Tuesday, April 26

There and Back Again: Our Tale of Minimal Living

So we moved. Again. We're tired and digging our way out of boxes, but we are so. happy. to be here. I'll have plenty to say about our new place in the next few weeks, but for tonight I'm going to catch my breath with a few pics from our time in the rental. With 90% of our stuff in storage for the last three months, we had a fun little taste of the minimalist trend. Here's what did we learn in the process.

Trying to keep my poor plants alive in a sunny window. I think I forgot to pack a green thumb. 

There were a few things here and there we actually had to go out and buy once we realized we really did need them (like hangers. I didn't bring any hangers. Oops.) but for the most part, we didn't really miss all that stuff. I actually enjoyed the "stuff silence." Less clutter = less clutter noise. (Trust me. It's a thing.) Whew. Plus it was the easiest it's ever been for me to keep the house looking decent, keep the dishes washed, and get toys picked up. And if that's not enough reason to want to pare-down permanently, I came across a post by Embracing Simple about 11 Reasons to Own Less Stuff, and I have to say it sounds pretty appealing. Especially since we already found several of the reasons to be true in just the last couple months.

Everything we brought fit in our minivan and my parents cargo van - mattresses, dishes, clothes, bikes, everything. Including a small deep freeze. I had put a lot of good food in there and I wasn't about to lose it, okay? We weren't able to bring any other large furniture, so once we got there we picked up a cheap futon and rug (because good grief that floor was cold in February). I'll be the first to say it - hasty decisions were made. But the price was right and they fit in the van so ding ding we had a winner! We brought a folding table and chairs that could get us by, but my sis-in-law offered us a real table and chairs they weren't using in the interim, plus a coffee table we used as a tv stand.

I think this room was supposed to be the formal living room, but with no garage, no basement, and no closets, it immediately became a storage room for empty boxes and bikes.

Upstairs we had a mattresses on the floor and a few boxes of clothes. I had the two small boxes stacked in the corner, and next to it was one box with all the baby's clothes and a second with extra burp cloths and blankets. Everything else went in storage. Husband hung his clothes in the closet... because he actually looks spiffy for work. It doesn't really matter if my clothes pajamas are a smidge wrinkled. Plus I have no patience for hangers. It's a win-win.

10 points to Gryffindor if you can spot the sleeping baby.

The boys had a mattress on the floor in their room, plus and extra room (we still don't know if it was supposed to be a closet or another small bedroom) attached to it where we kept their toys and clothes. Their clothes were pared down to one box each (although once we got there I divided them into two so I could find things a little easier). The only toys we took were legos, tinker toys, a few super heroes, a few cars, and a stack of books. They could still make a decent mess with those (as you can see) but we could have them all picked up in just a few minutes!

Oh, and off that extra room was the bathroom. It was an interesting set-up that required some tip-toeing after bedtime. But our biggest boy always kept the bathroom "decorated" so who can complain?

The only thing that was a bit of a struggle to size-down was the kitchen. Without any extra storage space (pantry? anyone?) it was hard to squeeze in even what I considered our more basic necessities.

It was nice having the washer/dryer on the main floor!

Ta-da! The kitchen. We had put so. much. kitchen stuff in storage, but I still had a hard time finding space for what we brought. We managed to fit most of the dishes, utensils, dishcloths, and such in the cupboards, but that still left us with a few larger pots and a whole lot of food sitting in boxes. It took all of two minutes for that to become frustrating.

Our main dishes actually condensed down to fit in one cupboard. It turns out if you wash dishes when you're done with them, you don't really need that many dishes. Crazy, right?! We found this to be a pretty sweet spot where we had enough dishes for things to run smoothly without having excess.

On day 2 we added storage for the rest of the kitchen things, because no matter how short the stay would be, those boxes we're going to be a pain. We put a small shelving unit by the fridge to serve as pantry space for all the food. Cleaning supplies went on top of the fridge (the most out-of-reach spot in the house), a magnetic hook held aprons, and our bulk storage buckets tucked into the corner.

On the opposite wall we added a small kitchen island along with our garbage/recycling cans and the freezer I couldn't leave behind.

The island cart was a perfect spot for our Berkey water filter, plus it held our larger pots, spices, and baking supplies.

And the freezer... was packed full to the top with goodies that thankfully made the trip. I was so glad I didn't have to start from scratch stocking up on our staple foods, especially the more expensive ones.

That's just about all we had with us the last few months. And it was totally fine. And there were things we loved about. But there were also things we didn't. It was amazing how it created a kind of instant simplicity in our lives. It was easier to clean, easier to manage laundry. It felt like we had more time since there wasn't much to maintain around the house. But most of our family lives out of town and it was tough to have them visit. We didn't have places for them to sleep or sit or enough towels or even enough plates!

Fast-forward to now. We've been in our new house a few weeks and, looking back, we don't see ourselves paring down quite that much long term. We loved the simplicity it offered, but it some ways we didn't find it completely practical. So as we've been sorting through boxes we are doing our best to reevaluate everything and ruthlessly get rid of what we truly don't need. It's been easier to get rid of some extra things after living without them so long. And I do believe less stuff can equal more freedom, and we don't want to waste time just managing the stuff we have. But we've realized that there are some areas of our lives where we want a little extra. We want enough dishes for guests. And enough towels. Enough beds and blankets. We don't want to limit the number of books we have for our boys. I want a closet full of pretty fabrics and threads at my fingertips. We want boxes upon boxes of hand-me-downs in the basement so we don't have to buy so many clothes for all these boys. But we're learning to prioritize the things we want while letting go of the things we don't need and shooting for that happy medium.

Wherever we end up on the stuff scale, we know one thing for sure: we had even more than we needed in those few boxes. And we are so thankful.

What's your take on the minimal trend? Been there done that? Want to give it a try? Or are you staying as far away as you can?


  1. It's hard to be a minimalist when you have creative kids with different interests, you have a mom who loves books and learning new things and reliving memories, and a dad who would much rather save something in case we need it rather than getting rid of it and then spending money on the same thing again. At the same time, as kids leave the home and their stuff goes with them, and smaller sizes are no longer for the nearly all-adult-sized household, paring down does get easier. However, I will probably hang onto lots of dishes, pans, and food storage containers, so I can feed the masses when they return--and I want them to visit often. It's a good trade off.

    1. Definitely a good trade off. :) We're working on figuring out what our trade-offs are. But would you believe I'm down to three purses?! ;)

  2. left out "needed" after "no longer" Sorry. :-)

  3. Hope you don't mind that I shared the link to this post with the 7 Study group (Jen Hatmaker's take on minimal living). Daughter Amanda is leading the study.

    1. Not at all! I'm flattered! I just recently started reading some of Jen Hatmaker's stuff, I'll have to look for this. Thanks! :)