Real Life Minimalists: Em Phoenix

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

Today we hear from Em Phoenix, who writes about the great joy that minimalism has brought to her life. Want to learn more? Em has a Czech blog, but posts on Twitter in English.

Em writes:

Em Phoenix

Even though most of us carry our inner minimalist inside for years, it seems like there’s always some trigger, a moment in your life when you fall down, facing the ground and feeling like that’s the end of it unless something happens – a miracle that will give you new purpose.

And then something does happen, you hear about minimalism as a philosophy for the first time and you find out that this is it. This has always been it, you just couldn’t see it under all that clutter and crap.

That’s what happened to me, too. My biggest life crisis came in 2010, quite funnily (now when I see it in the perspective) with the most cliché thing of all, a breakup. It obviously wasn’t just that, add years of stress before, uncertainty and failure after failure but this was the last straw and it broke me finally. Even though I was just 22, I couldn’t see any way out and didn’t believe that there could be anything in the world that would bring meaning back in my life, make me hope again, have actual fun (I‘d completely forgotten how to do that), let alone the ability to get back on my feet, regain my control and live a good life again. I became nihilist, there was nothing in the world to make me excited or hopeful.

And then I discovered the world of now and learned how to meditate. Just switching from thinking about the painful past or frightening future to now had a massive impact on my life, but adding meditation, I learned to observe my  thoughts and listen to my own guts. And that was my biggest restart moment ever. I suddenly felt incredibly awake, alive and ready for a change, I could sense better days ahead, the silhouette of something glorious and amazing shaping in front of me, I was so excited about what I learned and how I could immediately apply it to my life and change it a bit by bit. And all the things I’ve ever read about minimalism, simplicity, joy of living in the present, doing what you really want to do and being free from your material possessions – I’ve always liked to read it but now I could actually live it, it became possible and true.

So refreshed with the new positivity I started to purge my stuff, starting with any unfitting clothes that I hated but for some ridiculous whatif reasons I’ve kept it along with other clutter. Suddenly I could quite easily let go of the things I’ve been keeping forever, sometimes it was harder but I loved the challenge and with every single piece of junk that I purged or gave away, I felt more and more free and energized.

It’s been four years now and it has changed me in so many ways. I developed many little minimalistic habits that make my life simpler, whether it’s about organization, mindful shopping or dealing with spam in your mailbox. It’s the little things but they have the biggest impact. It helped me to sort out my priorities, cut off the crap, quit some lousy jobs, come up with a plan for next few years (I used to be the kind of person who never knew what to do next and was always waiting for something or someone) and move to England where I’ve badly wanted to go for years but never had the courage!

And here I am now, I finally do what I want to do and I feel inspired with loads of ideas of what to do next. I think of myself as an aspiring minimalist, always looking for more inspiration on what to do next. I keep on decluttering continuously and it actually became my hobby along with organising, general minimizing and coming up with more ideas on how to simplify. Above all, minimalism taught me to do stuff, not just talk about it, and that feels amazing. I now know how to be happy and I’m not afraid to follow the callings anymore.

I felt like I had nothing back in 2010, I’ve burned out and yet minimalism helped me to get reborn as a brand new person once again. I have a boyfriend now again, I can laugh honestly again and I work constantly on becoming a better person by fighting my ego, developing positive attitude and focusing on the important. It’s a brand new life now and I love it! :)

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Kishore

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, Kishore from India tells us how he discovered minimalism, and the progress he’s made in decluttering. I love hearing from minimalists around the world!

Kishore writes:

Kishore

Hi. I’m Kishore, from Chennai, India.

This journey into minimalism has been and is still a very exciting one. I’ll keep my story short and simple.

It struck me during my 20th birthday, that I didn’t need any of the presents I got. And most of the possessions I had were either too unused, or just kept for the sake of memories. That was when I realised that I had a lot of clutter in my life. It was everywhere. My digital life, social life, personal life, my goals, my clothes, my stuff, basically everything. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t know what to do. After a long time thinking, I decided to get rid of all the things I didn’t need.

It was and still is a tiring and sometimes painful process. Here in India, it is sometimes tough to convince your parents about something, especially about minimalism in this age of consumerism. I thought I was alone in the world. That was when google helped me. I found out about Francine here, also Joshua Becker, Leo Babauta and also ‘The Minimalists’ Joshua and Ryan. I felt relieved that I had some company somewhere in this world.

And thus started my journey. I purged my clothes first. Threw away anything and everything I didn’t wear quite often or never. Then came books. My god I had so many of them, especially PDFs. It took a while to get rid of most of the story books (I now have just the Harry Potter collection). And I also had to throw away a lot of academic books too. Of course throwing away doesn’t mean literally. Just donating or selling. Likewise I had to deal with the movies and music in my laptop and my smartphone. The more I pared down to what I needed, the more I realised I had so much useless stuff in my life.

Decluttering and simplifying is a gentle slow process, it can’t be done in a day or in a week. It takes its own time. The more you do it, the more you’ll learn about yourself, about what is necessary rather than simply having for the sake of having.

Right now, am living with two pairs of jeans, two pairs of pants, a couple of shirts and t-shirts, a clean laptop (I can ask my friends for the movies instead of keeping everything with me), a simple phone (ditched the smartphone, it only makes you dumb), a kindle, and a couple of more stuff. It’ll take some time to reduce my clutter at home (am in a hostel right now) but yes, it’ll happen eventually.

Am happy to know that there are like minded people around the world, though people around me think am crazy/stupid. Glad to be a part of a community.

Decluttering is simple. Keep what you need, delete the rest. Chip away all the unnecessary until you are left with only the essentials.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: S.

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

Today we have a wonderful contribution from S., whose post radiates the peace she’s found in paring down.

S. writes:

S.

I am a single mom who was tired and stressed and just didn’t seem to have the energy to keep up with everything that I thought was needed to keep things going. I struggled at stressful jobs so I could afford to pay the rent and provide 2 separate bedrooms for my son and I. I worried about work clothes, gaining weight, what makeup to wear, going to night school, just being able to keep food in the fridge, and gas to commute to work. It seemed like the more I acquired, the more there was to worry about. Then I read an article about a woman who works in Manhattan, where grooming for work was a two hour regimen every morning. As a sort of social experiment she went for a month and wore no makeup, the same comfortable outfit each day, and wrapped her hair in a scarf. She described how she never felt so free. No worrying about her heels or pantyhose. Just able to enjoy, observe and be totally present in the moment. This I thought is what I want.

So I am a minimizer in progress. I have paired down to a one bedroom apartment, my son gets the bedroom I sleep on the couch, which is perfectly comfortable. I have cleaned out my closet and so many of the things I was hanging on to. My wardrobe has been paired down to 2 pairs of leggings, 1 black and one gray, a pair of black flat shoes, 1 pair of black flip flops, one pair of jeans and one pair of shorts, a couple t shirts in neutral colors and I have never been happier. I have learned to love my face without makeup and do feel so much less self absorbed and more in the moment. I am still working at this but know I am on the right path. I have learned to try not to covet things, and believe as the Buddhist philosophy teaches, desire is the cause of suffering. Buddha truly was onto something here folks, when we let go of things, we open ourselves up to peace.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Lara

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, Lara shares with us the contentment she’s found in letting go of consumerism. Please visit her blog to learn more about how she’s simplifying her life.

Lara writes:

Lara

The Nordstrom sale was an epic, annual event in my childhood. My mother and I would wait expectantly outside the massive department store at 7 am to wait for the doors to open. It really was fun, but after the initial high of wardrobe acquisition wore off, I was still smack in the middle of an adolescence hurt by divorce and emotional pain. I genuinely understand now that was the way my mom tried to make things happier in our house. She felt better after investing in new outfit that made her feel special, why shouldn’t it do the same for her daughter? I love her for doing what she could to ease the pain swirling for both of us, yet to this day shopping makes me feel a bit melancholy. It reminds me of the gaping hole that was never filled despite the shiny, new shoes taking up real estate in my overstuffed closet.

At 43, I’m a mom to clothes-obsessed teens and wife to a wonderful man who loves his toys. I am starting the rather inconvenient process of simplifying. As in Goodwill-bound stacks of bags in the garage & a ruthless paring down of our scheduled activities simplifying. I’m going about it quietly, of course, because I believe this process is not something you can will on someone else. I have had some victories with leading by example. Those bags in the garage? They’re mostly filled with clothes my girls’ were willing to part with. We’ve even pared down the extracurriculars to a sane, manageable number.

As I let go of consumerism (feels so great!), I am finding immense contentment in many things. The relationships with my kids, my career as a teacher, the adoption of a clean diet & running program, dates with my husband, family trips, and meaningful friendships with women I adore. These are all things that have become the fabric of my life and it’s really quite exciting. Sometimes I yearn to take back the years I spent pursuing the wrong things. If I could do it again, I would travel like crazy with minimal baggage and the kids in tow. I do believe that showing your offspring the world is one of the best things you can do for their own pursuit of happiness.

I am clear on the fact that this process will take time, but one of the most wonderful things about simplifying is that it begins where you are. It’s your own journey unique to the life you’ve created so far. It also is an on-going process that changes with each stage of life. I actually feel cleansed and physically lighter with each step I take down the Less is More road. I’m hoping that retirement will find us in a smaller space (with big windows!) and that I will be able to show my girls (and possibly their children one day) that a happy life is defined by who you decide to share your life with, what you decide to do for a living, and how much you give to others.

I’m chronicling our simplifying journey on my blog http://theExtraOrdinarySimpleLife.com. I’d love to hear what others are doing in their own quest.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Andrea

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

Today we meet Andrea, who looks back over her last 40 years and offers a wonderful perspective on living lightly.

Andrea writes:

I may be one of your older minimalists, having been married for 40 years to a wonderful man who totally agrees with the minimalist way of life. We not only live minimally, but eat minimally and use our natural resources minimally.

Instead of owning a lot of unnecessary exercise equipment, my husband jogs everyday. He is 62 and in supreme health. I walk our dogs and run on the local high school track for my exercise. My health is also excellent. We eat vegetarian and we keep our cupboards and our refrigerator/freezer lightly stocked with groceries that we rotate and use quickly as not to waste. We had a problem with mealy worms years ago because we kept too many boxes of cereal and other grain products that the little moths got into. We had to throw out tons of good food and we decided then that it is a huge mistake to “load up” on sale items just to be “safe”. Safe from what?? I used to collect cookbooks, but rarely used any of them…when I would open a cupboard, the cookbooks would come raining down on my head. How foolish was that? I can get any recipe offline. There are millions to choose from.

My husband used to keep every receipt from bills, accounts, etc…now, he keeps one small box of receipts and purges those regularly…all of the paper trash was never necessary. And, I speak from long experience. We share one closet that holds all of our shoes and clothes on hangers. I set a small baby-changing table inside of the closet to stack our folded sweaters and shoes and scarves on. I found out that I did not need 70 pairs of shoes many years ago. We do not have a garage, a shed, a basement or an attic, so everything that we own HAS to be kept under our 3 bedroom home’s roof. Our children have their own homes.

I used to be a big time collector and had to force myself to purge and purge, but I was heavily motivated to live a minimalist life after watching every episode of Hoarders and Hoarding:Buried Alive. I kept every episode taped on my DVR and watched them repeatedly…I still watch the reruns to keep motivated. My sons accuse me of “hoarding” hoarders shows! Thank goodness for DVRs! No old VCR tapes in this house! I find that we can just as easily get any book from our library than to collect books like I used to do. I let the libraries “hoard” my books for me now. I have given Goodwill and other charities literally tons of clothing, books, appliances, toys, linens, etc. We kept just enough dishes and flatwear to have a couple over to eat. If we want to have more over, we can always use decorative paper plates and plastic cutlery.

All of our friends live such hectic lifestyles, they rarely even find the time to eat at other’s home any longer. Their calendars are packed with commitments and activities…We learned how to say NO long ago to commitments that our hearts were not in. What a relief NOT to have to go to jewelry parties (I have enough, thank you) clubs, ballgames, etc. We go to these events only if we truly desire to do it, not because we feel like someone will get mad if we don’t. There are many motivational books out there on how to say NO and also great books on minimalism and decluttering, as we all know from reading these blogs and resources.

We have constructed our lives to be carefree and calm through living a minimalist lifestyle. My home is now neat, clean and spacious and we love it! Speaking from 40 years of experience, you DO NOT need all of those items that you THINK you can’t live without. Begin to live a clutter-free life in all areas of your life and see what a huge burden is taken off of your shoulders. Let your home and your body breath a huge sigh of relief!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Minimalist Montessori Toddler Bed

From the day we brought Plumblossom home from the hospital, she slept in her crib. We hadn’t researched other options, and she made it clear from the start that she had no interest in a family bed (the girl has always liked her own space). No matter, we weren’t offended: she was sleeping, we were sleeping, all was good.

However, around her second birthday, she started plotting an escape. She had height to her advantage, and began hoisting a leg over the side and teetering on the brink. She didn’t have quite enough leverage to get over, but she was close; we knew it was only a matter of time. So she was still sleeping, but we weren’t—every bump in the night had one of us jumping to check on her.

It was one of those milestones both anticipated and dreaded: time for a big girl bed. We could have bought a conversion kit for her crib; however, in the time since her birth, we had discovered and begun to implement Montessori practices in our home. And no Montessori home would be complete without a floor bed.

We would have loved to have put a mattress on the floor and called it a day—easy peasy lemon squeezy. Unfortunately, in our house, that would have been an invitation for mold; we needed a floor bed with air circulation underneath.

We decided to go straight to a twin-sized bed (rather than a toddler-sized one), as our little beanpole would certainly outgrow the latter by year’s end. But, as we learned after exhaustive Google searches, super-low twin bed frames are a rare commodity indeed. So our DIY minimalist Montessori bed project was born.

Time was not on our side. The nights were nerve-wracking, and we were determined to both build the bed and transition Plumblossom into it over the Christmas holiday (in case her newfound nighttime freedom meant no sleep for us). By no means would this be a designer-quality example of fine woodworking—we needed to throw something together fast.

Our solution: take the Ikea Sultan Laxeby slatted bed base, paint it white, and elevate it on three 4×1 wooden rails.

We also made a padded headboard and sideboard with plywood, batting, and fabric to add some cushioning and warmth against the wall (Plumblossom likes to sleep flush against the wall, with her head up in the corner). These padded panels are attached to the wall, and rest on the frame for additional support.

Here’s a photo of the finished product:

Minimalist Montessori Toddler Bed

We kept telling ourselves it was a temporary solution until we found something better—but, to be honest, we like the way it turned out and have no plans to change it. Most importantly, Plumblossom seems to love it—she made the transition without a hitch. And, as a bonus, she can do all the jumping and acrobatics she wants on it without her mom having a heart attack. :)

[Note: Montessorians recommend skipping the crib and using a floor bed from the start—not a bad idea if you can sufficiently baby-proof the room.]

So have you read through this entire post, even though you have no little ones underfoot? Bless your heart, and thank you for sticking with me. Because guess what? The concept makes a lovely, minimalist adult bed as well—my husband and I are sleeping on the queen-sized version, and we love it, too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, be they about toddler beds, Montessori beds, or just minimalist beds in general!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Brianna

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, I’m pleased to feature Brianna. Inspired by stories of RV living, she and her family have done some dramatic downsizing. Please visit her blog to read more about how minimalism has changed her life.

Brianna writes:

About eight years ago I stumbled onto some blogs about families that travel full-time living in an RV. I loved reading about the simplicity of RV living, even with children. All of a sudden I was struck by the contrast of my own reality. My husband and I, our two children, and my father were renting a large suburban house that we had stuffed to the brim with Stuff.

I began reading everything I could about small living spaces. RV living wasn’t a reality for us but I spent some time figuring out what it is about that lifestyle that had captured my heart so completely. Of course the traveling would be phenomenal, but more than that was the simplicity.

At the time, my husband was working non-stop and I was busy homeschooling our children, running the house and waiting tables part-time. The idea of less was thrilling. Less furniture, less dishes, less clothes, less toys, etc. I decided to try to live as close to that as possible. With my family on board, we had a huge yard sale and moved into an apartment half the size of our house. It was fabulous! Since then we’ve moved twice and are about to move again, this time to an Intentional Community.

Minimalism is a constant process for me because things creep back into our lives constantly, and I keep finding new ability to let go of more. I have taken big strides in the last six months bringing me even closer to my goals of living happily with as little as possible. The feeling of freedom, calm, and gratitude every time I let go of more is wonderful. I have shared my passion for minimizing with my friends and family and really love watching more people realize how life changing it is to live with less.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: J.

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

Today, we have a thought-provoking contribution from J., who wonders: what to do after decluttering? A decluttered life is like the empty cup I talk about in my book—full of potential, but with what do you fill it? Please share with J. what you did with your newfound space (both physical and mental).

J. writes:

Dump the STUFF and then what?

This story begins as most of these do. I was a young woman. I spent 2 years in the Army and needed very little. The Army not only told me what I needed, they made sure I had it, and life was peaceful.

Then, as life unfolds in the usual way, I got married and began to create a home. This is where the “stuff” begins. We were young and had not much money, so we happily ‘made do’ with what we had, thinking we were rich! As time goes by, over time, well you know…a house bursting at the seams with “stuff”.

Forty years later, I am sitting (alone) in a house with a lifetime of “stuff” and I think…”time to do something else”. So I did. Sold one house and moved that stuff into this one. Then I began selling a LOT of the stuff…gave away some of the stuff, and threw out some stuff. I am now down to about 20% of the original stuff. It is more than enough, and currently I am having a hard time deciding which stuff still has to go, as I want to dump at least 25% more.

During this time of ‘lightening the load’ I found Miss Minimalist, and jumped on board to not only purge a LOT more of the household stuff, but also the clothing. (I couldn’t face the clothing until the wall to wall furniture was thinned out). The clothing is now down by 75%, and you know what? I can’t really even remember what is  missing! Sometimes I think, “now, where is that red belt” kind of thoughts. I look at the belt rack (with only 4 left) and know it is gone…and happily choose one of those instead.

Sounds perfect, so far, doesn’t it?

During this time, I also paid off a HUGE credit card debt. So, I have minimalized the debt as well.

Here is the situation: I lost my job, and have little income, but I can get by on it as my house is paid for. Apparently people over 60 are unemployable.

Here is my issue: With my debt paid off, and my ‘stuff’ reduced, I wonder. “Where am I?”

I don’t want to go spending money and get in debt again…but I sort of have nothing to do. I am sort of looking for my ‘prize’ that I guess I thought was there, at the end of the accomplishment!

I have a Kindle, and sometimes read books, but after a while, I get bored. Most of my friends have either died or moved away. I have no family. I joined a MEETUP group to meet some people, and I didn’t really have a good time, plus I had to pay for a meal. I gave it up after 4-5 tries.

Where I live it is either too hot or too cold most of the time, to go out. I have seen all of the museums and local attractions so many times, I could give the tours…so tired of that. I am a different nationality than most of the people here, so we have little in common. They are friendly enough, but they do not want to be ‘good friends’.

I tried volunteering at a couple groups, but found that gas money and having to buy lunch out somewhere, plus they want the volunteers to also give them money…made me feel like a chump. It was like having a job and not get paid for it, but they still have the same expectations. I can’t work at a job that costs me money to do it, that makes no sense. I think volunteering is not for me.

I spend time with my little dog. We took some classes and go almost every day to the park, but there must be more to life than that.

Most of the time, I am surfing the web and I have over 2 million points at Khan Academy.

I don’t mean to whine, but I really am at a loss of what to do.

So many readers here are joyfully telling of life at the end of the rainbow. I would like to find that too. I would love some suggestions! Is anyone else in this same situation??

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Real Life Minimalists: Leesa

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, we hear from Leesa, who tells us how minimalism is helping her redefine the role of consumption in her life. Read more of her thoughts and experiences on her blog.

Leesa writes:

My Minimalist Life…
May not look like yours. While moving began my journey in earnest, the truth is that the change in mindset began a couple of years ago. Sometimes I am slow to the party. My truest inspiration can be summed up in a few words from my best friend, “We spend the first half of our lives accumulating and the second half purging.” Over the past few years I’ve voraciously consumed all I could find on minimalism. While I’ve always liked smaller spaces and been fascinated by stories of those who have gone to the extremes it has been over the past 2 years that my own minimalist choices have gained definition. The biggest lesson for me in this journey is to accumulate with purpose. A move over the summer of 2013 into a smaller space was a wonderful exercise in evaluating and purging all of my “stuff”. Thanks to bloggers like Miss Minimalist, Be More With Less and Rowdy Kittens I have re-defined and rehabilitated my relationship with consumption.

For me, like for many, my consumption was part of a larger emotional crutch issue. The same one that defines my struggles with food. Five years ago I faced the demon of over eating and started on not a diet but a different life course. I recognized my problem, accepted that a permanent fix was needed and that nothing would happen instantly. Now I am 90 pounds lighter. Maybe THAT was actually the beginning of my minimalist journey.

In the interim, I continued consuming but switched my focus from food to things. Always a shop-aholic I now had weight loss as my excuse to buy new clothes. Then I began to realize that my consumption was like a drug addiction, the more I bought, the more I NEEDED to consume to maintain the high. While my weight loss was admirable I now needed to face the bigger problem and re-define what brings me joy and where my focuses should be.

My journey is not over and I have not spent too much time trying to analyze my issues. As my spouse says often, “It is what it is”. For now, I am learning to identify my triggers, reduce my stress through less “stuff” and to make my own happiness by experiencing my life with all of its joys and sorrows.

Learn more about me on my blog, Leesa Lives Life (http://leesalives.blogspot.com).

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Furniture Update: A Couch and Table and Chairs, Oh My!

Two years ago, my family and I moved into a 3-bedroom, 1700-sq-ft house. It was a big change from the 390-sq-ft apartment we’d left behind in England—but just about the smallest home we could find within a short commute of my husband’s office.

Several readers have asked me how our larger space has affected our furniture needs. In particular, inquiring minds want to know: do we have more, less, the same, or different stuff than we had before?

The answer: a little bit more, but really just different.

Our house has an open floor plan—the kitchen, living room, and dining room are all in one big space. In that space, we have the following:

1. Couch
2. Dining table + chairs
3. Shelf for Plumblossom’s toys and books

In our former tiny apartment, we had two lounge chairs and a coffee table instead of a couch. The reason: we moved often, seldom entertained, and had no real need for a large and unwieldy piece of furniture (see my post, Questioning the Couch).

In our new digs, we did a 180 and replaced the two chairs (figuratively, not literally—they were left behind in England long ago) with a couch. Why? Because it better fits our new lifestyle.

First, we have a toddler who loves to climb. The couch provides a low, wide space for her acrobatics, without the tipping potential of chairs. Sure, IMO, cushions on the floor would be even better, but… Second, we entertain friends and family quite often; some are older, some are posher ;-), and most are generally not enthusiastic about sitting on the floor.

We made do for some time with the futon we had in storage (seen in Our Dirty Secret)—but the foam was disintegrating, the cover was threadbare, and the heavy metal folding mechanism proved too much of a hazard for my daughter’s curious little fingers. So we settled on the little number pictured below—which I’m happy to report disassembles and packs flat (!) in case we pull up stakes again.

We replaced our tiny-apartment coffee table with a dining table. This was a tough one for me—my husband and I haven’t owned one in 15 years, and loved the relaxed, bohemian ambience of eating at a low table. However, we now host dinners about twice a month, as well as holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and want our guests to be comfortable. I think it’s helped Plumblossom, too—since she’s accustomed to sitting at a proper table for meals, she’s remarkably well-behaved in restaurants and at dinner parties.

We did keep versatility in mind when selecting a table: it’s simply a birch slab with (detachable) metal legs. We can repurpose it as a desk, if need be—or replace the legs with shorter ones if we ever return to floor dining.

Finally, since our living room doubles as Plumblossom’s playroom, we acquired a long, low shelf for her books and toys. We’re trying our best to create a Montessori-style environment for her, which calls for a carefully-edited, nicely-arranged selection of materials (in contrast to a jumble of things in a toybox). I’ll write more about this (with pics) in a future post.

Wondering about the rugs? We have hardwood floors throughout our living space, and used FLOR tiles (20” carpet squares) to create area rugs. Plumblossom spends most of her time playing on the floor, and the tiles add a bit of softness and warmth underneath her. They also provide some noise-dampening—important in a small house, especially when the resident toddler has finally succumbed to sleep.

The random patchwork of tiles under the dining table was also a Plumblossom-centric decision. Babies and toddlers can be messy eaters—and while the tiles can be individually-removed and washed (yay!), we’ve had need to replace one or two. The patchwork allows us to do so without worrying about a color or pattern being discontinued (we simply pick a new one out of the sale section).

Another plus for carpet tiles: if/when we move, they can all be stacked into a pizza-sized box and easily transported. I know, I know, why all this talk about moving when we just bought a house? Because the wanderlust doesn’t go away just because you’ve stopped wandering.

So that’s two chairs replaced with one couch, and a coffee table replaced with a dining table. Not too bad. Do the four dining chairs and shelf tip us into slightly less minimal territory? If you practice minimalism by the numbers, I guess so. But if you prefer my kinder, gentler, lagom version of minimalism—where you own just enough to meet your needs and make you happy—then it’s all good. :)

Note: I’m really enjoying my new monthly posting schedule; while the weekly one was starting to feel like work, this is more like coffee with friends. I hope I’m not boring you with the mundane details of my life—while I love to read (and write) a good philosophical post, sometimes I think we bloggers need to show how we walk the walk. Do you have any requests or suggestions for future posts? Let me know in the Comments!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}