Archives for Minimalism
How much stuff do we have in our homes that we seldom use? The infrequent baker may have muffin tins, cookie cutters and such that hardly ever leave the cabinet. The person living in a warm climate may have clothes for the once-a-year ski trip; families may have tents for twice-a-year camping trips. Homeowners may have tools bought for a single need — tools that are rarely if ever used again.
If you don’t like giving your space (or your money) to these infrequently used items, you may want to investigate ways to rent or borrow these items. Or, perhaps you enjoy owning certain items, but would like to allow others to save money and space by borrowing from you. You can rent all sorts of things, but for now I’d like to focus on borrowing.
You may well have friends or family members who you can borrow from (and lend to), but what if you don’t?
My old condo HOA had a lot of game/sports stuff. For instance, you could borrow the croquet set and put it up in the greenbelt behind your townhouse. It was a random mix of games and toys but it was actually really nice.
Neighborhood, condo, or apartment building Facebook groups are another way to facilitate sharing. MetaFilter member Jacquilynne Schlesier shared her experience:
We have a very active FB group for our building on which people are constantly asking if anyone has an X they can borrow. Most if not all of those requests are fulfilled within about an hour. I’ve lent people my sewing machine, my grocery cart, my c-clamps and my drill. I’ve borrowed a flatbed dolly, and also asked people to save up their empty cereal boxes for me instead of recycling them so I could use them for a project. Our FB group gets a bit testy, but people helping each other is actually one of the things I love about living here.
If you have a good local freecycle group, and your group allows borrowing, that’s another possible route to go. There are also websites focused on facilitating this kind of sharing.
NeighborGoods, which Unclutterer has mentioned before, defines itself as a “social platform for peer-to-peer borrowing and lending. Need a ladder? Borrow it from your neighbor. Have a bike collecting dust in your closet? Lend it out and make a new friend.” NeighborGoods also has sharing guidelines that include things, such as:
Over in the U.K, Streetbank is “a site that helps you share and borrow things from your neighbours.” People can add things they want to lend or give away, and can include skills they are willing to share, as well as their stuff. As the FAQ states: “Communities that help each other are closer, nicer, and friendlier to live in. Streetbank can help make your neighbourhood a nicer place.”
I haven’t used NeighborGoods myself — the closest community is an hour’s drive away from me — but the idea behind NeighborGoods and Streetbank is appealing. I have done some lending; for example, my neighbor borrows my manual juicer when she needs one.
While it always makes sense to take reasonable precautions when borrowing or lending, sharing with others lets all of us live a somewhat less cluttered life.
Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker is not a book of organizing tips. It does not tell you what type of baskets to buy. It does not tell you how to arrange clothes in your closets. This book helps you evaluate the choices you make and develop new habits to lead a life that is full of meaning and free of clutter.
The book begins by introducing the concept of minimalism and leading a minimalist lifestyle. Many people believe that a minimalistic lifestyle is stark and boring but Mr. Becker explains that “minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”
Mr. Becker describes the empty promises of advertisements and their attempt to convince us that the more we own the happier we will be. He recounts the journey he and his typical American family have taken towards living a minimalist lifestyle and the challenges they faced.
In the first section, “Change Your Thinking”, Mr. Becker presents an alternate way of thinking about uncluttering and organizing. He explains the impact minimalism can have on contentment, generosity, and honesty in one’s life and also debunks many of the myths of living a minimalist lifestyle. It really is not stark and boring!
The section of the book that focuses on parenting states, “the lifestyle of minimalism requires far more inspiration than instruction.” It describes how parents can best model the minimalistic lifestyle. It also outlines the benefits of family life where possessions are deemed less important than self-development and interpersonal relationships.
Mr. Becker outlines a roadmap to becoming clutter free and explains how to include your children on this journey. He does not stick to hard and fast rules but asks questions that allow the reader to choose the minimalistic path that is right for his/her family.
Clutterfree with Kids will show readers new ways of thinking about, and establishing better habits, regarding children’s toys, clothes, artwork, and collections. There is advice on how to adjust schedules to spend more time participating in developmental activities and reducing the amount of ‘screen time’ – be it computer or television.
Some other practical advice provided in the book includes how to:
- Become clutterfree with a reluctant family member
- Deal with gifts and excessive gift-givers
- Resist the influence of advertisements in our consumer-driven culture
- Prepare for a new baby
- Pack for holidays and vacations
Clutterfree with Kids is an enjoyable, refreshing, easy-to-read book. Mr. Becker provides practical advice in a non-judgemental way. He encourages readers to adopt a level of minimalism with which they are comfortable. Whether you are new to minimalism or you are new to parenting, this book can help you move toward a happier and more minimalist life.
Today’s guest post is from my hometown friend Rebecca Bealmear. Lawyer by day and aspiring minimalist by night, she writes about her adventures in simple living, bicycling, and whatever captivates her attention on her personal blog Seven2seven8.com. She currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri. A big welcome to the lovely Rebecca. — Erin
For the past three years, I’ve joined up with the women on my husband’s side of the family for a once-a-year shopping trip. We often time it in the fall, to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday, and to get a head start on holiday shopping. And so, I found myself with my in-laws, at the Osage Beach outlets in Missouri this past October 26. This time, however, I didn’t feel like buying anything.
The funny thing about our tradition (and the point at which I became part of it), is that it coincides with the time I started to question all of the belongings I was holding onto in my home “just in case” they became useful or somehow morphed into what I really wanted or needed. This was especially true in my clothing closet — my tiny, circa-1939, approximately 10 square foot closet.
It was then my clothing projects began. I donated, but then I replaced more than I donated. I tried storing just a quarter of my huge wardrobe (full of inexpensive and trendy items) in my closet, with the remainder hanging on racks in my basement. And this worked, well, not at all. Then, it took a turn for the worse when I was bitten on the hip in February 2012 by a brown recluse spider that moved into a pair of pants I had been storing downstairs.
Suddenly, donating clothing I was not consistently wearing became so much easier.
Fast forward to today, and my wardrobe is easily a quarter (a sixth? an eighth?) the size it was a couple of years ago, and I have found a wardrobe system that really helps me evaluate the remaining items.
In February of 2013, I decided to try Courtney Carver’s Project 333. I tailored the challenge to the size of my current wardrobe, so I could reasonably cycle through almost all of my clothing in a year’s time (by dividing six rounds of 33 items across two months each). I have now completed four of my six rounds, and I am hooked, and I am changed.
I can no longer tolerate excess in my wardrobe or home, though I am still negotiating for myself what is “enough” and what is “excess.” I am simultaneously surprised, relieved, and horrified by the volume of items I have donated to charity organizations, and by the lack of sustainability I have learned is inherent in our fast-fashion culture. I struggle with ethical concerns raised by the toll rampant consumerism has taken on the lives of garment manufacturing factory employees in places like Rana Plaza, in Bangladesh, where the April collapse of a building (costing the lives of thousands of workers) has resulted in almost no improvement in conditions for workers — those who make the clothing we often wear just once or twice before discarding it for the next great deal.
This is how I found myself uninterested in purchasing clothing on my recent shopping trip with my in-laws, and strangely attached to some clothing in my own closet — specifically, four items that had disappointed me over various rounds of Project 333: (1) a white t-shirt, too sheer and becoming discolored; (2) a white button-up tunic, stained with bicycle-basket oil; (3) a white blouse with a lace panel, discolored from overuse; and (4) a chevron-striped blue skirt in a color I found difficult to wear and weirdly cheap-looking.
My solution? They had to dye.
Armed with one box of Rit Dye in Denim Blue, a large stockpot, and the four items to dye, I set out to improve the items in my closet. These are the items before:
And these are the items after dyeing, rinsing, washing, and drying:
I am pleased with the results. The practical life of each garment has been extended, and they each have a different personality in the new blue versus the original shade. And, if I ultimately donate a garment, it might actually find its way into another person’s closet now, instead of landing in a rag heap or landfill – a much better fate than the tops would have met, had I donated them in their stained or discolored states.
The box of Rit Dye cost about $3 and since I already owned the clothing, it was free. I’d recommend getting some rubber gloves to protect your hands. I simply followed the provided instructions, which were very well-written. I dyed the skirt first for 20 minutes, then all three shirts together for another 20. Once finished, I rinsed the clothing well, and ran them, alone, through a heavy-duty wash cycle with a generous amount of detergent, then dried them.
No shopping, no landfills, no waste. I’ve deemed it a success!
I feel like I have been unintentionally collecting links to great articles recently. I’ll spot something clutter/organizing/productivity-related in the news, immediately think it would make such a terrific topic for an Unclutterer post, save the link to a text file of post ideas, and then do nothing further. Apparently, I want ALL the links for myself. All of them. Mine.
Since this is ridiculous and there is no good reason for me to be collecting all these links and not sharing them, I thought an ol’ fashion link roundup post was in order. Please enjoy all of these links that have been catching our attention:
- “Why aren’t hoarders bothered by all that junk? Scientists find a clue“This article from NBC looks at a recent brain study by psychologist David Tolin that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. According to the research, clinically diagnosed hoarders’ brains respond differently to physical stuff than the brains of the general population. As a result, their ability to make decisions is significantly limited.
- “Three habits that drive down productivity“I’m still trying to decide what I think about this article from the Memphis Business Journal. The article references a study that analyzes the work product and attendance records of employees with very different lifestyles at three large corporations. The article concludes that healthier people are more productive workers and it specifically names smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise as productivity killers.
- “Plan of Work for a Small Servantless House (3 or 4 in family)“After the war in Britain, many homes and estates that once had servants found themselves unable to afford any servants in the house. To help women learn how to keep house, someone (the British government?) published this guide for how a woman should spend her time. My friend Julie introduced me to this page from the I Love Charts tumblr, and I think it is a fabulous look back in time. I’m still confused as to how a woman with one or two children only seems to attend to them for an hour and a half each day “if necessary,” but maybe “servantless” doesn’t include nannies?
- “Re:Re:Fw:Re: Workers Spend 650 Hours a Year on Email“This article from The Atlantic confirms that most people with desk jobs (referred to as an “office stiff” in the text) spend “13 hours a week, or 28 percent of our office time, on email.” A quarter of one’s job is consumed with reading and answering email. The article also reports that time spent on tasks specific to one’s role at the company only consumes 39 percent of one’s time at work.
- “You Probably Have Too Much Stuff“This short piece from The New York Times looks at the burdens of being “over-prepared.” I like the use of the phrase “over-prepared” in the article because it so aptly reflects the “I might need this one day” mentality.
As you also know, I’ve been doing some writing for the Women and Co. website lately. Most of what I’ve been writing continues to be about home and office organizing, but they’ve been letting me branch out a bit and pick up some other topics. It reminds me of the days I wrote the Sunday news for the local commercial radio station in Lawrence, Kansas, so very, very, very long ago …
Anyway, this is what I wrote in July:
- “Is Your Child’s Lemonade Stand Against the Law?“
- “Tips to Staying Sane When Working from Home“
- “Resources for Walking and Biking in U.S. Cities“
- “How to Organize Your Back-to-School Shopping“
One of my favorite places for small living inspiration is Ikea Hackers. If you’re unfamiliar with the site, it’s a collection of reader-submitted modifications to pieces of furniture from Ikea. The hacks range from relatively small (like adding paint to a Lack table) to extremely involved (like turning a Spar butcher block into an electric guitar). The site has been around since 2006 and is teeming with ways to personalize Ikea furniture.
Earlier this month, the site featured Regina’s amazing closet for her itty bitty Swedish apartment. Under what I think is her lofted bed, she has five modified Expedit bookcases (in the 2×2 configuration) that she added a piece of wood to the base and then attached four casters to the bottom of the piece of wood. In the U.S., these Expedit shelving units are just $40 a piece and the Besta casters are $10 for two, so the whole system probably cost less than $350 to create, which isn’t bad for a custom closet that could easily cost four times this price. Visuals from the article:
The rolling bookcases not only hold her clothes, but also her hobby supplies (such as the sewing machine and fabric stash pictured above) and other necessities for her apartment. I like that she can roll the sewing Expedit directly to her sewing table, and then roll it all back into the closet when she’s done. The storage system is ideal for this small space, and I think could easily be utilized in other homes — small or large.
Note: There are casters that are specifically made to hold the Expedit bookcase, but they stick out beyond the base of the bookshelf, so you can’t nest the shelves directly next to each other. They’re also $5 more for two casters, which adds $50 to the cost of casters, but gets rid of the need to attach a piece of wood to the bottom of each bookcase. If you don’t need the items to nest next to each other, the Expedit casters might be a good alternative for you.
If you are unfamiliar with Ikea Hackers, spend some time perusing it for even more ideas. Most of the hacks are inexpensive and easy to do.
Images by Regina as posted to IkeaHackers, and thanks to reader Shalin for bringing this closet to our attention.
While at my local outlet mall a few months ago, I picked up a Long Sleeve Classic Cozy from the Donna Karen New York (DKNY) shop. I was instantly drawn to it because of its versatility, and over the past few months have truly fallen in love with this cashmere and silk sweater:
In theory, I can get 12 looks from the sweater. I’ve only been wearing it for 5 of the looks, however. Even wearing it just 5 ways, I feel like I got a wonderfully uncluttered deal with 5 looks from 1 sweater (and at the outlet store, I paid only $70 for it). It’s also ideal for travel and bringing to the office. Its instructions say to dry clean, but I’ve been very carefully washing it by hand with a little Soak Wash and laying it flat to dry. It’s my new favorite piece of clothing — flexible and fancy.
There are videos for how to create all 12 looks and even a smart phone app. I’ve donated a number of my other sweaters to charity since I haven’t been wearing them. I love this multiple-look addition to my wardrobe.
Small living comes with many benefits, and Debra, Gary and their son explain how it works for them in this video of their 320 square foot home:
Their home was made by Slab Town Custom Homes in Mountain View, Arkansas.
We continue to be fascinated with people who live big in incredibly small spaces. Thanks to reader Leah, we now know about Christian Schallert in Barcelona, Spain, who has fashioned a beautiful home in a mere 258 square feet.
Check out “Lego-style apartment transforms into infinite spaces” to see the adorable Schallert and his “Lego” home in action:
Personally, I love the shower storage areas as well as the bed being stored under the balcony. I never would have thought to use such non-traditional storage solutions. I also enjoyed in the video when he admitted his tiny space forces him “not to be chaotic” and every time he comes home “it’s nice and organized.”
Reader Helen submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
In the process of getting rid of dust collectors around the house, I find that it can start to somewhat lack personality. I don’t really like having photos around and quite like having bare walls – I could quite easily become a minimalist. I have a couple of prints but these do look rather mass-produced. I’d love some suggestions for adding warmth and humanity to my home without adding clutterful tchochkes.
I’ve been in some minimalist homes that feel warm and inviting, so I’ve never been convinced that tchochkes are a requirement for comfort. Furniture size and materials play a larger role in creating an inviting environment than ceramic kittens.
As long as your furniture is appropriately scaled for the room, or slightly over-sized, you usually won’t feel like a space is bare or cold. If your furniture is right for the room but you still feel that the space is uninviting, a floor covering might be a better alternative for you than hanging artwork on the wall. A textured carpet could be all you need to warm up the space.
Personally, I’m against the idea of having tchochkes for the sake of having tchochkes. If you have a gewgaw or a decoration in your home, it should be because you love it and find it inspiring or entertaining or treasure it deeply. Your home is your refuge from the outside world, and everything in it should be there because you have consciously chosen it to be a part of your sanctuary.
Also, consider playing with paint color on your walls. A white with a hint of gray in it can feel clean but a little warmer than a bright white. Different shades of white in squares painted directly on a bright white background wall could be interesting, like Kazimir Malevich’s famous suprematist painting. Or, paint one wall in a room an intense, non-white color and keep the other walls white in sharp contrast. In our previous home, we had the walls painted like a Mondrian painting. Most walls were white, but if there was a small wall, we painted it in a primary color.
I hope I was of some help, Helen. Please check the comments for even more suggestions from our readers. Thank you for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.
We’re pretty late to the game on this one, but on the slim chance you haven’t seen it — check out Atomic Tom performing their song “Take Me Out” on a New York Subway car:
The band’s “stolen instruments” claim is just a concept for the video — their instruments weren’t actually stolen. However, what they show is that a band can produce decent music simply using iPhone apps. (The video was even shot using three iPhone 4s.)
To create your own iPhone band, all you’ll need is $11, some practice, and the following apps:
- Tobias is playing Drum Meister ($1.99)
- Eric is using iShred Guitar for iPhone ($4.99)
- Philip is on Bassist by MooCowMusic ($2.99)
- Then, Luke starts off the video playing Virtuoso Piano Free (Free)
- Unfortunately, I can’t find any documentation or get a good enough look at the exact microphone app Luke used in the video, but Microphone Pro ($.99) or VonBruno Microphone ($.99) seem qualified to do the job.
Interesting articles and services relating to uncluttering, organizing, and simple living:
- Patrick at Minimal Mac asks “A Most Important Question.” If you don’t know where something belongs, it may “… not have a place in your home, in your relationships, in your job, or or in your life,” and, “perhaps it should not be there.”
- Alton Brown, the celebrity chef who is the inspiration behind our Unitasker Wednesday posts, wrote a diary about his (bizarre?) minimalist eating practices when he travels in last week’s New York magazine: “Alton Brown Makes His Own Avocado Ice Cream, Does Shots With John Hodgman.”
- Learning Express Library is an online resource for practice tests on hundreds of topics. The free and digital tests range from the U.S. Citizenship exam to college entrance tests. Save your money and some trees with these helpful resources.
- Lose the equipment and your gym membership, and get an uncluttered workout using only your body weight. From Nerd Fitness, “Beginner Body Weight Workout.”
- The Art of Manliness has a tribute to all things minimalist in “Go Small Or Go Home: In Praise of Minimalism.”
- Clean up your iTunes digital music collection with Tagalicious — a simple and easy to use application that gets rid of all of those “Track 01″ files you have in your directory.
- Are you on Twitter? Does it bother you when someone attends a conference and floods your stream with messages that don’t interest you in the least? Use DeClutter to remove specific keywords from your timeline. (via Swiss-Miss)
On Monday, the BBC published the article “Cult of less: Living out of a hard drive” about a group of 20-something hipsters who claim digital technologies have replaced all but a few of their possessions.
One of the men interviewed for the article says he only owns “his laptop, an iPad, an Amazon Kindle, two external hard drives, a ‘few’ articles of clothing and bed sheets.” Another says he only has “a backpack full of designer clothing, a laptop, an external hard drive, a small piano keyboard and a bicycle – an armful of goods that totals over $3,000 (£1,890) in value.”
Owning just a few electronics and pieces of fabric is an interesting take on extreme minimalism. In contrast to most ascetics who eschew the conveniences of the modern world, it’s current technologies that make these hyper-digital ascetics’ lifestyles possible.
[Kelly Sutton of Brooklyn, New York] … says he got rid of much of his clutter because he felt the ever-increasing number of available digital goods have provided adequate replacements for his former physical possessions.
“I think cutting down on physical commodities in general might be a trend of my generation – cutting down on physical commodities that can be replaced by digital counterparts will be a fact,” said Mr Sutton.
The tech-savvy Los Angeles “transplant” credits his external hard drives and online services like iTunes, Hulu, Flickr, Facebook, Skype and Google Maps for allowing him to lead a minimalist life.
However, the tech-savvy minimalists are quick to point out that their decisions have made some aspects of their lives difficult:
Mr Klein says the lifestyle can become loathsome because “you never know where you will sleep”. And Mr Yurista says he frequently worries he may lose his new digital life to a hard drive crash or downed server.
What do you think of these modern minimalists? Discuss your reactions in the comments.