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.

Simplify For Fall: Bedrooms & Bathrooms

This week I’m following along with the Life Your Way Simplify for Fall Challenge. Six days, six areas of the home to simplify. I’ll be sharing my progress here all week. Here’s what I’ve already tackled: clothing & laundry room, toys and kitchen and meal planning.

Not sure I am going to stay ahead of the work on these projects so beware, there might be some of these posts up next week.

Simplify your: bedrooms and bathrooms.

Time I took with this task: 1-2 hours

Some of the big work we did in the fall of 2010 and the massive downsizing for our move overseas has really paid off. Neither of these areas were too challenging or too cluttered for us.

Don’t be jealous. I’ll be showing you my paper clutter soon. Paper and clothing seem to be the first things that get out of hand in our household.

Bedrooms

I’ve come to a conclusion about guest rooms after ours got out of control.

You need to use your guest room.

and

You need to keep the door open.

After my sister left last week I committed to leaving the guest room door open and to not chuck anything I am procrastinating on in. Not that I haven’t been tempted this week.

Our room, seen at the top there, was no work at all. We don’t have much besides our bed and clothing in there. Our side table drawers hold a few things like my hair dryer and two hand bags.

Yes, I know the room is awfully beige and plain and boring. It’s a minimalist cliche rather than minimalist chic. But we live in a furnished rental so we don’t have a lot of choice and while it’s rather boring I find it calming. And calm is what I need when I’m trying to get a good night’s sleep.

I’ll get around to hanging some pictures or art on the wall in the future.

For now the only thing I did for the challenge was hang a reuseable bag over the chair for my husband’s dry cleaning. We use the doors of our closet to hang out clothes we intend to use again for a bit of airing.

Henry’s room was in good shape already after sorting toys and clothes.

The crib and change table dresser came with our apartment and at some point I hope to have both children in the same room. I didn’t have my own room until I was 18 and living off-campus for the first time. It certainly made me more more easy going about sharing space with roommates and my husband.

A good sign: empty storage.

Usually when you have another baby on the way you start thinking about buying dressers for all the clothing. Not here. Most of the drawers and cupboards in Henry’s room are empty and we’ll have more than enough space for newborn onesies and cloth diapers.

Bathrooms

We have a very small bathroom off our master bedroom with a shower. Very small. So small I couldn’t figure out a way to get a decent picture of it.

The small bathroom has a towel rack and one medicine cabinet for storage. The pedestal sink fits just one tube of toothpaste and our toothbrushes.

There is no storage for extra toiletries, sun block, travel toiletries and what not.

So we put it all here:

Not so pretty but it works.

For the challenge I went through all the boxes and cleaned up a puddle of almond oil that had leaked.

One of the boxes contains over-the-counter medication and I moved all of it into an empty shelf in the kitchen. Makes it more accessible for use but also keeps it out of Henry’s reach.

This is our main or family bath (except the make-up case medicine cabinet photo – that’s from our master bath). It has a tub and a separate shower (didn’t get a photo). We rarely use the shower in there which is good by me because it is a pain to clean.

Henry is the main user of this bathroom and it stays pretty tidy. We keep a hand towel and Henry’s towel cape, a much loved gift from my friend’s mother, on the towel rack. The beach towels are for guests and beach and pool trips. Our master bath has white towels and I like to keep them for home use only.

The medicine cabinet is mostly empty except for infant nail scissors, some children’s bath suds/shampoo and a can of Febreeze the owners left. Personally, Febreeze makes me gag. I prefer the light a match method but I leave that to our guest’s discretion.

Some of these simplifying areas have been a chance to document what we have rather than do a lot of simplifying. Our work in the last two years has really paid off and while we still have our hot spots for clutter we’ve made a lot of progress in just generally having fewer things around.

I thought about skipping some of the days but a lot of people have asked for photos of what our home looks like, what a moderate minimalist family owns.

Hopefully some of you can see that we’re not zealots, or completely nuts, just trying to live with a bit less than the average first world family.

Tomorrow: Paper Clutter & Budgets

Your Clutter Coach

 

Sometimes you need more help than a book or a blog can give you.

Sometimes you need a friend to remind you to donate those bags of unworn clothing that are sitting in your basement.

Sometimes you need someone to make a plan for you, motivate you and keep you accountable.

Sometimes you need a Clutter Coach.

I get a lot of emails asking for help. I always respond (even it takes me a while) with advice, suggestion and encouragement.

And I always wonder, did they carve out a weekend to clean out that attic? Are they in the throes of home purging and feeling beaten by the process? Did they pull out some boxes from under their bed, lose a few hours looking through old junk, and then decide it was all too much work?

For some time I’ve wanted to help beyond the posts on this blog. Something very personal for paring down and living smaller.

A book wasn’t the answer. There are already some great books out there like Family-Sized Minimalism and Clutter Bootcamp for inspiration and how-to. A book can’t hold your hand, give you a kick in the butt or suggest another method for dealing with all that mail.

I want to do those things.

I want to see closets go from jam packed to roomy.

I want to help people get more sleep.

I want to find solutions for the mud room clutter that can be so hard to reign in.

So I’ve started something new.

Your Clutter Coach

This is for people that:

  • can’t make the time to declutter even after reading a lot of books and blogs on the subject
  • get sidetracked by old photos and trinkets every time they attempt to clean out the guest room
  • have pared down their stuff but it crept back quickly
  • need motivation and accountability to clear clutter for good

Your Clutter Coach is a personalized decluttering program. It’s tailored to your lifestyle, your needs and your schedule. It’s me kicking your butt and you kicking ass.

You can read more about the services here.

If you’re interested in the program I am currently giving away one free Four Week Clutter Coaching Program at Parenting with Crappy Pictures (if you haven’t visited this site before it is hilarious). The giveaway is open until Tuesday May 8th at 8pm PST. Head on over to read the details and enter.

PS. This will be the only time I mention Your Clutter Coach in a big post like this.

game changer

someecards.com - It's not a period. It's a fountain of red wine. That's why I get so crazy. The more wine my body loses the crazier I get.

WARNING: for male readers or women that don’t want to read about “female troubles” or “aunt flow” or the experience that billions of us have once a month, stop reading now. I am sharing a simple living find that has literally changed a week of my life every month and saved me a lot of money. Back to normal programming after this post.

My friend S has told me many times that something would “change my life.”

Sometimes the thing that was going to change my life was an olive tapenade or a face cream. I do love her exuberance for the little things.

But here is where I tell you, this could change your life.

I’m going to be frank in the next few paragraphs. You might feel that you know me too well by the end of this.

That’s okay.

If I even get a handful of you to consider making this switch, if even one person does make this switch, well then, being candid about my menstrual cycle and the complete and utter failure of traditional feminine protection products will have been worth it.

Today I feel like shouting from the rooftops, I am free. No longer will I deal with pad or tampon failure. No longer will I be stuck wearing panty liners  for that utterly annoying pre-period spotting.

I am done with you Tampax and OB. I am done shelling out a lot of money for your expensive products and I am done carting a handful of them around in my handbag. I’m done using bulky pads that leave me wanting to shower five times a day. I’m done with tampons that are uncomfortable and shift and become painful while I’m running or doing a workout.

I’m done with menstrual products that remind me every freaking minute that yes, I have my period and yes, I’m uncomfortable.

That’s no way to live for a week every month.

I’ve found the Diva Cup and I am never going back.

This is a game changer. A GAME CHANGER.

I was hesitant at first. I tried something similar, an early version of a menstrual cup, back in university. It never fit right and at one point I stood up and the thing moved and emptied. Luckily I was at home at the time. I swore off trying alternative menstrual products after that.

But since having a baby I’ve become even more unhappy with what the drug store has to offer. Tampons were painful, didn’t fit right even after testing out going up and then down a size, and let’s just be blunt here: you have to change the thing every time you go pee or you’re walking around with a urine soaked tampon string. Expensive and not a lot of fun.

I tried using pads more but they have their own down falls. Bulky and on a long walk I’d get chaffage. They’re also fantastically messy. No skipping through a field of wild flowers when all you can think about is taking a bath.

The Diva Cup changes all of this. I literally forget I have my period. Sure there has been a learning curve for inserting it and for emptying it. Especially for emptying it. Be patient. Your bathroom might look like a crime scene the first few times. But after some practice I am now on easy street.

The other amazing perk of this system: put it in when you think you’re about to get your period. No more SURPRISE, you need to ditch that lunch date to rush home and change everything below the waist and find some upholstery cleaner for your car. No more wearing a stupid panty liner for three days hoping to “catch it” and then it comes on full flood and you’re up red creek without a paddle.

And I think it’s totally minimalist. Just this little cup that you can get up to a decade of use out of. It has it’s own little bag and is very small. Easy to tuck into a handbag or a cosmetics case while you’re on vacation. Again, no more last minute dash to a corner to store for very overpriced (because they’re already overpriced) tampons.

Okay, I’ve said my bit.

If you are interested in knowing more I’ve linked to sites where you can read more about the Diva Cup. These are not affiliate links and I haven’t been compensated by Diva Cup for writing this. I just feel more women need to know about this awesome alternative so I am shamelessly using my blog to get the word out.

DivaCup.com

To Purchase Canada & Worldwide: Luna Pads

To Purchase in the UK: Moon Times

Has anyone else tried the Diva Cup?

 

Stop Organizing, Start Simplifying

 

A television crew is coming to our home this weekend. They’ll be filming my little family over a few days for a lifestyle show that airs in North America. Another interesting experience this blog has brought my way.

I am neither obsessively cleaning nor crash dieting in preparation.

I am not buying expensive throw pillows or mirrors to glam up our little home.

I’m not paying a professional cleaner to take a toothbrush to our bath tub.

I haven’t bought myself a new camera ready wardrobe.

I haven’t booked a make-up artist to beautify me each day of the shoot.

What am I doing?

Organizing.

Organizing is a dirty word to me. A loaded word.

“If I just got more organized my house would be _____, my kids would be ______ and my life would be ______.”

For so much of my life I thought the reason I failed at housekeeping or couldn’t find the time to write or couldn’t “do it all” was because I wasn’t organized.

I developed elaborate and time consuming systems for keeping my wardrobe in order. T-shirts stacked in perfect squares, underwear and bras placed in alternating rows in drawers and my closet divided into sections for work, casual and formal wear.

An afternoon of hard work was undone within a week. A few loads of laundry haphazardly put away and, once again, I was back to drawers that would barely shut and a closet that I had to weed through every morning to put an outfit together.

This same cycle repeated itself with so many areas of our home. The office, the kitchen, the living room. I’d invest in a piece of IKEA furniture that was going to “save us” and after a weekend of work our home looked fantastic. Books lined up by height, picture frames tastefully displayed and a few pieces of decor for fun.

It wasn’t long before opened mail was wedged in next to the picture frames, the books were dusty and out of order and the decor was hidden under leftover packaging from new electronics.

Until this week I had given up on organizing. Simplicity and owning less stuff has brought more order to my life than organizing ever did.

So why am I organizing now? There’s a process to this television shoot and a timeline. Our possessions will need to be moved out of our home and then quickly moved back in and unpacked. To make the process smoother and faster I am organizing.

Of course, I am organizing and doing some decluttering as I go. We have a garbage bag full of Chris’s clothing for donations and a small box of toddler toys to give away. Henry’s just had a growth spurt so I’ve put away all his 12-18 month clothing and transitioned him into 2-3 year sizes. I do love how we skipped buying a size – another reason to buy adjustable sized clothing.

The beauty of organizing when you own less stuff: it’s an easy process and the results last longer.

Tell me, are you still organizing or have you moved onto simplifying? If you’ve reduced what you have do you find it easier to keep everything organized?

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