Our journey to minimalism hasn’t been quick, nor has it been something simple enough to condense into a single post. Many people have told me that they found what I am writing as inspirational to their journey, so I will do my very best to outline the first three steps I took! These are the first three steps I took (after the initial realization that *I* needed to change, and the acceptance that I didn’t have to have my family living the way we were) to achieve the current place in our journey.
Since I will be going into the steps in more detail, I will split this into three posts with one step highlighted in each one.
STEP 1: Clothing
If you read my post with The Ugly Truth, you saw that we were at the breaking point when it came to laundry.
There was *constant* piles of laundry. Mountains of laundry. I felt like there was absolutely no way that I could catch up let alone have my laundry completely done. I think that laundry was the biggest source of stress, and I know that I cried over laundry too many times to count. Actual tears. I’m not even going to be embarrassed about admitting that because this blog is about being real. Life isn’t perfect. Life is messy and full of tears and stress, but also full of happiness and joy. I’m going to help to show you how I managed to get rid of some of the stress and tears, which brought me absolutely nothing but joy and peace and freedom.
To start, I minimized the clothing like I described in my family closet post. Now, this is numbers that worked for my family. Having a large family means different family dynamics, so what works for me may not be what works for you.
I knew my goal. No piles of laundry! I wanted all the clothing to be in a central location, which would make putting it away easy and allow me to not have to have a treasure hunt throughout the house finding dirty clothing. I don’t like hampers. They are cluttery and smelly! I decided there was no reason we couldn’t completely ditch all hampers in our home. Instead we use our *empty* washing machine as a hamper and as soon as it is full it is run!
Isn’t it so much nicer to have a washing machine without a pile of clothing in front of it?
I also knew that I wanted to have all the clothing fit in bins to eliminate dressers and the need for closets (with the exception of the closets in my bedroom). We set up our family closet to allow each child a bin for their clothing.
The trick of course was to figure out how to have only enough clothing to fit in one of these bins! I knew I had to pare down, so I started with the rule of 3.
I say I started with it, because I have further condensed since I began. However, the rule of 3 is a good start. Once I had pared the children’s clothes down to the rule of 3, I had MOUNDS of clothes that were not in the children’s bin (you can see more of our bin system in my post about my family closet). So much excess. I then purged through the clothing with either keep/toss/donate. Anything that was in excellent – like new condition was in the keep pile. Anything that was unlikely to be worn but new, or had some wear but no stains or tears went into the donate pile. Anything with stains or rips went into the toss pile (you can donate these too, if you know of a fabric recycling location).
This left me with a smaller pile of keep to store. Many minimalists don’t believe you should have any storage. However large family dynamics and being a good steward of my husbands income requires me to make use of storage. Does this make me a poor minimalist? Perhaps! But this is what works for us!
I went through the “keep to store” pile with a focus on usefulness, practicality and things the kids like. In general, most of the t-shirts were donated or tossed as these are quick to wear out, especially since two of my kids are shirt chewers. The good news is that you can often find t-shirts for less than $5 in shops or make them with jersey fabric relatively inexpensively. Most of what I store is jeans, extra socks and underwear (most packs of socks come in more than 3) and off size items. It is rare that we have off size since our kids are very close in ages (the boys are 4, 6, 7, 9 and 11 and the girls are 18m & 3) but I do occasionally have off size in a bin, and I keep a few items for my oldest in his next size up when I find them on sale or given to me)
Here is our storage. I have two bins with girls clothing, 3 bins with boys clothing, 1 bin of coming home outfits (keepsakes), 1 bin of coming home blankets (keepsakes), 1 bin of spring coats and rain jackets, 1 bin of toques and mittens, 2 bins of winter boots and rain boots, and 1 bin of sandals and shoes. The reason we have 2 bins of boots is that we have put away all our boots for the season and they are bulky! Each of these bins is about 1.5′ x 1.5′ x 2′. I like to use clear bins that have lids, so I can see inside each bin. I also label all my storage so that I know where everything is meant to go, and it helps when the kids need to get something or put something away.
Now, if I limited my children’s clothing and didn’t look to my own clothing, that would make me a hypocrite. So I too have a minimal closet. Perhaps slightly more items since I don’t pack up off season clothing.
Here is my closet
I personally kept:
3 sweaters, six tank tops (I layer them so more like 3), 3 pants, 2 t-shirts, 2 pyjamas, 2 workout outfits, 3 skirts and 2 dresses (1 casual and 1 formal). I keep my pyjamas in the bin above the clothing and my socks and underclothing in the bins beneath my bookshelf. I also keep my bath towel in my closet.
Now, I am a stay at home mama that homeschools, so really I don’t have anyone to impress! Perhaps you are a working mama and need more clothing or more catagories! Bottom line is that you should do what you need to in order to make things work!
My husband followed the ripple effect, and began to minimize his clothing as well. So we all are on the same page, I do one load of laundry per day and that is all. That’s it! Its so easy, and so life changing.
Coats/Jackets/bed sheets/linens and blankets can also be placed in this clothing category and done in a similar fashion.
Our family has 1 coat per person per season, the boys coats are hung in their room and all off season coats are washed and packed for storage. We also each have one pair of shoes per person per season (so 1 runner, 1 sandal, 1 rubber boots, 1 winter boots). I also have an extra pair of shoes that can be worn with a skirt. We buy good quality shoes and jackets that can be passed down child after child. All of our boys wear jackets from MEC and Keen shoes, which have survived through three boys and still lived to tell the tale! It is important to me that we invest in good quality clothing and shoes because it means we will actually need less as they will last longer.
At one point, our linen closet was exploding. There was so much in there, and honestly we never needed it all! I decided to go down to 1 bed sheet, 1 duvet/comforter, and one pillowcase per bed. We have 5 twin beds, two toddler size beds and 1 king bed. I also kept 1 additional twin sheet/pillowcase and 1 additional toddler sheet/pillowcase for emergency use. I did not keep any extra king sheets. There is also 1 blanket per person additional, that we cuddle up with downstairs for family movie nights or take camping with us.
We have 1 towel per person, with an extra for myself (since I have long hair) and two other spares. We have 4 hand towels and some face cloths as well!
In our laundry room I have a drawer for washing rags, and one for socks without a mate.
And that is all of our spaces! The more we go along, the easier it is for me to see what we actually need. Sometimes I reduce further, other times I add something into the mix. I try to keep it fluid without putting expectations on myself! The whole goal here was for me to have reduced stress, so if at any point I have increased stress or anxiety it is time for me to re-evaluate what I need to do.
I will move to the next step in my process, the kitchen, in my next post (found here). I hope today’s post inspired someone that it is possible to live free from slavery to stuff!
As always if you have any questions, please leave a comment or head over to my Faith & String page and send me a message!