our never-ending minimalist battles

we’ve been journeying towards a minimalist lifestyle for 16 months.  we’ve completed our initial sweep of our home.  we’ve even completed secondary sweeps of some rooms in our home.  but there are some battles that never seem to end. 

here is a list of some of our minimalist struggles:

  • clothes/shoes.  i wish i could blame this solely on growing children, but unfortunately the closets in our master bedroom tell a different story.  our clothing purchases have slowed down (spending is down 25% from last year) but our closets and hangars continue to fill up.
  • toys.  i’m not even sure where they keep coming from, but our toyroom fills up with toys as often as our gas tank is filled up with gas. 
  • school paperwork.  with one son in 1st grade and one daughter in preschool, everyday welcomes a new painting, drawing, math paper, reading sheet, or note from the teacher.  knowing what to keep for memories and what to discard is an almost impossible task.
  • mail/magazines/newspapers/financial documents.  the constant barrage of paperwork results in piles of paper on our desk, our kitchen counter, and our recycle bin.
  • condiments.  still guilty.

battles, of course, force one of two responses: you can retreat or you can fight.  we’ll keep battling.  after all, nobody said this would be easy.

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Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Clothes are a huge issue for my family as well. I’ve pared down my clothes over the last few months, though I still own far more than a realistically “need”. My wife, however, oh boy ;) That’s a battle that’s really difficult to fight. She’s not on board with the owning less clothes idea; she’s a big clothes shopper. One day, perhaps.

    • di says

      Choose all-season outfits that can be worn anywhere.

      Recombine a few items to create several outfits. To get dressed quickly, keep a handy list of outfits.

      Two weeks of outfits may be sufficient.

  2. tom says

    you need one of those nifty desktop paper scanners from Fujitsu. I bought one about 2 years ago and it’s been a blessing. even better if you have a mac.

    I now scan every piece of paper that I think needs to be archived. It takes about 2 second double sided and the Mac OS automatically converts it to PDF. I bought Adobe Acrobat as well which has text recognition build in.

    Now every single piece of scanned paper is full text searchable via Spotlight.

    Any thing nostalgic however get’s stored in a light and air tight boxes. Only some things are on display… no clutter but still got everything when I need to get to it.

  3. says

    Scanning documents is one way I keep paperwork under control, which as already mentioned is hugely useful.

    Various drawings and such, if you really feel guilty about eventually disposing of them, maybe getting a scrapbook could be mutually beneficial. You get somewhere to keep them (instead of somewhere like a fridge)

    Or if you’d rather move away from analogue, maybe invest in a digital photo frame.

  4. G says

    I would not waste time scanning the school papers. Put them all in a box, one per kid. Then at the end of the school year, pull it out and spend a few minutes sorting out what to keep. In the context of the year, it is easy to see what to keep.

    This works well with older kids too, because sometimes they need something you think they are done with, like homework, scrap paper, vocab lists, rough drafts etc. If it was left at home, it goes to “the box”. Then it is there for later. In June, sort and toss. Easy and low tech.

  5. says

    I find that the clothes/shoes issue is still out of control at our house as well. Rather than just getting rid of the extra items that I have, I’ve been trying to wear them and have found that I really do like a lot of the items I’d been ignoring for the past year or two! (This also prevents the guilty feelings that usually take place when I look at an expensive item that I never wore. I make a pact with myself that I will wear it).

    I think it also helps to try and integrate the summer items with the winter items. For example, I can still wear summery shirts if I have a cute sweater to layer over them. This allows me to create many different outfits without having to put away clothes based on season.

  6. AB says

    I think that G is right, low tech is the way to go until the end of the school year. Then, you can either have the kids pick out a number of favorite pieces for the year (maybe 5?), and keep them. Or, you could take pictures of your kid holding them, and make an inexpensive album on snapfish representing the school year (school photos, art work, accomplishments, trips, etc). That’d be a cool thing for them to show their kids. I read somewhere to take the rest of the art and wrap family gifts in it. Pretty cute.

  7. says

    You are right. The quest for minimalism is a continuous battle. It’s a war. You may have won a specific battle in a day but the war continues. The constant flow of papers, toys, clothes, and other things that we call “stuff” will surely give us rough days, but it doesn’t mean we are losing. Let’s continue fighting! I’m with you guys.

    • di says

      I usually sort clothes with the change of seasons and sort toys after birthdays and Xmas. Once or twice a year is sufficient.

  8. Heather says

    I thought I would share an idea that I learned from the Flylady website regarding children’s papers. It has really worked for us, as long as I stay on top of it. Have a folder where all school papers go for each child, and then on Friday after school, have your child pick their favorite paper/project. This get the coveted refrigerator spot (or frame or bulletin board, or wherever you put special papers). You then remove last week’s refrigerator picture and put it in a notebook in a sheet protector, which becomes their scrapbook for that year (or two). All other papers can be thrown or given away, depending if your child places value on them. I was horrible about sending things to grandparents and aunts and uncles, so this has helped with this, and it gets them out of our house. We’re also saving the pictures that my kids really value. I will also occasionally encourage them to give me or their dad pictures that they don’t value, but we do.

  9. Jasileet says

    Scan the good stuff. Toss the uglies while the kiddos are asleep. Is that evil? Oh well, at least I’m not battling clutter. =P Kidding.

    Just books and 2 favorite toys in bedrooms. Lucky enough to have a playroom but toys are cycled out of a locked closet (one for one) where they’re neatly stowed. The maximum capacity of each room depends heavily on how quickly it can be sorted. Get a feeling for how much each room can comfortably hold.

    Holidays we do a sort with the kids for donation and we ask friends/family to not buy toys but rather books. Toys’R Us wishlists are a good thing, too. Keep them running all year. It makes an event of an afternoon of window shopping with the kids.

    We’re also lucky to have lots of family to freecycle with. We ship lightly used clothes the kids have grown out of to cousins and receive some nice pieces sometimes, too. Toys are handled in a similar fashion.

  10. Amy says

    I have heard many people talk about scanning or taking pictures of the kids projects. Those photos can be stored on an external hard drive and then given to the kids later so they can, as adults, decide what, if anything they want to keep. I know that there are a few project I had done that would loved to have had a picture of since my mom tossed all of my school day things.

    • Nicki says

      I never kept any of my school work and I have never missed it once in the 30 years I have been out of school. I also don’t save my kids stuff either, they are the first ones to put it into the recycling.

  11. Samantha says

    Book are my big issue. I just can’t bear to part with my favourites. If a book isn’t a favourite, it gets donated (unfortunately I have too many favourites it seems!- & cookbooks are the worst!).

    I wish my DH were more on board & would agree to scan & digitally keep pictures our son brings home from daycare. He just stores them in boxes instead- taking up valuable space in our house.

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