When I started taking (honest) stock of our spending and consuming habits, I very quickly realized that we spent a TON on "projects". Mostly house related and although I'd say for the most part since I'm married to a ridiculously handy person (and I'm not totally useless myself) we got a lot of bang for our buck, it was still a lot of buck. I know part of it is new homeownership and wanting to make our place "ours", but it's a slippery slope. The reality is that there is a lot that we can "live with" for now, and fix (the right way!) down the line when we have the money and time. And on top of that, I was in the bad habit of buying cool or funky house-related decor or storage or general kitsch that we just didn't need. Stuff that looked cool in a store or online, and looked cool in our house, but just added to a general feeling of clutter because it was purchased on a whim or without much of a plan.
All in all, we were spending money we didn't have on things we didn't need. I think it's a pretty well-told story. But we're project people, and summer is here (project time!) so what to do? Here are the two biggest things we've focused on:
It's been a month or so since my husband and I decided to be mindful about our minimalism; essentially trying to understand and live by minimalist principles for quite a few reasons (I've talked about them here.) So far, we've cleaned out our closets, put ourselves on a spending freeze (paying for necessities but holding off on any "nice to have" purchases) and have been seeking to answer the question "how can we simplify?" in lots of areas of our life.
It's been an incredibly freeing month for me in particular. I love that we stuck a flag in the sand and started taking control of our finances, our actions, our home. I feel like I was more and more frequently conflating want with need and was caught in the endless back and forth of consuming what I thought we needed (but really just wanted) and the inevitable stress of feeling the financial pinch afterwards. Four things in particular have helped me come to a happy, fulfilling place this month. I suppose they could be called "tips", but really, they're foci to help shift your brain towards thinking more holistically about minimalism:
It's pretty obvious from the title of this blog that I live in a small space. At 1,200 square feet, the house I share with my husband, toddler son and rescue dog is pretty tiny for American standards. For the five years we rented this house as a couple + a dog, the lack of square footage was never really an issue. But once we had our son, bought our home and started making some major changes to the space (including taking down a main wall to create an "open concept" main floor) the smallness started to feel really claustrophobic.
Which was surprising.
We have always aimed to keep things "simple" (we don't even own a TV!) and generally don't clutter up our space with lots of decor. But we had never really made a conscious effort to not consume; my husband and I hadn't sat down, looked each other in the eye and decided to be mindful about being minimalists. The biggest drivers for us to have that conversation were trifold: becoming a family of three + changing the shape of our space + needing to manage our money better. I'll walk you through the why + how of each.
I hate the gym. I avoid fitness classes like my life depends on it and in recent years have come to the (sad) conclusion that distance running is destroying my knees. I was pretty active during my pregnancy, but when my son was about 6 months old I seemed to crawl out of the black hole of new-motherhood only to realize that I looked about as shitty as I felt... just in time for summer! What luck! Here's how I changed that:
Ah, newborns. Those squishy, adorable, cuddly little pieces of magic. Before having a newborn, I couldn't have imagined the love, the poop or the lack of sleep that I inevitably came face to face with. In those early days of trial and error, I quickly developed my own set of necessities. The things that made my life just a little bit easier and helped me keep my sanity slightly more intact. I know everyone has their own list, but here is mine. I hope you find it helpful!
Just before my son turned three months old, I got two blissful nights of uninterrupted sleep. I distinctly remember this for two reasons: (1) I woke up with throbbing rocks for boobs, and (2) I didn't get another stretch of sleep longer than three hours for MONTHS.
Yep. I had a non-sleeper on my hands and I was a mess. The lack of sleep impacted everything in my life. I could barely keep my eyes open at work, developed mild postpartum depression, found doing things like cleaning my house and working out nearly impossible and felt super distant from my husband, family and friends.
Every evening I would countdown to bedtime like a convict going to the gallows. I dreaded it. I dreaded everything about it. Bedtime was when my amazing, happy, loving little baby turned into a clingy, hysterical, monster hell-bent on avoiding sleep at all costs. It was awful.
One of the most important things to us during our wedding planning adventure was to try to plan an amazing, fun, personal wedding without creating a ton of unnecessary waste. That goal extended to everything from food and drinks to wedding party gifts and reception decor. For dinner, I knew I wanted to serve it family-style with people sharing big plates of food, so there was going to be very little real estate to work with when it came to table decor. But, I also knew I wanted the dining room to feel special and to flow with the rest of our rustic, vintage summer-garden styled decor.
After many months of scouring Pinterest boards, I came up with our potted herb centerpieces. We planted a mix of herbs that smelled amazing, looked beautiful and doubled as favors for special guests to take home! Twenty center-pieces ended up costing us around $150 and the best part? No waste!
Imagine holding a cupcake. A delicious, chocolate cupcake. With no frosting.
To me, herbs are the frosting of the garden. The vegetables we grow are delicious and satisfying on their own, but throw some fresh herbs on top and BAM! Next level shit right there.
This is your story: You roasted a chicken. Ate an amazing dinner. Made some bomb sandwiches the next day. And now you have a sad, picked over carcass hanging out in your fridge staring back at you. Do you throw it out? Hell no!
You're creative. You're industrious. You're waste-less. You give that sad, lonely carcass new life by turning into the best freakin' chicken stock you've ever had. Here's how:
But it was a good year for Brody.
We started out strong - planned and planted our garden, even grew a bunch of our own starters. But then July hit, and in the chaos of reallyintense wedding planning, our garden suffered. We forgot to water it. We were bad about weeding. Eventually, it started to get crispy and overrun. And things started to get sad.
We still got some good food - I quick pickled a ton of cucumbers, we had some delicious kale and swiss chard, our zucchini went crazy (of course) and we even had some cute little pumpkins to put out on our front steps by late September. It was a neglectful year. We promise, garden, next year will be better.
Hi! I'm Erin.
I'm a working mama, wife, writer and owner of a little red house. I'm trying to sort through the noise and live a life that is genuine, happy and grounded in simplicity.