I recently wrote a post titled Why I’m not a Minimalist, and my dear sister commented on my FB page explaining that Minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of stuff, it’s about simplifying life so we have more time for loved ones, she also brought to my attention that there is at least one very well known family who practices and preaches minimalism: Leo Babauta‘s family of eight! Although I wasn’t suggesting that minimalism is impossible with kids, I did find it extremely frustrating to get tips from single 20 and 30 year olds without family commitments advising me on how to declutter. The point, however, was taken. Minimalism is about living better with less stuff, which is exactly what I am working on achieving! And it’s not limited to physical objects, it includes decluttering your phone with needless or distracting apps, that literally take up precious time from your loved ones. It means taking the time to be bored, to talk with family, to do things together, rather than fuss about this and that out of sheer obligation or habit. I don’t necessarily have this problem, but I do have a ton of interests, which I keep thinking I’ll indulge in as soon as I have the time.
One such interest is scrap-booking, this is an activity I started with my kids, and which they enjoyed doing with me, but it is tremendously time consuming, messy, and costly, so I had to slow down a bit… meanwhile we all got on with our lives and interests. My scrapbooking supplies lie in my room, reminding me on a daily basis that I need to print out more pictures to update. I am tempted to forget about it all and donate my unused supplies, but I’d hate to disappoint my kids when they see that we started something and never finished it. So this summer I’m dedicating a week to take care of this. If it works, I’ll know I’ve done what I could, if it doesn’t, I’ll feel no more guilt by getting rid of the supplies.
As you know I’ve been decluttering and simplifying for months now, and I can honestly say I’m running low on ideas on where to go next. I’ve donated trunk loads of books, magazines, clothes, toys, kitchen supplies, and home decorations, and although our house is far from empty, I find that I get use out of pretty much everything I kept so far. I occasionally find an item here and there, and it quietly goes in a bag in a closet, waiting to be filled for the next trip to my local donation center.
Some decluttering experts suggest to take one corner of the home at a time to work on, I worked by theme: wardrobe, hobbies, cooking/baking, home deco. As far as wardrobe is concerned, it’s something I do twice a year anyhow, because of seasonal changes, and growing kids. But other areas aren’t as frequently visited, and those garner special attention when simplifying.
Some suggest that once you’ve achieved a good level of decluttering, and find that you need to purchase some items, but are afraid to undo what you’ve worked so hard to achieve, you can simply make sure to get rid of two items (or two bags) for each item (or bag) you purchase, so as to keep up with the minimizing effort yet continue to gain flexibility in what you bring into your life. Many things, books in particular, which can carry pretty hefty sentimental value, are a tough one to deal with, especially for writers and keen readers such as our family, but it does get to a point in which too much choice becomes paralyzing and thus has the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve. I am still holding on to a few books that I feel strongly about, but I’ve decided not to set up mountainous obstacles to achieving my dream of being completely rounded in our reading choices, so I’m constantly revisiting my shelves to decide whether or not I wish to hold on to this or that book. It’s a work in progress, and will probably continue to be in progress as our tastes and interests evolve.
Another obstacle that I struggle with sometimes is the bargain bug. That’s a tough virus to build immunity to! For the most part I simply stay away from clearance isles that don’t involve perishable goods. You’ll always find something nicer, something cuter, something clever you hadn’t seen before, and although I avoid putting myself in the position to have to decide, I occasionally am confronted by a fantastic bargain, and that’s when I question myself: “Do I need it? Do I already own something that can act as surrogate (ie.: can I repurpose something I already have)? Will it add value to our lives? Will it help me achieve a simpler, more meaningful life?” if not, then I pass. It helps to remember that I am blessed to have everything I need, and that adding to the stuff might devalue what I have chosen to keep. It also helps stretch my creative muscles to use everything I own instead of getting just the right thing, perhaps helping me grow and appreciate things more.
As far as my kids are concerned, I ask them the same questions I ask myself, and they’ve come around very well! In fact, when we go shopping, they’ll ask me the same questions too, reminding me if I forget!
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’ve also started a few camps to get my kids and others together to do something creative during long summer days. We’ve kept busy with these camps, and family engagements so far, but we still have a few weeks left to summer! I’m not a big fan of overscheduling, and structuring every minute of their day. I prefer that they take their time, get bored, and figure out inventive ways to entertain themselves, keep active, and grow together. It’s not always straight forward, but it’s important that they do get these opportunities as often as possible, as these are the precious moments in which creativity and resilience are engendered.
I guess, given all this, that we might be minimalists after all! Minimalism doesn’t have to look white and plain, it doesn’t have to be a lonely journey or a treacherous climb up a rocky and slippery slope, it doesn’t mean living with the bare essentials; it’s really just about living a life that is filled with values of togetherness, mindfulness, and humility. It’s about valuing life’s precious moments more than the stuff we fill it with, and what’s wrong with that?!
I believe we can all appreciate this, and we all know this is a positive approach, nobody’s immune from all the capitalist messages we’re fed, and they are carefully constructed to affect our core values. I’ve said before that minimalism is the “west”‘s answer to the all-encompassing consumerist tendencies so widely encouraged in most “western” countries, but I think I may have unfairly categorized it as a purely socio-economic issue. Marketers are well versed in psychology, and they spend a lot of time and effort figuring out ways to entice people to spend their hard-earned money on frivolities, promising them unattainable ideals. It’s just that consumers are now more than ever realizing the importance of separating the object from the ideal that marketing has attached to it. It’s not that “westerners” are more gullible, it’s that they’re more bombarded than any other population due to the availability of disposable income they have the potential to spend on such things.
Although social aspects do play a part in this, they are by no means the only aspect that affects people’s purchasing choices. Some people would very much want to earn and spend like “westerners” but simply can’t, not because their society forbids them, necessarily, but because of economic restraints, or the lack of availability of such a vast array of choices.
I hope I’ve clarified some of the inconsistencies in a few of my previous posts, and that you’ll feel more comfortable voicing your opinions, now that you know they’ll be heard and addressed!
I’m planning another post on this issue soon, so make sure to subscribe to keep up to date with upcoming blogposts!
Until then, happy decluttering!