Getting Minimalist-ish in 2017


We’re currently exploring and getting to know a small island about 100 miles from Africa and a two hour ferry ride from Sicily. As I’ve written before, we’re having kind of a weird stretch right now as a family and I’m learning lots about managing life in less than ideal circumstances. With less time to myself and more demands I’m finding keeping things simple to be the only way forward right now!

Happy New Year! I know many of you are setting decluttering goals for the year and I wanted to share some of my favourite resources. As I have said before, there is no one right way to go about reducing your stuff or paring back your commitments. The right way is one that works for you and that you can stick with. It could be using a method from a book, making a bet with a friend, joining in on an Instagram hashtag like the #minsgame, joining an online community, publicly declaring a goal to friends and family or simply throwing a box in the corner of each room of your home and putting things in it as you see that you no longer use them (my favourite method and so easy to start right now). Here are some other ideas to get you started:

Books on Decluttering

The Clutter Cleanse Series

Minimalist Writers I Recommend

Almost too many to include but the following writers have inspired me, shocked me and made me laugh over the years. Of note: I’m not a sell everything and live with no couch kind of minimalist (though I love reading about that kind of radical minimalism) so all of these writers lend themselves to the more moderate style of practical minimalism that we aim for as a family.

  • Brook McAlary on Slow Your Home: her podcast is both fun, irreverent, soulful and informative and her blog is a treasure trove of posts for slowing down and letting go. Keep an eye out for her forthcoming book.
  • Joshua Becker on Becoming Minimalist: powerful posts about our consumption habits, why we all need to live with less and how to do it. Join his newsletter for collections of news on consumption and simplifying.
  • Evelyn on Smallish: I started following Evelyn when she had a few less children and they all lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment. They now live in a 1000 sq ft home as a family of six and I continue to admire her authenticity in sharing life as a homeschooling mom of four in a small home. If you have a gaggle of kids and are feeling defeated by stuff go check out Evelyn’s website!
  • Courtney Carver’s Project 333: for those of you struggling with wardrobes, fast fashion and the fear of having nothing to wear. Courtney’s many devotees share their minimalist wardrobes under the hashtag #project333.

Don’t be discouraged if you find things get worse before they get better. My family has been at this for six years now and we still have to sort kid’s clothes, donate toys, sell something we bought only year ago because we no longer need/use/wear it semi-regularly. Paring down or minimalism or simplifying or whatever you want to call it is not a a destination but a journey. Good luck!

Home Tour: One Bedroom For Three Boys

Sharing our home in this series on the blog. More here and here.

Three boys. One bedroom.

My best tip for making a small space work for three kids isn’t a design hack or even a space creator like having less stuff. My best tip for making our small space work for three kids is this: get outside. We don’t have a yard nor space to have an indoor mini tramp or rec room you could play soccer in. Our home has to meet our big needs – place to sleep, relax and dine – but it can’t meet all of our needs. We can’t own all the toys or all the books. So we let the library and our friends and the tot drop in at the Community Center own and store a lot of toys and books that we use on site or borrow for a few weeks. Grandma has the water guns and the mini soccer goals and big remote control cars at her house. If you don’t have an attic or garage or basement you are forced to just own what you use most of the time and find other ways to enjoy your occasional toys and activities.


Technically this room houses three but at the moment the youngest sleeps in the office in a portable crib but plays and has his toys and clothing stored in this room. Our plan is for the three boys to share this room for the next two to three years and then do some shuffling to give them more space.


The IKEA hack toddler bunk beds (originally our neighbor’s are fantastic space savers. Our older two – age 6 and age 3 – fit nicely in them. I won’t disclose too much about the design (because it’s not mine and I don’t want to be sued!) but this is two IKEA Gulliver beds stacked on each other with four supports keeping them together and a custom ladder. It’s very sturdy and we all love it.

On the other side of the room we have a play corner centered around the ubiquitous IKEA Expedit unit. I try to keep the toy collection contained to just these boxes plus another box in the living room but I will confess there is a Paw Patroller and Air Patroller out of view. The boxes: two are full of wooden trains and train set pieces, the rest is Duplo, Lego, dress up clothing, wooden puzzles and some Hot Wheels cars and tracks. We cull the toys a few times a year via the methods in Simplicity Parenting. Some of the books are displayed on picture rails that just fit in next to the closet and there are more books stacked around the house.


The small but deep closet in the kid’s room holds two IKEA units for clothing. Sometimes I KonMari all the clothing… sometimes the three year old pulls all of it out looking for his pajamas (they were on his bed). Sometimes the baby pulls all the clothing out just because it’s fun. So yes, I don’t KonMari their clothing frequently. I have a rule that if the clothing can’t fit in unfolded then we need to pare it down.


The rug is very second hand Pottery Barn and was incredibly dirty when I got it. A number of runs with the Dyson later it’s nubby and worn but pretty clean. The little chairs can fit at our kid’s table to increase our hosting options.

A big comfy reading chair that the kids could sit in with me would be nice. But it would eat a lot of floor space and make the room feel crowded. Instead I sit on the carpet or the kids come into our bed or we all sit on the living room couch. When the kids are waking each other up or pestering each other and not falling asleep I think it would be nice for them to have their own rooms. I’m not immune to the “wouldn’t it be nice to have” thoughts but when I go there, and I do go there, I then try to remind myself what the nice to haves come with: eventually feeling squeezed out of our small-ish home.


What about when they’re teens? It wasn’t until second year university that I first experienced having my own bedroom. Oh how I loved it. The privacy and the ability to decorate and do as I please was such a luxury. I would really like our children to have a year or two of their own bedroom in their teen years. Which is why if we stay in this home we will do a room shuffle every few years so each boy can have a year or two of high school with his own bedroom. Here’s another “it would be nice to have”: It would be nice that they spend enough time sharing a bedroom with a sibling(s) that they learn how to navigate the rough and calm waters of living with people and also, that they really appreciate having their own bedroom when it finally happens.

Did you share a bedroom growing up? When did you first have your own bedroom? I feel like most kids these days don’t have to share but I like the skills learned from negotiating with a sister over what poster goes on the wall and who gets the top drawer.

The NEW Joy of Less + Giveaway



I run very few ‘stuff’ giveaways on this blog. You already know that. But occasionally I give away books I really enjoy and, this may surprise you, I often pay for those books myself. In fact my first giveaway on this blog was a copy of Francine Jay’s, aka Miss Minimalist, wonderful guide to decluttering your home, The Joy of Less. I wanted to thank all my readers for their wonderful encouragement as I tackled reducing our stuff so I decided to give away a copy of a book that had been a great help to me.

So I was beyond thrilled when Francine emailed me about the new revised and updated edition of The Joy of Less she was working on with Chronicle Books. Miss Minimalist emailed me! I’m such a fan girl that I did a double take when I saw the email.

Lucky me I received an advance copy of the updated and revised edition of the book and you’ll seem my short notes – spoiler: I loved it! – on the back of the book.

After reading this new version again I was surprised by the book. I read it back in 2010 with such fervor and determination to get our home in order that I remember it quite differently. Back then I was looking for how-tos and a solid kick in the pants to get it done. And that was my big takeaway back then. I got just what I needed from it.

Reading it again six years later I got to enjoy a whole other side to the book: it’s sweeter and funnier and cheekier than I remember. Nonthreatening. Entertaining, silly at times and so inspiring. Francine writes with such a calm and accessible hand on what can often be a stressful and emotional task. And the additional material, particularly on children, is so helpful. We are out of the big home purge stage in our living with less journey but I found myself nodding along and enjoying all the succinct and smart ways to pare down and the big benefits to living smaller.

Quotes I loved from The Joy of Less:

We reclaim our space, and restore function and potential to our homes.

We have to remember that our memories, dreams, and ambitions aren’t contained in objects; they’re contained in ourselves.

We are not what we own; we are what we do, what we think, and who we love.

In pursuing a minimalist lifestyle, we must resist the temptation to recreate the outside world within our abodes.

To celebrate the publication of The Joy of Less Chronicle Books is giving away two copies of the book to lucky Minimalist Mom readers. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below and then leave a comment on this post. Contest closes Saturday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I Don’t Want Your Free Stuff

I don’t want the free t-shirt with entry.

I don’t want the pen from the bank, the cheap umbrella that comes free with purchase or the gift bag.

Please save me from the gift bag. The overly perfumed soaps and the vouchers for so many things I will never buy. Save me from having to take it home and recycle and donate it all.

Friends and family: I don’t want the stuff that you don’t want anymore.

When you come by with a box of things you don’t want or need, things you realized you never wanted in the first place but that you know someone else must want because you can remember handing over cash for it so it must be worth something to someone, when you hand all of that to me, know that it’s not a gift you’ve given me.

Your unwanted goods are now my unwanted goods and the burden is now on me to sort, donate and recycle all those things. Can I say “not it” and you’ll take it back and do the work yourself?

Free is not free.

Decision Fatigue

One strong reason to simplify: decision fatigue.

The more we have to decide in our life, the stronger the chance we’ll make poor choices.

This article in the New York Times, Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue, gives a good overview of how decision fatigue affects our modern lives.

There’s a reason we find it harder to resist brownies later in the day or make impulse purchases at the end of a day of shopping. Making decisions, even small ones, is mentally tiring and our capacity for decision making is finite.

What to eat for breakfast, what to wear to work, which route to drive, go out for a morning coffee or stay in, all of these choices fatigue our brains.

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. – John Tierney for the NYT

Our recent car purchase was a win for avoiding decision fatigue. We talked over our needs for the car for a long time before we even looked at vehicles. After some online and casual in-person browsing we test drove one car that fit our needs.

Then we bought it.

We avoided going out to a dealership or large car lot that had cars out of our price range.

We made our decision on a relaxed weekend day when we weren’t rushed or too tired.

Buying more car than we planned on wasn’t an option.

It’s nice to book a win once in a while because I know decision fatigue affects me a lot.

It’s one of the reasons I try to stay out of stores unless I have a list. It’s one of the reasons I meal plan and use a grocery delivery service. If I’m tired or hungry or shopping with children in tow, I am much more likely to buy things I don’t need.

One of my projects in the next few months is to build out a good capsule wardrobe. My current wardrobe is a mix of nursing tops and threadbare jeans.

I’ve found that when I want to look at clothing, online or in stores, or try anything on out of my own closet, I can’t do it late in the day.

As described in that NYT’s article, I agonize over decisions and become paralyzed by them. In the end I just chicken out and do/buy nothing.

New plan: do small tasks, like searching for second hand medium weight floral scarves on eBay, first thing in the morning.

How do you avoid decision fatigue?

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