If you would have asked me two months ago whether 'stuff' was a problem for me, I would have declared with all sincerity, "no." In fact first timers in my home often remark on it's neatness and organization. Aren't most homes a little neater and more organized when you are having someone over for the first time?
Through out our nine and a half year marriage, we have kept a pretty neat and tidy home. We have also spent a lot of time on cleaning, organizing, and reorganizing. It isn't that we have so much stuff; I have just come to understand that we have far more than we need.
My journey toward becoming minimal-ish over the last couple of months has revealed to me that I do have a problem with stuff. 'Stuff' management is taking up too much of my time and energy.
You can't see it from the outside and even an inside look at my closets, drawers, and cupboards would probably not leave you thinking that stuff is a big deal for me.
A 'stuff' problem is an attitude problem. I have a problem with my attitude toward material possessions. I have a problem with the way they come into my home and demand my attention.
The burden of storing, caring for, organizing, and sorting my things, far out weighed the high of acquiring them.
My first steps toward going minimal-ish:
1. Reusable grocery and produce bags. I want to stop waste from entering my home in the first place. This waste has to be managed in someway and that is not how I want to spend my time. I am also concerned about the lasting impact of such an unnecessary convenience item. This was an easy place to start but a hard habit to break. I am so used to going into a store empty handed and coming out with my hands full. It is getting easier and my husband is making the effort as well.
2. I stopped buying individual baggies (i.e. sandwich/snack bags). This was a harder sell in my home than the reusable grocery bags. Who knew baggies were such a comfort item? I am once again, concerned about the lasting environmental impact of this little convenience item. I also don't like spending money on something that is used once and thrown out. We haven't ended up missing them too much. Our bread and tortillas still come in plastic bags so I save them. When we really want something bagged up there are still bags to choose from. A bag I already paid for and had previously been throwIng away. This isn't a perfect solution in my newly minimal outlook, but it is a compromise that is working for now.
3. I stopped buying paper napkins and starting using cloth. I am really turned off by the idea of buying something that so quickly becomes garbage. I bought a pack of 12 white cotton napkins on clearance for $5. I chose white because they can be bleached clean. There isn't anything fancy about them but there is something that feels elegant about using cloth. We don't use a new napkin at each meal. It is surprising how little dirty they get. We each have a place mat and a close pin. They close pin has our name on it and at the end of a meal we refold our napkin and pin it to our place mat. If it gets too messy we throw it in the wash basket and get a fresh one. When hosting a large party we still use paper but if you come for a small dinner party, you get cloth, fancy!
4. We use rags rather than paper towels. This isn't new in our home. I guess we were a little minimal before our time! We have some store bought rags and microfiber towels for cleaning and we make old clothes not fit for sale or donation into rags.
5. Reusable coffee filter. We are using up the paper ones we already had and then look forward to using the reusable one. Save money and avoid creating waste.
6. Downsizing my closet. There was so much I don't wear! I might describe this process in more detail in another post but my wardrobe was cut nearly in half and I feel I actually have more to wear. Somehow my laundry load seems lighter as well. Maybe because I realized that somethings can get a little more wear than just once. I can see my clothes better and appreciate them more. I am less overwhelmed when deciding what to wear because I like the clothes I see.
7. Making some of my own cleaning supplies. This is still in process as I use up all the cleaning supplies I have already spent money on. I am looking forward to less packaging waste caused by buying a variety of products for the various cleaning jobs around my home. I am also looking forward to saving money by not needing to buy so many products. There will be less dangerous chemicals in my home, a plus for us all but especially my small children. More to come on this subject.
8. We are a one car family. We have lived this way for about 4 years and paid it off in a year and a half. It might not be for everyone and it has taken some creative planning and sacrifice at times but it works for us. This situation saves us money on gas and insurance. We have also had to be more thoughtful about our usage and sharing.
9. Multi-family garage sale. I am heading up and looking forward to a multi-family garage sale to take place in the next couple of weeks. It is amazing how much stuff I have found to contribute! I am combing every closet, cupboard, and drawer. No item is getting a free pass. It must be useful to us in someway to get a place in our home. We get to decide what that means but ultimately in the end it means less and less stuff. Wheee! The less time I spend on stuff the more I can spend on people and passion projects. I have also taken stuff to consignment stores and look forward to making some sales on craig'slist.
10. Budget. We both know where we stand on any given day and we track every purchase. Our goal is to live below our means and in order to do that we must know where our money is going and make informed decisions. We are opting out of consumerism as a hobby. More on money saving in another post.
11. Cloth diapers. My husband has a phobia of cloth diapers, he is also very actively involved in the diapering of our little guy (and I'm sure the one on the way). I really appreciate his help so am willing to make a compromise. The money spent and waste created by our diapers pains me but I can't win them all! Maybe he will change his mind one day, until then I am happy to have his support in the diapering department.
Do you have any ideas you would like to share on how you are going from a born and bred consumer to walking on the minimal side? I would love to hear from you.
Past posts in this series: