Real Life Minimalists: Live, Laugh, Clean

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, Live, Laugh, Clean provides a wonderful account of how she keeps her household streamlined and well-managed. Very inspirational!

Live, Laugh, Clean writes:

My journey to a minimalist lifestyle comes from simply wanting to be organized. I wanted my finances, house, family and my life to be organized and well-managed. With a frugal background that came from my school-teaching parents I saw the benefits from learning to manage your resources well. We were blessed to travel extensively not because my parents made a lot of money but because they planned well with what they earned. Money and material things come into our lives all the time and the key is to really stop and think how best to use them both to enhance and sustain your life.

Minimalism is an ongoing process for me as I use it in each area of my life. Being married and raising two kids, I wanted to provide the appropriate accoutrements for family life. This means that I don’t want to make my kids live in a yurt or carry all my possessions in a tiny backpack. But I knew there was a way to consume responsibly and I focused my efforts on three guidelines: Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose.

My home is now easy to keep organized because we don’t have a lot of unused junk lying around. The closets are frequently used to store items out of sight but still in reach for daily or weekly use. The kitchen cabinets close properly because they only hold the dishes we use. There aren’t any cabinets filled with hundreds of unused plastic containers or unused kitchen appliances. The pantry is monitored and organized because I can save a lot time and money by cooking. Keeping your pantry and refrigerator organized also saves on food waste.

My kids’ rooms stay neat and organized (most of the time) because I engage them in the process. Before each Christmas and birthday I encourage them to go through their toys and books and decide what is no longer age-appropriate or of interest to them. I am always vocal about how if something is no longer in use, we can decide how best to let it go. Should it be sold or donated? Is it broken or no longer usable and if so, can we recycle it? This has taught my kids that each stage of life will require different needs and they can learn how to actively keep track of what’s in our home.

Our clothing closets and dressers only hold clothing that fits properly and is used on a regular basis in that season. (Except for my husband’s….more on that later.) I don’t buy tons of outfits for the kids because I know their bodies are growing along with their tastes. Each season we check to see what still fits and what needs replacing so that when we go shopping we are doing it mindfully and only purchase what is needed.

I use files to keep home and financial records in order. At the end of each year and in preparation for tax season I review the receipts and important papers (medical bills, credit card bills, bank statements etc) and what isn’t used for taxes is either archived or shredded. This is not a dreaded task because I file the papers throughout the year by sorting any incoming mail daily and tossing junk mail in the recycle immediately. I only get the Sunday paper and read it by Tuesday before it goes in the recycle. All the other news I can get online throughout the week. I do all bill-paying online to save on stamps and paperwork. I keep home files for appliance records and other household needs.

You can start with one area of your home that you’d like to improve and work your way through it. I’ve found choosing one area per season is a great way to avoid becoming over-whelmed. At the end of one year, you’ll be amazed at how much cleaner and more organized your life will become. Stay alert to what comes into your home and avoid the unnecessary (i.e. too many magazine subscriptions, catalogs or stuffed Santa dolls). Be honest with yourself while shopping by asking “Do we really need this item?”

These are ways I keep control of our spending and clutter. The best part is I save more of our income by being mindful of what we already have and what we consume and I don’t have to go without indoor plumbing! Yes, sometimes it’s a struggle to get family members to agree to the process. My husband has been stubbornly attached to old business clothes and other items in the garage that no longer seem useful. And that’s OK. I’ve found the each person can come to the knowledge of his or her version of minimalism when the time is right for them. Sometimes that happens with a move, job change or other life-changing event. Go at your own pace and set an example for your family members and you may find they start de-cluttering alongside you before long.  Good luck on your own journey!

{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.}

11 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Live, Laugh, Clean

  • I have my children go through their toys prior to Christmas and Birthdays–we also, purge in the spring and sometimes even the fall. My children are now very good at judging what is essential and what can be given to another child who may need it more than they do. That being said–some family members are concerned at times about how little my children have…however, this mom still thinks there is more to be donated:) It is all in how you see it:) Thanks for your post.

    https://awellstockedlife.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/why-i-didnt-write-a-blog-post-sort-of/

  • Diana

    I do the same thing with my son at Christmas, just before his birthday, and anytime the walls feel like they are closing in. We go through his things and sometimes he will decide to give something away without too much thought.
    Other times when he is on the fence about getting rid of a toy, especially the ones that he suddenly can’t part with yet hasn’t played with in a really long time, I will offer to “buy” the toy from him. Maybe for $.25 or $1.00 or $5.00 (if it’s really good!) This way I am able to open up some space in exchange for him putting a few dollars into his wallet.

  • I do appreciate your ‘each to their own’ comments. I bit my tongue a lot and focussed on my own decluttering and was truly amazed to find my husband (after a long time) joining in! I try not to comment on that either! Am just so grateful..

  • Tina

    My husband’s folks had a lot of things. Racks and racks of clothes that didn’t fit in their closets and lots of Knick knacks on every surface. Since they weren’t hoarders like my mom, he saw this as the way to live. Just now, he’s realizing that he has a lot of stuff and is starting to get rid of some. He gave some of his collections to schools because he had scientific equipment. I hope to get rid of more gradually. Every day I find more we can live without.

  • Tina

    I was making a stack of DVD’s we hadn’t watched in over a year to give to the library. We could always borrow them again sometime. My husband did not want to get rid of anything. So I started looking through books I had kept for my grandkids that were way too easy for them. There is always something to pass on.

  • Tina

    I filled this week’s bag with baking equipment I don’t use, a huge clipboard I didn’t remember and a giant hole punch. There are also a few shirts from my husband’s closet and a few of mine. And a box of earrings.

  • Truly inspirational! It is wonderful that people still want to live a simpler lifestyle and have strong dedication to go and chase their dreams! I’ve read Bea’s book recently about reducing our waste and now, after I read that post, I feel I can go for that kind of living!

  • Tina

    We recycle or pass on everything we can. Clothes, especially, go in circles around the family. It is much easier to clean house when there is no clutter. My closet is about 1/2 full and that’s the way I like it. There is still more I can give away but there is a bookcase and a closet full of my Mom’s out of season clothes and books that I keep for her because there isn’t much space in the nursing home.

  • Tina

    There is still much to get rid of. I have a lot of glasses and mugs we could pass on, but my husband thinks they are all his. I have several extra plates, also. But it is still the hobby stuff that takes up the most space.

  • Tina

    My mom died a couple of weeks ago. We took 14 bags of papers and trash out of her room in the nursing home. She had hidden boxes of papers behind her clothes in her cupboard and in shopping bags between her mattress and the frame of her bed. She also had 3 tables full of papers. I have a big box of her books ready to mail to her friend who wrote every week. Another bag is going to my sister. I have already taken 8 bags of clothing to Goodwill. I am still sorting more every day.

  • We just came back from a 7 night cruise from England to France, Portugal and Spain. We each took a carry on bag and a tote bag. One of the things we enjoy is watching people take 3 or 4 huge suitcases through the airport. Another is watching a different show every night. Plus, there are always very large people eating lots of food all day long. We saw forts, churches, beautiful gardens, and Windsor Castle. We can’t see that in Chicago. Travel light.

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