :)

  • This is seriously an encouraging post! Thanks for sharing your heart!!! I am definitely with you on how you feel! Thank you for keeping your life in balance and choosing to do what is right and what works for YOUR particular family and lifestyle! Keep up the great work! Hugs, Heidi

  • I agree with you. Minimalism seems to be an individual definition, in any case – you only have to google it to see that! Where I live, it’s about spartan but luxurious homes, which is probably why I wouldn’t term myself one. I like vintage, cosy and friendly too much!
    Your comments on Real Simple didn’t surprise me. When I first got onto the web around 1999, I was interested in frugality and simplicity (apparently instinct sent me there! I was definitely cluttered and messy at that point!), and “downsizing” was the term of the moment – it was Joe Dominguez, Vicki Robin, Amy Dacyzyn etc. who were the names of the time. Round about then the magazine Real Simple started and was severely criticised for exactly those reasons – expensive organisation and pseudo-simplicity. So I never bothered looking into it (though I always adored magazines!). It was books by Janet Luhr or Sarah Ban Breathnach who really got me in the right direction and thinking differently and when it occurred to me to go back and see what had become of everyone, a number of eventful years later, the buzzword was suddenly “minimalism”. I’m not all that interested in what it’s called, but I enjoy living with much less and it has had a dramatic effect on the life I’ve lived over the last 15 years, so I will go on doing what works no matter what they call it! Please carry on your good work – your views are sensible and balanced and I enjoy reading it.

  • You’re being mindful. :) My husband and I really love the concept of minimalism – but we have a large-ish house that we have full of things and we’re not anticipating a move in the future, so we’ve been steadily trying to purge our possessions. Do I really need three travel mugs? And why am I keeping so many coffee mugs from my former jobs? I know that I worked at this newspaper – I don’t need a mug to remind me of that. Reading minimalism and debt reduction blogs have really helped me frame my spending habits … there is a set of books that I’ve wanted for over the better part of a year. I’ve found a couple of them at secondhand stores and just bought a couple more via Amazon last week. Do I need them? No – but I really want them. (I’m one of those people who read favorite books over and over again …)

    But seriously – blogs like yours help. They let me know that I’m not alone in my lack of a desire to “keep up with the Joneses.”

    Oh – and I do have a vintage Mason jar collection. However, my husband’s grandma’s Mason jars are currently in service holding the salsa I’ve been canning this fall. :-) We need to USE the things that we have! Not just keep them for pretty purposes!

  • This is why I LOVE your blog. It makes me feel like I can attain that ideal of simple/minimal and still hold onto some of the “creature comforts.” I love learning how to think out purchases and seeing your train of thought. Thanks for being honest. Looking forward to more travels to simplification and more lessons. Thanks for being a role model!

  • I, for one, am so grateful that I stumbled across your blog several months ago. Quite honestly, if you were an extreme minimalist, I doubt I would be here right now. That lifestyle is neither appealing to me nor practicable for my family — but making better/more informed decisions about purchases and lifestyle choices is something that is applicable for everyone (whether they decide they need to simplify or not). I so enjoy your very honest assessments of the life you had and the life you have now. From the comments above, it’s clear I’m not the only who feels that way!

    So whether you consider yourself a minimalist or not, thank you for the example you’ve set!


  • I am so glad that you are keeping the ‘M’ word as I think the movement needs non-radicals. Radical minimalism is not for the masses and if we don’t have the opportunity to read gentler forms of minimalism such as your blog then the message of living a simpler life will not be heard by many. I have a toddler and another child on the way so I love reading about the challenges of living a simpler life with young children

  • I have always (since I found your blog) preferred your take on living with less. I love the idea of having fewer, QUALITY, things. I have a family, that is getting larger very soon (7 1/2 weeks to go). I have no desire to get rid of everything and live out of a suitcase or backpack (though I have to admit that on stressful days, that sounds pretty intriguing) :). I do not want my home to look like I furnished it by dumpster diving, especially if I have the funds to buy quality, which minimalism is “supposed” to afford us. At this point we are not ready to release our TV or our cable (though that might be coming as there is never anything on TV, even though we have like 900 channels). As far as the title of your blog goes, I think that by extreme minimalist standards, you might not qualify, but by North American and probably most European standards, you most definitely qualify. Those of us who are struggling to get to a comfortable level of stuff really need someone like you to be the voice of reason in what can sometimes be an unreasonable area. You know, the logical, reasonable person who says it’s ok to keep your TV, you are not less of a person if you do so, as opposed to the person who says you will never be good enough unless you throw your TV off the roof (and sadly often that voice is heard in our own heads).

  • i still identify with minimalism because it’s a style i embrace, a desire to maintain a minimum of what i am comfortable with. i don’t long for excess, i never have. but i like nice things. i can’t be made to feel badly or not minimal enough by others because we are different people and share different experiences. it’s absolutely absurd the way we’re asked to defend ourselves.

    according to the internet,to be minimal we must live in 150 sqft shacks and run without shoes is to say to be catholic you must wear a habit and swear off sex. these sort of extremes are so unattractive to me.

  • I love your comment about the Real Simple magazine. I used to get it and constantly had the same thoughts that there is nothing simple (or cheap) about it. It made me stress that I my home was not adequate and that I needed more stuff. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. For me it’s not just the goal of living with less I have a personal goal of living with less so that I can give to others in meaningful ways as well (time and money).

  • This is such a good post. I love your honesty about creature comforts and the things that make life fun, like feminine choices in a wardrobe besides just the basics. And I share your disgust with Real Simple! I think we have been given creature comforts to enjoy in moderation here on earth and we should embrace them thoughtfully, not reject them entirely. Maybe a new focus could be balance instead of minimalism!

  • I see the minimalist lifestyle as part of a scale. Extreme hoarding is on one end, and extreme minimalism on the other. The under 100 possessions people would fit close to the extreme minimalists. But then there’s the majority of us “minimalists” who live with less, who have whittled down their possessions to what they use and love. A crockpot makes your life easier, simpler, so you have it. I love to do art projects with my kids, so I just bought a plastic drawer tower to keep it all organized. I’m not gonna sit on the floor in an empty white room with my kids all day. I’m going to live intentionally and not be burdened by clutter and household tasks.

  • Balance is the key to everything. We all feel good at different levels. I once tried to cut my budget from 50 dollars a week to 25 dollars a week. It was too stressful and too much work. I am happy at 50 dollars per week and will leave it here. But, I wouldn’t have know for sure without trying to make it on less. I think minimalism is that way too. We get rid of things and sometimes realize that it is too much. So, we just have to swing back to the middle of the pendulum again where we feel balanced. I think the most important thing is not to be too attached to things, but remember that it is people that matter. You can have a nice, uncluttered home and that is the goal. It doesn’t matter as much whether there are 100 things or 1000 things. But, the less you have, the easier it is to clean and the more freedom you have to spend your time doing other things.

  • Great post. I am a seeker of this middle of the road simplicity. I’ll never be the extreme form of minimalist because that life wouldn’t be comfortable for me or my family. Having said that, the joy and lightness and freedom I’ve already found from beginning to shed the unneccessaries has made a huge impact on my life, and I will continue down this path. Thanks for your honesty and for sharing your journey.

  • I like “simple” living, but as you illustrated with the magazine Real Simple, I find that word to be totally useless in application. I read blog articles all the time about simplifying life or keeping the holidays simple and they never are. Usually they are about doing some handmade craft that will take all ay and you have to store all the stuff. So given the situation with “simple”, I like minimalism since you can define it as being the minimum for YOUR needs. Everyone will be different, but as long as you are conscious about your stuff, you will have less than you would if you just let everything into your home and let stuff control you.

  • Funny timing because I just chose to leave Minimalist Mommi as I was getting sick of the “minimalist” title and all that it meant in terms of expectations from readers. Granted, I still consider myself a “minimalist” and have my entire life, but now I have more freedom to write about things that matter to me more than just one facet of my personality. And as for you being a “real minimalist”, I hope you know that minimalism is what you make it, not a set of rules of what you can and can not own. Many minimalists own TV’s or ride on toys for their kids. Please don’t let those little (or maybe large items) deter you from identifying yourself with such a movement :)

  • At one point I thought that name of my blog was perhaps too vague, and it didn’t communicate what my blog is about. It doesn’t – but it allows me more freedom in what I write, be it simplicity, minimalism, spirituality, children, whatever. The focus is there, but there are no strict labels. I still consider us minimalists, and not just because we ended up with no stuff at all for a moment- but because we are intentional in what we acquire and what we keep, and we think about the difference between wants and needs, and we like to live in a smaller space, and have just one set of dishes and only clothes we actually wear. Our minimalism is strongly tied to ideas of simple living, being content with ENOUGH and GOOD ENOUGH, and recognizing that most westerners do take more than their fair share of Earth’s resources. We are not perfect, but we are aware, and trying to do better. Our minimalism is not about having next to nothing – if minimalism makes your life more complicated then that’s a good sign that maybe there is a need to adjust what you are doing and rethink minimalism…

    I can still say I’m sad that I can’t have in our home the wall rug my grandparents made us, and that I am keeping it in storage, hoping that one day we can use it again or that another family member will take it. (Mold disaster, long story!)

    I’m a work in progress, and I hope my readers know that. I do bake bread from scratch and make apple jam and berry juice, because it’s fun and because we can and I’d hate to waste all that free organically grown food, but sometimes we stay in our pajamas until noon and I let my daughter watch too much children’s programs on the computer while I surf the net :)

  • I prefer the range approach to what we are – or more accurately what we’ve named our blogs. You saying you’re the minimalist mom and then having a few items around is okay – you’re not trying to be the extreme minimalist. We all have to live and you are your brand – you’re trying to simplify your life and appreciate what you have. Well done!
    As for the magazine – I agree. It’s not simple at all but a lot of work – and you have to work a lot to afford the simplicity that’s on those pages! What’s been simpler for me is cancelling all of our magazine subscriptions and not receiving catalogs in the mail. Suddenly my ratty-tatty sofa and nearly see-through hand towels don’t seem so bad when I wasn’t comparing them to a glossy photo shoot. Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to live inside the pages of “Garnet Hill” but then I’d never eat a bowl of ice cream in my living room or spread out a table cloth on the floor and call it a picnic! 😉
    Well done, Rachel.

  • Hi, Rachel. This is my first time commenting.

    This post actually made me a little sad. Sad, because it brings up my own frustrated feelings about minimalism.

    Many of my everyday friends think of me as a minimalist. They know that I have several drawers, cupboards, and closets completely empty. But having a bed in a room by itself, which some of our rooms do, isn’t as comfortable looking as a room with a bed and a dresser, so I keep the dresser. They know that I’m not a casual shopper; I would rather put my time and money into things that are more important to me. I try to be purposeful about how I spend my time so the things that matter most to me are apparent.

    Via the online community, I feel as if there is no way I could be a minimalist because at the end of the day I have six kids, a Suburban, and a 5,000 sq. ft. home. I’m sure there are people thinking, “Well, if I had 5,000 sq. ft. I’d have several drawers, cupboards, and closets empty too.” I feel as if I have to prove my minimalism to join the club. Nevermind that I only have three pairs of jeans and four shirts…and why am I telling you this?..oh yes, to prove my minimalism.

    Sometimes I say that “I am interested in simple living”. Surely that’s the right phrase, if minimalism is not right. And yet, even that phrase conjures up varied images like the term minimalism does. Well then, maybe I don’t need a phrase, a term, or a label. Labels are bad, right? Well, except that labeling helps me find others who are like me. And it’s nice to have a support system. My current support system for…simple living…is people in real life who accept me for who I am, but don’t necessarily live the same way. I am very thankful for the people in my life who love and accept me. I would also like to connect with others who feel the same about simple living/minimalism as I do. I feel like there’s a void there. Not a void of stuff, ha ha, but a void of support.

    I’m not sure I will ever find the right term for how I feel about possessions, time management, and the like. But I sure have enjoyed reading your minimalist posts and appreciate the many flavors of minimalism.

  • I have been reading blogs focused on simplicity for a few years now. My personal definition is having enough of what we need right now. What is enough will be different for everyone. As long as we are pondering it, I believe that is a good thing. It will keep me from buying what we don’t need and to be open to getting rid of things that no longer work for our family.

  • Minimalizing was originally about owning only those things you found to be useful or beautiful. Somewhere along the line people stopped considering the beautiful and started counting items. That’s quite a loss in my book. I encourage you to keep to the original meaning of the term and keep right on blogging about your flowers.

  • I enjoy your blog and your ‘minimalist’ philosophy however far from the true meaning it may or may not be. I think your messages/posts/thoughts are important and allows us to question our own reasoning for what ‘stuff’ means in our life. What’s important, what’s not. I have found myself paring down our home this past year of stuff that does not hold meaning or has impacted us in the way of clutter and I have to say its refreshing. Its given me back a sense of calm and I have your blog to thank for that. You gave me insight to what its like to appreciate whats truly around you without having to compete with all the trends, what friends or family have in their homes, and really make our home a home. I do wonder at times if I have pared down too much and our house feels somewhat ’empty’ but when I walk into another’s home that is filled with so much stuff in every corner, nook, and cranny, i am thankful for choosing less to feel more. Does that make sense. I don’t think anyone one person can truly define minimalism. I think it lies within ourselves to determine what it means for ourselves individually and how much of it we are comfortable with. Keep writing what you write, keep believing in what you have done thus far and plan to do. I truly respect your efforts and wisdom. Believe me once baby number two comes around you will enjoy that you are living the way you do. I found I pared down even more after my daughter turned six months old. Baby stuff be gone. Anyway keep doing what you doing. I enjoy your message.

  • You know, I gave up trying to find a label for myself years ago.

    Am I “frugal?” – well, I suppose – I live on less than $20K annually, but I’m not really into searching for bargains or cutting coupons or counting every penny at the grocery store.

    Am I “minimalist?” – well… er…. I don’t own as much stuff as most people do, but looking around at the clutter on my desk and the plethora of kitty beds & toys littering the floor, well.. I don’t think so!

    So maybe I should choose the phrase “voluntary simplicity?” Well… sorta. I mean I aim to remove distractions from my life as much as possible, but I actually LOVE my 50 inch television set, and won’t miss a Broncos game no matter what!

    So, perhaps I’m “green?” Well, yes, I do care about the environment, and I try to make the best choices I can, but I’m not about to go trying to live without plastic, or without a car (even though I drive well under 1000 miles per year)…

    Sooo… I’ve sorta come to the conclusion that trying to figure out how I do or don’t fit into one of these movements is really a waste of time. Soooo, I say minimalist shminimalist! You are who you are and that’s more than enough!

  • I’ve enjoyed your blog and found inspiration from your minimalism and simplification. I, too, have no desire to have only 100 things, even though I did read the book. I do, however, want to live with much, much less. So I am trying to carve out the time. I purge and throw things away in my mind everyday. I will eventually downsize all of our belongings so I thank you for the ideas and testimony. I just need to start doing a little every day. So much stuff, so little time.

  • My heart sank when I read your heading. I thought you might be leaving both minimalism and your blog before I even mustered up the courage to post a first comment. And I read your blog every day. And look foward to each post, precisely because yours is a very honest and down-to-earth brand of minimalism.

    I read a few other minimalist and simple life style blogs, but I always look forward to your posts the most because bad ballet flats and flowers in the kitchen speak to me. And so do your tips on debt reduction, decluttering before moving, and car free living. I have learned more from you than from the “true” minimalists who own fewer than 100 possessions and the wold travellers with 10 lb backpacks.

    So keep the minimalist label and don’t be apologetic about it. Just look at your categories: most of your posts are about inspiration and getting started. And that’s exactly what you’ve done for this reader: you’ve inspired me to get started on my own journey towards minimalism and a simpler, yet richer, life.

  • It’s just a word. When I first started blogging (around the same time as you, as you know ;-)) I really did not know where I fit into the community. Which led me to right a post just before that first Christmas, 3-months in, Why I Am A Little Bit Shy Of Minimalism– it was a play on words. Not only did I not fit the Minimalist mould, I wasn’t sure that was were I was headed (I have 36 spices and 3 slow-cookers for heavens sake!). What I learnt from that post is that it’s how you define it, one person’s minimalism isn’t another. I did wonder at the time whether it was a cultural thing, Being a Brit, minimalism wasn’t really something that was used to describe a person or a way of life – it’s used much more to describe art, or design or innate objects.
    Now 3-years on my direction is much clearer. I’m a simple-living-mom. For me that isn’t counting possessions, but nor is it collecting mason crockery. Whether I’m a minimalist or just a life-simplifier – who knows? It’s just a word (or 2….!) :-)
    Hope all good with you Guys !

  • Thank you for this post. We downsized our house and purged lots of “stuff” that hadn’t been used in years. We still have lots of stuff, but I’m tryinig to use the wisdom of William Morris–“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

    That works for me and my family. The mimimalist purists keep me on my toes and make me more mindful of what I choose to bring into my life. I may not live like they do, but they do inform my decision making.

    Thank you for your writing!

  • I do not follow your blog because you are a minimalist, a simplicity lover, a de-clutterer or because you like to organise. :0) I follow your blog because your lifestyle and values string a cord with me and because I enjoy your writing.
    Unfortunately the word minimalist can refer to anyone from the Dalai Lama type of one-plate zens to a trendy couple whose estate agent tidies up their condo before putting it on the market. :)

  • Rachel – you are my inspiration, and I am so grateful. Started when I read your article in the Globe and Mail and then found your blog. Emotionally intelligent, realistic, and open minded. Thank you! You helped me cull and see meaning in it, plus lighten the load of the “baggage” I was carrying around / storing / and worrying about. (It’s true, having fewer knick-knocks means I do appreciate and notice the few I saved! Brilliant!)

    To me, minimalism revolves around :
    1. using what you have
    2. not being too attached to “things”, liking my things without clinging to them
    3. letting go of wanting more
    4. getting rid of clutter and each has their own definition of clutter. Cull more.
    5. quality over quantity – I cannot afford to buy “cheap”. “Buy the best, cry once” – Pasquale
    6. Less is more

    This William Morris quote sums up my belief that minimalism isn’t about a set number, or making your life more difficult by going without:
    “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

    I may not have a crock-pot, nor a coffee maker – because I know I would not use them, so for me – yes, they would become clutter. But I have mixers to help my baking passion and a kitchen of high end cooking items, gorgeous oil paintings that I appreciate every day, and a large collection of silk scarves to enhance my wardrobe – and make me fell better / prettier when I wear them. I still consider myself a minimalist. And I’ve learned – not to define myself by someone else’s “extreme” definition of the term.

    Cheers Rachel!

  • Because “minimalist” seems loaded in all kinds of ways, I think of myself as someone trying to live simply and intentionally. The way we’re doing it continues to evolve, and sometimes it’s frustrating that there isn’t a simple label or niche that we (or our blog) fits into. But it feels more authentic. Although I prefer a simple(r) home, I like thinking that is layered and complex. It’s why I subscribe here.

  • Please don’t feel bad about this, as I am sure you know, you hung onto it a lot longer than the string of the most famous minimalist bloggers. Their extremism eventually became so annoying to me since they were all the same. Apparently they felt the same and burnt out. Everett Bogue of Far Beyond the Stars was one of the “hot” ones on minimalist fire (I’m sure you recognize him) and he burnt out quickly, not proclaiming ‘eff minimalism’ – in harsher words. So the true hardcore minimalism wasn’t really practical for even the hardcore. I ascribed and admire the moderate minimalism like you live, so much more. It still inspires me and I still go on decluttering sprees to try to live with less. Please keep it up! I like your blog so much more than those others as those were never practical for me, but I want to have less than most ‘normal’ people :) thanks!

  • Rachel,
    I don’t think of myself as a minimalist, and maybe you are or aren’t one by whatever definition. I do enjoy reading your ideas, whatever you want to call it. :)

    And your RealSimple description made me laugh.

  • I have found “minimalism” works well when just applied to certain aspects of your life where it will make things easier. We went to France last month and for the first time travelled with hand luggage only – a small suitcase each for me and hubby, and a small backpack for each of the three children to carry. It felt wonderful to be able to stroll around the airport so easily with our little cases on wheels, and made getting the tram at the other end much easier as well. We don’t normally take much stuff on holiday anyway, but taking even less was even better!

  • Your version of minimalism is INSPIRING, the total opposite of what I feel flipping through REAL SIMPLE magazine. It’s a matter of getting in control of what we have NOW, making space and time rather than filling it up with stuff! Your version is attainable, ever changing, and what REAL life minimalism is all about!

  • I have zippo in common with the die-hard live-out-of-backpack minimalist. I also have nothing in common with hoarders either. But somewhere in the middle of those 2 extremes with a good leaning towards the backpack crowd is where I am. it’s also where I find my favorite blogs – such as yours.
    I’ve been steadily decluttering & parring down crap I should have never bought to begin with (aspirational clothing, aspirational gourmet type kitchen gadgets, etc). Pretty much any new purchase or item that comes into my home has to jump through some serious hoops before it gets the green light. I think long & hard as well answer some tough questions before I just willy-nilly buy anything anymore.
    Having said that, I need & use 4 different type cooking tongs. I need & use my running shoes, flip flops, boots, galoshes & the other 15 or so pairs. I need & use a bunch of different items for our pet parrots. I need & use the clothing I have kept as well as our big screen tv, the 2 cars, hairdryer, etc, etc.
    To live only from a backpack would be doable yes..but totally out of the question for my life. I dig my house. I love my creature comforts. I love having more than 33 items of clothing. I still consider myself a minimalist by my circle of friends standards & that’s ok fine by me. But am I a minimalist by the backpack minimalist? Oh heck no.
    I am a minimalist in that I don’t run out to buy a super special watering can for my indoor plants when a drinking cup works just fine to do the same task. I don’t like clutter, hate having full cabinets, prefer not having an attic jammed pack full of non descript boxed-up stuff, don’t need something on every horizontal surface.

    Somehow the term minimalist went from barren futuristic empty architectural designs to describe the folks who live out of a backpack. The term minimalist fits them as good as any term. But maybe a newer term needs to designate the folks such as ourselves who just need less to live more.

  • Hi Rachel, you’ve just put a huge smile on my face – you need a new tag line on your blog ‘I’m not a minimalist; I have a crock pot’. I think that’s a line I’m going to use a lot. Hope everything is good with you x

  • This article really speaks to me. I am all about quality over quantity, less is more, never buy anything spontaneously. But it is so true that even that can become as unhealthy as the obsession with “stuff”. I think balance is the key to almost everything in life. Thanks for being honest and I appreciate your blog!

  • There isn’t one minimalism. It looks different to everyone. I have no interest in living with 0 or 100 items. I’m more conscious about the things I own, why I own them, and making a conscious effort to use my money for experiences instead of for stuff. But minimalism isn’t entirely about stuff for me, either. It’s about figuring out and focusing on what is more important to me. Having flowers, or an iPad, or an xbox, isn’t preventing me from leading a more minimalist, meaningful, or purposeful life. I also don’t need to crappy towels or sheets to feel like I’m living life to the fullest. The effects of minimalism aren’t supposed to be a punishment, because that would defeat my intent of living a happier life.

  • I hope that you’re not planning to leave writing about your brand of minimalism–the family just-enough kind! I have really enjoyed reading your blog and found lots of everyday inspiration here. Hope all is going well with your family, pregnancy, and journey.

  • Rachel, this post is not the first time that I noticed you struggle with the lable “minimalism” and with aquiring stuff you want, but don’t really need (like flowers, the kitchen appliances,…)
    To be quite frank, I never got that. I don’t think, any life style – and certainly not minimalism (which should also minimize your struggles and problems with “stuff”, shouldn’t it?) should lead to depriving yourself. Every week there is a sunday. It is okay, to indulge in “specialness” sometimes. Minimalism, to me, is about being aware of what needs are versus what wants are and that you choose well which items actually bring you more joy than hazzle. A flower most certainly brings more joy than hazzle (if you are okay with the money you spent and where that flower came from). And a kitchen appliance you use regularly (and which prevents you from putting your house on fire!) most certainly does, too. To me, this is still very much minimalist.

  • I can relate to where you are coming from. I have been working on downsizing this year because I was tired of the stuff. I’ve never been on to hold on to a bunch of things but some I felt obligated to keep. I am married and have a son. My husband loves tools but he uses them so we have reached a good point where he has paired down and gotten organized. I am working on getting him down from 3 vehicles to 2 currently after some repairs are made. I enjoy cooking and my son is special, ADHD with food coloring sensitivity. For now I home school so there is plenty of books for him to read and the toys he has serve as a learning tool. I do not feel minimalist to where I alone have 100 items or less but there are many good qualities that the minimalist mindset offers. Thinking long about buying something is a huge one.

  • Thank you for writing this! I am trying to find a balance with all of this and it is nice to hear your perspective. I am definitely not the definition of minimalist, but it does give me a lot to think about and helps me make better decisions. I am also working on simplifying our life, but trying not to beat myself up for not being “truly minimalist.” :)

  • I think the key to what you said is “Your own brand of minimalism”. I think minimalism means something different to everyone. My definition seems to fall in line with yours right now – mindfulness and less useless stuff, but still enjoying creature comforts and small rituals. I feel like the vast majority of people would benefit from this middle road you’re talking about. The extremes of minimalism takes an effort that most people can’t sustain. I love that you’ve shared these thoughts – it’s very comforting to those of us that want to be more mindful and live with less but like our crockpot and dishwasher and closets.

  • Natural progess. I was the same way and in the past year I realized I had removed a lot of the joy I felt when I first started “minimalizing”. I now consider myself a simple living person, taking what I learned from minimalism. I was sorta getting bored with the one upping that was going on in the more wellknown “minimalists” around the web world.

  • I focus on simplicity, as well, but often still call what I do minimalism simply because it is so much different than most of our peers.

    For me, minimalism is really defined by what you need to live, minimally, without getting to the extremes of “well, then, where do you draw the line?”

    My line is very different from my husband’s. Which means that we have to bridge the gap. It’s still very minimalist comparatively, *but* there are many ways in which isn’t not the more “deep” or “extreme” forms of it.

    Having my way, I would live in the city in a studio apartment with only futons and bedding kept in closets, wardrobe and toy minimalism, and the basics for the kitchen. We have achieved the last 3 in my opinion. DH believes in beds and a kitchen table/chairs (pfft! lol). I can’t blame him: our beds are really nice (sustainably harvested wood, organic bedding from mattress to wool blankets), but I don’t use the table. Call me radical, but I prefer being on the floor.

    Sometimes, you just have to do what works for everyone. Even if it means going less minimalist than one might like. Also, we have cut flowers in the house all the time. I have a pitcher that I lusted after (hand made, again) for MONTHS, and DH bought it as a surprise for me. It was very sweet. It’s always full of our home-grown lavender (three seasons of lavender blooms here), and in winter, we splurge out and buy native posy bouquets (we usually only have to buy 3 in 16 weeks, so they do well). It really is about living beautifully.

  • I love you blog and truly enjoy reading it. I personally believe Minimalism is not a religion. It is not living without fluffy towels and beautiful mugs. It is what makes you comfortable and happy. A minimalist reduces to become happier, not feeling emptier. I have a post in my blog about this subject. I would appreciate if you have a look at my blog and let me know what you think.
    Here is the post about ” What is Minimalism”
    Thank you

  • I stumbled upon this post as I was googling and brainstorming exactly what to call my post in progress. Minimalism didn’t quite feel right because even though I’m working on a personal project to evolve into a more minimal version of me, hardcore minimalists would likely scoff at my efforts. I’m a former shopaholic who now lives in a small space by choice and thinks long and hard before I add anything to my life. I’m not perfect yet so I’m embarking on a slow and steady project to look at different areas of belongings, how I use my time etc. My goals are to free myself of too many physical things that drain my resource and my mind for writing and creativity. I don’t plan on giving my Balenciagas away or selling my car to backpack around Europe. And oh yes, I do blog about design and artisans and don’t plan to stop. Good design makes my heart sing even if I don’t feel the need to own the item myself. So, your post was very timely but alas I still don’t know what the hell I’m going to call mine.

  • As mentioned by others, I don’t think minimalism is a black-and-white philosophy. It implies a desolate spartan life void of all possessions as much as a happy life implies never being sad.

    In other words: Minimalism is an attitude, towards life in general. I don’t think it requires you to only possess a bare minimum. As a philosophy it encourages you to re-focus, not on how much you can get rid of, but what is really important to you. It advises you with ways and methods of achieving happiness through meaning and value (e.g. by eliminating distracting unnecessary stuff).

    There is a difference between those you could call “radical minimalists” (Joshua and Ryan come to mind), and those who simply apply minimalist ideas and principles in their life, selectively and according to their own needs, just like yourself.

    Good luck.

  • I think that people confuse “minimalism” with “enough” and “simplicity”. They are not all the same. I like your blog ( which I discovered a few days ago ) because you seem to understand that on some level. I read a “minimalist” blog recently where the blogger likes minimalism because he found something “spiritual” in “deprivation”. I don’t believe in suffering or deprivation – especially with a family and a couple of dogs. Awareness and simplicity and slowing down is my goal.

  • Wow, that’s being honest with your readers, and I can fully respect that. I also struggled with the M word, but am striving to improve my life. I won’t limit items to under a specific amount.

    Also, when I tell people that I am moving to a minimalistic lifestyle, they call me a hippy. Then they assume I am a vegan and such, which is no where near who I am. I have started eating less, and have eliminated eating out. NO fast food for this guy.

    Still, I really enjoy your blog.

  • I have always wanted a place for everything and everything in it’s place. That isn’t working for me right now but as I read through the many blogs on minimalism I discovered that it means something different for everyone. So I ask, do you have a place for your crock-pot? Do you have a use for it? Did you already have one and this one is prettier? Yes? Yes? No? You’re good to go and minimalism is working for you.

    I might have found you under simplify but it was reading so many on minimalism that I brought me to realize that.

  • I just now stumbled upon this post and had to comment because I related so well to it. I’m in a chaotic time right now with a 3.5 year old, 18 month old and a baby due next month (and a move in May). During nap time lately minimalist blogs have become a happy place for me because it signifies peace and control even when life is not. I have a pretty natural tendency to purge, especially since we move frequently, and I feel like I’m getting close to having only what we use and enjoy. Oddly enough, it makes me sad to not have much more to get rid of because it feels good to see big transformations toward simplicity in our home. What the heck am I going to do with my time once the excess is gone and everything in my pantry is in well-labeled mason jars? That’s when I start to either try and push myself to purge more or realize what the key to true minimalism is: contentment. No matter how much stuff you have and how crazy your life is (or how little you have and how bored you are) it is possible to be truly calm and at peace. When you are calm and at peace, there is no need to fill the emptiness with stuff or fill the void with some sense of identity of minimalism (which believe it or not can have its own set of rules to complicate life – Real Simple was a great example!). I think Jesus showed the perfect example of minimalism. Sure, He had what you’d think of first when you think of minimalism – very few earthly possessions. But He had that key to being a true minimalist: following God’s will (and getting rid of the excess which is trying to add to His will and doing it your own way) which led to perfect contentment. There was no waste in His life since God’s will is perfect and perfectly effective.

    Therefore I don’t think we should beat ourselves up for having a TV or a Vitamix (we just got one, and I love it :) or two couches instead of bean bag chairs or whatever a “true” minimalist would own. I think true minimalism is a heart matter, not just a record of your possessions. This comment is partly a reaction to reading other blogs and articles about people arguing about who is more minimalist or whether this or that person is the “true” minimalist that he or she claims to be. I felt the need to share my thoughts (or straight up vent?) somewhere :)

  • My crockpot is a minimalist tool! I thought long and hard about adding a kitchen gadget, but it is used about 4 nights per week in my house. It has reduced the number of pots and pans used to fix dinner-which reduces clean up! Most importantly for me, it has allowed a mom with a high-need baby the freedom to fix dinner for our family during his happy morning time, which has decreased stress for my husband since he no longer has to cook when he gets home and we are ordering take out less frequently (better for our wallets, waist-lines, and fewer take-away containers in landfills). Don’t knock any specific item, because I know this one in particular has enriched and simplified life for my family! (Does crock pot need any endorsements? Clearly they should hire me :p).

  • I’ve found minimalism to be inspiring as a way to experiment and find what we do and don’t need. My apartment is still untidy, though. Minimalism didn’t cure my seeming inability to put things away immediately. And when I begin to count my things, I become stressed. But simplicity makes me happy. My husband and I live in a 250 square foot apartment, and it makes us happy to minimize our rent. We hang dry our clothes to make them last longer and spare the environment a little stress. Our food storage is simple, yet will feed us if necessary. Our wardrobes are smaller than average, but certainly not tiny. We buy all of our clothes second hand, for environmental and financial benefit. Our food is very simple (mostly microwave-steamed veggies, smoothies, and eggs).

    I’d say that we’re living pretty minimally. However, I look at others and feel inferior. Minimalism is peddled as a cure-all lifestyle that will make your apartment shine and your life perfect effortlessly. It’s sold to us as old fashioned cookware, gleaming designer furniture, and even having the right bed. That’s not why I live simply. I live simply for the joy of being free from burdensome consumerism, and magazines or the internet inspire consumerism because they have to sell.

    I love living simply. I don’t love how minimalism has become burdened with rules and high-end consumerism to replace excessive low-end purchases.

  • To me Minimalism is all about living with as few things as possible. It’s about living with only that which really brings joy and meaning to your life, even if it means owning a bunch of books. Minimalism is also an ongoing process. Throughout each year, evaluating the things you have, where you are going in life and deciding if the things you have support that. I think people get too caught up in having LESS when it’s all about having MORE – more time for the things you love.
    Love perfume? You can have your perfume collection, if it truly brings you joy. But if there is a particular one that you are holding on to just because you paid x amount of dollars for it, just accept the mistake and move on, donate it and let it go.
    We can have the comforts that we love so long as WE really love them and that we aren’t buying them or holding on to them just because someone else told us that we should be happy with it. This is a process of paring down to the nitty gritty of your very soul.

  • Just stumbled upon your blog and I’m loving it so far, mainly for the fact that you are so refreshingly honest and not trying to portray your life in this “ideal” minimalistic style that most of the times is out of reach for families. I am a mother of two boys, and recently decluttered about 70% of our possessions and although I totally embrace the philosophy behind minimalism, I am at the point where I am trying to find the right balance for a family of four. Thanks for making it easier with your honesty and lovely tips! :)

  • My idea of minimalism is getting rid of the excess ie things you have not used in years, down-sizing to what you need to make you happy. being out of debt means just that. credit cards paid off and closed. i have one card with a zero balance for emergencies. i drive a fuel efficient car. i live in 658 sq ft energy efficient mobile home in a safe community. i cook mostly at home and what i have, i use. yes, i have tv. i have dish tv which is a lot less than cable. i have a trac phone. the down sizing i have done in the last year in a half is enabling me to live well and have peace. i read somewhere that minimalism is different things to different folks. i agree with that.

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