Inspiring reads (for a wet Sunday!)

On my journey to learn more about minimalism and slow living I’ve started to collect a few books that offer hints, tips and guidance. Yes I know this works against the minimalist mantra of having few possessions (especially books) but I like to think that those I keep are valuable to me. I certainly dip into them a lot and find their contents to be very inspirational:

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

I do have a slight crush on this French women who lives with her family in the US, has a beautiful clutter and waste free house and dresses wonderfully using a very small wardrobe. Her book is full of practical tips on how to eliminate waste in your house. For example she goes shopping with bags and glass jars and doesn’t accept any packaging (not even for her meat and fish which goes straight into the jars). For further information take a peak at her website here or watch this fascinating youtube video:

 

The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

This was the first book on minimalism that I bought (well actually it was the second as I returned the first). It’s written by Francine Jay, aka  Miss Minimalist  and is both a  good introduction to minimalism and a practical guide to decluttering your home and your life.  I often use it when tackling one of my rooms in my never ending quest to reduce stuff.

Timless Simplicity by John Lane.

This beautifully illustrated book was published nearly fifteen years ago. It fits in with the minimalist ethos but talks more about stepping away from a busy, consumer lifestyle and has more of a spiritual dimension to it. It has passages devoted to the simple pleasures of food and eating, the garden, homemaking and just being present in the everyday which I find inspirational to read.

Less is More by Brian Draper.

I picked this up last week in a charity shop. Like the above book it talks more about spirituality and of being present: appreciating the sights, sounds and things going on around you rather than being busy planning the future.

Books by Amanda Blake Soule

Amanda’s Soulemama blog is very popular. She lives a gentle, self sufficient life homeschooling her family in the US. Her blog has beautiful images and words (especially the Friday image posts) and her books are full of handy crafting projects to do with the family. She doesn’t pursue a minimalist lifestyle but she seems to endorse a slow living lifestyle, away from the fast paced consumer driven world.

The Green Parent Magazine

I can’t tell you how much I love this magazine. I started reading it in 2005 when it was very new and (despite my best intentions not to hoard) I have kept every copy since. It is is created in Sussex by a small family unit and speaks to everyone (parent or not) who wants to pursue a gentler lifestyle. I have to confess I have written a few articles for the magazine in the past but don’t let that put you off….

There are also other books which I have read (but not kept), borrowed from the library (or have on order):

 The Power of Less – Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta runs Zen Habits, an extremely popular blog about minimalist living. This book was the first one that I bought on the subject but it didn’t quite fit in with what I needed at the time. It seems to be more about creating a better work-life balance, which wasn’t so relevant to me then. His blog is definitely worth a read, though.

Tom Hodgkinson – How to be an Idle Parent; How to be Idle

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of The Idler magazine, an annual (now online) publication that extolls the virtues of doing nothing, or doing it slowly and taking pleasure in what you do. I borrowed the ‘The Idle Parent’ from the library and loved its laid-back, hands-off approach to parenting.I came across ‘How to be Idle’ in a charity shop but as I had already purchased ‘Less is more’ I decided to order it from the local library and read it at leisure.

The Minimalists – Everything that remains

I was luck enough to catch The Minimalists on their UK book tour last year. I am currently trying to order this from the local library. When you borrow a book from a UK public library the author(s) receives a small fee which is worth bearing in mind when buying/borrowing books.

I’m sure you may have other suggestions to add to this small reading list – I would love to hear them. Happy reading!

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The Minimalism Game and getting rid of things

As well as taking part in SecondhandFirst Week I’ve also – sort of – signed up to the Minimalism Game, or rather 30 Days of De-cluttering. To recap, The Minimalism Game encourages participants to get rid of items every day, starting with one thing on Day One, two things on Day Two etc. By my calculations that should be 465 items by the end of the month!

Today is Day 19 and I’ve lost track of what I have got rid of. I haven’t been very systematic but instead done the de-cluttering in fits and starts.

In many ways the clearing out has been the easiest bit as there are many things I have been itching to get rid of. The harder part has been getting the items out of my house, rather than just being stored in bags and boxes in our porch.

So far I have found the following ways to get rid of unwanted items:

– Recycling boxes, and also the dustbin for broken items

– Clothing has principally gone to the Charity Recycling Bin at school:

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– Ditto with shoes.

– I have given various bags of household items, toys and books to local charity shops.

– I am also saving a couple of bags of Christmas decorations, toys, games and unwanted picture frames for the Church Christmas Bazaar

– Good as new or unopened craft and toys are being saved for the village football team’s raffle.

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– I have avoided Freecycle completely and donated larger items for free via the local ‘Free, Sell or Swap’ facebook site. I’ve found that through this site people have collected when they said they would, or I’ve been able to drop it at their homes. Having spent ten days waiting for a bike not to be collected via Freecycle I have found the facebook site to be far more efficient.

– I have also sold a few good quality items through this facebook site and another ‘Prebaby’ site on facebook.

It has been very therapeutic removing things no longer needed from our home. I love to see the clearer space in cupboards and less stuff has made cleaning so much easier.

Alongside the Minimalism Game I am still trying to de-clutter for Christmas while also thinking about what tactics I can use to ensure I’m not going through this whole exercise again after the festive season….

 

De-cluttering for Christmas in a small home

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Apologies for the early use of a Christmas bauble!

 

Last week I went to see The Minimalists on their UK book tour. I have been exploring minimalism for a while and, even before seeing Joshua and Ryan in person, I had planned a massive de-clutter session at home.

There are many reasons why I like the idea of minimalism: of owning less, spending less and using your time to pursue the simple things. There are many environmental, financial and social benefits to following this lifestyle.

There is also a very practical reason for doing this: we are a family of five living in a small 18th century cottage. Roughly speaking our total floorspace (upstairs and downstairs) is 800 square foot. Using this interesting blog post here from Shrink That Footprint you can see that this is roughly the same size as an average new home* in the UK today. Only Hong Kong, China and Russia have smaller new homes. And in the US the square footage is a whopping 2,164 for a new home (something The Minimalists allluded to in their talk).

So you can see space is tight. Particularly in the girls’ bedrooms. My eldest has a room measuring 66 square foot; my younger two share a room that is 80 square foot. They also have generous grandparents and we have lots of friends who give us hand me downs. So, despite my love for all things second-hand, I am constantly de-cluttering and making space for toys, clothes and, well just things.

With the festive season creeping upon us I have set myself the ambitious aim of De-Cluttering for Christmas. I want to pare down the possessions that we have, to keep only those things that are useful and are used. I know that, in return, we will receive more stuff for Christmas although I am working on that.

In the meantime my de-cluttering plan sort of looks like this:

WEEK 13 Oct: Kitchen

WEEK 20 Oct: Conservatory/Office Part One

WEEK 27 Oct: Kids’ small toys (they are on half term break so can help with this one)

WEEK 3 Nov: Kids’ large toys

WEEK 10 Nov: Christmas decorations

WEEK 17 Nov: Bedrooms (incl clothing)

WEEK 24 Nov: Bathroom

WEEK 3 Dec: Loft (esp kids’ clothes, books, houseware)

WEEK 10 Dec: Lounge, then put decorations up

WEEK 17 Dec: Conservatory/Office Part Two (with husband’s help as he has a lot of stuff stored here)

I’ve already de-cluttered the kitchen and given away a tonne of cookery books on Freecycle as well as paring down my utensils quite significantly. I’ve also sorted through the kids’ craft supplies, which are also stored in the kitchen. I focused on the quality pens, paper, paints etc and they can now see the wood for the trees and are starting to enjoy using the smaller – but better – selection of art materials.

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Good quality pens and crayons from Djeco, Staedtler and Smiggle for the girls’ art drawer

 

Do you have any plans to de-clutter for the Christmas season – or, better still – any tips on reducing the festive stuff that comes into your home?

 

*I’m assuming this is what we’d call ‘Starter Homes’ in the UK – a lot of new builds round our way are at least four bedroom and more thna we can afford.

The Minimalists: UK Book Tour

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Sometimes I think the stars are alligned, the fates are doing whatever they’re meant to be and things happen for a reason….

I have talked briefly about my recent flirtation with minimalism and the idea of having less. From reading about minimalism and starting to declutter myself I came across Project 333 and started to mimimise my wardrobe.

Then yesterday I read a post from Jen at the brilliant blog: mymakedoandmendyear. She had just been to see The Minimalists on their UK book tour. The Minimalists are two American men who, for the past few years, have followed the course of minimalisim and blogged and written about it. If you start to ‘google’ minimalism their names will certainly appear.

I was very excited to read Jen’s post about seeing them in the flesh. Imagine my delight when I casually clicked onto their book tour link and discovered they were talking (for free) in Bristol last night! (about a 4o min journey from where I live). So, after arranging childcare, I whizzed across to Bristol to see the Minimalists in person!

While they were ostensibly in the UK to promote their latest book, ‘Everything that Remains’, it was clear that Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus wanted to talk about much more than that.  There was absolutely no pressure to buy the book – but you could still queue for a hug (I had to run for my train which meant there was no time to pick up a copy or get a hug which I may have felt rather British and awkward about!).

Joshua and Ryan talked about their individual journeys away from earning huge bucks, owning lots of things and being unhappy to life changing events that led to getting rid of many possessions and embracing a simpler life and work balance. They were funny, self effacing and friendly and genuinely passionate about what they had discovered about living a minimalist life.

As I have spent the past year learning more about minimalism a lot of what they said (‘possessions don’t own you; keep only what is useful and adds something to your life’) was already familiar to me. I have to confess that, being a mother of three small children in a small cottage in the English countryside made me think I didn’t have much in common with two single American men in their thirties. But yet what they said made so much sense and is so universal that I came away feeling even more inspired to get rid of more possessions, embrace the simple things and focus on time spent with my family.

So you see it was all meant to be….