I recently had an interesting conversation with someone who’s read a recent article of mine and asked me if I enjoyed living a minimalist life.
Assuming she deduced this about me from my articles — and already anticipating the coffee coming out of my own mother’s nose when she reads her cluttering former hoarder of a daughter described this way — I decided to make this topic fodder for this month’s “Sweet Simplicity.”
While I would hardly describe myself as a minimalist — and I do know folks who follow this mantra and follow it beautifully — I certainly fall into the category of “Aspiring Former Hoarder.”
Minimalism, defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a style or technique that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.”
While I find that notion to be appealing, it is honestly never going to be an option for my family and our lifestyle.
That being said, there is great utility in finding ways to make the space that surrounds you — whether it is your home, office or even your vehicle — a more peaceful setting.
This summer, I have dedicated myself to decluttering areas of my home that I have never touched — namely my children’s rooms and any place that they spent time as a baby — and am finding that while the inevitable nostalgia that accompanies such an exercise does slow me down, the peace (not to mention the extra space), I am getting from it is worth it.
Find a Place for Everything — Out of Sight
When I come home at the end of the day, I usually find that my clear counters are covered with everything my children have dumped their upon their arrival from school.
Book-bags, lunchboxes, jackets, food wrappers, papers — you name it — will cover my once pristine countertops.
Creating an area for all of those things — a basket for lunchboxes, a tray for important papers and hooks and cubbies for the backpacks and coats — not only gives those items a purpose and a place in our home but gives the kids a sense of of order too.
Can you imagine a school without lockers or cubbies to serve this same purpose? It would be complete chaos, right?
The same goes for your home, office or car. Identify an area of your home that feels busy or cluttered and inventory what is causing that chaos.
Is it too many utensils or small appliances on the counter, shoes on the floor or toys everywhere? Find those items a home! Try moving all of those appliances from the counter into a nearby cabinet — how does that look and feel?
The same goes with your bathroom — while you may be used to having all of your toiletries and bathroom items on the bathroom sink or vanity, does it really take that much longer to fetch them from a cabinet, drawer or designated basket?
Try it for a day and see how much you enjoy the look of uncluttered shelves.
Be Picky about What Enters Your Home
This weekend, out of sheer impulse (and perhaps a little post school year stress), I purchased a Mickey Mouse shaped condiment caddy. It was adorable and for my Disney-loving family, felt like a fun purchase.
When I brought it home, already knowing it was a mistake, I realized what a pain it would be to store, let alone wash!
So, I returned it to the store and put the 20 dollars I spent on it into our rainy day account — which is often the base for our family’s vacations each year.
That has become more of a thing to me as I strive toward a more mindful and less material existence — saving money I would normally spend on things for experiences.
When you see something you are about to buy, particularly a non-consumable item- be sure to give some thought to whether it is a need or a want.
Be more mindful about what items you say yes to.
Only take in the things that you absolutely love and know you will use on a regular basis.
Go Paperless
My mother always tells me to sort my mail as soon as I fetch it from the mailbox — and that exercise needs to include a quick walk to my recycling bin before some of that mail even enters my home.
Raise your hand if you have a corner of your kitchen dedicated to mail and bills?
Open your mail as soon as it arrives and either make a digital copy of the bill or receipt if you need to keep it or recycle it immediately.
Letting paper take up any portion of your precious living space is a huge disruption to your peace! Junk mail and catalogs should never enter your home (unless it is a really good catalog, in which case, just find a nice home for it to read over later with that glass of wine!)
You can either purchase a low cost scanner or use the camera on your smartphone to snap a photo of any important reference documents that you may need later — just be sure to save them somewhere you will always have access to, Imagine how much easier bill paying and tax preparation will be with this habit!
(Editor’s Note: Kristine George is a freelance journalist who resides in Easton.)