Minimalist Living: Finding a Balance

Thank you to Rachel Jonat from Minimalist Mom for this guest post. This is part three of her three part series for us on minimalist living. Read post one and two. Check out her site for even more great information.

Radical minimalism, counting everything you own and moving into the smallest living space you can find, isn’t for everyone. When I first approached simplifying what we own I felt intimidated by the more extreme approaches. We love where we live, I do like my espresso machine and our 1100 square foot condominium – small for North American standards of living – wasn’t something I wanted to give up. How could I find a balance of comfort with what we own, while not

feeling that I was depriving myself by trying to live up to an extreme standard?

Reducing my wardrobe brought both clarity – wow, I really wasn’t wearing much of this! – and motivation – I can live with less and enjoy it. From our clothing I moved onto to other areas of the home, book collections, DVDs, baby gadgets and toys, furniture and long forgotten craft projects. Some areas were easy: I’ve never been much of a sewer so why was I holding onto a sewing machine and forgotten fabric? Some areas were harder: serving platters, beautiful wine glasses and kitchen appliances are my Kryptonite.

There were also some hard truths to accept in the de-cluttering phase: money had been wasted and the best of intentions had been forgotten. Impulse purchases with tags still attached were a hard pill to swallow in the face of our consumer debt. Instead of dwelling too long on mistakes already made, and instead of ruthlessly making myself part with the dearly sentimental, I reduced in layers and stages.

Stage 1

Remove just what you what you likely won’t use or wear again. If it’s broken repair or recycle it. Let go of any guilty feelings about items that were gifts that you never used. If you’re still hopeful to fit into a your dream dress that’s hanging in the closet, keep it.

When I was in an initial de-clutter phase I had several piles of items in corners of my living room: donations, to-sell and maybe. Some of the maybe items were shelved for later consideration.

After this initial purge take some time to live in your home as it is.

Stage 2

It’s been a few months since your first round of de-cluttering. With new eyes for what you really need and use, begin to reexamine what’s in your home and what you want to keep. You may carve out a few afternoons for this, or it might be a daily routine to put a few things in a box for donations or list something on eBay or Craigslist.

Stage 3

Maintenance mode! It’s true, you’re never truly done with editing and streamlining your possessions. Much like getting in shape, and creating new habits, there will always be a need to monitor your progress. Two ways to stay ahead of the clutter is to adopt the one-in-one-out rule for items coming into your home and devote a half day to evaluating what’s in your home every 3-4 months.

Tips for De-Cluttering with Children

I get a lot of questions and comments on my blog about how to tame toys and get children to simplify possessions. Here are a few tips that I have picked up via readers of my blog:

Lead by example: take them with you when you donate clothing to a women’s shelter or household goods to a charity thrift store. Tell them how your items will be used by people that need them and generate money for a good cause.

Make room for gifts: after birthdays and the holiday season, help your child make room in their closet, toy bins and book shelves for the new gifts they have received. Let them pick a charity to donate their good condition toys to.

Time, not stuff: give your child experiences instead of things. As a family, committ to activites that are free and nurture the body and mind: library trips, afternoons at the park, cooking a meal together.

Relax: there will always be toys on the floor. The question isn’t how many toys are on the floor but, can those toys be put away in time for dinner? Aim to keep a toy stash that your child can put away in 30 minutes or less.

Embracing my own level of minimalism has been a catalyst for a lot of change in my life. It’s brought my family more time and money, and most importantly, it’s given us a keen focus on prioritizing relationships and each other – not accumulating new things.

Many thanks to Mothering for providing this great venue to write about and discuss the minimalist movement.

Melanie Mayo-Laakso

About

Melanie Mayo-Laakso is the Content Manager for Mothering.com. Mothering is the birthplace of natural family living and attachment parenting. We celebrate the experience of parenthood as worthy of one’s best efforts and are at once fierce advocates for children and gentle supporters of parents.