My First Foray Into Minimalism

I have never been one to relish the major clean outs, stripping my shelves and cupboards down to their bare essentials and then pretending like this is my new normal. I mean, I like things to be clean and tidy, and I love knowing the exact location of my things, but I don’t have a compulsion for empty space. Empty space kind of gives me the heebie jeebies. I want my home to be full of art and books and warmth, I want delicious cooking smells and plants in various stages of lushness (and, honestly, a few in the “trying to resurrect” stage, because, let’s get real). I want layers and texture and color, I would be a really bad minimalist.

That all being said, I know there are a lot of ways I can reduce my Stuff and eliminate some of the triggers for acquiring more. Prior to moving to Arizona I spent ten glorious years living in an enormous penthouse apartment, in addition to two bedrooms and a full sized dining room AND a large living room AND a good sized kitchen, the attic space of the building I lived in had been converted into a loft of sorts with huge skylights and hardwood floors. It was glorious up there, and the access was from my apartment only. It was mine, all mine, to do with as I pleased. It was my library and my creative space and our guest bedroom and our storage space and an extra TV space…and none of those areas had to overlap. The loft was ENORMOUS and it took 10 years to fill it up with furniture and bookcases and throw pillows and storage boxes of decorations and camping equipment. So, that means, that for 10 years whenever I upgraded something in our downstairs living space, the upstairs got a new object, I never tossed anything that wasn’t broken. When we moved I cleaned out everything, pick up truck after pick up truck of forgotten Stuff, unnecessary furniture, and a tremendous excess of side chairs made the final exodus from my house to the thrift store, friend’s homes, and a few sales to strangers.

Here in Arizona our home is full but not stuffed, there is plenty of open space and the right amount of furniture. There are a few pieces I’d like to replace, eventually, but for the most part the house is delightfully furnished, and there are only a few things in the garage that need to be eliminated (sell, toss, donate). I attempted a month with no extra spending, and will probably do that again in the near future.

Which brings me to a new project. I do not need any more Things, no more Stuff. However, I also know that drastically reducing my bookshelves or my closet (again) will not actually bring me an increased measure of joy. I use what I have enough to justify storing it, and bookshelves full of books, walls full of art, and lots of extra pillows and blankets bring me joy. Having a comfortable home brings me joy. So, I’m trying to reduce in other ways, and it’s been a little tricky to figure that out (and, of course, I read a whole stack of books about it). In the last few months these are the steps I’ve taken towards a more minimalist life:

I have eaten 98% of the food that I buy instead of letting it sit until it goes bad and throwing it out. Food waste in the United States is overwhelming, something like 40% of purchased food is thrown out. I do not want to contribute to that statistic. So, I make a meal plan every Sunday and go grocery shopping on Monday, and then stick to that plan for the rest of the week. I plan in leftovers for my lunches and regular date nights with Blue Eyes. I’ve love cooking delicious things, and I’m pretty good about making just enough for our needs. I am going to try to keep this up the rest of the year (my life?). It seems a point of incredible pride that in the last 2 months I’ve only had to toss 2 sweet potatoes that were bad, a handful of strawberries that I left in the fridge too long, and two or three containers of leftovers. Winning!

I have not purchased any new books. This is HUGE for me, huge. Now, I have bought a few books, but all of them were used and less than $5, including shipping (where applicable). I also actually got a library card and have been using it at our SUPER pathetic library branch, it’s really one of the saddest book places I’ve ever been. I still have books in my house I haven’t read, but I’m a firm believer that there is a time and a season for the books we read, and sometimes, the time isn’t right now. Don’t mess with me on my books, it’s a  battle you cannot win. You also cannot with the e-reader battle, so don’t bother. Just pat my head and tell me “good job” for library patronage and eschewing brand new books.

I have unsubscribed from every junky email I’ve received. Did it suck? Yes. Was it worth it? So, so much. It took me a few hours initially to go through all the junk emails from the last few months, unsubscribing as I went. And then once every week or two I will spend 5 or 10 minutes doing it again. But the sheer volume has dwindled to almost manageable, instead of 40 or 50 a day, it’s like 10 a week. Getting rid of all that crap in my inbox has made me immeasurably less anxious about opening my email.

Ok, so when you list it out and there are only three things in a grandly titled post, such as “My First Foray Into Minimalism!” it seems super anti-climactic. Who uses the word “foray” in the first place, I mean, really. Snobs and hipsters, that’s who. Well, maybe I’m a snob, maybe I am altogether too proud of myself for some paltry little achievement on the pristine, sparkling minimalist scale. But, it’s a big deal for me. And it’s a deliberate step towards a different kind of life, and for me, that always happens in baby steps, not grand gestures or cold-turkey behavior changes.

What about you? Are you on the KonMari bandwagon? Another minimalist bandwagon? Or do you shun the bandwagon and march to your own drum? (Why so much music metaphor, Harriet!? Sheesh!)

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10 thoughts on “My First Foray Into Minimalism

  1. There’s no way I could be a true minimalist. While my house is sometimes (often) too messy for my liking, the decor and stuff we have are mostly memories – photos, trinkets from traveling, etc. I try to keep it lively and colorful without being overwhelming. Sadie has a lot of crap because she’s a kid and I can’t resist buying her stuff but I usually do a purge of her crap a couple of times a year (when she’s not around.) Has she noticed anything missing? Rarely.

    I need to get back into meal planning like WHOA. We used to be so good at it and the last few months have just been out of hand. I think next week is my time to back into the swing of things. New month, new start.

    I’m actually also waiting to purge my DVD collection. It’s been whittled down a lot over the past few years but now we barely use any of them because we stream or download everything. So we are going to burn all of them onto our computer/TV system and then eliminate that clutter. WOO!

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    1. I think MOST people are more like us than not. At least, that’s what I like to assume, because I’d hate to assume I’m in the gross-hoarder-clutterbug part of the bell curve…

      xox

      On Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 7:19 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:

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  2. We throw out more food than I would like but sometimes my husband just makes way too much. We do lots of leftovers, but it’s not enough (we also freeze a lot). I have lots of things that I would love to sell in a garage sale or give away that we haven’t used in years (i.e. lots of cooking stuff), but my husband says that he may use it someday so we should keep it. It’s frustrating.

    Same thing with our DVD collection. We never watch them so why are we not getting rid of them?

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    1. I think the easiest part of my food thing is it’s just me and Blue Eyes most of the time, and I do most of the cooking, so I can judge it pretty well. I’m probably in the minority of the population with this kind of easy food math, and it definitely makes this whole idea MUCH easier to execute.

      xox

      On Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 9:38 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:

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  3. I’m a minimalist.

    Very much so, in fact.

    I’ve always been that way a little bit, but since my apartment fire in 2012 most especially. Standing in a parking lot and watching all of your worldly possessions go up in smoke has a profound effect. Sifting through the wet ashes of your life shortly thereafter also gives you a perspective. Namely, why did I have all this stuff? Where did I even get all this stuff? Do I really need all this stuff?

    Since then, I’ve been a minimalist. Everything I own fits in my car. Well, almost everything. My computer desk won’t fit, but then I bought it at Walmart for like $40, so I won’t think twice to chuck it away. Anything that doesn’t fit gets thrown out when I move. When I moved to Denver… car. When I moved to Nevada… car. If it won’t fit in the car, it fits in the dumpster.

    I think back to all the stuff I used to have and realize that I don’t really miss it. A couple of things would be nice to have though, like my cooking stuff (I’m always finding I need some kind of cooking implement and don’t have it,) and there are always those times when I think of something, like a book or a picture, and I’m like “hey I should read/look at/show that to someone,” and then all the sudden it hits me and I’m like, “oh… never mind,” But for the most part, I don’t miss the stuff I lost. I had too much stuff, and it weighed me down. I’m a lighter version of myself now, and I don’t foresee it changing in the future. I’ve grown to like it.

    Like Tyler Durden says, “the stuff you own ends up owning you.” Wise words from a fantastic book.

    No bandwagons here. They don’t fit in my car.

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  4. Oh my word, that loft sounds like heaven.

    I so identify with what you’re saying here… and think it’s so cool that you’ve picked three ways you can try to be a little more responsibly minimalist without throwing out all the art/warmth/life with the bathwater. Totally agree with you about the book thing – the mood has got to be right.

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  5. You don’t have to be a minimalist in EVERY area of your life to be good at it… I think you did a great job! Note to self: I need to unsubscribe from junk mail. ASAP.

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    1. Baby steps, right? The junk mail thing, oh man, its been a huge stress reducer. I’m sure there is some kind of service that will do all the unsubscribing for you, but my biggest problem was maybe 20-25 companies each sending 5-7 emails a week. WHY so many emails?! And who, pray tell, is actually clicking on and buying stuff from all those emails that makes companies think it’s effective!? Jerks. They should stop that, stat!

      xox

      On Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 12:31 PM, Feisty Harriet wrote:

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