Friday, 19 October 2012

Meaningful Minimalism and the Family

No matter where we've lived I've always been particularly fond of less.

Less stuff, less clutter, less visual noise, less for the Bean to get into.

When Ryan and I were living together in our first apartment, we lived in the tiniest, most cramped little apartment. Our bedroom, bathroom and kitchen were separated by a few small foot steps.  We made due.  We had way too much stuff for the space, though. We were constantly struggling to find places for things. What we should have done was get rid of a lot useless objects that were preventing us from enjoying our space.

It was during that phase when the seed was set in earth and I began to think about our stuff capacity. It look a long time before I was able to identify what that meant though. When I became pregnant with Annabelle my nesting mode began and never ceased. We had a garage sale and felt victorious. Yay! Look at all that stuff we got rid of! We thought we did amazing.

When we left that house to move north to Bracebridge we had a large truck filled to the brim plus an SUV full. It was ludicrous. All of that clever downsizing and we still had so much stuff to move. I remember feeling rather defeated on moving day.

While we certainly haven't perfected minimalism, we've learned a lot about our selves in the last three or so years. We've managed to live in some pretty small apartments with our toddler aged daughter and live comfortably.

Here are some of our household rules around stuff:

  • Only buy what you need
  • Only buy quality, especially when it comes to toys
  • One thing in, one thing out
  • Buy consignment, thrift or otherwise second-hand if possible
  • Regularly go through drawers, closets and storage and let go of unused items
  • Less is always more

That may sound like a rather rigid list, but it actually provides a lot of wiggle room. We don't always enforce some of the rules. Sometimes it's just not possible to combine quality with second-hand and so we opt for new.  Special occasions might require to splurge a little bit and buy something fun that doesn't fit in any category. There needs to some flexibility, otherwise it turns from a household philosophy into a personal restriction and that's just not what we're going for here.

There are a couple of categories which we don't feel strongly to moderate: children's books and stuffed animals. Those are two things that our Bean loves very much and she has resisted allowing us to let any of them go. We're curbing the growth of stuffies by not allowing anymore in, but the ones that she has are here to stay unless she says otherwise. As far as books are concerned, that's my fault. I have a deep love for books and I love buying them for her. I usually go to Value Village (a thrift store) and dig. I have found many books in brand-new condition by authors that Annabelle loves. At 5 for $4, who can resist? I do cycle them through so as to not overwhelm her with many books. She has nearly 50 books at the moment. They fit into a play suitcase where she keeps them. If they start to bulge out, I may have to reconsider some of them.

We are very, very critical of our clothing choices. We do our best to buy thrift whenever possible. That may make some folks cringe, but I have been able to find the best top brands for both my daughter and my husband for extremely cheap. My shining example would my husband's Tilley shirt. A $139 shirt, found in brand-new condition for $6. He is in love with this shirt. Another example would be my daughter's gorgeous fall dress from the Gap that I found at a consignment store on sale. That dress was my most favourite dress on her ever. She received compliments everywhere she went in that dress. Alas, she grew out of it. The best $3 ever spent.

Here's an example of the amount of stuff that our daughter has. In addition to this photo she has a small box put up for circulation. Also, not seen is her wagon that houses her stuffies inside her closet and her wonderful Educo doll house. This is the maximum that I'd like for her. Our favourite toys are open-ended, like her Plan Toys. We really like Plan Toys. Not everything is extra special, though. For example, we skimped when we bought her that Wal-mart brand camping chair. I have no reason to think that it'll break or otherwise not be worth the $9 we paid for it, though.

All of this is an an effort to spend less money, buy items that will truly last and the bottom line: simplicity. There are no huge fights over chores and messes because it takes me 20 minutes flat to clean the apartment top to bottom. And that's being generous. It really doesn't take me long at all. We keep our clothing minimal and only buy what we need for that season, with some small exceptions like Annabelle's Easter dress and Christmas dress, both bought on sale last year following the holidays for this year.

A Canadian fall/winter demands more sweaters than say, a winter in Florida, so there are more clothes in Annabelle's closet than what a simple home down south might have. The key is to not go overboard. Not having a closet rammed to the brim with clothes, so that money is wasted replacing lost items, and tempers flare when it comes to straightening out that huge mess is really important. Annabelle's closet only contains clothes that I'm okay with her wearing, clothes that are in good condition from brands that we like. 90% is second hand. I buy her underclothes new and I usually buy the least expensive because she grows so fast.

If I could narrow down what I feel is enough it would be as follows:

  • Four sweaters
  • Four pairs of pants
  • Two pairs of leggins
  • Three dresses
  • Four t-shirts
  • Four long sleeve shirts
  • Two vests
  • A jacket
  • 7 socks and undies
  • Four pairs of pajamas

That's my magic list. Sometimes I go over or under on a certain category. It's important not to be too rigid and just remember to buy only what works for a specific child. The whole point here is to remember that a child does not need 1000 of everything just for the sake of it. It's a waste of money, and inevitably results in tension when choosing an outfit or washing all of that laundry. I do one small load of laundry every second day and that is enough to keep all of us on track.

Clothing simplicity isn't restricted to Annabelle. We like to keep it simple, too:

This is all of our clothes. It is currently laundry day so there are some empty hangers but not many. Our pants and undergarments are stored on the shelf just above the hanging clothes.  Getting things cleaned up and put away is very easy here.

I wanted to share our philosophy because it's important  to me to spread the word, so to speak. Stuff does not equal happiness. What truly equals happiness is not having to argue over tasks. On the weekend we do a couple of ten minute tidies and everything is back in it's place. Having less allows us to be a family more and focus on what's important.

In the end it really is all about spending less money on every day things, and choosing to spend it on things that add richness to our lives. Consuming less is better for everyone. We've gotten better over the years. This year for my birthday my husband bought me a wonderful present: a Kobo mini e-reader. Definitely not frugal or necessary, but absolutely adds some richness into my day! I love it, and I know I'll spend many a hour reading to my hearts content. 

I hope this post inspires you to examine what you truly need and  find a balance that allows you to live happily with less.

No comments:

Post a Comment