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: Paper Clutter & Budgets

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 as I complete each day. Here’s what I’ve already tackled: clothing & laundry room, toys, kitchen and meal planning and bedrooms and bathrooms.

Well this is embarrassing.

I let things slide for a bit and this is what we have.

Blaming pregnancy. It’s terrible for paper work.

At least half the stack is notices and information leaflets from the hospital. Every test result, ultrasound booking and OB appointment is confirmed with a letter in the mail. Almost every appointment has seen me leave with 1-3 brochures or leaflets in hand.

Paper Clutter: My Nemesis

As I am posting this a few days late I will have to come clean that this project was moved off our dining table not once, but twice, in the last three days.

Which is sad because actually getting it all sorted only took an hour and half. Every time I started the task I got pulled away to do something else. Or, uh, I guess I let myself get pulled away to another task.

Sorting Paper Clutter

You can see my system above. Nothing fancy.

Our little accordion file box is getting mighty full so I emptied and sorted it as well. Pulled a few things out that could be shredded and found one gem worth $350.

We purchased new appliances for our Vancouver home almost three years ago and I got talked into a three year extended warranty on all three appliances. One of the perks to the warranty was that if you never use you can get the equivalent dollar value back in Sears gift cards.

Just put a reminder in my calendar to make a call in late October for our gift cards. Gift cards that I will probably flip into cash.

Budgets

We use a reverse budget and it serves us well. You can read about it here.

Cutting Back on Travel

Two months ago we reduced our monthly contribution to our travel account by a third.

We’re heading into a year of a lot of time at home (no air travel in late pregnancy and then a newborn) and we’d like to use it as a chance to save more. Our travel account will still grow, albeit not as quickly, in this year of less travel.

Budgeting for a New Baby

We do have a few things to buy for this new baby. Co-sleeper crib, infant car seat and infant cloth diapers. We should be able to buy them between October and January out of our monthly budget.

We’ll also have a few expenses when the new baby arrives. Chris will take a week of paternity leave and one week unpaid meaning a loss of income. I’d like to hire weekly cleaners for the first six weeks after the baby arrives. Less spending on nice-to-haves/do and Chris’s baby bonus from his employer should cover all of it.

Stuck on paper clutter?

Paper clutter seems to be a lot of people’s nemesis. Mine included.

You can read about some of our efforts to reduce the amount of paper coming into our home and the epic sorting, scanning, shredding, recycling and filing we did in the following posts.

Going Paperless

How to Reduce Paper Clutter

Has anyone else been following along with Mandi on this challenge? She set a blistering pace last week and even with a head start I couldn’t keep up.

Tomorrow: Routines & Schedules

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

Simplify For Fall: Toys & School Supplies

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.

Ashlee commented that she was impressed that I was blogging and decluttering at the same time.

I feel I need to make it clear that I’m not.

I got a sneaky head start on this project last week and a few of the areas were tackled over the summer. Yes, I’m one of those people that likes putting something on a list that I have already done just so I can cross it off.
Simplify Your: Toys & School Supplies

Time I took with this task: 1 hour

Toys 

A few weeks ago I boxed up some of  Henry’s toys that he had outgrown or didn’t have interest in. I also moved some of his more advanced books into a closet and just kept his most loved books out. You can see our entire toy and book collection in the photo above.

Yes, we only have a handful of books out for our two year-old.

Why? Well, those are the ones we read over and over again. So why not just have what we use out. I also read about the benefits of reading repetition at Little Stories and the benefits of fewer books in Simplicity Parenting.

This was an easy piece to check off my list because we don’t have a lot of toys and I had already done most of the work. Below is what we will store, what we will return to friends and what we will donate.

School Supplies

We neither go to school nor have school supplies. We’re also really low on craft supplies. So I took a break on this piece of the challenge.

However, we do have some paper clutter and office type clutter. I’ll tackle that in the paper clutter challenge that I hope to work on tonight. Warming up the shredder now…

Tomorrow: Bedrooms & Bathrooms

P.S. No, I didn’t buy fancy editing and design software and spend days learning how to use it. Pixlr now has a fun Express feature that allows people like me – no skills or inclination to learn how to use a fancy editing suite – to make fun photo collages.

Simplify For Fall: Clothes & Laundry Room

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.

Simplify your: Clothing & Laundry Room

Time I spent on this task: 2-3 hours

Clothing

I have four wardrobes right now: maternity, year-round and winter and summer. My winter items, heavy coat and sweaters, are stored in a closet in our extra bedroom. The rest of my wardrobe is a jumble of maternity, regular clothing and a few pieces of summer clothing.

For the challenge I moved most of my year-round and summer clothing into storage. By storage I mean a few drawers in the dresser in our spare bedroom.

What a relief to have a nice uncluttered closet again.

Create More Space: Have Less Stuff

While our flat is quite spacious the storage is minimal. Not a big problem for us but we had no place to conveniently store towels and linens.

Until now.

Previously this dresser was divided two to one with my husband having two drawers and me having one. My husband’s second drawer held summer clothing which he never wore and a few hooded sweatshirts that had seen better days.

After a light purge of his wardrobe and storing a few summer items away, the bottom drawer was empty. Win.

Bonus: my husband was complaining that a lot of his socks were missing. We found most of them during this task and, ahem, by looking under our bed. Just four lonely single socks now instead of the dozen we started with.

Henry’s Wardrobe

There wasn’t much to do to get our almost three year-old’s clothing in order. Fall is arriving (summer never really visited) but we just booked our last family trip before the new baby arrives: eight days in Ibiza and Barcelona. We’ll pack a few pairs of shorts for that trip and Henry wears the rest of his wardrobe year round.

***I took these pics on laundry day so his wardrobe looks uber minimal in these pics. The closet usually has a rugby shirt, long sleeve button up, hooded sweatshirt and rain jacket in it. The drawer has a few more t-shirts, PJs and jeans.


As part of this task I made a list of what Henry needs for winter: heavy coat, wellies, sweaters, jeans, pants.

For another day: baby clothes.

I had big plans for pulling out baby clothing and sorting it for this challenge. Instead I… took a nap. I’ll save that one for later in the fall.

Laundry Room

We don’t have one.

Like most Europeans our washing machine is in our kitchen and we hang our clothing to dry.

I really struggled with this when we first moved over. Our machine was terrible. It was a washer dryer combo that neither washed clothing very well nor dried it at all. Everything came out warm and very damp and not as clean as I would like. I was always behind on the laundry and we always had drying racks up in our house.

When we moved to a new flat in the spring we were hoping for a separate washer and dryer. I just wanted my simple and easy North American laundry system back. But our new home only had a washer – no dryer.

At first I was disappointed but after using the washer I finally realized how all these Euros manage laundry: they have great washing machines. Our new washing machine spins clothes out at 1200 RPMs. Items come out clean and need less than 24 hours to dry. Even jeans. Our sheets dry in 3-4 hours.

I’m finally able to keep up with our laundry. Timely because we’ll be adding more laundry, onesies, burp clothes and cloth diapers in January.

My laundry room is a corner of my kitchen where I set-up our two hanging racks and use a shelf to fold clothing on. It’s not pretty but I try to only have it up during the week. The racks fold down and spend weekends in our front hall storage closet.

weekday look
weekend look

Simple laundry room = no organizing! Happy to have at least one thing already checked off the list for this challenge.

 Tomorrow: Kitchen & Meal Planning

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