I took a long slow walk in the rain after reading Rachel Jonat’s new e-book, The Minimalist Mom’s Guide to Baby’s First Year: How to Save Time, Money and Space. I wanted the ideas to sink in.
Even though I had contributed a chapter (“The Only Three Things You Need to Get Your Baby to Sleep (and One is Free)”) to the book, I had never read about what minimalism really looked like for a family.
A Story of Overconsuming to Pared-Down Peace
When Rachel was pregnant with her first child, she bought every piece of gear, nursery decoration, and bundle of clothing that we are made to feel are necessary. She was stressed from work, her husband was traveling a lot, and she tried to make herself feel better by buying more and more stuff.
After finding herself in big-time debt, Rachel and her husband decided to get rid of half of their belongings, including their car. By stopping the buying cycle, they paid off $82,000 worth of debt in less than two years, cleared out lots of time once spent cleaning and organizing and maintaining, and have reclaimed a new sense of serenity.
This book really struck a chord in me because here we were with a big old house, but it was a lot to take care of, and there was so much to do to make it a real home for us.
My Clutter Problem: The Basement was Just the Beginning
For one thing, the basement was becoming the catch-all for storage boxes, bags of clothes to give away, furniture we weren’t using, outgrown toys, and random household stuff that worked in another house, but not this one.
Every time I walked by all those jumbles of stuff on my way to the laundry room, I felt anxious. I wanted to be able to sort, organize, and either sell it or give it away to various causes. But given that I now have less time than money, every time I walked by those boxes and bags and piles of unused stuff, I felt more overwhelmed.
And to add urgency to the matter, my kids had been begging us for weeks to set up the TV down there so they could watch the Lion King and other favorite movies.
So the weekend after reading The Minimalist Mom’s Guide to Baby’s First Year, I went on a kind of minimalist rampage. In literally one hour, I had packed our car with household junk and bags of clothing, DVDs, small furniture, and toys for Goodwill. I didn’t worry about money wasted. As Rachel pointed out, the money is already gone.
Sometimes Just One Will Do
Fueled by the easy success I’d found in the basement, I attacked the kitchen. After reading that Rachel only has one bib and one sippy cup for her son, I looked in my drawer in found over 20 bibs. Most of them stained, ripped, too small, or never used. I tossed most of them.
Then I looked into other drawers. Random parts, top-less containers, and cloudy plastic cups all went into the trash or the recycling. While I didn’t have the heart to give away a bunch of old tablecloths my mom had given me, I stored them up high and created a few empty spaces where we needed them.
In the always topsy-turvy library/playroom, I gave away kids’ books we never look at, and I threw away board games with missing parts, broken toys, and stale craft projects. I even created enough space to store our coats, boots, hats and mittens. I used to think I had to buy a big expensive piece of entry furniture. By clearing out stuff we hardly used, I realized we had plenty of space.
These are Not Clutter Solutions
Bins, baskets, and labels are not clutter solutions, Rachel points out. How true! More furniture and organizers just mask the chaos, but it’s still there, and it’s still creating anxiety, guilt, and stress.
After clearing out the basement and feeling a huge sense of relief, my husband and I lugged down a couch, a rug, and a table. We hooked up the TV and some cozy lamps. That very evening my kids were curled up watching a movie together. In just a couple of hours I had created space for my family, relieved a ball of stress, and realized the huge payoffs of streamlining.
Everyone wants more money, time, and space, as Rachel points out. Getting rid of stuff — and slowing down the buying cycle — can give us all of these things. I am so grateful for the way this book has helped me let go and move on with my life. (And I’m proof that it’s not just for new moms.)
Because I think you will love this book too, I am helping Rachel spread the word. If you buy a copy ($9.95) through the links you find in this post, half of the funds go to Frugal Mama.
How I Am Not Minimalist
There are many things about my life that are not minimalist.
This is not minimalist.
These guys are not minimalist.
And even though we bought them used with cash, neither are these.
What I Can Do
But here is what I am doing to keep life as simple as possible, so I can enjoy the time I have on this earth:
- I did not take home one item of schwag at the Marketing 2 Moms conference in Chicago where I was a panelist. All those goodies are free, but do I really want them?
- As much as I long to, I am not ordering any more flimsy books from those nostalgic Scholastic flyers that come home in my kids’ backpacks.
- Every time I see a toy that is irrevocably broken or missing its parts, I toss it.
- I make cash donations to the elementary school, instead of buying overpriced yet cheap gifts and wrapping paper from the fundraising catalog.
- When we needed a new printer, I researched product reviews and ratings first. “Buy it once,” says Rayna of The Suburban Minimalist.
- When I realize that a piece of clothing bugs me or that I hardly ever wear it, it goes in a bag marked Salvation Army.
- I just say “no” when my daughter pleads for a pet. Guinea pig, kitten, crayfish, or worm, we don’t need more to take care of and clean up after.
- I avoided Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Sales make me want to buy things I don’t need. When I figure out exactly what I need or what I want to give, I’ll go looking for the deals.
- Just because something is “good” (read: expensive, nostalgic, pretty, high-quality, fun), doesn’t mean that I need to house it. If we’re just not using it, then someone else should have the pleasure.
You don’t have to be expecting a baby to get a lot of mileage out of The Minimalist Mom and her Guide to Baby’s First Year. It’s hard to keep our lives from being crowded with more and more stuff. It’s a constant battle, believe me, to keep the waves of stuff from washing in.
But there are plenty of things we can do. And the most powerful thing is to be able to say, I have enough.