We just got back from a two week trip to visit my parents. And holy crap, packing with a baby. Swim diapers, baby sunscreen, Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?, sound machine, pack’n’play, etc. I am a packing ninja. I went to Europe for two and a half weeks in the winter with one carry on size suitcase, and a tote bag. Yet now, when I venture to my parents’ house for two weeks, I need a 4Runner so packed that it requires the use of a roof carrier. It is shameful that I did not take a picture of the 4Runner with roof rack. Just visualize the dog beds, the dog food, the pack’n’play, the Bumbo, the BOB, and a bunch of other crap oozing out the windows.
(Not my actual car. Mine was a way hotter mess than this.)
I cannot stand clutter. Physical/environmental clutter makes me feel mentally cluttered. During college and grad school and my early to mid-twenties, I moved all the time. And every time I moved, I fantasized about burning everything I own.
Of course, upon moving I generally went out immediately to purchase more stuff for my new place. Because you know, the stuff I wanted to burn upon packing and moving was totally qualitatively different and inferior to these shiny new dish towels/book shelf/framed print. This new stuff was awesome and not going to make me want to burn it when I next moved. Except. I did want to burn it at my next move. Then there’s the 9 million black v-neck tees I own because they keep getting lost in my overpacked closet so I buy another one because hello, it’s a wardrobe staple. Which may be why I found a black v-neck from J.Crew with the tags still on it in the back of my closet last week. These days, I’m not moving every year like I used to (although a move looms on the horizon sooner rather than later as we have quickly outgrown our little house), but I still have too much junk and the clutter stresses me out. And sometimes wakes up the baby when I knock a bunch of crap over while he’s napping.
I know minimalism is one of the new cool things, but I do believe there is a lot of value in trying to consume less and focus on experiences rather than stuff. Especially for those of us who are mentally stressed and cluttered as a result of physical clutter. (This may be the reason I love staying in hotels- none of my stuff except the items I absolutely need, no visually distracting junk everywhere, just the essentials.) The Nester wrote about how being a “stuff manager” is nobody’s dream job. I love how The Minimalists describe minimalism as allowing us to reclaim time, contribute, find freedom from the burdens of consumerism, etc. Their 21 Day Journey Into Minimalism fascinated and inspired me, but the reality is that in my current life situation it just won’t work for me.
If I packed up everything I own and only kept the the things I removed from their boxes in the next couple of weeks, I would get rid of all my maternity clothes, the clothes Will has outgrown, the toys and baby stuff he doesn’t need anymore (like the swing), etc. But we hope and are planning for more children. Which would mean repurchasing all those things. Things that cost a lot of money. Spoiler alert- I won’t be giving all those things away. Instead I have under bed boxes jammed with outgrown baby clothes and an attic with a swing and cosleeper and bouncy seat packed into it. As much as having too much stuff in my house is driving me insane (and causing my sensitive Doberman to stay in his bed all day where he need not encounter large inanimate objects at every turn), I had pretty much come to the conclusion that being a mother and being a minimalist are mutually exclusive.
But then I changed my mind. As a woman is entitled to do. 😉
I can’t be a minimalist in the way a young, single professional guy can. I need more than 4 plates, 3 outfits, my laptop, and a few pieces of furniture. But I can get rid of what we truly don’t need and most likely won’t in the near future. I can stop buying things I don’t need.
Here’s how I’m trying to be a mom and a minimalist:
1. Get rid of stuff you really don’t need, and likely will not in the near future.
Like I said, this is different from how a single guy would tackle this. You might not need your maternity clothes in the next couple of months, but if you plan to have more babies, I wouldn’t toss them. If I think I need to keep something for the future, I try to ask myself if I can identify a specific situation in which I will need the item. Maternity clothes? Yes, during a future pregnancy. Faded and slightly stained placemats? No. Which is why I bought new ones. So the crappy ones need to go.
I have tried really hard to get rid of what we don’t need or use and to pare down to those things I need, love, or use regularly. I sent away for a bag from ThredUp, went through my closet and filled that bad boy with stuff to send in. (And hooray- I got $62 out of that deal!) I listed a bunch of books on Paperback Swap (pro tip- any book is okay, not just actual paperbacks), got rid of a whole bag of books that we’ve read and don’t want to keep because they aren’t loves or classics. And I got a bunch of credits to order free books in the future when I’m looking for a new book. Winning.
When we got married, we had a condoful and a houseful of furniture to merge, but only a house to put it in. So we ended up with a ton of furniture sitting in the garage. We sold several pieces on Craigslist because the reality is that after a mattress or couch or other upholstered furniture sits in the garage for a couple years, it’s not going to be awesome to bring it into a house.
I always, always have a Goodwill bag going and I drop it off at the donation center when it starts to get get full. Old running shoes with 500+ miles on them? Bye bye! Random knick knacky junk? Out you go!
2. Stop buying stuff you don’t need.
Yes, those baby jammies are really cute. But little man has five sets of jammies in his current size, so he probably does not need another. Yes, that 25% off Piperlime coupon code is tempting but let’s be honest, I wear flip flops, running shoes, and my two pairs of nice sandals on date night or to church.
I’m trying to remove temptation by unsubscribing from email lists and tossing catalogs before I open them and start thinking how my life will not be complete without that hurricane lamp from Pottery Barn, nevermind the fact that there is literally no surface in my house on which to put it.
The most effective way for me to stop buying what I don’t need is to wait. If it’s not a consumable or an obviously pressing need, I try to wait two weeks before buying it.
3. Sharing is caring, ladies.
Back to the maternity clothes and the outgrown baby clothes and the not-currently-in-use baby items like swings or exersaucers. I won’t toss this stuff and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else do so either. It’s too expensive to replace them and if you have another baby, you will need them. But the reality is that even if you had 10 kids (which you probably won’t), most of those items wouldn’t really wear out until you got pretty far down the line. And your maternity clothes would be VERY out of style by the time you go to number 10. So SHARE. Especially the big items. Pass that swing to your friend who has a little baby. She can give it back when she’s done and in the meantime you got the hulking piece of battery operated plastic out of your house for six months.
4. Mom Uniform
I learned this trick from Julia @ Pawley’s Island Posh. Invest in several pairs of shorts (or pants, or skirts) that you love and several high quality tees or other shirts that you can mix and match with them. A couple pairs of decent looking sandals or flats and you are in business. If you work outside the home, this might not work as well for you. But since I pretty much only go to Target and the splash pad, I don’t need nicer clothes. In the morning, I pretty much grab any pair of J.Crew shorts and a tee and I’m good to go. I don’t have to think about it and I don’t have a bunch of stuff I don’t wear cluttering my drawers and closet.
I would love to hear any other tips on how to be a mom and a minimalist you might have!