Friday, November 19, 2010

Having Less (and a Giveaway notice)

Reader Jessica asks: "I remember a while back on your blog, you mentioned that you are a minimalist and have only what you need (in terms of clothes and such). Can you tell me how you arrived at that? I'd like to get our family to become more simple in terms of our possessions...."

I get this question often both from blog readers and real-life friends, so I thought I'd share some brief thoughts here:

First, my husband and I are minimalists naturally. We both tend to get frustrated at extra stuff lying around. For my part I become easily overwhelmed by lots of things. Unfortunately this extends even to good things like books and homeschooling materials. The number of songs on my iPod can be a source of stress. [I recently moved my toaster to the cabinet below in order to have more "visual peace" (which for me equates to mental peace) in the kitchen. There was plenty of countertop space before, but I needed visually to see less stuff there.] Honestly I wish I were more relaxed. Somewhere in the middle of excess and minimalism is ideal, and we all have to strive toward that end from whichever direction we are starting.

If you don't have natural tendencies toward having less you can adopt some solid household principles. Start with one or two....say, give away clothing you haven't worn in more than a year, or keep only your children's very best artwork...etc. Try to make concrete principles so you know exactly when you need to give or throw something away. You can even adopt the general principle that if a particular object is in question for keeping or giving....always give.

Years ago I heard someone say, "If we have what we don't need, we're taking away from someone who does." I love this thought. Though I think it can be taken too far, it's a principle that comes to the forefront of my mind whenever deciding whether to keep a particular item or not. It must be a good principle, because inevitably I end up giving the item in question away and am always happy I did.

I know there's a lot more I could cover...Christmas (for that I send you to this beautiful post), birthdays, craft supplies....but hopefully this can give you a start.

On a related note, for those of you who sew or quilt please stay tuned on Monday. Let's just say the thought of having more fabric than I need has been lingering.... :)


Elisa said...

I'm like you. The military has made it almost mandatory for us to remain unattached to material things. The less we have when moving time comes around every 2 years, the better. So we keep it to a minimum. I also, have never regretted giving something away. You can't outgive God in generosity and sometimes when I really want something, and I just wait...and I get it! I had no lazy chairs last place we lived and I really wanted one. I just waited...then a friend gave me one, out of the blue! It's happened with other things too. Anyways, my kids still have too many toys for my comfort level, mostly from other people. Would you do a post on what you personally think is reasonable for kids toys? That would be awesome.

Jennifer Kollert said...

I like the way you think.
Here are two very inspiring stories that I recently found:
The Pilgrim of Peace

The girl who silenced the world for five minutes:

Both of them cover your point of view. One covers it completely radical, the other touches on your points.

Kelly said...

I'm so with you on this. Less is always more to me. It is a constant struggle in our home to keep it decluttered. With 10 of us occupying this space it fills up very quickly with "stuff". Paper clutter especially is the bane of my existence.

My daughter has started to learn how to sew with her grandmother over the past year. So we are anxiously awaiting the giveaway post! :)

Sarah said...

I hopped over here from the Bubble. :) I love this post and this concept. I just want to add one word of caution: Make sure the person really wants what you're giving them (and that you don't accidentally send the message that you are "unloading" on them)! For some reason, my generous friends who love to de-clutter and minimize (as do I) will very often try to give me their unwanted stuff (not sure why I look like I need it? Lol). It get stressful constantly fending off the unwanted gifts and hand-me downs, and when I "give in" to their generous offers, I then have the stress of trying to figure out how to get rid of their stuff myself. :( Don't get me wrong... I LOVE receiving gifts and have really benefited from some of the stuff given to me. It can just be a challenge to be on the receiving end sometimes. :)

Kristen Laurence said...

Elisa, I'm no authority on what's reasonable for a particular family to have in terms of toys. (Again, I veer too far on the side of less.) Every family has different needs. Perhaps a set of questions would help though:

Do I have the space for this?
Do my children still play with this?
Do they play with this properly or does it get thrown around?
Does this contribute to the good of the household and family life (foster sibling relationships, help mom buy some needed time, etc.)?

Okay, now you've got me thinking about some of our outdoor toys gathering dust! :)

Kristen Laurence said...

Sarah, oh yes! You are so right. I don't pass anything along to a friend unless I know she truly needs it. We simply donate to charity. Easy and always well received!

Paula said...

I'm trying to be more minimalist with possessions. I am like you when it comes to visual peace. I can't stand having anything on the counters, but I don't have a lot of cupboard space. My solution was to purchase an under-the-cabinet toaster and coffeemaker. Love them!

Elizabeth Foss said...

I like clean, uncluttered spaces and I also like not having too much stuff to manage, but I have regretted giving things away. A few years ago, I gave away all my size six clothes. I'd just had my 8th baby and was in my forties and figured I'd never see a size six again. Eighteen months later, my daughter was a new teenager--and could easily have worn most of those clothes. We can't begin to replace that wardrobe and every time I go shopping for necessities for her, I'm reminded of what I now see as imprudence. Sometimes, my purging is just as emotional and impulsive as someone's binge buying..

Kristen Laurence said...

Elizabeth, I don't know. I don't think we should ever regret giving things away...even if we must re-purchase later. Giving is rarely imprudent, so long as we're spreading our excess to those who truly need what we're not using.

I can see why one would deem it wasteful to have to buy now something previously given (we're spending on the same thing twice, right?), but if we look at it from the perspective of having helped someone in their time of need, I just don't see any fault.

Throwing good belongings in the, there's an imprudence to be addressed!