What I Learned From Minimalists
I recently watched a documentary on minimalism and was able to gain several great insights.While I am in no way going to become a minimalist, I have taken away a couple of ideas that I thought would be beneficial and would fit into my life. The changes that I have implemented have had a big impact!
MY CLOTHES’ CLOSET IS A MESS!!!
One of the major changes that I made was to my closet. After watching the documentary, I researched project 333. The challenge is to wear 33 items for three months. After talking to my husband about it, we both decided to take the challenge.We began by taking everything, and I mean everything, out of our dresser drawers and closet. Now I, of course, have cleaned out my closet many times before, but this time was different because we had a fresh perspective on how to weed through the mountains of clothes we’d collected over the years by putting them into different categories.
One of the categories was I love this item. I wear it all the time. Keeping in mind the words, “I wear it all the time”, helped me to really think through whether or not something belonged in that category. Normally, when cleaning out my closet, I would feel unable to part with certain items because I would think, “But I might wear that sometime!”, even though I knew they had been sitting there without being used for months and maybe even years. Repeating the question, “Do I wear this all the time?”, allowed me to accurately analyze what I should actually keep in my closet.
The other categories were trash, items I want to give away, and I want to keep this, but I'm not sure why. The trash category specifically stated that if an item needed to be sewn or fixed it should be trashed. This was a good rule since I kept a couple of items for over five years because I loved them once, but never wore them because they needed to be altered. Clearly, as hard as it was, I had to realize that I was never going to get around to fixing those clothes. It was pretty easy to figure out items I want to give away. It ended up being two large garbage bags, and everything left over should have fallen into the I want to keep this, but I'm not sure why category. However, I created a fifth category for myself that I entitled, I used to love this and wore it all the time, but I just had a baby and can't right now. Do you feel me? You see the thing that I love most about this challenge is that there is no pressure. Everything in the I want to keep this, but I'm not sure why and I used to love this and wore it all the time, but I just had a baby and can't right now categories would simply be placed in a labelled bin and be evaluated at a later date. I also knew that if I ended up needing something, I could just go into the bin which I stored in the back room and grab it. No big deal. It wasn't disappearing. I wasn't giving it away forever. It was just going to wait for me. I know deep down that I will likely never need anything from that maybe category and will eventually feel OK with giving those away.
From the I love this item, and I wear it all the time category, I was able to keep out the 33 items that I would need for the season and put the rest in storage. I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely freeing it was to wake up the next morning to a minimalist closet. No big choices to make. No chance of putting something on that had a stain, didn't fit, or that I didn't really like enough to keep on. Everything there was something that I wore regularly and was tried and true. The next week we did the same with my husband’s clothes, and my children’s clothes are next!
THE PLAYROOM IS A MESS!!
The next area of my home that I needed to tackle was the playroom. I actually thought my kids could use more toys!! I was being blinded by what we currently had and, after researching, my eyes were opened to what was really going on. When playing with my daughter in her kitchen, she would often pretend to be the chef and ask me what I would like her to cook for me. I would say whatever came to mind, and she would open her refrigerator, look in it for a couple of seconds, and then turn back to me, announcing, "I don't have that". I would tell her to just pretend, but she would repeat, "No, I don't have that”. I had spoken to many friends about this, chalking it up to her being a realist. I even vowed that I would expand her food collection at the next holiday that called for presents, even though our current collection created quite a mess already. After watching the documentary and doing some research, I came across an article discussing how having too many toys or certain kinds of toys actually limits a child's imagination. For a kitchen, it was recommended that we have a couple of pots, plates, and utensils and actually no food at all. You see, having food was limiting her imagination to only the reality in front of her. If I asked for eggs and she did not have eggs, how could she possibly make me eggs?! I'm not going to lie. I was pretty nervous about putting all of her food toys in a box. I was unsure of how she was going to react and wished that I had known about this idea from the beginning. I decided to include her in the purge. I said, “We're going to try something different for a little while, and we are going to put all of your kitchen food in a box.” She helped me place everything into the container and we closed the lid. The second I shut the lid to the box, I opened up her refrigerator. I dropped my jaw, gasped, and turned toward her smiling and saying, "Wow, look at all the food." I proceeded to name all the things that I saw in her refrigerator. She got very excited and began to play along. Suddenly I was able to eat food from Adalyn's kitchen that I had never been able to have before, like stuffed lobster, crab cakes, asparagus, and chocolate cake. It was a delicious assortment of imaginative bliss. She was free to imagine whatever she wanted and was not bound by what she saw in front of her. A great comparison is from the movie, Hook. There's a scene where all of the lost boys are eating a feast of pretend food. All they had were some bowls, but they were able to imagine everything else. (Check out the scene here!)
Another tip for getting rid of things and making room for more creative play is to not own toys that make noise. When a doll talks or a play phone speaks, the child becomes limited by what they toy is saying or by the sound it is making. Without this, the child can actually cause the toy to make whatever noises he/she wants or to say whatever is desired and imagination is not limited. I still have some more work to do on the playroom, but this was a great start. With the changes we made, there is more room for play and much less for us to clean up!
Standing on the other side, it is amazing to look back and realize the excess that we were dealing with and how it was cluttering our physical and also mental and emotional space. Through minimizing our things, we were able to have more peace, time, money, and creativity. Less truly can be more.