Isn't this a lovely scene? It was taken while I was on vacation in Germany. To me it speaks of slow, intentional living.
1. Cultivate an attitude of gratefulness and contentment. This is tip number one for a reason. I find it the most difficult to practice, but most rewarding! Our culture and the advertising world do their best to wear us down. More, more more they cry! "You need this special face cream to be beautiful! Your kids won't feel loved if you don't buy the Pokemon backpack!! You will be admired if you drive the flashy sports car!" Discontenment and envy prompt us to buy more. We believe the lie that true happiness can be found in tangible things. Peace and joy can only be found within.
Appreciate the things that already surround you. Prepare your morning coffee in the french press that you selected carefully to fit your needs. Inhale the aroma of your favorite coffee beans and sip from your special mug. Slow down, be present and be intentional.
2. Behonest, be ruthless!! How committed are you? Look at photos of your pre-simplified, cluttered life. Do you want to go back? How much do you love the progress you've made? If you truly believe in this concept, you won't allow your home to go back to its original state. Avoid recluttering your home by identifying the problems. Ask yourself how your house originally got to its bulging overflowing state. Is your kitchen table a clutter hot spot? Do other family members throw laundry in every room of the house? Address the problems. Denial is likely the path that leads most of us to stuff overload.
3. Keep a bag or box in an out of the way space that is designated for donation. I keep a plastic grocery bag on an "S"hook, hanging from my closet shelf. If I happen upon an item of clothing which my children outgrew, or I suddenly realize that I don't need 24 forks, in they go! Immediately. Don't tell yourself you'll do it later. You know you probably won't. You will look at that overflowing silverware tray and tell yourself the same thing 10 more times. Just do it. It takes 10 seconds or less. When this bag fills up, I drop it off at Goodwill. I have no room in my home or my head, for things I don't need.
4. Edit and evaluate. I do this with ever single item we own, at least twice a year. If you stick to this, things will never get too far out of control.
5. Make lists of things you actually need or want. This rule applies to more than the grocery store. If your kids have grown out of the current seasons's clothing, make a list detailing every single item you need, down to socks and underwear. Most of us do not have perfect memory. If I don't stick to this, I will find a gigantic stack of short sleeved tees for my daughter, when I only needed six. I'll forget about the belt my son needed, and purchase 6 pairs of pants when I only need 2.
6. Say no. No to recreational shopping, no to free magazines, no to promotional pens and t-shirts. No to cheap jewlery and the latest "As seen on TV" junk. No to anything and everything that you don't truly need or want.
7. Regular clean up around the house. Whether that means once a day or once an hour. Don't let your hard work go to waste. Instead of throwing the mail on the countertop or table, immediately recyle junk mail and file or pay bills. Designate a time of day as clean up time. After school, insist on your kids putting every item where it belongs, which brings me to my next point.
8. Have a home for everything. EVERYTHING. Don't allow your keys or shoes to be put in 7 different locations around the house. Find the most practical and efficient home for each item and always put it there. If you do this, you will have much less to pick up at the end of the day.
9. Respect other peoples's space and their possessions. You must first examine your own posessions before you can convince the rest of your familys of the merits of minimalism. The rest of my family is not as minimal with their possessions as I am. I have perhaps a dozen books or less and their books fill the rest of our 6 shelves. I am ok with this. But I set limits for my children. When they leave home they are free to live as they choose. But while they live in our home, they may not stuff their closets and drawers.
10. Make limits. Decide on how much memorabilia (or Legos, books, whatever..) each family member is allowed. When limits are being pushed or exceeded, its time to edit and donate. For example, in our home, each family member has one 13 gallon plastic tote, labeled with his or her name. All treasures that are to be kept "forever" must fit in this box. In addition to this, they each have a small, rectangular clear box, (slightly larger than an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper) in their rooms with precious papers and treasures which they want more accessible for play. Occasionally I will find a certain child's box bulging and unable to close. I set a time limit (usually 1 week) for this family member to edit and toss enough so that the lid can comfortably close. This has worked very well for 4 years and I highly recommend this for parents of small children!
11. Buy quality. We have all heard "buy quality over quantity" and this is absolutely true. Here's an example from our family. Several years ago I purchased a pair of poor quality athletic shoes for my older son. They cost $12. These shoes lasted exactly 3 months. Had I kept purchasing these shoes, I would have had to purchase 3 more pairs that year. $48 for 4 pairs of shoes that only looked nice for a few weeks after each purchase. 4 pairs of shoes that will end up in the landfill. Plus I had the added time and hassle of shopping for those shoes over and over. We switched and now pay $35-$50 for a better brand. These shoes last a year or more, depending on how soon he outgrows them. They look nice for the entire year. (No peeling shoe soles!) and I only need to purchase his athletic shoes once a year! I find many quality, better brand items for our family at thrift stores. Don't be afraid of purchasing used items!
12. Utilize the "One in one out" rule. After Christmas, insist on donating exactly the number of items your family has received, to your charity of choice. Exchanging one small Hot Wheels car for a new backpack doesn't count! Donate an item of similar size and volume. If you have pared down your wardrobe to only the items that you need, love and use, then you will only need to replace those. Bring home a new pair of jeans and immediately donate the previous pair. Don't hold onto them in hopes that you will turn them into a craft project unless you have a good track record of turning used clothing into jean purses or quilts! Don't put them in a box because they still have life left and it feels wasteful. There are few things more wasteful than moldy, moth eaten boxes of clothing and other items which someone else could have used!
Make minimalism work for you. Don't try to be an exact copy of anyone else. If you aren't seeing results, you haven't discovered your brand of minimalism.
Share your tips and ideas, I love to learn!