Category Archives: Minimalism

Our Toy Decluttering System

Pretty much all moms get frustrated with toy clutter.

I thought a group toy box under their bed and some additional personal toys kept in their own personal spaces would be okay, but we ran into a couple big problems.

(1) No one took responsibility for the clean up of the ‘group’ toys and (2) each hoarded so much in their personal space, they couldn’t fit it all in!

I’ve downsized enough that I did not want to get rid of more of their toys at this time. (Though maybe in a couple months…) However, I did need to remove them from the stress of every day!

A friend said she had taken away all but a few of her kids’ toys until they learned to be responsible enough to clean them up.

This seemed like a great idea. Here’s how it worked for us.

I taped numbered cards on the floor and let each child pick out his or her favorite 10 toys.

Here are pictures of the toys that they picked. photo 1

The top picture is of my 4 year old son’s toys.

photo 2Then my 3 year old daughter’s toys. Yes. She loves dolls.

photo 3Finally the 18 month old’s.

The rest went into a big box which I hid away in the basement.

photo 4

 

If the child wants a toy from the box, he or she has to trade one of his or her ‘special ten.’ The only one who has done this has been my oldest. The girls don’t seem to remember the other toys even exist.


I also took the opportunity to pick out a few car toys that stay in the car. This was a brilliant move! 

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In the last 2 months, my son has ended up with more like 20 toys. He’s proven himself responsible and always cleans them up. Since he wants to keep his 20 toys. the system has motivated him to be more responsible! My 3 year old still has about 10 which fit easily in her personal basket, and my 18 month old has about 7. Toy clutter has become almost nonexistent.

 

Beyond this I keep toy sets locked in two cabinets, but I’m the only one with access to them.

There you have it! This is the system that has worked for us!

-Verity

Minimalist Wardrobe: Working Man

Working Man

I often think of my husband as a natural minimalist. Consequently having a minimal wardrobe for him is very easy.

My husband is a web developer who works in a business casual setting.

He doesn’t care for long sleeves so all his polos and casual shirts are short sleeved.

His core colors are blue, black, navy, grey, a little brown and khaki.

6 polos for work

(Plus he has one dress shirt with the company logo for client meetings.)

2 nice jeans for work

2 pair casual pants (switched with shorts in summer)

4 casual shirts

3 dress pants for Sunday (khaki, navy, and a wool blend for subzero days)

7 dress shirts (4 short sleeved for summer and 3 long sleeved)

5 ties

Hunting gear in the basement

A dress shirt for our home business

2 pair pajamas

Undergarments and Socks

Nice boots which he wears every day in Winter.

Comfortable, heavy duty dress shoes which he wears every day the rest of the year.

German House Shoes (like slippers)

A suit for interviews and when he preaches at church.

That’s it. I didn’t have to pare down much either. He’s a natural.

Jeans and pants don’t need to be washed every use so there is enough clothes for him.

That’s his wardrobe. Working men’s wardrobes will vary of course by their occupation.

-Verity

Minimalist Preschool Boy Wardrobe

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It is fun to get lots of clothes with the first child however, once you start having multiples, you start to get sick of so many pieces to sort and wash!


With my kids playclothes, I dress them in mostly jeans. Then it is very easy to match shirts. The goal is to be able to change your child in the dark and have it match – because everything is mix and match. (Though there are a few exceptions with my daughters who like play dresses.)

My son’s core wardrobe colors are blue, red, dark green and black with a little brown.


5 play shirts (Long sleeved T-shirts in Winter; short sleeved in summer)

4 pair play pants (3 jeans & one other color that matches all his shirts) (In summer there are 3 pairs of shorts and 1 or 2 pair of pants)
Picture1 pair dress pants (2 would be better – a khaki and black)

4 dress shirts

3 play hoodies (Our house is cold)

2 nice sweaters

Play shoes

Boots

Slippers

Dress Shoes
12 pair Socks

7 underwear

4 pair pajamas (he only needs 2 but the summer pajamas stayed upstairs with the winter pajamas per his request.)

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A coat for the season

In the picture, not all his clothes were in the drawer. He has 2 more shirts and 3 more pairs of jeans then pictured.

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That’s it. Most of his clothes are kept in a three drawer dresser. (There is way more space in there than he needs.) The top drawer holds his socks and underwear as well as diaper and changing supplies ( for the 18 month old and 2 month old).

The middle drawer holds his 5 play shirts, one polo, and all his pants.

The bottom drawer holds his sweaters and pajamas. He puts his own pajamas away, and I have not made him fold them so for transparency sake, the drawer looks like this.


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His shoes and slippers are on a low shelf system in his room, and his boots are by the back door in the kitchen. His hoodies hang on a hook with his sisters’ hoodies on the right side of their closet. I probably need to come up with another place for them since 8 hoodies on one hook is a little impractical.

The closet holds the 18 month old’s entire wardrobe, all 3 of the kids’ shoes, all of their dress clothes, extra blankets and sheets, and the preschool boy’s special toys (in hutch).

I also hang some upcoming outfits (gifts usually from relatives on the far right because if I don’t, I tend to forget about them!

The closet has been easy to maintain because the little ones can’t reach their clothes and the preschooler is fairly particular about his things going back on the hutch. (Mostly because it’s the one spot the girls aren’t allowed so it ensures his toys’ safety.)

That’s it. We do tend to wash clothes every day or every other day which may be a dealbreaker for another family, but a minimal wardrobe works very well for us.

-Verity

Minimalism: What it is and What it is not

Drowning in all my stuff, I scoured the internet a few years back for decluttering tips.

That is where I learned of this neat concept going on called Minimalism.

Although I’ve in no way converted my lifestyle to reflect the extreme versions of this movement, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having my previously high view of possessions challenged by some of the interesting blogs and books out there today.

Here is an overview of my conclusions on minimalism.

Minimalism Definition: A lifestyle in which you minimize all the extras so that you are down to only the essentials.

Minimalism Purpose: Eliminate all extra weight and free yourself so you can achieve your personal goals and dreams.

Minimalism looks different for different people.

A homeowner cannot minimize down as far as a renter. The renter can call the landlord if the drain backs up, but a homeowner has to either buy an auger or spend $200 on a plumber.

The fact is Minimalism is not cut and dry. You can’t find a ‘list of essentials’ that will work for everyone (though I did look) because everyone has different goals and dreams.

One family has a dishwasher; they have eight sippy cups for their two toddlers because after every meal, they stick the cups in the dishwasher which is run during the night. Another family has only two sippy cups for their two toddlers. They hand wash, dry, and put away the cops after every meal.

A family with a washing machine can have less clothes then one that is only able to get to the laundry matt once a week.

Different lifestyles require different levels of minimalism in different areas.

Minimalism MEANS different things to different people.

We eliminate OUR personal nonessentials. For me, I’ve realized that the reason I was purge my nonessentials is specifically to spend more time with my children, be a better mom, and become organized enough to have a large, happy family. Things that I had to minimize where all the things that hindered my being a better wife and mom. That iss my dream and goal. I always wanted a lot of kids, and I was finding that all my clutter was making it hard to have 1 kids let alone a lot!

It was okay for others  to have different goals because Minimalism is not necessarily a moral choice

I say that carefully – because everything we do springs out of our moral center, beliefs, and convictions. However, someone is not less of a person if they are have a huge attic of storage. Some people can organize, care for, and keep track of a huge amount of stuff while others cannot. Having less stuff does not make you more mature or spiritual. It simply means that you have realized that life is easier and happier for you with less stuff.

Also, minimalism is not opposite of materialism.

When you make the choice to pair down your items to the most valuable, the absolutely most sentimental and most useful, you pass each item through a stringent filter.

Only the best survive.

When one of those items is ruined in the typical sway of daily life, you find yourself more disappointed then you otherwise would have been. You know exactly how important that item is. Your toddler figured out how to get the safety handle off, broke into the linen closet, and ruined her second best pants pair with a bottle of nail polish. You know that that ruined pair of pants was especially important because it was nice enough for company and durable enough for play and matched 5 out of her 6 shirts. You’ve given that pair of pants more thought then you every would have before you started a minimalistic approach to life. In order to respond rightly to that situation, you need to realize one important thing.

Arm in arm with minimalism must come a realization that stuff is not important as people.

This is NOT the moment to freak out because her carefully minimized wardrobe is now not perfect.

This is the moment to thank the Lord that she did not get into the cleaning chemicals on the next shelf and talk to her about not breaking into the linen closet again.

Remember, Minimalism is a MEANS to an end. It is NOT and end in itself.

- Verity

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Minimalism: Things I Don’t Minimize

Everyone – even the most well-known minimalists often have areas they do not pinch on. Francine Jay, who write MissMinimalist.com and is one of the most well-known minimalists on the web, once wrote that she enjoys have a collection of jewelry from the many countries she and her husband have traveled. Since she wears a mostly black wardrobe and since jewelry is small, it is an area she can have a little more then the minimal amount.

The idea of minimalism is to clear out the extras to help you focus on the important.

However, hand in hand with that goal comes some items that should be plentiful – either for their utilitarian purpose or for the pure enjoyment they bring.

Here is a list of things that I choose to keep more then the minimal amount of.

Waste Baskets (The large, kitchen-sized ones)

I have one in every room. In fact. I have a small, long, hallway-like kitchen, and I have two in there – one on each end.

And yes. They are usually almost all full by the end of the week. Between diapers, broken things that kids get a hold of and everything else, we fill them up.

Disposable Wipe Containers

I have one in the car, one in my purse, one in the diaper bag, one in the kid’s room, and one in the spare room in case someone is up, and I don’t want to wake the other two kids. I love disposable wipes!!

Paper Towels

I’m pregnant. We have a 7 month old puppy and a potty trainer. Paper towels are God’s gift to help me survive. Enough said.

Toddler and Preschooler Shoes

Every kid needs at least 2 pair of shoes in our house to keep Mama’s sanity. This way if the 3 year old leaves his shoes at the 4th of July picnic…somewhere, the 1 year old kicks off her shoe in Menards, or the 2 year old puts a shoe to bed with her dolls in the play room and it’s not found for 2 weeks, we are not in a crisis. (Until one of them finds a creative way to dispose of their OTHER pair.)

(To be completely transparent, I have a little obsession with my girls’ cute baby shoes and have been known to have as many as 7 pair at once. Some were gifts. Even aspiring minimalists have their weaknesses.)

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Christmas Decorations

We have FOUR totes in the basement. Plus a large wooden stable about the size of a tote. I know many people downsize more, but this is an area that I have chosen to not downsize further. I create a magical mood around the house at Christmas with all my Christmas clutter. I’m fine with that. I’ve made space for that by getting rid of other stuff. :-)

Make-up

I have two sets of make-up. One in the house and one in the car (because more often then not – that is the only place I remember/have the kids strapped down to do it.)

Bacon

My husband cannot start his day without at least 4 slices of bacon. It works out to about a pound and a half a week. (Don’t judge) After too-many emergency trips to the store because I was running out, I got smart and keep at least a few weeks supply.  Since I’ve bought up to 6 months supply when I find a deal, I have to keep the freezer fairly clear of other things, but it works for me. Minimalists clear out their lesser possessions to make room for what matters to them. This is important for helping him start his day, and so we prioritize it.

Some areas of our lives need to be trimmed down to the bones and others create more serenity and joy by not minimizing them.

What items do you stock up on or allow more of simply for the enjoyment of it?

- Verity

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Materialism Vs Mom: Part 2

Happy Black Friday!! The most crazy, consumer driven day of the year!

In the wake of an advertising crazed Christmas season, how can we as parents help our kids view stuff in the right perspective?

Despite our intention as parents to teach our children that spiritual and mental things are more important then the many cool toys, clothes, and possessions around us, we live in a society that depends on consumerism. How can we help help our children to now be taken in by materialism?

In the last article, we talked about Step 1: To Limit.

This article deals with Step 2: To Help them deal with the materialist temptations that are sure to come.

1. Help them learn to think about things in a certain way

-Help them view what they have as A LOT

-Talk about how much they have in a positive way

“Wow, we have a whole BOX of toys! We are so blessed!”

“You have TWO dolls! How special to have so much!”

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     -Help them know the value of a dollarEven though my kids are 1, 2, and 3, we have an allowance system for the two older ones.-Help them view things correctly in the store

When they ask for the toy at the store, help them to realize that:

1. They don’t need it 

2. If they get it, they will not be able to use what they already have.

Things that work great to say to my kids:

“If you get this, we need to get rid of some toys at home. Do you want to get rid of some of your toys?”

“If you get this, you won’t be able to play with the toys you have. That would be sad!”

“It would not be responsible to get this toy when we have so much at home!”

“You already have 3 cars & you only have 2 hands! How would you carry this?”

The war continues, but I can honestly say that I think my kids are getting a better grasp of reality of need and want then I did.

Of course I do just say “no,” to some things like any parent and other times I allow them to purchase the item with their own chore money.

However, my bigger goal (like any parent) is help them get a bigger view of ‘stuff.’ In the end, I want them to realize that ‘stuff’ does not make them happy, and that they can find contentment in the many blessings (spiritual and physical) that God has already given them.

In the coming month, we’ll be focusing more on a meaningful Christmas season that helps our children focus on Christ, family, and giving.

What things work to help your kids battle materialism and gain a bigger perspective on ‘stuff?’

- Verity

Materialism Vs Mom: Part 1

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Black Friday is 4 days away so tis the season for STUFF, STUFF, STUFF!
 
It’s a great time to post a 2 part series on materialism to help get our heads together as we go into holidays. :-)
In the upcoming month, we’ll be posting on a simple, Christ-focused, giving-focused Christmas season.
But first, let’s talk about what we do NOT want to focus on and what we want to HELP our kids NOT focus on – a MATERIALISTIC consumer-driven Christmas!
 
 

Materialism: The Dictionary had two great definitions:

  1. A doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress
  2. A preoccupation with or stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things


 
How can we bear arms against it? My conclusion so far: Limit & HelpIn this first article of my 2 part series, we’ll talk about Limit.1. Limit the temptation (especially when they are young like my kids and it’s hard to talk through things with them)

- Limit Exposure to Advertising

-Commercials

I still remember watching the 1980s commercial that portrayed two stylish girls playing excitedly with a doll whose hair color changed with a ‘magic’ wand (stick that was wet on the end). Commercials suck you in and make you feel a way about something before you even know it. Children are no match for people who have marketing degrees and years of experience in advertising strategies.

I’ve been glad that since we have Netflix and don’t need TV, commercials have not been as much of an issue for us.

   - Magazines

Magazines can help children to choose between things, but again, items are set up in a way to look nicer and more meaningful then they are. Little hearts are influenced more quickly then we sometimes think.

-Limit Gifts (If possible)

-From Relatives and Friends

This is obviously hard. It’s not worth ruining relationships over, but here are a couple tried and true methods.

- Ask relatives to get items that are in a certain genre. My aunts have helped me attain wooden learning toys that were out of my budget and have loved doing it. They’ve also supplied my girls with all their dresses the last couple years. (Again something that gets pricey, but aunts enjoy buying!)

- When gifts are in excess, even children can perceive the chaos. Later, after the situation is over. Point out the chaos. “Did you notice that we opened so many gifts, we didn’t even get to talk?” or “Did you notice how stressful getting the car packed was? Now we have to get rid of other nice things because we got so much!”

- Ask relatives to give toward one large gift. Lydia and her husband bought their 2 year old a special $70 learning item for his last birthday. They sent pictures to all the relatives via email and an explanation of why they thought the gift was idea for where he was at developmentally. They then asked that gifts for that birthday be monetary to contribute to the unusually high cost of his gift.

 - From YOURSELF

We are our own worst enemies. No one loves our kids more then we do, and we want them to have the________. Stop yourself from grabbing something here and there. Instead do research, plan ahead, and limit your shopping to a small number of good quality gifts.

Our kids get ONE or TWO gifts from us for their birthday and for Christmas. (It usually is a fun gift and a practical gift or just a fun gift.) They also get a present for Easter because Easter is an important holiday to me as a Christian.

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My kids happy with this limited number of gifts. They don’t know any different. Two families at church don’t get their kids Christmas gifts or birthday gifts.Their kids don’t know any different and still love Christmas and birthdays.However, if your kids are used to an influx of gifts from you on special occasions, there is hope. Simply let your children know that this time, they will get one special gift from you instead of lots of gifts. Maybe even let them pick one thing out for $___.

-If they are little, limit excess toys in the first place! 

(if they are 2 and under) GET RID OF A LOT! Before they notice things are missing, get their toys down to as little as possible.  I did it. It helped a lot! My son did notice that the toys had gone from 2 big boxes down to 3/4s of one, but he could not think what was missing so after a couple minutes of fussing, he got over it.

-If they are older help them develop habits to pick the best and get rid of clutter. (Maybe help them to get their toys down to a number that will fit in one box, or shelf unit.)

What are systems or methods that have helped you limit materialistic mindsets or excess possessions in our home?

- Verity

The Many Ways to Declutter

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Some of us our born ‘tossers’ and some of us are not. My son takes after me – whether it’s apples, toys, books, sticks, or kleenexes – more is more to him! I see him either marrying an incredibly organized woman someday or being on a hoarders show.

He’s like this though because he sees so much potential in EVERYTHING. He’s optimistic, imaginative and eager to make the most out of life – with anything and EVERYTHING he can find.

Why get 2 apples when you can get a bucket?

Why take two toys to bed when you can fill your bed to the point of not being able to lay down any more?

I have learned to love this about him. However, I don’t want him to end up struggling through clutter someday so he’s learning decluttering methods (about at the same speed as me sometimes), but I am an enthusiastic teacher!

Decluttering 101 


1. Just Toss
The fact is, this is the easiest. I know it’s not always the best for the environment, but sanity is sanity. If you have space in the garbage can this week, but will have a Goodwill box sitting by your door for a month before you get to the thrift store to donate – just bite your lip and do it!

I used to hate throwing anything away that could be reused, but when it came down to my family’s well being or my donating it rather then tossing it, I began to change my perspective. It’s not right for me to make them walk around my thrift store donations until I can get over there.

Also, if something was a gift, the giver is much less likely to see the item in the garbage can then given away.

Someday, I’ll have everything under control enough that I don’t need to toss as much, but for large purges, just do it. It is also harder to dig something out of the trash then to pull it out of the donation box!

2. Donation

  1. Thrift Stores
  2. Sentimental Items can be given to family members.
  3. Church. My husband brought a lot of his theology, counseling and commentary books to church for our church family to pick through after he finished seminary. Most members had vastly smaller libraries then we did so it was a blessing to them. He also brought his old sound system set that was better then the church system.
  4. Consignment Stores and Websites give you store credit for donated items.

3. Sell
Pick an amount that any item is worth selling for. (My amount is $10.) If it’s not worth $10 on eBay, Amazon Market, or Craigslist, it is not worth posting it, dealing with prospective buyer correspondence, packing it up, sending it, and dealing with seller feedback.

4. Use Up or Give to the Kids to Use Up!
I used to save EVERYTHING that had any sentimental strings at all. I’d save food items until they went bad, body washes until they smelled funny, and stationary products until the kids pulled them out and destroyed them.

I have now realized the joy in just using things up! Not only to I get to use them — but then they are gone to make room for other wonderful things.

-I just used up the beautiful gift store tablet I was rewarded last year for team leading at my husband’s seminary.

-I just threw away the blue koala that I had as a baby because the kids yanked the nose off and lost it…somewhere, but I did have the joy of watching them play with it for 6 months prior.

-Soon I’ll throw away the stuffed duck my mom brought me when I was on bedrest in the hospital that I dressed in my little preemie boys’ onesie and set on my nightstand to remind me of the little baby I hoped would soon wear that onesie. For now though, the kids are playing with it every day.

-I let the 2 year old and 3 year old play with old jewelry for several months and finally just threw it away. Yes. A lot of it was sentimental. The Easter necklace I received at 13 – my first ‘grown-up’ necklace that was now missing multiple pearls, the giraffe shaped earrings that I loved at 12 but would never wear as an adult, the Africa-shaped necklace from a friend, a few other hand-made pieces by friends that never matched my style but were too ‘special’ to toss all brought my children HOURS of enjoyment before finally being pitched as they were broken (in ways that only toddlers seem to be able to come up with).

I recognize that ‘getting rid of stuff’ is kind of basic, but the heart behind letting go of stuff is something I’ve been learning in the last few years. It’s not a natural thing for me to hand over a 29 year old blue koala to my little kids, but I’m realizing that the importance of ‘letting go’ of things is bigger then ‘stuff.’

Decluttering has been a spiritual journey for me. Letting go is part of moving forward. It’s an appreciation for the past blessings without being tightfisted over them- so I can open my hands to reach for what God has next.

-Verity

Organizing During Transitions

transition time is considered any period of time that comes right after a large life change.

Life change is a move, career change, birth of a baby, death of a loved one, marriage etc.
transitionMany people going through a transition time become more interested in decluttering and organizing; this is becausetransition times make us feel like we are not in control, and organizing and decluttering makes us feel like we are in control.

This is a great time to get motivated and make changes, but because of the emotional and physical upheaval involved in such drastic changes, people often struggle when they actually start pairing down stuff.

At the moment we are expecting baby #4 in 5 short weeks! So spurred by this upcoming transition, I’m feeling very motivated to cut any and all extras! Here are some thoughts I have on approaching transitions.

                                                                Approaching Transitions and Decluttering

Enjoy and relish your victories. A big reason you may be organizing now, during a time of upheaval, is to get some control. Stop a minute and be proud of yourself then! You just took FOUR big boxes to Goodwill! You did a good deed and got more control over your closets. Even reward yourself with a frappe coffee drink!. :-) (I love finding reasons to get frappes!!)

Recognize that you may be thinking more clearly in a few months. If there are items that you blank out on and simply don’t know whether not you should get rid of them, just put them in a box and mark them “to go through in three  or six months (set a date on your calendar), when your life settles down a bit. I found that a two years after marriage and year after our first child, I was able to get rid of many more items. I had a better grasp then of our family’s goals and values.

Take control in your main living areas first. If you are feeling claustrophobia from all the clutter, then clear the main areas first. Store the kitchen utensils and appliances that counter but you only use once a month in the closet and take down decorations that are sitting on coffee tables and end tables. The wider open space will make you feel more in control, and later, you can take them back out.

So if you are in a transition, realize what’s going on. This may be a good time to organize, but it may also be a time to just get into the new groove. Both are okay.

- Verity

Minimalist Toddler Girl Wardrobe

In desperation, I paired down everyone’s wardrobes to almost minimalistic quantities.

Seemed insane, but now that it’s working so well, I think it was genius. :-)

Here is roughly what the two year old girl’s wardrobe is right now.

Minimalist Toddler Girl Wardrobe:

Make the clothes mix and match. Then you don’t have  6 play outfits. You have 36. :-)

6 Play Shirts

4 or 5 Play Pants

1 or 2 Play Skirts

3 Sweaters or Sweatshirts (Our house is cold)

1 or 2 Vests (I like vests for my toddler girls because they hold the shirt down and there is less baby tummy showing)

(Not Pictured)

4 Sunday Dresses

Tights

Underwear

10 Pair Socks

3 pair pajamas

1 Coat, pair of mittens, hat, and scarf

1 Play Pair of Shoes

1 Dress Pair of Shoes (Ok. I love toddler shoes…we might completely go outside the line of this one…)

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I don’t know what it will be like in your area. I can usually find great name brand toddler jeans, skirts, and dresses at Goodwill, but the shirts and tights I buy at Walmart or Target. My two year old is hard enough on her shirts that high quality shirts do not matter. Stains show up on Walmart brand as well as name brand. :-)

Pros of a Minimalist Toddler Wardrobe

  • Impossible to get far behind on laundry. 
  • Less Mess when the clothes get pulled out of the drawers. (And they will…trust me)

Cons of a Minimalist Toddler Wardrobe:

  • I actually haven’t thought of any. <:-) 
  • I do wash the kid’s clothes about every third day, but I have my own washer. If you have to take your clothes to a laundromat, that would be an issue.
  • Flu has hit us twice since I slimmed down on clothes, and it was not a problem. The first thing you do when your kid throws up is strip the child and hurl the foul clothes in the washing machine anyway!

So there it is! Be sure to check out the other lists in my Minimalistic Wardrobe Series.

- Verity


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