Minimalist living

marie26November 18, 2007

I hadn't visited my son and his wife in about 6 years. They proudly showed me their new custom built home which had my dream kitchen since only 1 lower cabinet had doors while the rest of the lower areas had drawers.

The only things on the kitchen counters was one small cute ceramic container, the mixer and a toaster. The rest of the house had no knick knacks and just enough furniture to fill a space very sparingly yet more than enough couches for sitting. All stereo wires were in the walls and there were built-ins for the equipment and cd's, dvd's, etc. Another thing I liked was that all the TV's were on the walls, unlike my big screen TV plus oversized couches which take up a lot of space.

I dreaded coming home to what I now look at as one big mess since almost all my kitchen counters have stuff on them as well as most of the other surfaces in my house. I envied how their house appeared and while I wish my house could be like that, I doubt I'll ever be able to achieve it.

Do you wish you could live minimally?

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We spent three summer vacations at a cottage on a lake. The cottage was already furnished, including sheets and towels. All we had to bring was enough food for a week. There was very little furniture in the living room and two bedrooms, plus a tiny screened in porch. The kitchen had a refrigerator, stove,sink,about four cabinets, yet there were dishes, pots and pans, glasses and seerving utensils. No toaster or blender or coffee maker out on the counter, just lovely space. I loved "keeping house" in that minimalist space. With careful shopping, and the use of instant coffee, we ate very well and enjoyed our summer stay. As I packed up our stuff at the end of the trip, I looked around and realized, HEY, you CAN live like this IF YOU WANT TO. Then we returned to our overcrowded, cluttered home with too much stuff.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 6:51AM
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That's my longterm goal. Presently I'm at the declutter and organize phase. Very liberating I must say. I won't miss the stuff. Since I'm not into yard sales my sorting goes:
keep, garbage, recycle, charity. That's it.

I can't believe how much used printed paper I keep finding. All of that is being piled up for cutting up into telephone note paper and grocery lists (ever price those notepads these days???).

A good investment I made was a decent shredder for sensitive papers, then they go in a paper bag into the recycle bin.

I am learning and keep telling myself - stick to the job at hand, stick to the job at hand. Often I get sidetracked when sorting and boxing - this kills my time too much. Ya know - subsorting and reading old mags, looking around and feeling overwhelmed instead of just focusing on what I can immediately do.

Yep, I like minimal. It's extremely relaxing.

How far would you go to minimal?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 6:28PM
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Sell my house and move into a small one. In the process, get rid of or give away stuff I don't need.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 9:34AM
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Breathing space......sigh. Room to move around freely....sigh.... Time for the eyes to stop and rest upon a focal point here and there....sigh. Dusting without moving a ton of knick-knacks....sigh.

Oh yeah, I could go with that....sigh.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 10:06AM
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Sometimes I dream about getting fired from my job so I can spend whatever time it takes to clear all the junk out of our house. Short of that, I don't know if I'll ever find time to do it.

(Note: just kidding. I don't really want to get fired. I just imagine what it would be like sometimes. :))

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 12:41PM
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I think there's a difference between miminalist decorating and minimalist living.

Their custom-build home was designed to hide a lot of the stuff we find is in our way. Sounds like the kitchen just had a lot of concealed space so that very little HAD to live on the countertop. Have a basically empty wall in your kitchen? Put up a bunch of closed-door bookcases, say, and you will have tons of storage space. Make sure that the color is the same as the rest of the room's color so that it visually disappears. Once everything's in its place, your kitchen, too, will have that minimalist look. But it's not minimalist living--you still have all those 1-job appliances; you just don't have to look at them everyday.

How long has it been since they finished the house? Maybe, just maybe, they haven't unpacked the knick-knack boxes!!!

This makes me wonder something else: Did you find the house a bit "sterile" without the knick-knacks and other kinds of items that give the place personality and tell you something about the people who live there?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 10:58PM
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Yep! I'm constantly working towards a more minimalist house. :) My biggest challenge (besides the boxes in the garage) are surfaces in main living areas-like the kitchen table and countertop. There's something about the kitchen counter that says, put all your mail here, and your keys, and shopping bags, and (everything!). Sometimes I want to grab a box and shove everything into it just to finally have it done. Other than the daily junk, I try to just keep a few special things on the counter. It makes wiping it down so much easier. I only have a few things I really love in my kitchen, like my cookie jar and the spaghetti jar from my honeymoon. :) If I ever get a fancy mixer, it will earn a spot on the counter, but right now, even the toaster gets put back in the cabinet because we only make toast every once in a while.

Jannie, your post reminded me of a book i read maybe a year ago. It was called Scaling Down and one of the authors talked about going to a vacation house and coming home and wanting that "vacation house" feel in her home. It was good, I might have to read that again.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 11:11PM
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pammyfay, you are right. They do have loads of storage space (which I don't) so that everything could be put in a cabinet or drawer. I did notice one deep cupboard that held the boxes to their TV's and small appliances. The house did have personality, though. It's hard to explain. For instance, the pictures on the walls and the special tiles on the steps to the basement. The house just wasn't cluttered and mine is. I really don't like clutter and aim to get rid of it all. Unfortunately, that would mean getting rid of DH as well (LOL). But I rent and never stay in one place long enough to call it home which makes it doubly hard for me.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 11:47PM
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Marie, your comment about being a renter reminds me of my younger years. I moved from apartment to apartment every three years, when my lease was up. Every time I moved I pared down and cleaned out my kitchen supplies, like spices and empty butter tubs, excess storage containers,etc. It was very liberating. Each time I moved, I was forced to buy new kitchewn supplies. Everything in my kitchen was fresh and clean.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 11:27AM
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I've been following this thread with interest because compared to how we used to live before we remodeled, we are now minimalists.

It seems to me that having a recent design/remodel is a big part of what someone here called minimalist decorating. A significant amount of clutter comes from not having places for new appliances and other lifestyle changes that weren't around when the house hwas designed. But it isn't just decor, or even storage. It takes serious self-discipline to keep a house from getting cluttered with stuff.

Going through a major remodeling is probably even more of a declutterer than moving, at least it was for us. If we'd moved, there would have been a lot of stuff we would have taken with us "just in case" and then not gotten rid of once we knew we didn't need it, like those nearly universal boxes that don't get unpacked years after people move in. But when you've lived in the house and know what it's going to need, and just about anything you decide to keep will have to be moved out, stored, and then moved back again, it's easier to give away whatever you aren't using and/or that which doesn't mean a great deal. Then after living through the worst kind of mess, we craved order. Plus, as the remodeling developed, we saw our house as spaces rather than stuff. So when we moved things back we were amazed at how much didn't make that cut. And even though we weeded things down to the stuff we really love and use, we still have more stuff than we'd like to keep around.

I realize now how much we used to enjoy the acquisition of new things, shopping, going to auctions and yard sales, giving and receiving presents. It really hurts when we get the opportunity to acquire something we've always wanted but have to turn it down because it means either adding clutter or getting rid of something else we love.

The reward is that our stuff no longer overwhelms us, and cleaning is much easier.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 3:20PM
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I've rented some lovely vacation condo's and apartments that give me the minimalist feel. Especially since they don't have crammed junk drawers and over-flowing boxes in the closet! Cleaning out houses after relatives have passed have also made me think about what I have acquired and why I keep it.

The house I have been living in for the last fourteen years is not quite there, yet. But I can find the things I have and don't feel the need to shop and bring home more, more, more. I have also come to the conclusion that most of my photos are now going to be saved digitally and viewed on the tv with the exception of a few photo books. I spent hours scanning decades of old photos and then giving them away or keeping one nice stash. I went through my kitchen gadgets and purged about 75% about 5 years ago and still have not regretted a thing. In the bathroom I cleared out all but the essentials. I ask my family not to buy me bath gels and lotions since I found one type that really works for me. It took me years to use up all the others.

We are not looking to stuff our home! Closets and drawers should not be where things go to die! I can really appreciate the calmness of a room when I know that the things in it are orderly and not 'stuffed.'

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 4:20PM
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As "living the dream" points out--a recent remodel does help, and also I left a lot of the knick knacks still in storage. Whatever was a clutter corner--we made sure to reroute. We used to have a section of the kitchen counter that attracted clutter. Now we have a desk around the corner, closer to the door with electrical outlets. That invites cell phones to be plugged in, etc. Also it rained during the remodel which got rid of some of the overstuffed furniture.
A young couple doesn't have all those yearbooks from high school, and the trophies from their soccer years or those formal dresses from high school--they are still at Mom's!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 6:34PM
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My son visited us 2 years ago and I had a shoebox filled with his school trophies. At the time he said he didn't want them. I couldn't bring myself to throw them away and the box really didn't take up much room. When I visited him this time, I mentioned the box again. He now wants them. This is one of those few times that keeping something worked out.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 9:47PM
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cleanclosetgirl, I just wanted to say that I'm going to get the book you mentioned out of the library (although it's under $7 on Amazon--I checked!). Thanks for letting us know about it.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 2:08PM
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"Sometimes I dream about getting fired from my job so I can spend whatever time it takes to clear all the junk out of our house." - harriethomeowner

I totally do that, too! Especially when I'm annoyed about something at work, I sit there and fantasize that my boss will fire me and I'll say "Fine with me!" and pack up my stuff and drive home. Then, before I look for another job, I'll spend a few weeks at home and totally clean organize the house!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 2:50PM
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My mother was cleaning house and offered me a few things, like a finger painting I did in kindergarten and my first Girl Scout guidebook. I took a look, but decided "no,thanks". I told her to throw them out,which she did.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2007 at 5:20PM
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I watched an episode of Frasier the other day and was wondering if you consider his apartment to be minimalist or is it just clean and uncluttered?

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 5:53PM
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To a real minimalist, I think Frazier's apartment would be "clean and uncluttered".

Minimalism is the use of the fewest and barest essentials or elements. Every once in a while Architectural Digest features an untra modern, acres of glass with a few load bearing steel beams type house - barely a solid wall to hang something on, sparse furniture, not even a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. A duvet in the master suite might be a colorful shade of grey.

It might be nice to pare down your life to be considered a minimalist, but gee whiz, you've got to have an extra toothbrush or roll of toilet paper somewhere. These AD articles never explain how storage space happens in these, at least to me, unliveable houses.

Been doing some decluttering myself; using up or disposing of excesses. I find that liberating enough. And though I don't define myself by my possessions, some of my things are very dear and I want them around me.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 8:05PM
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I've been in the process of simplifying my household for 2 years now. I've burned, taken to the dump, given away, rented a space at a consignment shop for 2 years and had 2 garage sales and I still have stuff...
I can hardly believe it's taken this much time but I'm being slow and methodical. I've even gone through the same areas more than twice, each time getting rid of more and more that I can live without. My kitchen is getting down to the bare nubs. Items I use seasonally/occasionally will have a home in the garage, since it's been flushed out, too.

I love this feeling!

It's coupled with the fact that I hate cleaning house and a realization that I was buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff. I want to be able to clean without moving a bunch of things--that's why I neglect it. Too much stuff to clean/dust/move.

I have a handle on that and my finances now. I don't have a large home and I just don't have room! I can't believe all the money I've wasted over the yars buying stuff just because it was a good deal/or I really liked it. Never mind the fact that there's no place to put it besides under the bed or in a closet...crazy!

I had to get a grip and I did.
I should be free and clear with a clean, neat home by this Spring :~) A place for EVerything and EVerything in its place!

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 8:44PM
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You know most everything anyone owns is just kept for memorable reasons. What I did last time we moved was have a huge garage sale, sold almost everything and started over. Oh it is so much easier and I am so much happier. I have what I need and all of the clutter that I thought I loved is gone. Funny how there was so much stuff I almost cried as it was sold but now I never even miss them. It was my experience that once all of my junk was gone, my life was much easier. Easier to keep clean and much easier to find what I needed. Throughout my life I collected momentos of everything that I did, but it really was just clutter! This is just my opinion, but now I just dont bring it home, dont buy it, and dont care to clutter my house with it.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 11:28AM
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The epitome of minimalist living would have to be Philip Johnson's Glass House. I'm hoping to visit it in the Spring.

Here is a link that might be useful: Philip Johnson's Glass House

    Bookmark   December 16, 2007 at 7:07PM
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Just ordered the Scaling Down book, used, from amazon. Browsed its contents first and think they'll be useful because of all the tips in their chapter on how not to clutter up your new place.

Ironically, one of the biggest items I am working to pare down now is ALL MY BOOKS!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 9:55AM
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When we moved to a new house we'd built and intended to sell within the same year, we decided to pare down and place a lot of our stuff into temporary storage. In order to keep the house looking neat and clean, it needed to have the least amount of stuff in it, so dusting/wiping surfaces only involved that, not also dusting and moving around the items/knickknacks that lived on the surfaces. It was easier to clean that way. House sold and dh hauled in our storage stuff to go through, I was stunned at the stuff I'd stored (because I felt it had value) that I'd either forgotten about or didn't miss! It was more than 75% of it.

I think a lot of people, me included, find some satisfaction or thrill in finding/buying items that are unique/good price/hard find, there's something about a conquest that keeps us buying. It's so important to take a breath and really ask yourself about the things you're buying, whether it's really necessary or is it about trying to fill an empty void in your life (spiritually).

    Bookmark   December 22, 2007 at 3:09PM
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I am trying to cure myself of hoarding things. I buy light bulbs, batteries, swifter pads and mop heads, vacumn cleaner bags, hot and cold wraps for sprains and aches, other things I think should be on hand. I feel the need to have a store inside my house, so I'll have these things when I need them, but then when I do need them, I never remember that I have them and I go to the store.

Books - I love to read and I purchase hard covers because I tell myself that when the rooms occupied by my sons are finally empty, I'll create a floor to ceiling wall of books and have the rolling ladder too. Will I really re-read all these books I have already read?

So I am currently going through the things in my bedroom closet and forcing myself to throw away. I mean jeez somethings go easily, like the lotions, soaps and shower gels, that were kept after visiting swanky hotels around the country, but are now crystalized in the bottles or have taken on the look of tar; it's easy to finally toss them, but oh look, there are the little tee shirts and booties that the twins came home in over 20 years ago...

    Bookmark   December 27, 2007 at 3:56AM
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