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.

One Simple Thing: No Laundry Basket

 

Credit must go where credit is due.

This was not my idea. I gleaned it from the comments section on this blog. Laura (posts as Apple) mentioned she had done this, how it simplified her laundry system and made for one less thing around the house (so important if you live in a small space).

The comments section here is a gold mine of advice and tips. Don’t forget to scroll down and have a glance through. There are so many of you living with different scenarios than mine and I am so grateful that you share how you’ve made living with less stuff work for you.

When I read that Laura no longer had a laundry basket, that it really wasn’t needed if you put clothes away right after folding them, my interest was piqued.

What a fantastic way to force my housekeeping hand and remove a step that often leads to procrastination in the form of a basket of clean laundry. It lingers in my living room taking up space and reminding me I’m putting off a simple chore. Perhaps my son decides to play with the clean laundry and pulls some of it onto the floor. With his almond butter coated hands. The clean is now dirty again and no one even got to wear it.

Our new home is furnished but still needs a few things. One thing I thought I needed was a laundry basket. Not a hamper which is a basket that I store dirty laundry in bu the kind of basket you use to transport fresh laundry around your home. Or store it until you get the hutzpah to finally put it away.

After a few weeks without a laundry basket I’ve decided we don’t need one. I fold what I need to fold and then put the piles away.

Immediately.

Because I don’t want anyone moving a pile of clean laundry off of the couch with dirty hands. Or having to stare at the laundry all evening as I am trying to relax.

This may seem like a small thing to get rid of but it’s actually resulted in better laundry turn around time here. And that’s a big thing for us.

PS. If you have a big home and a lot of stairs I can see that you might not be into this. But think of all the free exercise.

Anyone else have an item that was a procrastinator – something that allowed you to put off a task – that you’ve gotten rid of? The other one we got rid of was an in-tray with multiple slots for bills and mail. Now we just have one spot for papers and I try to deal with it once a week.

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.

killing the green eyed monster

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Reader Stacey sent me this question the other week:

How do you conquer jealousy/envy when it comes to material possessions?

Stacey’s question was quite a bit longer than that and her focus was actually on homes, but I thought it was such a good topic that I wanted to explore it further here.

I’m not immune to pangs of envy.

Embracing a life with less stuff has certainly helped but I’m still prone to the occasional bought of jealousy.

Lots of our friends and family have nice homes, go on spectacular vacations, are in great shape and have fabulous wardrobes.

Sometimes I think wistfully, why not me? Wouldn’t that be nice to own/do/be.

But there are several things that have helped me curb jealousy or envy to a sometimes quiet whisper rather than a full blown, break out the credit card or tears, roar.

Live your values.

When we were in a pile of consumer debt, and I was checking BabySteals.com every morning, we were extrinsically focused and motivated.

Could we get a bigger home?

Should we get a new car?

What’s the next vacation we can go on?

What’s our income like compared to our friends?

Did you see ___ got a new ____ and are going to _____ and are driving a ______?

Deciding to get off the consumer hamster wheel, to live smaller and get out of debt, changed things. It was a wake up call. It forced us to look inward.

Do we want our son to grow up in a home where it’s always about the next thing to buy or the next thing to upgrade?

or

Do we want him to grow up in a home where being good citizens and spending time with each other are the focus?

When you get new eyes about how you want to live your life, it’s less tempting to be envious of what everyone else has.

Envy is a choice.

Sometimes I wonder how I ended up with a circle of friends and family that are so damn successful: Senior VPs, marketing gurus and others that have generally kicked butt in the workplace. They have huge salaries, loads of responsibility and really cool business cards.

My last corporate job was a few rungs up from entry level.

When I play the comparison game it’s pretty depressing.

Instead of comparing, I try to be thankful. I’m thankful my friends have received the recognition they deserve, that they’ve found careers they find fulfilling and that I’m doing what I want right now too (even if it comes with a negative salary).

Stuff does not equal contentment.

Stacey was specifically asking about house envy. How do you handle your friends and family having huge show homes with all the accoutrements when you’ve living in a small and modest space?

There are some gorgeous homes here in the Isle of Man. Georgian town homes that have been beautifully restored and renovated. I’ve been in a few and, wow, they are spectacular.

I’m sure the families that live in them enjoy the space and beauty every day.

When I think about my family moving into a big and beautiful home I know that what we would give up for it would actually reduce our daily contentment. I’d spend more time cleaning. The increased rent and utilities would mean a reduction in some other area of our life, probably travel. We wouldn’t have the ease and peace of mind of our son always being within ear shot. We’d give up our ocean view and easy access to the beach. Playing out this kind of scenario in my head allows me to appreciate the nice things my friends have, without feeling the need to own them myself.

It’s easier to not be envious when you know that stuff won’t make you happier.

Any suggestions for Stacey on how you battle envy or jealousy?

One Simple Thing: Slow Down

 

Not sure this photo has much to do with this post but… I love it. Totally reminds me of when I was a kid and would walk and read. And there is nothing like being so involved in a book that you don’t want to put it down.

In early November I read a post by Katy about when to slow down. She had cut her finger quite badly while multitasking and having too much on her mind. Life was very busy. Too many balls in the air and one of the repercussions was a day lost waiting to get stitches at the hospital.

Multitasking and busy schedules are the norm for a lot of families. Pick-up, drop-off, errands, shopping, play dates, social commitments, a late night at work. Before moving to this sleepy island, the “we’re so busy” phrase was probably the most common answer when I asked friends how they were. In our new home a more common reply is “we’re good”, “the children are a delight” and at the moment, “we’re excited about the holidays”. *I’ve had a few requests for some comparisons between our urban Vancouver life and small town island life. I’ll write more about the quirks and differences of our new home in the new year.

What’s the danger in being busy?

Well, there’s nothing overly dangerous in keeping a fairly full routine and schedule. In fact, a lot of people thrive on having very little free or unscheduled time.

The danger comes when you are beyond your capacity. The danger comes when you are overwhelmed. You make mistakes.

The leftovers are forgotten in their containers on the kitchen counter. They spoil and you have to throw them out.

You double book yourself without knowing and have to pay a cancellation fee for an appointment.

You leave your coffee/lunch/wallet on top of the car and drive away.

Your children are regularly late for school and only get half the first morning’s lesson. They feel less confident in those subjects and their learning is affected.

Sometimes being overwhelmed results in terrible tragedies. There isn’t a parent out there that doesn’t hear of these tragedies and think, could that have been me on a busy day?

How to Slow Down:

  • If you text while driving stop. Today. Nothing is more important than your life, the lives of your passengers and other drivers.
  • Make realistic schedules and to-do lists. I like keeping my daily to-do list at three things.
  • Look up. Take a moment to look at your surroundings, really look at the road in front of you or the people beside you.
  • Say no. It can be hard. Particularly if you are a people pleaser. But stick to your guns and commit to things you enjoy and can give your undivided attention to.
  • Schedule a block of “do nothing” time. A friend of ours recently told me about his unexpected do nothing day. It happened organically but he seized the opportunity to take a vacation day, do some errands and read. I love hearing this. Especially from parents!
  • Breathe. Take a long rib expanding deep breath when you are running around trying to do seven things at once. A deep breath can bring clarity. And clarity can help you see that your sleep is important, store bought cookies are okay and maybe that oil change can wait till next week.

This time of year is exciting and busy. Vacation, good food and drink, big expectations for social events and gift giving. There is a lot going on.

Take a moment to really ponder if your schedule is too full. If you’re spending more time getting places than enjoying them.

Adjust. Send your regrets for a holiday party and make plans for more intimate gatherings in the New Year.

Slow down. Do it for your health and your loved ones. Do it so you can really engage with the people around you. Do it so you can be alert and mindful when others are not.

Wishing you a very happy, well and safe holiday season,

Rachel

PS. Courtney gave me a copy of the book for her Clutterfree course and I’ll be reading it over the holidays. I had hoped to write a little review for you here before the course starts in January but I am not sure that is going to happen. I wanted to alert you to this course if you’re making plans for a clutter free 2012. You can check read more about the book and course here. PPS. Courtney is delightful! I’ve had a few interactions with her and she is just as lovely by email correspondence as she is in her essays.

 

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