The Gifts of Minimizing with Intention

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I recently commented to my hubby that we live in a walk-in closet. I was partly kidding, partly feeling overwhelmed with the stuff in our space, which, in the absence of an actual closet quickly added to our clutter and stress. I’ll talk about my process of getting rid of stuff later, but today I want to share the unexpected gifts of letting go.

Surprisingly, the insights we gained from moving into a small home, made de-cluttering easier this time around because I knew the end result would be well worth it! As I sorted through out-grown and worn-out clothes I thought what would happen to our excess stuff once we let it go. Not surprisingly, a study in the International Journal of Consumer Studies showed that the volume of textiles produced, purchased and disposed of in landfills is increasing. This is a direct influence of the increase in consumer purchases and the tendency to keep clothing for a shorter period of time. Yet, there is a suggestion that some consumers are growing tired of relentless consumerism.

There are many ways to let go our stuff.

Donate. This is the standard, right. You call your local second-hand store for a pick-up of un-wanted items in return for a neat little tax receipt. You get rid of unwanted items, and someone gives your items a longer wear life. The stylish, quality baby loot in this post’s header was a great second-hand score! But, let’s pump the breaks for a sec…what if your stuff doesn’t make the cut? I still feel the sting of the girl at Buffalo Exchange who harshly judged my donation loot. “Seriously, my wide leg pants aren’t making the cut? Say whaaa…?!”Do these items get tossed in the dump? Turns out that 95% of the clothes that end up in landfills can be re-used or recycled.

The alternatives.

Recycle. I’ve been heading to my local H&M to recycle my old clothes since it first opened its doors in my area. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit, but when the clerk told me I was the first customer to participate in the store’s recycling program I got Gold-Star giddy! You know the kind they gave out in grade school. Yes, I’m cool like that.

I don’t have an affiliation with H&M. I just really love the flexibility their fashion recycling program gives me. I get rid of un-wanted and worn-out stuff, score a 15% coupon, and come away with a sweet deal on something I truly need.

I also like that donated clothes are used in a variety of ways; clothes that can be worn again are sold second-hand; worn-out clothes and textiles are turned into other products, like cleaning cloths; everything else is turned into textile fibers used in insulation. Money made from this service is invested into other social projects. If you’d like to learn more about H&M’s sustainable fashion recycling programs click the link. Do you know other retailers who have similar programs?

Hand-me-downs. Moms (and dads) are pretty extraordinary, resilient and generous humans. Handing down gently-used baby items has been happening for ages. Currently, though, the baby industry’s push to consume “new and improved” items adds unrealistic pressures and encourages the idea that “good” parents are measured by the amount of stuff we buy for the babes. But in a counter-cultural move to all the “Baby Must Have” lists out there, moms continue to support each other by passing on items that allow more babes to use and enjoy things for as long as they we’re built for.

Not only am I big on giving; I’m also open to & appreciative of getting. Particularly in those early years when the babes go through clothes, toys and accessories like nobody’s business! I’m grateful for every mom who lovingly handed down things to my kids. Almost as much as I love letting go of stuff that’s outworn its use in our home. Hand-me-downs support minimalism and sustainability. And more importantly, help build community.

Helping Hand Coats. If you read my initial posts on our family’s minimizing process (thank you!), you know it’s taken a while to follow-up on where we’re at. And the piece coming up is why. While I felt it useful to share, I wanted to make sure to share for the right reasons. What we do to help others is best done in private, I believe. But I’ve decided to share as an encouragement and testament to the power that giving has on the giver.

We moved into our small home in the middle of the summer heat wave, which meant our coats went into our 5×7 storage unit. But, as the unpredictable weather patterns led to a really cold winter in otherwise sunny California, we went sorting through our coats. I could have certainly donated many coats, but I was inspired by a woman dear to my heart that’d recently made a batch of tamales & burritos (those delicious treats are LOVE wrapped in foil!) for the people in our community going through tough times.

I knew the jackets had to find their new owner. So, I set off with my bag of jackets, sweatshirts, and thermals, to where our community’s homeless congregate. “Could you use a coat?” I asked; one by one, gifting an item that would make someone’s day (and night) a little warmer. Every one of the men and women I met impacted me in a profound way. It wasn’t a hand out. It was an offer of warmth, and perhaps a bit of hope. The last person I met was a young man, whose blue eyes cut through to my soul. I almost broke down when he incredulously asked, “For me?!” I couldn’t help but feel that this small act renewed him in some way. And, it certainly renewed me. In the middle of the holiday season, it was probably the most meaningful gift I could give to him and myself.

And so, in getting rid of my stuff I continue to gain much more. Minimalism is not just about the removal of clutter. It is a cultural shift; an act of sustainability and connection.

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10 Insights of Living in a Small Home

IMG_3416It’s been 5 months since our family made the leap to small home living. Here are some insights on the highs and lows of how we’re making it work.

Organization is Key to Maintaining your Sanity

Clutter in a small space can add up quickly! Visual clutter is anxiety provoking. If you don’t use items daily it really should be tucked away out of sight. If you don’t use regularly, it probably needs to go.

Small Spaces Can be Comfortable

Ok, so I’m still working on this one.  Many parts of our home are still not very comfortable or functional. The Mister will be the first to tell you that the couch that was left behind two tenants ago is serious dumpster material! And, up until recently, we we’re eating at our coffee table. Much of our old stuff is just too darn big for our current space. So I took a wait-and-see approach to adding items because, well, that would defeat the whole purpose of minimizing, right? Believe me, we gave eating like college students a good try, but it was just too much of a compromise. Once we finally made our way to IKEA to pick up this sweet little table that fit our space very nicely, it began to feel much more like home.

Minimizing Highlights What Is Most Important

So, we may have let that whole eating-at-a-coffee-table-for-five-months run just a tad too long. And on the “dumpster” couch no less! Sitting down, praying together, chatting about our day; that’s our thing! The mundane small talk helps us stay connected. Doing away with this daily routine meant it took us much longer to acclimate to our new space. It’s not about the table; it’s about what it allows us to do: stay connected. Living in a larger space, I took this for granted. Now, in this small space, its value is not lost.

Personal Space is Crucial

Ok, so I do love my tribe. They’re the “bee’s knees” but, I need my space. I’ve always tended to be that way. Having people all up in my space makes me cranky. “Don’t you have somewhere to be, little dude?” Oh wait, you’re a toddler and you live here. I’m sure Zion felt the same way. Having time to just be is really critical. Luckily we live very close to the beach, so adding a walk/run into my routine is really important. It helps “reset” my mood. Staying consistent is something I struggle to fit into my week, but it makes all the difference.

I Really am Lucky and In Love with my Tribe

Without getting too mushy, seeing my peeps adapt to small home living helps me see what great people they are. We’ve all had to adjust to “giving up” some things. Supporting each other through the “loss” as we shift our collective focus has made me fall more in love with them. Not to mention that our home is next to abuelos’ home which is pretty awesome! If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to make this change. #blessingsonblessings I’d say.

Stuff Is Just Stuff

I cannot think of one thing that I’m missing terribly as a result of our changes.

Variety Is Not the Spice of Life

We Use the Same Stuff Over & Over Again. That’s why I don’t miss the stuff I don’t have. I never (or rarely) used most it. Clothes, shoes, cooking utensils, whatever it is; I use the same things over & over. Clearing away stuff has only made my choices easier and faster to make.

Less Space Equals Less Worry

We’re making some serious savings, yo! I’ll say it; it feels good not to be so worried over money. I recently read that people chronically worried about money tend to make poorer life choices because stress makes us less equipped to manage daily life decisions. I read that on the internet, so you know it’s totally true. Ok, so while I don’t know how scientific this is, it makes absolutely sense! How often do we just want to “tune out” the stress and worry of bills. I did a few times only to end up a late fee. How in the heck does a reasonably well-adjusted person make dumb decisions like that?! I call it the “Eff It” or “Smile Now, Cry Later” effect. And I’m not the only one. Most Americans are living with substantial debt as our consumer-driven culture promotes spending as gratification. I really love the freedom from bills as we chip away at our debt. We have a long way to go, but the progress we’ve made gives a girl some much needed breathing room.

Less Space Equals More Time and Resources

File this one in the Obvious Files. I love having fewer chores and a little more cash which means we’re enjoy life more! The quality time has brought us closer together.

Perspective is Everything

Minimizing doesn’t mean being a miser. I think of myself more as a curator, keeping only the crucial things that bring beauty, joy, comfort, and peace to my life. I’m not focused on what I’m living without. By removing clutter, I make room for experiences that bring meaning to my life and the things that sustain my lifestyle. Living with less, allows me to do more and be more.

My Minimalist Mantra

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Know what you have. 

This is simple. Take stock of what you own; show it love, or let it go.

Have what you need. 

Simplifying doesn’t require that you be a miser or that you must “go without.” On the contrary, by cutting out excess you gain clarity about your priorities. When you get clear about what matters most it’s easier to build a life around that.

Use what you got.

Before going out to get a new item or adding a new activity to your schedule, see if what you already have can do the job. This may require creativity, but you will be pleasantly surprised at what you can come up with!