In our modern quest for simplicity, minimalism has rightly gained a prominent voice and yet the practical application, for me, has been full of contradictions and surprises. As I looked around my minimalist log home, I realized there are 3 areas I actually have more of. The irony stuck me hard. As a minimalist, is it possible to have more? Should you have more?
Yes, absolutely yes and it's still true minimalism.
Now, I know many minimalists talk about having more time, more experiences, and more happiness in their relationships. That is all amazingly true in my life as well when I donated over 560+ bags to charity. However, I surprised my minimalist-self when I was going through my daily routines and started counting actual physical items. Surprisingly, I have acquired more - but still maintained an extreme level of minimalism.
As I transitioned from border-line-hoarder to hard-core minimalist, I learned several important principles. It’s alright to have more if you truly need more. I found the items in the following categories actually increased as I donated more and more random clutter to charity.
1) money-saving items- You may need more money-saving in general and therefore money-saving items can truly help the household finances. What home doesn’t need a little bit extra in the finances? These are items or supplies that truly, actually, no-guessing allowed, save money. For example, I started buying soap in bulk for the year. I have more soap than I ever did before, but there’s less variety. I have only one kind of soap but two gallons of it, instead of six different kinds with small amounts. This actually saves our household tons of money and me the headache of trying to remember to buy the cheap, toxic amounts at the store. I purchase the gallon soap at a local community food co-op. Monetarily it’s a win. Minimalism-wise, it’s still a win.
2) long-term items- You may need more items that don’t wear out. Anyone else tired of the disposable nature of absolutely everything these days? These are items that I would never have paid the money for prior to adopting minimalism. Now, I see the value in having one item for a longer duration of time. For example, I buy quality wool coats for my children. The up-front cost is at least 50% more than cheap plastic coats even though I still buy them used. However, the coats last through each child as they grow. Plus, I don’t need to buy any other coats and waste precious shopping time each season change. I don’t dry clean them, but only spot clean as needed. It also helps the children understand and be good stewards of wool items, i.e. don’t roll in the mud like a puppy, please! If they do get muddy, they get to learn about minimalism and environmental stewardship and fast fashion all while scrubbing their own wool coat. Personal responsibility is best. I buy more long-term items now because I see the value thanks to minimalism.
3)multi-use items - As a business woman and homeschool mom of six, this is my secret weapon. Multi-use items are simply life-changing. You definitely need more multi-use items in your life. I have less of everything, but more of items that can be used multiple ways. For example, I have more kitchen towels that can be used as napkins, baby bibs, silly hats for children folding laundry, sponges to wash dishes, hot pads, oven mittens, sandwich wrappers, and so much more! All from cotton towels that I buy in the automotive section. Durability and frugality are concepts that I enjoy every time I use these cotton towels.
Once you can see the creativity of multi-use items around you, a whole new dimension is opened up in seeing answers you already own instead of purchasing to fill a need.
Now, while I always like broad principles, I also found in my minimalist journey a desperate need to understand the “how.” What is the practical application? And seriously, “how" do you do this with a busy household, business, and family?
Here’s my focused, two-step strategy:
Start Mafia-style: What I mean is that I began consolidating secretly throughout my day. Each time I saw a multi-use for the kitchen towels, I would slowly eliminate the duplicate item. Do I normally grab a cotton towel because all the hot pads are dirty? Next time the hot pads are clean, I put half away on my “mafia shelf” to see if we truly miss them. Eventually, I got rid of all the hot pads entirely. My “mafia shelf” is where I stash items in black garbage bags (no white or see-through allow) until they either earn there way back as they are truly, deeply needed or they end up donated. This process can be slowly done in the course of normal life in 30 seconds or less. My mafia shelf is in the kitchen up located up high so that no one else knows what actually goes on there. Shhhh. Please don’t tell!!
Think mathematically: Now if you’re not a math person, don’t despair. There’s probably a math-minded person somewhere in your life longing to help. You or your math helper can start counting your multi-use items. Think through how many uses a certain item can have. How many different “jobs” can your cotton towels possibly do? Plenty! Next, add up how much money you can save by not buying the duplicate, single-job items. The math fun is endless here and the key is to keep it fun. Once you’ve figured those amounts, don’t spend the money. Put it in a jar marked “adventures” and take some time to thoroughly plan family fun and memories. We just started going to take our children to the National Parks and learn the history of our country. That’s worth not buying any extra sponges or hot pads for a year.
At first, when I decided to get my house in order, I was extremely serious. Yet, along the way, I’ve been able to laugh, lighten-up, enjoy ironies, and choose what works best for my family in each season. If that means that we actually have more cotton towels than I ever did before, that’s alright. So, whatever your household needs are in this season, be bold and creative in thinking through multi-use items, money-saving items, and long-term items as you work to create your best inspired life - and remember to keep it fun along the way.
Blessings for your journey,