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Mothering › Green Living Articles › Minimalist Living: Before You De-Clutter--Reducing Consumption

Minimalist Living: Before You De-Clutter--Reducing Consumption

Thank you to Rachel Jonat from Minimalist Mom for this guest post. This is part two of three posts on minimalist living. Read post one. Stay tuned for the third post from Rachel and check out her site for even more great information.

If you’re thinking about paring down your possessions, or radically de-cluttering your home, I cannot over-emphasize the value in assessing your consumption patterns. Before I sold my wedding

, and before I donated 80% of my wardrobe, I started a bigger journey to reduce what we brought into our home.

In February of 2010 my husband and I took a hard look at our finances. I had been on maternity leave for four months and, much to our surprise, we were keeping nicely afloat financially. We had expected that, with our reduced income while I was off of work with a newborn, we would be feeling the pinch. Rather, the opposite was true. The arrival of our son had curbed our casual spending and dining.

We, like many people, have debt. In February of 2010 it was a whopping $80,000 comprised of student loans, debt assumed from my husband’s small business, a line of credit used for renovations to our new home and two loans on investments. Debt is a reality for a lot of people and we are no exception.

Operation stop spending went into effect. The credit cards weren’t literally cut up but we had a goal of getting by with what we had. I had help: the piles of unused baby clothing and gadgets from my spending days were a constant reminder of money I had wasted. I didn’t stop going to the post-walk coffees with my mom friends but I brought an apple and bought a drip coffee. No more five dollar lattes. No more DVDs or books purchased on a whim. We got rid of our cable and PVR and dusted off our library cards. We cancelled our newspaper (we mostly read online), I got out of my unused gym membership (I was walking and taking mom and baby fitness classes twice a week) and months later we sold our car (we walk, use public transit and ZipCar when needed).

Success breeds success. I sold some of my unused baby items on Craigslist, we got a great tax return, my husband had a few extra income months (he is self-employed) and we cashed in a small investment. Ten months after committing to consuming less we had paid off almost $60,000 in debt. With our cancelled services and reduced debt load our monthly bills dropped by $1000.

We ask ourselves these questions now before we buy anything:

- do we really want it? I keep a 30 day buy list and anything I think we need goes on it. If after a month I still want it I start researching the item and sourcing the best quality and best prices for it.

- do we really need it? Can we get by without it or is there something similar that we already have that could be used instead.

- can we buy it used? I scoured Craigslist for a used toddler-size bunting bag this winter. It took a few weeks but I finally found one available in my area and snapped it up.

- will it last? I refuse to buy cheap low quality goods any longer. Own fewer things but own things that you can wear out, get repaired and pass on to other families to use.

The ultimate reward for consuming less and starting to live below our means: I can now stay home with our son. I know at some point I may want to return to my previous career but now it will be by choice – not necessity.

Melanie Mayo-Laakso


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.

Comments (8)

THANK YOU SOOO MUCH for sharing this post! My husband and I are currently in the process of getting rid of as much debt as possible. And every day I fight the urge to purge practically everything in our house because I am so sick of the piles of stuff. Thank you for these tips on how to get started, and minimize in a smart/efficient manner. I will definitely use these tips as we begin our journey.
Hello, We have been on the same path for several years now, since reading Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin's "Your Money or Your Life". We have been debt free (and saving) since 2007. I liked your suggestions! It _is_ remarkable how many needs disolve after a few weeks when you enforce a waiting period and decide together what's worth spending on this month. We have hit a road block though: high basic living expenses. Eating quality food and living in a healthy environment in the city cost money, even when you don't go for the extras (cable, etc.). The city is where the jobs are, so it's a bit of a cunumdrum. Good luck to everyone.
I would like to share a wonderful resource- a book by Amy Dacyczyn "The Tightwad Gazette". Very very useful, inspirational and entertaining. She had done it. We are on the same path too. We started in debt, two incomes, blowing money on things. Now we are debt free with a bit of emergency fund, comfortable and happy living on one income. We have two children and live in NY (talking about expensive!). Best of luck, ladies! Angelika
I lost my job over a year ago and we decided that I wouldn't go back. We cut cable, sold one car and a bunch of stuff we never used and signed up for Freecycle. We are now expecting our second baby (any day now) and We've only purchased a new carseat (we had a blue one and i wanted pink, not a necessary purchase, but we had the money and it was from a friend so it was cheap). We were given clothing by friends and by asking on Freecycle, I also make alot of her clothing. We also make our own laundry soap, we cloth diaper(i've also made some of her diapers and we are reusing my son's). We've made it by this long and we've been doing fine. We've paid off alot of debt too. We stick to a monthly budget and rarely wavier. If we have "extra" money we either pay extra to debt or for groceries. We are actually living better now than when we were both working full time. Decluttering and better money management makes a huge difference
Thank you, Heather. I love hearing from another family that has gone through the life simplifying process as well. We're living better now too - I love it!
Thanks, Angelika. In NY and one income with two kids? Fantastic!
My sister swears by YMYL. I'm using a few strategies she took from the book: equating purchases with hours worked. We also live in a city and the cost of living is expensive. Facing the same conundrum about food as well. I can cut costs but it means eating more grains, less fruits, veggies and quality meat. I don't feel great when I eat a lot of bread and pasta.
You're welcome and thanks for commenting =)
Mothering › Green Living Articles › Minimalist Living: Before You De-Clutter--Reducing Consumption