I am a minimalist. Well, actually I wish I were a minimalist. I don’t know if I can give myself that title just yet. I am at least an aspiring one and have been for the past 3 years. Friends and family who have lived with me, you are right to laugh because you understand that I am not your typical, type A, neat freak. Piles of dishes in the sink, clothes all over the floor, and my stuff randomly scattered throughout the house would be a good description of the scene in a typical day in the life of Stacy. I wish I was naturally inclined to be tidy, but I’m not. I have to work at it like one might work at running a marathon. I used to feel bound to a world of clutter. Overwhelmed really. And then one day I started working for a family who lived differently than me.
Let’s just first say, that these folks were really all-around-cool. But what stood out to me was their home. All of their decor was in neutral colors, house and home all consisted of clean lines, and there was art everywhere (like real art that they purchased from an artist). The places where you might expect there to be hidden junk/clutter/skeletons, say in the basement or in the closet, there wasn’t. They had 4 or 5 neatly organized, clear tubs in the basement and that was it. The spare closet only had a vacuum cleaner. The house was open and airy. It was stress free. And let’s not even mention their collection of antique mid-century modern furniture (maybe off topic, but needs to be mentioned).
It wasn’t just that their house was tidy. It was that it was — well, minimal. The décor and style was simple and planned. The things they did have had a purpose and a place. Décor was limited to a well curated art collection, interesting yet simple furniture, a sprinkling of plants and a coffee table book here or there. And yet the effect of the style was conspicuous.
This was my first introduction to minimalism (as well as mid century modern design) and it changed me. I couldn’t believe how free I felt in their home. First of all, I felt like I was in an art gallery with its almost white, grey walls, fresh and modern furniture and impeccable natural lighting. But mostly I felt like I could breathe for the first time in a long time. They had created a space that felt like being alone in the great outdoors with only you and your breath to accompany you. And I was a better person in that atmosphere.
In early adulthood I was diagnosed with ADHD. Those of you who know me may be shocked because I am the most awkward and often times quiet of introverts. Not your typical stereotype for this particular learning disorder. I have what was called then (and may be now — I don’t stay on top of the DSM), an inattentive type of ADD that doesn’t result in super hyper activity but still manifests signs of the classical disease such as distraction, difficulty taking tests, and being a slob. A description of a typical child with inattentive ADD is described as a shy and quiet (usually) girl who daydreams a lot. That pretty much describes my entire childhood. Although I had the disease my entire life, it was never noticed unitl later in life because I didn’t fit the stereotype. As a result, I had learned to cope my with symptoms rather than depend on medication (not that I’m against medication, just what happened to me). Ever since I realized I had a learning disability, I found many new ways to cope. And ever since I became a mother, minimalism has become a major one.
Listen, before you have kids we westerners seem to believe that children need all this stuff. And not just stuff — big, ugly plastic stuff. It felt very intruding to design your living room with a simple, clean aesthetic in mind and then plop a huge purple, plastic exersaucer in the middle of the room. And then just walk around the house scattering loud, abnoxious toys that light up. And for a time, that’s what we did. Until I realized that children don’t need much. Other than warm clean clothing (and if I’m buying it, it probably fits into the neutral side of the rainbow) some good books, a handful of developmentally appropriate toys and a boob, children do not need much more than you. So, how do you live as a minimalist and have a child you may ask?
The answer to that question is ever evolving. I find minimizing Willow’s things difficult because she is given so many wonderful things by family and friends. Our solution, for the time being is that we just don’t buy her anything. I would say 98% of all of Willow’s toys we did not buy. If there’s something she needs, we put it on her gift lists for birthdays and holidays. Once she outgrows or stops using a toy, it goes into storage (in case of the chance of a sibling in the future) or is donated. In keeping things simple, tidying up becomes less of an overwhelming chore for both us (Jazz and I) and for Willow.
In the end, we have many a moment of clutter and junk in our home. Like I said, we are aspiring minimalists. But something about being intensional about the space you spend time in and aware of the things you have relieves stress. At least it does for me. Yes, minimalism may be trendy right now, but it seems to me to be the kind of trend that is beneficial (like bike commuting or kale smoothies) rather than gratuitous (like ripped jeans and ombrés). So for right now, less is more.
Here are 6 simple rules we have to live as aspiring minimalists:
1. Toys that have been hiding for the past 6 months or are kind of junky get donated or into storage.
2. Any clothing you haven’t worn in a year and/or you don’t love to wear anymore, go. We thrift most of our clothing which makes giving it away or selling it seem like much less of a loss. It helps to simplify your wardrobe to a few quality building blocks that can be worn with everything (think netural colors or chambray. Do you need 10 pairs of jeans? Start by cutting everything in half)
3. When decorating, less is more. Bright white walls with a few pieces of art and some green plants help keep a home from feeling too cluttered.
4. Be mindful — constantly evaluate what you need and what you don’t, recognizing when you are holding onto stuff (or neglecting to deal with it) for emotional reasons rather than necessity.
5. Avoid piling. Sometimes, when we’re in a hurry to tidy, things end up in piles. Try to take some time every week to file papers and put things in their places. If it doesn’t have a place, either make on or let it go.
6. Books — actually, this is our week spot. We are book hoarders. Does anyone have any suggestions?
May you find yourself living at peace with less.