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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 4 - Less stuff, less stress

Tallkev, Flickr


Getting rid of stuff and not buying anything might seem like a daunting project, but as the house is becoming more and more decluttered, so is my mind.

Why do we acquire so much stuff? One reason for accumulating unnecessary things might be similar to the reason why we eat too much food: evolution and instinct dictate to get as much as we can when it's possible. We succumb to the temptation (and god knows temptation is everywhere, in the form of bargains, coupons and the like). But for those of us who live in abundance, it ends up being counterproductive. In fact, it can be detrimental to our health: just like eating too much food puts us at risk for a wide range of problems, owning too much stuff has been shown to have an effect on the "stress hormone", cortisol (which in turn can create all kinds of health issues). 

This is why minimalism/frugality cannot simply be about being thrifty, looking for deals, buying things on sale and/or second hand, or even making them yourself. Yes, you can find nice stuff at nice prices. Yes, you can create your own stuff with your own hands and labour of love. But it's still stuff! Minimalism is about taking your distance from stuff altogether.

This is why decluttering cannot simply be about arranging things orderly on shelves or in neat boxes and cupboards. You don't need those extra storage bins. You certainly don't need a bigger house or garage or shed. What you need is less stuff. Decluttering is about actually getting rid of the things you don't need! 

For more on this fascinating topic, please see the Becoming Minimalist blog, especially the post entitled Don't Just Declutter, De-Own. And share your comments below!


WEEK 4 IN REVIEW


Temptations 


Interestingly, I did not face too many temptations this week. I was not in stores, did not read magazines, still do not watch much TV, and managed to ignore the pop-up ads when I was online. Maybe that's the trick: out of sight, out of mind!

I do have one kid who likes stuff, and she regularly asks for this and that... but I do not yield. From all of her eight years and a half, she is beginning to understand why.

We ran out of some food items, but I have not replaced them yet: 

  • seeds (flax, chia and hemp)
  • Dijon mustard
  • protein powder (for smoothies)


Are those needs? You tell me.


Instead of stuff, I focused on pleasant experiences: 


  • My daughter's 11th birthday party. We kept the gifts to a minimum and instead focused on a really cool activity: wall climbing! 
  • A night out to celebrate (surprise party!) a friend's 40th birthday. The most pleasant part of which was simply to chat and laugh late into the night with the dozen of good friends who were there (and take a walk on the beach together the next morning). 


Donations

Water bottles.

Good riddance - the things that are in too bad a shape to even be donated: 


Water bottles.

If you're intrigued about all the water bottles, read below...


Observations


While cleaning out the kitchen cupboards, I made a scary discovery: our family owns no less than 24 water bottles... not including the small ones that fit in my runner's belt, and not including the travel mugs (of which we only have 4). We are active people who love playing sports, hiking and camping, but... isn't 24 water bottles a tad too much? In my defense, a lot of them were not purchased: we got them for participating in a variety of events. But still. We should not have kept them all. Well, that's a problem solved now.


Cogitations


Not shopping while here at home might not be too hard, but I just realized that I won't be able to shop when I go to Montreal next summer (or if I travel anywhere else, for that matter). For a moment, I felt disappointed. But I am aware that not shopping will probably refocus my attention on other, more interesting things. When I backpacked around Europe for a couple months after I graduated from university in 1999, I was on a frugal "student budget" (precisely $40 a day including shelter, food and transportation), and therefore did not shop whatsoever. Instead I explored the cities' streets, visited a few hand-picked museums, hiked in National Parks, and generally took the time to feel the pulse of each place I went to. I didn't need to buy anything for that. If I remember well I did not bring back any souvenir from that trip - even the photos I took were rationed as I still used 35mm film - but I did bring back tons of unforgettable memories!




What did you resist this week? Did you donate or get rid of anything? How did that make you feel? Please comment below! And...


32 comments:

  1. 24 water bottles excluding the "essential ones"? And I thought I had a problem... ;-)
    On the other hand, Dijon mustard is a basic commodity, on the same level as oil and vinegar, salt and pepper.

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    1. Ya, I know... it was a shock. :-)

      I do consider Dijon as a staple! I use it "à toutes les sauces"! :-)

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  2. My son really wants to try rock climbing and we talked about doing that for his birthday, too!!

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  3. I agree with the mustard, that's a gotta have. I also agree it's not just about being thrifty it's just letting go and making room in your house and life for just living and enjoying. Pictures are great instead of bringing home stuff you'll put away after a couple of years (if that long). That's a lot of water bottles, I'm sure whomever aquires them will appreciate them.
    I was cleaning out my bathroom closet and found out I'm a blanket hoarder. I didn't realize I owned 8 blankets and 3 comforters. WOW!!! I can't decide which one to donate or just hide. They are soft, I love soft.
    Good luck this week. Blessings!

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    1. Haha, you made me laugh with the blanket story. I guess we all have a weak spot!

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  4. I'm a total failure this week. Congrats on doing so well at decluttering.

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    1. I don't believe that! :-) I'm sure you did something right.

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  5. You almost lost me at protein, but I kept reading. That's where I usually draw the line -- fitness stuff, and foods. I'm still not there yet with letting some things go, but at least I'm mad at myself over it.

    As far as donating this week goes,; yesterday I made the move back to California. I flew. I left one box of clothes behind to be shipped to me, and one box given to the local clothing closet for the less fortunate.

    As I set up life in San Diego again, today I bought a pan, a pot, a plate, a fork, a knife, and a big bowl to eat out of. I felt guilty for buying so much.

    Keep it up, Julie!

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    1. It sounds like you're on your way to a very simple life, for sure! Although you should have walked to California, LOL (totally kidding). And thank you for bearing with me!

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  6. I would consider Dijon mustard as a staple too. Mind you, my spice/herb/condiment store is very, very big.
    My father told me many years ago that when travelling he aimed to 'take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints'. Increasingly I have been drawn to a version of that as a life philosophy.

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    1. That philosophy of traveling sounds wonderful. I will remember that. :-)

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  7. I had a friend whose three car garage looked like that photo!! The families cars were on the lawn. He would often say, they were going sailing. I had this vision of a sailboat gliding across the waves. No, garage sales! He just accumulated stuff and there was no stopping him. His wife ran for congress this past year. She lost. I wonder if she could have cleaned up Washington easier than their garage?

    When I've traveled, I often find some natural object, like a special stone, shell, wood, and put the name of where I went and date on it as a memento. Occasionally, a tee-shirt.

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    1. I love all your metaphors! :-) People sometimes ARE better at cleaning other people's junk than their own. And sailing should be reserved to the act of gliding on water, for sure.

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  8. Health food, like seeds and protein powder, could be a "need." It's like buying the expensive but better quality and more functional jacket or boots- you need something that will last. Your body is your ultimate home and feeding it what it thrives on is really important. Yes, you can survive without those foods and they are certainly unaffordable for people who lack adequate finances, but if you have the option to really treat your body well, I think you should take advantage. Unless you know you get enough protein from the rest of your diet, I would stick with the powder. And seeds are such a good nutritional, energy and fiber boost!

    Interesting that everyone votes to keep mustard. Even though condiments are generally great and add a lot of flavour to a recipe, I consider them to be unnecessary additions. But this is join my option, which comes from the place of prioritizing health over everything else.
    Although mustard has a health value.

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    1. I agree that "your body is your ultimate home"­. That's why, when I have the choice between cleaning my house or exercising, I pick the exercise. :-)

      I was rather pleased to be told that Dijon mustard is a keeper!

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    2. House cleaning, done the old-fashioned way (and properly) is excellent exercise.

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  9. Comme je le craignais, le retour au travail a été un coup dur. Mais ça se replace tranquillement pas vite.

    La moutarde de Dijon est définitivement une nécessité ;-) J'ai fini mes réserves de moutarde, raisins secs et canneberges séchées cette semaine (pas toutes pour la même recette!). La moutarde sera remplacée certainement. Les fruits séchés sont moins prioritaires, mais comme ils font une collation très pratique au retour de la garderie, je vais fort probablement racheter de l'un ou de l'autre.

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    1. J'espère que tu t'habitueras vite à ta nouvelle routine!

      Pour ce qui est des fruits séchés, je pense que je les considère comme un aliment de base. :-)

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  10. Your daughter's rock climbing party sounds great. There is so much choice for parties, no matter what their likes / dislikes are.

    Love your picture it reminds me of a friends garage some years back now. She'd decided to have a sort out as she called it. She did, but she sorted 'stuff' from the house and it ended up in the garage .... it stayed there a while and then she took ages sorting through what she should throw away, only to decide that some of the stuff was still need and it went back in the house. I had to laugh but she was quite impressed with her sorting skills as she called them ...... however, I'm still not sure of this LOL

    You do seem to be doing well with your 'project' but 24 water bottles ? Isn't it amazing how things do creep up on us. Spring Cleaning too is a great way of de-cluttering I think.

    Hope the rest of your week goes well.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Good story about your friend's garage! :-) You make me glad I do not have a garage.

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  11. I donated several unwanted Christmas gifts, bath products and perfumes which I don't use as I get a rash from many things like that. Neighbours give me these things, they're mostly elderly women, so I thank them and give the gifts away later. I spent yesterday sorting out the shelves on my back porch and now have a pile of things to go out in the recycle bin next week. I don't think I can get rid of much more now.

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    1. Great example of something we can accumulate against our will! :-) Good job getting rid of it.

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  12. Less is indeed more. I'm happy to see more blogs spreading about this humble yet life-changing idea. I went on a 11-month shopping fast last year and it was successful. :)

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    1. I'm so glad to hear about someone else who made it! Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Ha! I often find myself having to bite my proverbial tongue when reading some of the "frugal" blogs out there, because they seem much more focused on shopping and acquiring used and cheap things rather than on really being frugal - at least by my definition. Not that I've cracked the minimalist nut, mind you - but my issues are much less with acquiring than they are with letting go. I'm the person with the garage full of broken stuff and dumpster dives that "might be useful" one day! So as you can imagine, it's hard to get rid of because most of my junk is truly junk - as in it's not up to thrift store standards!

    But I am getting better. I actually did take the rusty old tea kettle to the Goodwill store when I bought the shiny new electric one - along with a box of other stuff. Most of it will probably end up in the dumpster, but I did try, and at least it's not in my basement anymore!

    And I guess I'm odd woman out with the Dijon mustard. Every once in a while I think it would taste good and bring some home. It generally gets used once or twice and then gets lost at the back of the fridge only to be unearthed years later having reached "science experiment" status. I don't dislike it, I just don't really know what to do with it so it simply languishes. A good reason not to buy it in the future! :-)

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    1. It IS hard to get rid of stuff, for some obscure reason. But I have found that once you start, it gets easier.

      Dijon mustard is like anything else: if you don't really use it all that much, you can probably do without. :-)

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  14. I've been trying to be more minimalist for a while, since I decided to pack my bags last year to travel for a few months, and also moved interstate. It's when you do such things that you realise how much stuff you have, and you really don't need all of it!

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    1. You are so right. Moving is a great way to realize that we own way too much. Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. One of my goals for this year is to declutter and acquire less stuff. As I've been going through the house, I'm happy to report that we don't have that much extra stuff that we aren't using. That feels good, but it is addictive so I'm re-evaluating things again to see if there is more we can clear out.
    One area I need to focus on this year is gear. Some of our hobbies require a lot of gear, like rafting, and it is all essential (for safety and required to be on the river) but there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to organizing it all and making it easily accessible for trips. I'm actually looking forward to spring cleaning and organizing!

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  16. Twenty four water bottles?? I can only dream of that much cupboard space where that many bottles goes unnoticed.

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  17. I've got the same issue with water bottles too. Since my husband and I run all the same races, we collect them two by two! Ugh.


    On a run the other day, my husband and I were talking about the compulsion to acquire things as it relates to climate. It always seems like our families and friends in places with a harsh winter have a lot more stuff than our friends in more mild weather locations. This observation seems in line with what you were saying about having stuff as a form of protection.

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