Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Simplifying Painlessly

Often Beloved and I have been asked if we miss the "things" that we have done away with. The most popular being the TV. It is funny to us as there was a time when the thought of not having a television horrified my Beloved. It still baffles people that we do not have electric lights, video games, DVD player, and many of the other things that society has convinced us to be essential to our lives. Making the choices that we have made seem a hardship to many. It doesn't have to be. For those who are considering simplifying their lives, let me share the painless way we have found to do it.

Each household has a certain level of unused items. Things that you hang on to because you may need it one day. The problem is, "one day" never comes. So in the meantime you are storing the items and maintaining them. What a waste of space, time, and money! One way to decide what you truly NEED is to pack seldom or never used items into a box. Store the box under the bed or in some other location that keeps it out of sight. Have a time limit. For us, things can remain packed up for on average 1-2 months. If there never comes an occasion to dig an item out of that box, then we know that we can rid ourselves of the items. Some items are sold, others are simply donated to a local charity. This method has proved to us that the saying "out of sight, out of mind" is true. As long as the things are in our sight, we are tempted to hang on to them. Once we have the items packed away, we actually forget what we packed. The one temptation you have to avoid however is to not look through the box before donating it! That can bring the temptation to pull things out to keep.
There are exceptions to the rule. Tools are never given away or sold. Seasonal items such as clothing that will fit another season, blankets, coats, etc. are all kept until they are no longer serviceable or in the case of clothing they no longer fit.

In deciding what we keep there are 2 criteria, both of which must be met. First, the item must have a purpose. This includes collectibles. We are lucky in that Beloved and I both enjoy collecting things like oil lamps or the antique/old fashioned manual kitchen gadgets such as a butter churn or rotary beaters. The second criteria that must be met is that the item must have a place to be stored neatly. These criteria may seem pretty basic but they have a purpose. By limiting all our possessions to these 2 criteria we are able to avoid clutter.

One email I received asked if our children have toys as toys can become clutter. Yes, our children have toys and books. We are selective though in what we buy. We feel that even though playtime should be fun, we also want to include toys and books that are educational. Not all toys fall into the educational heading, but most of them do. We want to encourage our children to grow up loving to read so we are building up their library of books. In having the toys though, they also fall under the category of "does it have a place to be stored neatly." Once toys are no longer being played with they will be donated to a charity.

One area where clutter can take over is the wardrobe. There are 7 days a week. If you do laundry once a week, how many outfits do you need to get through the week? One way to really make your clothing budget go far is to coordinate your wardrobe. If you wear separates (slacks, skirts, tops), choose items that will allow you to mix and match. Avoid choosing colors that can only be worn with one item. If you wear dresses, you can easily manage with 6 work dresses and 2 nice dresses for attending church or outings. Having a limited amount of clothing makes it so much easier to get ready each day. No more having to stand in front of the closet and decide what you will wear. I realize there will be women cringing at the thought of not having a closet full of clothing. That is fine. I am giving an option for those who truly wish to simplify their lives. One concern about clothing is that if you are doing your household tasks in a dress, how do you keep them clean. The answer is as simple as wearing an apron that is made large enough to cover the dress properly. If you work outside the home, you may want to consider having a selection of clothing for work and ones for home. If you apply the same idea of limiting the number of dresses or getting separates that mix & match well, you can still simplify your wardrobe and still have the selection you would need. My Beloved has his clothing for work, clothing for home, and a couple of suits for church. Our children are still young enough for cloth diapers & training pants so they have extra clothing for those times when their outfit has to be changed during the day. The main point is to really be honest about the true need versus the "wants" in your wardrobe.

In the kitchen, you can also find clutter. How many people are in your household? Now, how many place settings do you have in your dishes set? We have 4 people in our household. There is no need for a service of 12. Having the extra dishes makes it easy to let the dishes go until you have a sink full. I have 1 heavy stoneware plate that we use as a warming plate in the oven. I also have 4 dinner plates on the shelf. We have more plates, but I have them stored in the pantry for when we have guests. I have done the same with the glasses, coffee mugs, etc. This has been a blessing. Now, the shelf has a much neater appearance and the task of washing dishes is not so large. It forces you to do dishes after each meal, which makes your household tasks more efficient. We still have the extra settings for the times we need them, but they are kept stored in the pantry.

You can apply these ideas to other areas of the home. The key is to start with the simple things and work your way towards the harder ones. As you make progress, you find that you want to do more. We have found that be eliminating the clutter, the home is easier to maintain and we have more time to spend doing other things. We don't miss the things we have given up. Now that they are gone, we have had no desire to replace them. I truly feel that the method that we use to simplify has been one of the key reasons. We first prove to ourselves that the items are not necessary. Once that is done, it is easy to part with them.