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:
Get rid of duplicates. When I started looking around my house with the aim of identifying ways to clear shit out I started asking myself similar questions over and over again. Why do I have 3 different spray cleaners? Why am I holding onto 4 black tank tops? Why is my drawer cluttered with 5 tubes of mascara? Why do I have 3 "crockpot" cookbooks? Why is my hutch stuffed with half a dozen "candy bowls" that we never use? Duplicates were everywhere! For me, most of the duplicates cluttering up our home were the result of unprepared shopping (i.e. grabbing another spray cleaner/mascara/cookbook because I thought I needed it, when in reality, I just couldn't find the ones I already had) or impulse-buying something because it was a great price or holding onto gifts that we don't, and never will, use (ahem, candy bowls, ahem...)
I've started sorting through duplicates by item type, and have realized that there isn't a "one size fits all" to getting rid of duplicates in your life. For example, to cut down on the excessive cleaning products under my sink, I've shifted to using concentrated all-purpose cleaner that can be mixed as a spray cleaner or used "straight up" to clean a toilet, etc. I cleaned out my makeup drawer and got rid of all but two mascaras. I donated most of the candy bowls, and only kept a few we loved or that were sentimental. But I took a critical look at my wardrobe and realized that I wear every single one of those damn black tank tops in rotation all.the.time. So they stayed put.
Bottom line, look at duplicates and pare down what makes sense, but keep what you love and use and don't feel bad about that.
Find everything a home. This. This has been huge for me. Our house is small and very open, so our shit needs a home or else its underfoot. I already talked in my previous post about what a life changer it was to find a home for all of my son's things, but I've also started putting that into practice in our home in general. So far, I've been sorting through cabinet by cabinet, closet by closet. It's amazing to realize how much crap we constantly shove into spaces and shut the door. This, I've realized, results in homeless things that pile on top of each other and then either, can't be found when needed or are in disarray when they're eventually found. It's such a waste, and so frustrating!
This is going to be a long haul (we have attic space that I'll eventually have to get to - ugh), but I'm not stressing about getting it all done soon. I'm just being methodical, and making sure that anything new we bring into the house, has a home from the jump (or doesn't come through the door!)
Quit shopping cold turkey. Putting ourselves on a spending freeze has had many cascading effects (namely, more time + more money), but one of the biggest things is that it's made me look at my online shopping more honestly. I'm not a huge shopper, but I totally fall victim to a well-done ad or idle perusal through Amazon more often than I care to admit. The spending freeze has made me quit this, cold turkey. For the first week, it was easy - I didn't even mindlessly go to Amazon or click on the link for the amazing sandals that came up in my Instagram feed. But the second week I started finding myself falling back into old habits and surfing around to check out the latest from my favorite online stores.
The difference now though, is that I haven't spent any money. Because even though I feel that familiar pang of want I am able to separate it from need. And I fully accept the fact that I don't need shit. I have so much already. Quitting shopping cold turkey has been so FREEING and has made me think about the things that I would really like and that would impact our lives in a positive way (i.e. a new camera so we can capture our adventures and our son's childhood with something other than an iPhone!)
My goal is to continue this beyond our spending freeze and to make sure I'm thinking about, planning for and saving our money to ultimately buy things that serve a purpose in our lives.
Make space for your health. Finding a renewed sense of health was the most surprising thing to emerge from this month. To save money we've started meal planning and as a result, eating way healthier (and more plant-based.) My husband and I have been working out together more, reading more, meditating together at night, drinking herbal tea: generally gravitating towards things that are healthier for us as individuals and as a couple.
The funny thing is that this hasn't been on purpose. It's the result of opening up more time in our lives to just be together as a family. Since we aren't spending money this month, we aren't hyper-focused on the 500 house projects we'd love to get done, so instead, we have time to hang out, do HIIT work outs together, go for walks with our son and play in our garden. Generally do things that make us feel good without feeling like we should be doing something else. Our evenings have become more peaceful. We have more space and time to be together: reading, meditating, talking, drinking tea (or wine) and enjoying each other.
It's a surprising side effect of the past month, but you know what? I'll take it. Minimizing clutter has helped me maximize the good stuff in more ways than I was counting on. And that ain't a bad thing.
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.