Have you ever gutted every nook and cranny in your home, just to see if you could live with less?
Ever since Matilda Kahl’s article about wearing the same thing to work every day, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with minimalism. Not as a design aesthetic, but as a life principle. What really struck me about Kahl’s article was the feeling that her time (and mine) is too valuable to be spent on deciding what to wear. She is an art director at a New York ad agency and she doesn’t waste her creativity in the morning just getting dressed.
Here’s the thing, I love clothes. I figure that I have to wear them, so they might as well look good. And here’s the other thing, I’m an adult now. I know what I like. I know I my style. No matter what I tell myself, I can usually decide in an instant if an article is something I will love and use forever, or will later regret. And too often I don’t listen to that instantaneous voice. I choose other voices. Voices like, “It’s only on sale today!” or “This is trendy.”
But here’s the voice that I am letting rule my mind and closet today, “Wouldn’t it be better to only wear a few things that I love than a bunch of stuff I only kind of like?” (Turns out I’m not the only person to ever have thought of this. Wardrobe capsules are apparently becoming a little trend all of their own.)
I haven’t become a super minimalist (yet), but every morning that I put something on and don’t like the way it fits or feels, it goes into the pile (that will either be consigned or donated). I remind myself that it is better someone else use and enjoy it now than that I save it in a dark part of my closet. So I’m not saving anything I even hesitate about.
I’ve been super inspired by the Zero Waste Home blog. Bea and her family are extreme. And amazing. They’re house is so minimalist that when they go on vacation they pack their entire wardrobes (all of which can fit in a carry-on suitcase) and rent their home while they’re away to help subsidize their trip. Wouldn’t that be amazing?! We aren’t there yet, but her story has opened my eyes to a lot of ways that we are wasteful. How much makeup do I buy that I never use? How many “free” or “on sale” things do we accept that we don’t need? How many toys that my children don’t play with have come into our house to accumulate dust? Conversations with my children about waste and expectations for things have opened my eyes to how much I take just because I can, and definitely not because I should.
I’ve also loved the writings of Nancy Sleeth, especially her article on Simplifying. She has a book, Almost Amish, that I am checking out of the library to read. Not as extreme “zero waste” as Bea, but the Sleeth family has greatly reduced their waste and consumption in order to enjoy the people in their lives more, while also caring for the world around them.
Because truth be told, I’m sick of being told I need to buy more stuff. That someone else has cuter, better stuff than me and I should have it, too. I’m tired of feeling like I don’t have time to make dinner, when really it’s mostly because I’ve chosen to spend my time wishing I had something else. I don’t want something else. I want the someones in my life to have me around, actually paying attention to them.
In Little Women, Mrs. March says to her daughter, Amy, when she wants to buy some frivolous thing just because all her friends have one, “Don’t you think, dear, that as these girls are used to such things, the best we can do will be nothing new, that some simpler plan would be pleasanter to them, as a change if nothing more, and much better for us than buying or borrowing what we don’t need, and attempting a style not in keeping with our circumstances?” That really struck me. Accumulating more things, even cute things, mostly end up worthless in the end, not having fulfilled any real purpose in our lives. This seems even more true as I donate or consign things that I once, for a moment, thought I couldn’t live without.
Part of Project Renew is not just getting rid of stuff, but being vigilant about not getting more stuff. I’ve canceled my magazine subscriptions to reduce waste (I’ve got Pinterest after all), and whenever I get junk mail I try to call and ask to be removed from the mailing list. I don’t click on links or shop sales knowing I can return something I don’t like. (It makes me cringe to think about the amount of time I’ve wasted shopping online only to return everything I purchased. It’s bad for my wallet, it’s bad for my life.)
Have you every tried minimalism? Have you ever gone a month without buying something new (except food, obviously)?
P.S. There are a few things that I am having a hard time parting with, I’ll admit. A hand mixer (we have a Kitchen Aid, too). An extra pair of heels that I really love the color of, but don’t truly need. That kind of thing. For all those things, I’ve put them in a box in the basement and an alarm on my phone. If in a month I haven’t missed or used these things, they will be donated. It’s no use keeping something that could be better used by someone else.