Live More With Less

Because it’s January, everyone is in the mood to get their house in order, right?! I know I’m a little late to be getting this out, but we’re not through the winter yet. Cheers to¬† decluttering and organizing! Did you know the easiest way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it? Yes, think about it. How much easier life would be if we didn’t have so much stuff?!

The American dream is to purchase all the things you need or want. Unfortunately, this thought pattern has permeated we as Anabaptists. But just because you have the money to buy something doesn’t mean it’s right to buy it. This quote by Elizabeth Elliot convicted me- Clutter is the evidence of discontent. We become discontent so we keep buying more things we really don’t need.  Soon, we have all this stuff that we don’t know what to do with.  Next, we need an attic or storage unit to store our excess clutter!

Hebrews 13:5 says,  Let your conversation be without covetousness;  and be content with such things as ye have.… 

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 We certainly have heaps more than food and raiment, so why do we struggle to be content??

So let’s talk about what minimalism is not.  You may think its stark, cold walls, no decor, or no comfortable living room furniture. I’m not talking about that. I don’t want my house to look like I moved in yesterday or like I’m moving out next week. I still endorse cozy, homey, and comfortable.

Following are several pointers about what I mean when I talk about minimalism. Most of this information is not original with me:

*Minimalism isn’t something trendy to be in style. It’s simplifying our houses and lives so we are better able to live calm, restful lives.

*Minimalism is not about the exact number of items we have.  It is working to eliminate as many distractions from our lives as possible so we can keep our focus on living in rest and calm, building healthy relationships, and focus on things that truly matter. 

*Our homes should be a “restful haven.” It’s living space, not storage space. 

*Minimalism will look different for each person and their home.

*With minimalism, we will need to consistently be aware and evaluate what is taking our time and space, as well as maintain our progress with daily habits.

*Minimalism is a journey, not a destination to arrive at. We constantly need to stay on top of the clutter that invariably creeps in.

My own journey to minimalism started in earnest around 8 months ago. I say in earnest, because I’ve always been somewhat minimalistic in that I’ve always prioritized staying on top of my house work, hated clutter, and was quick to get rid of things. But I enjoyed decor and had plenty of stuff sitting around and tucked away. Last spring, I began learning more about what it means to minimize.

I didn’t realize every item I own takes up brain space. Thus, the more you get rid of the more brain space you have. And who couldn’t use more of that?! It’s no wonder the sigh of relief we feel after dropping off a box or two at the Goodwill, or even taking out bags of trash that we had no clue were hiding out in our house!

I’m going to talk about 5 areas in my home where I have implemented minimalism.

Kitchen:

*Clear off as much counter space as possible. I realize some kitchens are very limited with counter space and you may need to keep some appliances on top. But if you at all can, put away the mixer, the toaster, the utensil caddy, etc. I didn’t always keep my counters as clear as I do now, but I’ve learned to love the extra space and the clean look! I used to think I didn’t have space for my utensils to be in a drawer. But I kept minimizing, and eventually I realized I could condense a couple things and came up with a drawer for those utensils. Also, you don’t need every little kitchen gadget out there. Use items that can multitask!

* I urge you to go through your cupboards and be intentional in only keeping what you really need! If you think you don’t have enough cabinet space, you may be suprised at the amount of space you can create simply by moving out unused items. And don’t just do this one time. After a couple months, sort through again and reevaluate.  What could you do without? Ask yourself, do I really need 8 serving bowls, 3 or 4 crockpots, or all those miscellaneous utensils that hide out in the drawer and haven’t been used in a year?! Do you need a dozen Tupperware containers? I had a set of square Tupperware containers that were a wedding gift. I never really liked them because they didn’t stack well with my other containers. Finally last summer I realized I am allowed to get rid of them! I haven’t missed them and love the extra space. If you’re not sure about getting rid of something just yet, put it in a box with the date written on it. If you haven’t missed it in 3-6 months, you really don’t need it. For sure you don’t need it if you’ve not used it in the last year!

My kitchen

Granted, there are things such as canning/ gardening supplies or baby items and such that we haven’t used in a year or more. We use common sense with these type of items. Sentimental items that sit in storage year after year are another can of worms that I won’t get into. But yes, you are allowed to get rid of something that was your great grandma’s but doesn’t bring you any joy! ūüėČ

Bedroom:

Here I’m talking about our master bedroom.

* This is a room where I certainly do not allow clutter to pile up. Clear off that dresser. Keep only one or two small pieces of decor on it or something that’s very special to you. Don’t clutter the walls with picture frames or mottos. Maybe one or two. This really does bring a restful appearance to the room. Keep clothes picked up and the bed made. Sweep and dust it regularly. It’s a special haven of rest. We typically don’t allow the children to play in our bedroom.

*We got rid of our bed frame and have a minimalist type of frame. It doesn’t even require a box spring. You simply plop your mattress on top. We absolutely love it. It’s simple to move and there’s no deep dark dungeon under there full of storage containers and hid treasures.

With no headboard, we could rearrange our bedroom with the bed in front of the window. Otherwise we couldn’t move our bed around.
This is not ours but it’s what our bed frame looks like.

Bathroom:

*Is it fun to clean a shower that’s lined full of shampoo and body wash? I don’t find it so. There’s no need to host a dozen products on those shower shelves! Throw away that bottle of shampoo everybody hates. There’s no need for two bottles of the same kind of body wash either. Condense and minimize as much as possible. You will be glad you did when you can scrub that shower in a whizz on Friday morning!

*Do you really use all of those 17 raggedy old towels? Or does everyone go for the 5 thick ones that actually work for drying? Keep only what your family really uses. In our master bathroom we have four towels and nine wash cloths. We reuse towels and I wash twice a week. We have enough but not excess. The company bathroom I obviously keep quite a bit more.

*What about the old toothpaste tubes or ancient creams of some sort hanging out in the back of the drawer? Those whitening strips that you once bought with great intentions only to discover it made your teeth sensitive. Throw it out! Stay on top of that bathroom clutter. Wipe down the sink and toilet every morning. Discipline yourself to put things away after you finish getting dressed and you will enjoy a cleaner space all day.

Wardrobe:

*How many clothes or dresses do we really need? A debatable subject to be sure! I like having enough socks and such that I’m not running low from one washing to the next, but I don’t keep a whole drawer full.¬† It’s too much unnecessary clutter. Get rid of those worn-out socks and don’t feel guilty.¬†

*As for dresses, this will also vary.¬† I hesitate to say a number because that doesn’t mean that’s how many you should have.¬† It’s what I’ve chosen for myself. I don’t keep dresses hanging in my closet that are worn, stained, or don’t fit. (I keep one old one for dirty work but it’s stuck away up on the shelf.) Get rid of things that are too tight or too loose. I’m not promoting wastefulness but there’s no virtue in keeping it if it’s only filling up closet space. Perhaps I’m not as minimal as I should be but I like variety and I also love sewing. I keep approximately 20ish dresses. (I’m feeling quite exposed here and this may not sound minimal to some of you.) I like about 8ish Sunday ones and plenty for everyday wear. It’s also nice to have plenty of good dresses for trips so that there’s no need to stress about washing every other day.¬† 30-40¬† dresses is not what I would call minimal, but again, our numbers will vary, and there’s not a perfect number everyone will have!¬† Keep only dresses/clothes that you really love. It does take discipline to not always be sewing new dresses when one loves to sew and has fabric on hand. I’ve not always done well in this area, but I’m trying to do better.

*Sweaters are another one of my weaknesses. I’m sure I could simplify a little more in this area, but I love color coordinating and variety, so I tend to have plenty. I have short sleeve sweaters I wear in the summer and other cozy,¬†long sleeved ones for winter.¬† I don’t think you have to get rid of it if you still love it and want to wear it again next season. But if you’ve not worn it in a year, pass it on!¬† The same idea applies to footwear of which most ladies love! We don’t need 20 pairs of shoes/ boots!

Toys:

*In the past I’ve wished we had an extra room to use as a playroom but I dont mind that anymore. This is my opinion: How will you teach your children contentment when they have a room filled with toys of all manner,¬†toy furniture, and beeping/talking gadgets?

*We have a few toys in the basement, but on our main living area, we keep one medium size basket for toys.  Right now it’s mostly boy toys for Reece. We also have a narrow tote with a few puzzles and blocks in it but it’s up on a closet shelf and we don’t have it out on a regular basis. This helps to keep these things more special. Josie has a few dolls and things in her bedroom downstairs. But only having one basket makes clean up time quite doable. Children get overwhelmed (not to mention mom and dad) if the whole room is littered with toys, game pieces, Legos, and the whole 9 yards. And just a note, if you have a large family, I won’t expect you to only have one basket of toys like we do.

*Minimize your toys! Having an abundance by no means signals happiness. If you have way too many, get rid of half of them. Just see if your children don’t play better next time. Periodically go through the toy box and pitch any broken or silly pieces that¬†aren’t worth keeping.¬†Throw out those games that don’t have all the pieces anymore.¬† We had an overload of tiny animals.¬†I got so tired of Reece¬†dumping out the whole toy basket, and then we had all these tiny pieces to pick up. One evening I scooped them all up and hid them on a high shelf.¬† He never missed them and I’ve not regretted it.

*We don’t have battery operated toys in our home. (We’ve had a few here and¬†there but as a whole we don’t keep them around if they’re given a talking teddy bear etc.)¬† They don’t need play computers to teach them colors and numbers either.¬†How did our grandparents learn their numbers?! It teaches much more creativity when they aren’t exposed to those kinds of toys.¬† They’ll create their own sounds, whether that’s crowing roosters, roaring lions, tractors, or crying babies. They’ll learn colors and numbers in due time. I love watching creativity come out on their own! We also encourage our children to play outdoors and it’s interesting to see the things they come up with! Of course they also have outdoor toys not mentioned here.

*As for children’s treasures, crafts, or anything they want to keep, use the container concept. Keep a smallish tote for each child for their treasures. When it gets full, they’ll need to go through and dispose of some things in order to make room for more.  The tote is the limit. They don’t need to keep every school book and paper. Perhaps one book from each grade. Often an old art project loses its glamor after its been stored awhile and they won’t mind pitching it. This tote might not be needful until closer to school age. So far Reece doesn’t have one but Josie does.

*Besides their treasure tote, I also have a large tote in storage for both the children to keep things like birthday cards, special blankets, or other keepsakes. This is to last them until they’re adults and leave home.

Other Tips: Reset your house to zero every day. And this simply means tidying up and putting everything back in it’s place. Don’t let clutter pile up to ominous heights. This makes it very depressing and severs hope of ever getting your house under control. People think tidy people are working all the time to keep a neat house. But it’s quite the opposite. Once you stay on top of your house, it’s much easier to maintain! And messy housekeepers are the ones always working. Example:  It’s time for supper but the counters and table are littered with the day’s activities. Instead of starting supper, they first need to clear that off. And who even feels like cooking when there’s a grand disarray and the dishes are stacked yay high?! But when you spend a little time clearing away the lunch mess, and put things away as you use them, you’ll already have a clean space to start supper!

*It takes much discipline to stick with the habits of resetting the house on a daily basis. Make it a habit to wash your dishes after every meal and wipe the counters. This is much easier to do when they’re not filled with clutter. And remember, if you stay after it, it doesn’t take long. Before you go to bed, straighten the couch pillows, put away the magazines, and have your children pick up toys. It feels absolutely amazing to wake up to an orderly house in the morning! I don’t get it perfect every day but this is what I strive for.

*Clutter breeds clutter. If you come home and drop the mail and receipts on the corner counter, you can be sure it won’t be long until more stuff gathers there. Anything simply fits in in that type of congregation!

Something I’ve purged hard on is my decor. I really enjoyed it in the past but as I’ve gotten rid of things, I don’t even miss it. I had a big garage sale last summer that had me amazed at where I had all this stuff in my house! I had lots of other stuff too like dishes, bags, clothes, and toys.

My garage sale

My house is not near as full and busy as it used to be. I find it so refreshing! I’ve also taken alot off my walls. I’ve found the more I purge, the more aware I become of unnecessary items. Don’t get me wrong, I still have decor. But it’s much less than I used to. Things that looked fine to me a year or two ago would now bug me because it’s too full for my liking. A plain wall now looks restful instead of empty.

I used to enjoy shopping but anymore, I’m walking the aisles and saying to myself, I really don’t need that. Where would I put it? I’ve started minimizing going to thrift stores and garage sales too, although I still like these places for buying children’s clothes.

Here’s a few wins that I know my children are catching on to minimizing too! Tuesday Reece told me, I want to get rid of my dresser. It’s too cluttered. I want to get a tiny dresser. Josie was recently given two porcelain dolls that came from an old grandma in the nursing home. She played with one awhile and I mentioned that they’re hardly practical to really play with, but told her the descion is hers. By that evening she said she didn’t want them. On her own, she was ready to get rid of them! Yay!

Recently we moved the China hutch from the kitchen into my office, because I wanted to open up the living room by moving a storage cabinet out of there to where the hutch was. Now Josie informed me a couple times it’s too cluttered with that hutch in my office! I agree, but I don’t have any other option at this point. At least this way I don’t have to look at it all the time like it did in my kitchen! And I was desperate to open up the living room. It’s small to start with but our arrangement made it feel extra small.

The “opened up” living room. I don’t have anything on the wall on either side of the white storage cabinet. This, by the way, stores the CD player, basket of toys, children’s books and more.
This is the best I could do of a “before” picture with my hutch in the kitchen and the living room in the background.

Don’t think I have arrived at minimalism. To some, my house is not minimal. But I’m ok with it. There’s still areas in my house that I  want to sort through as I find time. Remember it’s a continual journey that we have to keep working towards because clutter will creep in if we aren’t intentional.

It can feel overwhelming at first. Work at one closet or drawer at a time. Give yourself grace. This clutter didn’t appear in one week and it won’t disappear in a week either! Celebrate the little successes. Can’t you just breathe deeper now when you open that  organized drawer? How good it feels to enter your clean kitchen as you start your day!