Clutterfree with Kids – Book Review

Image and video hosting by TinyPic4.5/5 Stars

I just finished reading my first book on minimalism, Clutterfree with Kids, and I thought it was a really good book. Joshua Becker is the author of the blog Becoming Minimalist.

I have a 7-month-old daughter, Mia, and I picked this book because I thought there might be some really valuable advice that could be very relevant to me. Also, I always thought of having kids as somewhat synonymous with living in clutter, so I was curious to know how he handled it.

Josh did recycle some material from his blog, but it was well organized and easy to read so that didn’t bother me at all (and for $5.59 on the Kindle, you can’t really go wrong). He referred to a lot of personal experiences and provided some solid and actionable advice on how to deal with a number of situations.

The book covered topics ranging from how to get started, to how to get rid of the difficult or emotional items, different benefits you can expect to experience, how to handle a spouse who’s not on board, and how to get the kids involved (among many other topics).

I thought this book was very relevant to me and a great read to get me kickstarted on this journey.  At that price, I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking at removing some clutter from their lives and gaining a bit more freedom.

I saw this on Facebook today, actually, haha. How fitting.

First steps

I’m not generally someone who takes things slow. When I’m excited about something, I’m all in. If I were on my own, I’d have probably thrown out half of what I own by now – 4 days into my recent enlightenment.

Sharing Minimalism

I have to take a different approach with this though since I’m married and share the majority of my stuff and space with Kristina, my wife.

You see, my wife’s pretty amazing; she not only puts up or encourages my constant ‘experiments’, she’s usually game for trying them with me. This one, however, struck a bit of a nerve. Owning and buying nice things was just such a core part of who we are. We both loved to shop and buy fun things.

I am big into gadgets and gizmos. I use them for a short while and they sit there and gather dust after. She’s big into buying and storing all sorts of nice things that might be useful at some point or that we use once or twice a year. As an example, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have over 10 serving trays and plates.

Anyhow, she’s not such a fan of my ‘minimalist movement’ at this point. She’s trying to keep an open mind, but you can see it’s tough for her.

To her defense, I did come out pretty strong with this, so I realize I need to take this slow, no matter how hard that is for me. I think that as she sees that it’s working well for me, she’ll open up to the idea a bit more. I doubt if we’ll ever really reach the standard of minimalism I’d like to see, but I think we could get down to a nice level of minimalism that works well for the both of us.

Next Areas of Focus : Home Office

After having cleared out my wardrobe, I decided that my office would be a great place to start. I’ve been working in this office daily for about 6 months and it has never felt clean and tidy. I’ve had all sorts of boxes and furniture in here from the day we moved in, really.

I wish I’d have taken a before picture but here’s an after picture:

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There is still some work to do, but it’s night and day from what it was before. I feel so much better working here and being in this space now.

Treading into Kristina’s Territory

So, I messed up a bit here. The first thing Kristina told me was not to touch her kitchen; and I agreed. Unfortunately, amidst all of my excitement, I forgot about our agreement and figured I’d surprise her and ‘minimalize’ parts of the kitchen (bad idea). Needless to say she was not happy with her surprise, but she did agree to let it slide and allowed me to keep things as they are for the time being (thank you, hun).

I did only focus on a couple of areas, and really, for the most part just got rid of duplicates (and triplicates).

To give you an idea of how much crap we can cram into a small space, here’s a picture of one of our cupboards emptied out (Fun fact: there were 4 bottles of rice vinegar in the cupboard. We haven’t used rice vinegar in 3 years. Kristina insisted we keep one bottle):

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I don’t have an ‘after’ picture because I’m still slightly embarrassed at how much stuff is still in there, but it’s a start!

I’m loving it though. With more space to store things I’m finding it noticeably easier to keep the kitchen clean and put things away. There’s still much more I’d like to do with the kitchen but that’s a battle for another day (or month).

Anyhow, I’m incredibly motivated to keep moving forward on this. I’m already starting to feel like some weight’s been lifted from my shoulders and I can’t wait to see where it takes me!

 

How Minimalism Found Me

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I first heard of minimalism a couple of years ago. I don’t remember the details but I remember being intrigued by it and being somewhat drawn to it. I’ve actually spent hours looking at ‘tiny houses’ and just thinking that it would be kind of amazing to live in such simplicity.

Pursuit of Money

With that said, I never really gave it a second thought; I loved my possessions too much to really consider making any lifestyle changes. You see, I’ve always been drawn to money and spending. For much of my life, there was nothing else I wanted more than to be rich. I knew that that was what I wanted; I had dream boards with fancy cars on them and a big house, and a beautiful top-floor condo.

I’ve read countless books on investing and getting rich, I’ve invested in real estate, I worked hard at jobs I disliked to make my way up the ladder and earn more money, I tried to start a business; all with the end goal of becoming rich so that I could buy all sorts of things and live an amazing life.

When Being Rich Lost its Dazzle

All that began to change a couple years ago when I started my business with friends. Ironically, the main reason I got into it was so that I could make millions. That never happened, but what did happen was that I really enjoyed the work I was doing. I made less money that year than I have since I was a student, but I was also happier than I’d been in a long time.

To me, that’s when the realization came that there was more to life than being rich.

Too Much Stuff

Last year, my wife and I moved from a big house on the outskirts of Ottawa, into a townhouse in the city. It was a ‘downsize’, but we needed it. The travelling and the cleaning and the loneliness wasn’t worth the big house and big lot. Once we moved, I actually realized that having less house and less yard resulted in much less maintenance and more time for me and doing the things I love.

Now, we had less house, but still had all of our stuff (which filled our large house) all crammed into this townhouse. Our basement is packed with boxes, our drawers and cupboards are filled to the brim and there is always clutter because we just have too much stuff and not enough space. We’ve had to get a maid in bi-weekly to clean our place and force us to put our stuff away because without her, we would be living in a constant mess.

I’d grown tired of:

  • Our dining room table being covered with stuff
  • My office being a constant mess and having boxes of things that don’t belong
  • Our basement being completely unusable and filled with jumbled up boxes that even if I wanted something from down there, finding it would be near impossible
  • Our garage needing to constantly be re-arranged.
  • Our spare bedroom being a giant mess
  • Spending so much of my time trying to organize the house and figure out ways to keep it nice and tidy.

Enter Minimalism

So this past Friday night, a friend of mine posted “The Minimalists” Game on Facebook and asked if anyone was interested. I checked the link and it definitely intrigued me. I watched a couple of their videos and read more blog posts and I was sold pretty much immediately.

I knew I had too much stuff and that it was running my life (well a good portion of it anyways). It never occurred to me that I really could just get rid of everything. We accumulate and accumulate and never throw anything out unless it breaks or becomes useless.

Just because something is useful shouldn’t mean we should hold onto it in the event that it could potentially serve some purpose down the line. If anything, the fact that it’s still useful should give me the incentive to donate it and let someone else get some use out of it.

My First Purge

Anyhow, I couldn’t wait to get started. Early Saturday morning, I packed up well over half of my clothes. I had one box filled with clothes that I would revisit in a few months and two large garbage bags of clothes that is going to charity (I’m actually donating it, and some other things, to a garage sale for the Ottawa Humane Society).

I know I’m only getting started but I’m already feeling energized. Looking into my closet and dresser and seeing all that free space is an incredible feeling. It’s like a weight has lifted off my shoulders.

Anyhow, the purge continues and I will continue documenting my journey towards minimalism.

photo credit: visualpanic via photopin cc