Those of you who know me and follow me on social media know that I’ve been singing the praises of “minimalism” lately. And while I’m sure it makes me sound like some sort of combination of preachy bitch and millennial vegan hipster, I can’t help it – it has been a total game-changer.
Those of you who follow me on social media also may have seen me selling basically anything that isn’t tied down in the house: from furniture, to clothing, to kids’ toys and beyond. My friends half-jokingly ask if they’ll have a chair to sit on when they come over or comment on my 3 year old’s recent hobby of playing with the cans in our pantry cupboard for fun because she has no other toys left.
Yes, I’ll admit it – I’m addicted to getting rid of shit. BUT, I have set some important ground rules that I feel keep me on the good side of the boundary between crazy and sane (which I’ll get into, later).
For now, I wanted to chat about why I’m finding minimalism so freeing.
I’ve written often about my struggle with anxiety. While I was always on the anxious side, motherhood amplified it for me a hundred-fold. Motherhood brought with it a whole new set of expectations (real or imagined), and I was crippled under their weight. Have a clean house. Shower. Keep the kid alive. Cook meals (you know, that sort of thing). Even years after those terrible early days of sheer exhaustion (shudder), I still found myself cleaning late into the night and feeling anxious as soon as I walked into the house. Toys were scattered everywhere. Dishes were piled in the sink. There were three loads of laundry to fold and put away and about 5 Pinterest projects in progress at any given time.
As soon as I somehow stumbled on the concept of living minimally, I was hooked. I knew it was exactly how I wanted to live – in a pristine, stark white home with perfect white furniture and sparkling ocean-view windows free of grubby fingerprints, and mid-century modern furniture.
(…But wait. I have a three year old. And a very hairy dog. And a partner who has a strange but enviable ability to see through any and all clutter without it even crossing his mind for a millisecond).
So, I had to adjust my expectations slightly, and work within the confines of my reality. (Someday I will own that mid century modern beach house, I swear…).
When we moved recently, I used it as an opportunity to really test the waters of minimalism. The amount of stuff – sheer unused junk – I threw out, donated or sold was nothing short of astonishing. (And yet we STILL had so much stuff left over it barely fit in our moving truck).
I started with my own wardrobe. I wanted it to be as minimal and coordinated as possible. And that’s when I fell upon the concept of the capsule wardrobe (which I’ll get into in more detail someday). In short, I have a curated wardrobe of about 30 articles of clothing that coordinate well and that I rotate through each week. Nothing more and nothing less. My colour palette is mostly blush pink, white, navy, chambray denim and grey. My once overflowing dresser drawers are now empty. I don’t even need a dresser anymore. Now Tyler’s wardrobe looks huge in comparison to mine.
Next I moved onto Ellie’s wardrobe. Kids’ clothes can be so overwhelming. They’re tiny and take up less space, sure, but looks can be deceiving. My kid had at least 20 pairs of pants and 15 pairs of pajamas stuffed into her drawers. Little tiny articles of clothing that are a pain in the ass to fold just right. Many of her shirts were odd colours like lime green and bright orange. I decided to choose a colour palette for her – she looks so cute in navy, purples, pinks and greys – and cull whatever didn’t fit the bill. When I was finished I noticed immediately that her pants and shirts – for the most part – coordinated with one another and could easily be interchanged. She now has 10 pairs of pants/shorts, 10 shirts, 3 sweaters and a couple of dresses. That’s it. I change them out when the weather warms or cools, I only keep clothes in the next size up and I immediately get rid of the stuff that is too small or otherwise not suitable for the coming months. Her clothes take up 3 drawers currently but could easily be combined to 2 (I like to keep items separate so she can dress herself with more ease).
I then decluttered the toys. This was a process, but it actually was extremely rewarding. I sat down with my three year old and we went through her toys together. I told her that some kids have no toys and there are some toys that she doesn’t play with, and asked her if she would be willing to give those toys to other kids to try. To my surprise, she soon joined in and helped me separate her toys into “keep” and “give away” piles. That’s not to say she’s perfect all of the time – there are some times she’ll ask for something and I have to remind her that we gave that item away, but because she participated in the process, it saves the tantrum that would undoubtedly ensue had she not.
Last of all, I went through our household items. The kitchen was a huge source of stress for me. I tackled the mismatched cups, the multiples of everything (who needs that many travel mugs?), and soon I began to notice my anxiety ease. The kitchen is one of those areas that I absolutely need to keep clean all of the time. If it’s not clean, I’m instantly in a bad mood.
Now, I’m noticing that cleaning up is so much easier. Ellie is responsible for storing her toys at the end of the day in the shelf I installed in her closet (to hide the toys from sight, mostly). The living room has next to no furniture in it (I do have to buy a few more pieces), and it is the one room in the house that feels tranquil to me. We still need to work on maintaining order in the master bedroom – that’s probably my biggest struggle, yet.
I’ve now completely streamlined everything we own in the upstairs level of our house. I’ve decluttered all there is to declutter, and I’m noticing a huge difference. Next up is the bottom level of our home – part storage area, part rec room and soon to be playroom. We recently moved a load of stuff we had stored at Tyler’s parents for the two years we were away at law school, so that needs to be tackled. Most of it we won’t need. After all: if we got through two years without it, how essential was it?
Before I leave off, I’ll share some of the “tips” I’ve picked up along the way:
- Involve your kid(s) in the process. It’s a great teaching moment and it instills a sense of gratitude and humility (in my view, anyway).
- Tackle one category of stuff at a time. Otherwise, things get overwhelming – fast.
- Keep boxes and bins close by to declutter when the mood strikes. I keep a box upstairs and toss things in to be donated as often as I can.
- Use baskets to collect items strewn across the house – it’s an easy way to capture the clutter and to avoid making multiple trips.
- Be patient. It’s a process. It’s not going to happen overnight. In fact, it’s been at least 6 months for me and I’m still working through the stuff.
- For everything that comes into the house, one thing goes out. This is an easy one for me.
- Adopt the “touch once” rule. If you can put an item in its intended location easily, DO IT. Don’t transfer items from room to room. This is how clutter creeps in. Put things away – as in, where they belong – immediately.
I’ll continue to post on my adventures in minimalism as the time goes on.
I hope you find living minimally as freeing as I have.