Friday, February 19, 2016
I have not always been a minimalist. Like at all. As a kid (and as an adult), I was/am a fabric hoarder. I love having and buying lots of clothes, even if I don't wear all of them, and even now I dream about having a stuffed pantry, many sets of dishes, and all the kitchen tools.
Minimalism had never even crossed my mind until last year. I just assumed I would always have a lot of stuff, own a largish home someday, and have the normal things that normal people have, like a house, a few cars, lots of clothes and just generally a lot of stuff to fill the house.
Then one night, before Fox was born, Adam and I were talking about where Fox would sleep. Adam suggested we should stay in our one bedroom apartment. It had crossed my mind, but not very seriously, and I certainly didn't think we would stay in this apartment for more than about 9 months with him. It just sounded too crowded.
Then, after Adam mentioned the idea in a serious way, it took hold. Suddenly the wheels in my mind began turning and I couldn't think of anything better. Moving sounded frustrating, expensive and difficult with a small baby. Plus, I liked the idea of cleaning up our space, getting a few extra pieces of furniture to make things work, and saving several hundred dollars a month in rent. What had sounded impossible suddenly sounded very reasonable and ingenious.
As we began investing in a few pieces of furniture to make this arrangement possible, a few other parts of my life began to fall into place. I had been intrigued by a few other movements previous to this, and had begun applying bits and pieces of each to our lifestyle and found that they fit in nicely with this new framework for living.
For example, I have been really interested in the Zero Waste movement (Bea Johnson writes this blog, and wrote a terrific, very interesting and helpful book about it). I am not up for adopting this lifestyle completely, because I don't think I am ready to get rid of my trashcans and never use a disposable diaper again, but I love the emphasis that is placed on finding alternative options for products that would bring packaging into your home, or need to be thrown away.
This movement is all about simplifying, streamlining your life and living in an eco-friendly way. I have taken bits and pieces of her book and incorporated them into my life. This is actually why I started making reusable bags a few years ago. I also have gotten about 80% of my 'new' clothes second hand in the last 10 months or so, and I try to move as many things out that I don't wear when I get new clothes.
I have also been been intrigued by the idea of eating more local food. I definitely don't see us doing this 100% of the time, but I did join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) a month or so ago, so we get a share of local organic vegetables every other week (I am regularly posting about our experience and recipes that I have made with our share. See previous posts here and here).
I really like getting these vegetables, in part, because they fulfill my desire to purchase new things, but I love that storing this food is not permanent, like a new pair of shoes or a lamp would be. It is all gone in two weeks worth of dinners and gives me a reason to go to the store again. It is the perfect sustainable shopping habit. Shopping for food and picking up an fresh box of vegetables can be a great substitute for going to the mall. Just trust me on this one...
Some people may wonder why minimalism is so appealing to me, and rightly so. In an age of everything at your fingertips, and often for a great price, why would I choose to reduce or live without? A few main reasons why I love it:
1. I like having an uncluttered house. I have a very hard time getting anything done in a cluttered or messy house. This is so true, in fact, that I often clean my entire kitchen before beginning a cooking project or dinner. Unloading ourselves of many of our possessions has helped our house stay clean more often, even with a baby who empties the contents of our storage bench daily. Even when our home isn't as clean, picking up is a cinch, because we have less, and it all has a place to go.
2. Limiting what you have allows you do to do more outside the home. We have significantly reduced the amount of stuff we bring into our home. We may have less gadgets and toys than others, but we are also more motivated to use the resources available to us outside our home. We like to frequent our public library, the art museum at UT-Austin, our apartment swimming pool and local parks.
3. Fewer items can mean the ability to invest in higher quality. If I only have one white teeshirt, it had better be a pretty nice one, because I don't want it falling apart 3 weeks after I buy it. And if I am only buying one instead of three or four, I can spend the amount I would have spent on three or four and get a higher-quality, and better-fitting shirt. Less can mean better. For me, that usually means buying something nice second hand.
4. We are always trying to figure out how to cut expenses and save money. Living in a smaller, more streamlined space means purchasing less furniture because you have fewer rooms, you have less rooms to heat and cool, less lights to have on in the house, etc. Basically, we feel like we are saving a fair bit of money (and energy), by only having one bedroom and one bathroom. We both feel good about that, and are able to make it work.
5. It takes the pressure off keeping up with the neighbors. Rather than wishing I had that new pair of shoes, or a different outfit for every day of the year, minimalism has helped me look at what we have and be grateful for it. I feel like it allows me to move my focus from all the consumerist stuff that is everywhere around me.
I still look for jeans at Thred-up occasionally, or this beautiful and tempting cast-iron skillet, but knowing we have a limited amount of space that we want to keep spare, as well as the other things listed above, all keep me from spending money on stuff that we ultimately don't need.
We are still a bit of a work in progress, but every time I take a load to Salvation Army or give away an appliance that I haven't used in a few years, I breathe a sigh of relief. It just feels good to have less.
*On a semi-related note, I posted a story on Mode about reducing the amount of plastic you have in your kitchen. I am always working on reducing plastic in our house, and came up with some hopefully useful ideas! You can check it out here.
** I love getting emails with feedback or suggestions about minimalist living (or recipe) posts to do! Please let me know if you have an idea for a post you would like to see featured here Shoot me an email at measureandwhisk[at]gmail[dot]com. Hope to hear form you soon!