We started the Minimalist Game on the 1st. No joke. Leading up to April, knowing we were starting, I’d been eyeing off junk in every corner of the house. “This will be easy!” I told myself. I was wrong. This is already hard and we’re only on day 3. Today I have laid my hands on dozens of things that prior to April beginning I was sure I could part with. Now they seem so much more valuable. Decluttering is hard!
While I did the 2-4-1 Challenge last year I made some pretty hard and fast rules. One of them was that anything that was not passed on to someone else didn’t count. I couldn’t count something I recycled or trashed. I still believe that if it ends up in the rubbish it doesn’t count, so that rule sticks. I am going to relax on the recycling rule for the month, as I can’t see myself removing 465 items out of the house in 30 days in any other way.
On day 1 I offered a craft book on our Buy Nothing site, which will hopefully be collected by a local Mum for her daughter to enjoy over the holidays. On day 2 I offered two children’s vinyls which are still looking for a home. On day 3 (today) I have so far recycled two old photo albums (photos rescued by an acid-free album) and am still hunting for my third item. You can join us in the challenge (we’d love you to) by posting your discards (or even just the really satisfying ones) on our Facebook page.
By the end of the month we hope our house will look a little like this…
(By the way, click through the link. The image comes from a super cute dolls house site…since dolls house restoration is our thing at the moment I was pretty stoked to find some more ideas.)
It’s been three months since we updated you on the clutter wars. Looking back makes me realise how far we have come. We still have a clutter problem, but we seem to be getting some of it under control (I use the term ‘control’ loosely). Remember our first clutter collage? We were in real strife then. We didn’t even have a toddler-nado yet. We just had too much stuff. There is no other reason for it.
Less than a month later we had already made progress. Every time I do an update I can see at least one area that I know, right away, how to improve. The biggest improvements here were around my corner desk and with Little Fearse’s areas. I had started to get rid of things with the 2-4-1 challenge and making room in cupboards and drawers for things I had decided to keep.
It was a while between updates then, and through those four and half months we learned a lot. We removed some trouble furniture, we started using spaces for their purposes. We had removed many many many more things from our home and our lives.
So, where are we now?
Some areas are still in trouble. Some are reverting. Others have maintained their approximate state since July and others have improved.
The things I’m really concerned about are the areas that are reverting. The hall seat has become a one-stop-clutter-spot lately, as has the kitchen table. The top of the piano is still a nightmare, despite getting rid of the huge old non-working portable record player at our recent garage sale.
Here is what has helped us improve this time:
Having a garage sale meant that the spare bedroom no longer had to resemble a junk shop. The bed has been in use with a recent visit by BP’s Mum, so it was good to have the room largely cleared out. (There are still several tubs of eBay stuff in the room out of view.)
The laundry basket on the sewing table is the result of a recent clutter bust of the living room. Only useful if you then put everything away, rather than leaving it in the basket to lie around for another week or two.
The buffet has now become home to our fruit (and a few vases of dead flowers which I would have removed before taking the photo, but thought it wouldn’t be true to showing what our real home looks like). I have been really strict, mainly on myself, about not allowing anything else to touch down on this space. The only issue I see with this set up is that Little Fearse can now reach the top. We regularly find pieces of fruit in the bowls with one bite out of them.
Last week I cracked it (quietly) when Little Fearse refused to help me clean up her toys. I put all of them away and left only some books, a few instruments, a kettle, one teddy and some blocks. Her area looks great and you know what? She isn’t missing any of that stuff at all! Neither am I!
The main thing that is hampering our current efforts is Little Fearse. She’s just a whirlwind lately and no matter how often we tidy it takes her less than an hour to have it looking like we never lifted a finger. She is sometimes willing to help pack up but other times she will sit tight and just refuse. (Even worse, she will sometimes react to us asking her to help clean up by pulling even more things out and off shelves…yep, she’s getting closer to 2!) Tidying up after a toddler 4 or 5 times a day doesn’t fit into my idea of a simple life.
You’ll notice from the top of the piano that I have yet to bring in the cupboard for storing things to return to others. I have an antique coal shoot that I need to do some minor repairs on, and then oil. I think it’ll be perfect once I get around to tidying it up.
Also, our dining table is absolutely strewn with crap. This is one of the last places we can put things out of Little Fearse’s reach. It is currently housing all books that need repairing (I call this our book hospital) and a variety of other things we want out of her reach. We still use half the table for breakfast and dinner every day, but the other end is getting a little out of hand.
So, any tips on how to combat the last of our clutter issues?
We’ve stuck hard and fast to our (well, my) 2-4-1 Challenge. Keeping track of the incoming stuff hasn’t been easy. Keeping track of the outgoing stuff is so much easier because I always feel so good about finding something new to shed. It’s amazing how you think you’re done shedding things and you find more.
So, the current figures look like this: 80 in: 259 out.
I’m not overwhelmingly happy with those figures. For MONTHS we sat on about 15 in and 100s out. Then Little Fearse’s birthday happened. We knew we were going to take a beating, and we tried to prepare ourselves by getting rid of as much stuff as possible in advance, but woah! And you know, a lot of the presents Little Fearse received were totally BNN. They were second hand or hand made or things we’d asked for that she needed. We were stoked. Little Fearse was stoked. But it was a huge influx of incoming things and that’s hard to take when we’re working so hard to reduce.
One of the things I should note about the 2-4-1 Challenge is that we do not add things to outgoing that are thrown away or put in the recycling. If it is not passed on to someone else or donated then we don’t count it as outgoing. This means that we are thinking really hard about ways things can be reused, rather than just turfing. Recycling is a last resort, too. It’s a passable option, certainly better than the trash, but it is not as great as reusing.
Some happy 2-4-1 moments were:
seeing a friend show up to work wearing a vintage dress I’d passed on to her,
being able to give away a lovely little cat figurine to a small friend when she took a shine to it,
making over $100 selling stuff on eBay
offering a newly walking toddler from Mum’s group a pair of brand new shoes (which never fit Little Fearse).
The 2-4-1 Challege has made me think differently about my things. I look at them according to their usefulness and I think about where they might be more useful. I love this and I hope that I’ll be able to continue to purge steadily.
I did think I’d be able to get rid of a lot more at a faster rate. This kind of befuddles me, because I really do have a lot of stuff. In the beginning I didn’t even count the 40 odd things I had already boxed up for the op shop. I had hoped to get rid of 100 things and thought “Too easy!” Well the first 100 was easy, but after that it became a lot more difficult. I have a new found respect for Brooke’s2013 items in 2013 challenge. Hopefully there are some little stashes that I just haven’t found yet!
The 2-4-1 challenge has forced me to start using things that have lain dormant for years. I no longer feel as though I can justify keeping something that I once loved using if I no longer find it useful. I have two wardrobes in my bedroom. One is full of vintage dresses and the other is full of the clothes I wear on a daily basis. I logically know that I cannot justify having a wardrobe full of dresses I never wear, so I’ve started to wear them. Sometimes to school and sometimes on a casual outing – even out to dinner (yes, I went out to dinner last week for the first time since December!). I realised that I LOVE wearing my vintage dresses. I love that they are unique and many of them are also really comfortable to wear. I feel good when I’m wearing something interesting. I have justified the existence of these dresses in my house by wearing them.
Likewise, I have a collection of vegetarian cookbooks that I relied on heavily before the Internet became such an amazing source of new and interesting recipes. I have loved these recipe books in the based and used them a lot. Some of my favourite day-to-day recipes come from them. I no longer use them regularly and I have been trying to decide if I can justify keeping them. I have found that the more I think about getting rid of them (or just the more I think about them) the more useful they have become. I now often go to the books to see what they can offer before I search the ‘net. Recently, feeling a little sniffly, I was craving a big pot of spicy veggies. I found the perfect recipe for vegetarian chilli in one of my books. I could have found twenty recipes on the ‘net, but I found one I love that I will always have access to, in a book I love.
You really need to know what is in your house in order for it to be useful to you. Being more aware of what I have (in some ways by having less and also because I am always trying to find something new to get rid of) I have found new life for old belongings. I don’t want my house to be full of dust catchers and this challenge is perfect for finding the life in what I already have.
This week I visited my parents’ holiday house for the second time this year, but the first time since I started to do some serious reading on minimalism. It gave me a good opportunity to examine how my thinking has changed.
I have always loved spending time there – it’s in a quiet area, by a rocky beach. The TV doesn’t get turned on much, and if my parents are there we will almost always play a game of cards after dinner. There are rock pools, bays and surf within walking distance. As the weather turns cool a view of the ocean out the front forms a back drop for endless hours of book reading. It’s a simple place to be.
What I noticed this time, however, was that holiday houses tend to become a retirement home for our stuff. Somewhere between usefulness and the junk yard these items find their way into cupboards, shelves and drawers in our holiday homes. I found myself itching to return the jars of shells to the beach and gather up the dusty books, unread for so many years, to be donated to the local book sale. I peeked into each nook and cranny in my old bedroom and was horrified to find the junk I’d transferred there as a ten year old still remained. I spent some time throwing away balls of old blue tack and rusty paper clip chains. There was a bottle of deodorant at least 15 years old. Who knows how long the moisturiser had been there?
Driving by many other holiday homes I spied through windows dusty vases on sills, whole rooms of standing fans, sunrooms overfilled with cane furniture and dusty house plants. It seems that the holiday house phenomenon is not particular to my parents’ house.
Once I would have seen the charm in these dust catchers. I don’t any more. I’m not sure whether to spend some time mourning the loss of that part of who I am. This really is a major shift in my mindset, and not something I expected at all from the BNN year. While this is something that is certainly exciting it’s also left me feeling a little sad. I hope when I am done with my decluttering and the 2-4-1 challenge ends I don’t look around and feel a little empty.
I was reading The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister to my students the other day and it struck me that the lesson in the book can easily be interpreted as pro-minimalist. The fish is advised by the wise octopus to give away one of his most beautiful sparkling scales to each of his friends. It not only wins friends (hmm) but also relieves the fish from his concern about damaging or losing his shiny scales and allows him to frolic with the other fish.
Marcus Pfister is not wrong. Getting rid of stuff does relieve a lot of pressure. Especially if you have an upwardly mobile almost 11 month old baby roaming the house. As such a situation requires, all our dooby-wats and knickey-knacks have been moved off the bottom shelves and out of low flying cupboards. There are a lot of blank patches, once dust free. It gives you an opportunity to imagine life without those shelves of thing-i-mi-bobs that don’t have a purpose. Frankly, I’m not too fussed about that stuff anymore, no matter how cutesy vintage it is. Well, except the vintage Japanese kitten sugar bowl and milk jug. When you pour milk out of the spout it looks like the kitten is spewing. That’s entertainment right there.
Anyhoo, slight stray from topic. The other day some friends were over with their almost two year old son. He wandered off into another room and his Dad raced after him. I called out “Don’t worry if he breaks anything, it just gives us an excuse to get rid of it.” And you know what? It’s true.
As 2-4-1 carries on (current update: 15 in – 82 out ) the decisions are getting harder. We’re having to face the prospect of giving away sentimental objects and things we love for no reason except that they’re beautiful. Our thinking needs to shift even further to accommodate where the challenge is taking us. It’s kind of exciting.
I started the task of re-organising Little Fearse’s room yesterday. The biggest picture in our clutter collages is her bedroom. She doesn’t actually live in her bedroom yet, which is kind of why things get thrown in there to be out of the way and then never put away. When I was pregnant I was desperate to get her room ‘just so’ for when she was born. Ten months later it is still a work in progress and she has made herself quite comfortable smack bang in the middle of our bed. Or, better, slung across my chest where she can keep one hand firmly planted on her food source. No wonder my back is stuffed.
We don’t have any immediate plans to move her into her room (though her cot has finally made it in there, since it’s not being used anywhere else), but it does bother me that it’s become an extension of our messy home. If she wants to have a messy room when she’s older – great. But she shouldn’t have a messy room because her parents are incapable of managing their stuff.
I have twice now made use of our local freecycle community to collect clothes for Little Fearse. Although buying clothes second hand for her is not usually an issue, it is endlessly helpful to have a base wardrobe to start with. This week a local woman passed on three bags of size 2 – 3 clothes that her grand daughters had out grown. I needed to make room for this by finally packing away her size 00 clothes, which she grew out of months ago.
I should note that Little Fearse’s clothes are something that just can’t come under the 2-4-1 challenge rules. We hope to have some even littler Fearse’s one day and, of course, plan to re-use as many of the same clothes as possible. To get rid of these clothes to bring in new sizes for Little Fearse at this stage would be definitely detrimental to our future selves.
It’s looking more manageable already. And I should also note here for future me to remember – no subsequent children will need any new clothes until they are a year old. Seriously. The amount of clothes we have in storage in sizes 0000 – 0 is absurd!
Love, Mama xo
PS Many of the clothes passed on by the freecycler are quite badly stained or unusable. I don’t want to donate them to charity because they are not saleable. What do you do with old, stained clothes? I already have a truckload of rags for raggy things, so I don’t really want to collect someone else’s old clothes for this purpose, too. Is there a charity that collects rags?
I didn’t know I was going to do this today until I started doing it. I forced myself to take these photos without moving anything. This gives me a sort of map of the problem areas. You’ll notice some areas … Continue reading →
Since setting the challenge that each new-to-us item into the house means two items out I have noticed a marked change in my thinking. On Sunday I went to a market that sold second hand items for children and babies. I was hoping I might find bed rails or shoes for Little Fearse, or maybe even a Little Squirt (I have bid on Ebay on FIVE of these now and been outbid at the last minute for each one!). I was keenly aware that there was going to be a lot of stuff there that looked appealing, or was cute, or would be very useful to us. I took a limited amount of cash and a list of five things I could look for. Anything else I was to walk right passed.
I found three pairs of shoes for Little Fearse there, the cheapest being $1 and the most expensive $10. How could I go passed a pair of purple Converse hardly worn? (I know, I know.) I feel like we are now covered for Little Fearse’s first pair of shoes. She is walking now, not at the stage yet where she’ll need them, but soon. Each of these pairs of shoes is a different size.
I then found two sleep suits in size 2 – not technically on my list. I have been bidding on some of these on Ebay lately, also, and found that they tend to go for upwards of $30. I got these for $5 and $3, so I don’t feel bad about that at all.
Anyway, I passed by lots and lots and lots of other things that we could use now or in the near future. All I could think about was the 10 things I was going to have to get rid of when I got home.
I felt really pleased with what I brought home. Things we will definitely use. I didn’t have any buyers regret and I was able to find ten old uni readers and teaching resource folders that I don’t use to get rid of. Plus, it’s put a dent in the mess of old study things left over in Little Fearse’s wardrobe. I think that this challenge will really help with the hoarding issue, too.
Soon I am going to update the clutter collage I uploaded here. Things are looking so much better already.
I really did mean it when I asked where all this stuff comes from, but I’m beginning to work it out. Today when visiting a friend we were gifted a number of items. Some of them were things we needed, some of them were things we didn’t. Now that I have brought them home BP reminds me that I have to get rid of two items for each one.
Oooh yeah, I remember that late night post now.
Due to a recent roof leak in our bedroom our already crappy curtains absorbed a lot of water and became stained. I think it’s a good enough reason to get off my butt and replace them. They are the type of cheap curtain that is bought in packs and attached by flimsy brackets. The parts are all plastic and break easily. Little Fearse likes to pull the thin plastic rods out and swing them around. They really have to go. I think I can use the material for something like an art mat or a picnic rug, as they’re rubber backed. I will definitely use it.
Anyhoo…today we were gifted a curtain rod. In exchange I will get rid of a blue stripy vase which I keep thinking is useful but haven’t used in years and a book called ‘The Musicians of Auschwitz’ which I bought in an op shop in New York and was translated from French. I will probably never read it.
I once blogged that I was worried about finding shoes for when Little Fearse starts walking. She’s already begun to take steps, so this is becoming a little more urgent. My wonderful friend’s Mum handed down the beautiful leather shoes she wore when she was a tiny tot (circa 1980). I will add one of my pairs of shoes and a straw hat to the op shop pile in exchange for these two tiny pairs of shoes. I will also take to school for our EQ area two lovely books about feeling happy and feeling angry.
My friend also found a tiny jacket for Little Fearse. I will exchange this for a certain surprise Sesame Street themed parcel for a lovely family we know. I will also finally pass on my DVD copy of The Magical Mystery Tour. No matter how much you love The Beatles (and I do) this is a terrible, terrible film and in the 7 years since I bought it at a garage sale I have watched it precisely 0.5 times.
To solve an earlier freezing food in bulk dilemma my friend had saved a heap of take away containers for us. I am going to cheat slightly with this and exchange these space-wise with all the glass jars I took to my Dad for pickles on Thursday.
She also gave me a cotton reel holder from her Grandma’s house. This is an item I’ve been meaning to acquire (not this one in particular, but one of it’s type) for years to tidy up my sewing corner. I will exchange this for two books of old uni readings, currently taking up valuable space in Little Fearse’s wardrobe.
That was already difficult, but you know what? I didn’t even know we had some of those things. It just took a little fossicking in cupboards to find random items. I don’t have great hopes for us in the long run becoming actual minimalists, but I’ll be really interested to see how far we can go.
PS I’m not going to bore you with posts that list every item we get rid of in the future. The aim of this is for you to really see just how many layers and layers of things we are dealing with. I wonder if people who have less storage have less stuff or just more clutter?