Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Becoming a Minimalist

This is not what my house looks like, but it's a pretty good representation of what my brain looks like these days:
photo credit
The last time I had a three month old baby I left my wallet at our local grocery store three times in one week. Three times! And even more impressive was that each time some noble citizen managed to return it to a store clerk, who then called me at home and invited me to come pick it up, cash and cards intact. This time around I was a little more prepared, which is to say, at least I knew the new baby brain dysfunction was coming. So, I make lists, enter dates and times into my phone, stick post-it notes around my house, and in general spend a whole lot of time each day trying to remember what it is that I'm supposed to be doing.

Last Saturday I dropped Kate off at her basketball game and thought, Why not stay and watch for a while? One of the other moms at the game asked me how things are going with the new baby and right as I explained how I tend to feel scatterbrained and disorganized, I suddenly remembered why I hadn't originally planned on staying to watch the basketball game. My other child was getting dropped off at home from a birthday party at any moment, and no one was at home. I leaped to my feet, grabbed my diaper bag, infant car seat and rushed out of the gym, calling goodbye over my shoulder. In "real life" I'm not a disorganized person and so this chronic feeling of being out of sorts and forgetful is making me loopy.

And then the other night as I was sitting in my friend's living room admiring the zen-like splendor of her sparkling, uncluttered house I had the overwhelming urge to sleepover. Or move in for a while. When I eventually peeled myself off her couch and drove home I walked through my own backdoor and felt assaulted by all the stuff laying around. My house is usually pretty clean, but after spending several hours at my friend's house I couldn't help but notice the difference in the feel of our homes. Her house is decorated tastefully, but there isn't a cluttered surface in sight. I could hardly believe three kids under the age of four live in that house. Judging by the clean lines on her office desk you wouldn't even think she gets mail delivered every day. Or at all. 

So I asked her the next day, "How do you have so many tiny kids and manage to keep your house looking so clutter-free and welcoming?" Her answer was more or less, "I'm a minimalist." She cheerfully consented to an on-the-spot interview about tips and methods she uses to keep her "stuff" under control. I'll summarize: 
  • If you haven't used it in six months, get rid of it. Sometimes this might come back to bite you, but most of the time you'll be glad for the semi-annual purge of unused things. This counts for clothes, dishes, toys, movies, etc. If you buy toys for Christmas that aren't being played with by June, get rid of them. This is perhaps the most important step. 
  • Write each month of the year on a file folder and deposit everything that comes in the mail, all of your paper clutter for the month, in its marked folder. Bills, birthday invitations, rec center schedules...put it all in one folder and you'll know exactly where things are. No filing. No looking in eight different places for the coupon you got in the mail last week. It's all in one folder and at the end of the year you can clean out the twelve folders and start again. Keep the folders in a desk drawer and voila, no more paper clutter. At all. 
  • Don't be sentimental about your "stuff." Stuff isn't what matters. How many boxes do you have in your basement full of random stuff you never touch? Do you even know what's in your basement? Get rid of it. Keep only what you use.
Needless to say I stayed up until midnight that night making my new file folders. I took a load to Goodwill the next day and I have another pile accumulating in my garage. Jeremy watched me spend an hour clearing out shelves and then kindly asked me not to get rid of any of our children, but I told him all bets are off. You see, I might leave my wallet at the grocery store tomorrow but come check out my office. Nary a piece of paper in sight. There's no telling what I'll get rid of next, I warned him, because I've become a minimalist. 


  1. I love this. Now on to making those file folders...

  2. I am really, really good at throwing things away. Ask Chris. If you ever need someone to clean out your cupboard who isn't sentimentally attached to things, give me a call.


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