“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens…”
These might be some of your favorite things, but how many things do we actually need in life?
I first thought about minimalism one evening in the shower. Why so many bottles and scrubs and lotions and potions? Could I just use one bottle instead, or at least cut down to only two or three? It occurred to me there was a lot of money invested into these products, MY money. So, after my shower, I gathered all the “beauty” products I owned into one basket. Truthfully, one basket was not enough; it turned into one-basket-and-one-big-box. It made me a little sad to see, I had clearly spent years buying this stuff, I guess I never realized. I had at least two of everything, sometimes three or four. I began the purge that night, disposing of everything I didn’t feel I needed right then. If it was old, expired, or nearly used up it went in the bin. If it was unopened and new, it went in a pile for resale. If it was half used, or not resalable for whatever reason, it went into a donation pile. My one-basket-and-one-big-box of beauty products became one small basket – much more realistic for a single woman – my bathroom became cleaner, I sold some items and made some money, and I made a strangers day with a big box of freebies (more on ‘freecycling’ later).
What did examining the contents of my bathroom teach me about myself? Firstly, that I had so many “things” I didn’t even know what I owned. Secondly, that I HAD spent a lot of money in my life on the kind of product designed and marketed at woman as ‘must-haves’, ten kinds of conditioner, five kinds of moisturizer, a stack of make-up waiting to be worn. But what I really learned was that having all these things didn’t make my shower any different or any better, even if I went in with just one bottle of body wash, I still came out clean.
“Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes,
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes”
It’s almost impossible, when you find a system that works for you, to NOT apply it to every aspect of your life. I went gung ho into my wardrobe. If it wasn’t worn in the past 6 months it was gone, similar if it didn’t fit or wasn’t great quality or didn’t make me feel good. I used the Marie Kondo technique here, having read about her organizational skills and folding techniques. Every item onto one huge pile, sort each item separately, asking yourself “Does this bring me joy?” I was asking myself more personal questions too, like why do you have 50 pairs of knickers Liz, and 10 bras, and 5 sets of PJs, and what the hell is wrong with you…..
I took anything sellable into my favorite consignment store (more on consignment later!). In one evening I filled about 5 bags full of donations. My closet went from an unmitigated disaster zone to a neat, tidy capsule wardrobe, and the effects of this were felt immediately, I spent less time thinking and choosing what to wear, less time doing laundry, and less time spent trying on items I wished still fit me! I now own one handbag and one pair of formal shoes, one pair of boots and one heavy coat. Best of all, I am making some money from my unused clothes, in small increments (the consignment store takes 50% of the eventual sale price of your items) but it adds up, and I have taken about $2,000 from my consignment account thus far!
“Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels,
Door bells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles…”
Again, it was impossible for me not to apply this way of thinking to the other aspects in my life. Aside from cleaning out my desk at work and embracing the paper free (and desk-junk free) office, I took a long hard look at our household utility bills, looking for some areas to clean up there. I consolidated some utilities for discounts and decided to cut cable TV out of the equation, saving us around $300 per month. I checked our appliances ratings online and found our chest freezer was costing us about $22 a month to run, that was unplugged immediately! We bought a hand wash drum for $50 and turned the washing machine off for good too. We shopped around for cell phone plans and realized it is cheaper paying as you use, we cancelled our expensive data plans. These ways of saving a few dollars a month while making our day-to-day lives easier were great, but I realized the biggest savings would come if I could find an apartment close enough to walk to work, saving me time and money on public transport and in taxis. I found that house, it ended up being A LOT cheaper to rent than my previous apartment, we moved, and within one month we were saving $1,200 per month, just on essentials. William moved in in November of 2016, another saving with combined rent. Thankfully he brought only essentials; he was already practicing forced minimalism by moving around so much! Everything fell into place and we were able to concentrate on saving every dollar we made (more on frugality, debt reduction and saving later!) Downsizing our utility bills from 8 different invoices per month to just 4 (electricity, rent, Wi-Fi and Netflix) made a huge difference to our new, improved budget and our new, less cluttered lifestyle!
Having less “stuff” means needing less “stuff holders”. We sold the now empty chest of drawers, the TV stand and other unneeded storage items. No books means no bookshelves, same for DVDs and media. More money in the bank, less furniture to dust and sweep around. The bedside lockers were sold and replaced with milk crates and spare shelving we obtained.
“Brown paper packages, tied up with string…”
Minimalism is a journey of sorts. It, for me anyway, has been about finding out what I like and what I love, what I need and what I use. I think a lot of us have issues with attachment. I was carrying around a lifetime of junk, boxes of memories and receipts, all things to do with my Kyd from her birth to now (she is almost 18), poems and stories I’ve written, tickets to gigs and sports event programs, love letters dating back to the 90s. I didn’t find it hard to say goodbye to these items in the end, after all the other downsizing this was very doable for me. I took the time to look at each thing and cherish the memories attached, and then let it go. The memory stays, the memories always stay, and they are stored for free in my brain. My life, which had felt cluttered and messy and a little bit too much at times, is being swept clean by removing as much of this life junk as possible.
I’m down to owning just 100 items. And those are the entirety of my favorite things!