Decluttering vs. Minimalism

I recently read an article on another blog about living out of a duffel bag and a backpack for a month to see what it would be like.  The author learned that although doable for himself as an individual, it would be nearly impossible for a family as the items required for family life do not all fit in a few bags.  Families need homes with kitchens and gather spaces, entertainment centers and sleeping quarters, as well as books, toys, and games.  Minimalism and children are a difficult combination.

That being said, families can live well and happily without filling every room in their home with stuff.  The key is to find a balance between clutter and minimalism.  Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

  • Making a happy home is about intention and balance.  Be intentional about what you bring into your home and how much time you spend managing stuff.
  • For example, if you have a family of five with 14 loads of laundry after two weeks, you have a lot of clothes in your house.  If dressing your kids well is something you love, great. Enjoy doing laundry.  If not, consider reducing the clothing inventory.  It’s more fun to spend time with the kids rather than washing their clothes.
  • Toys that inspire imaginative play, problem solving, or creativity are worth keeping.  Large plastic monstrosities are not.
  • Teach your kids to be selective about saving papers.  Help them create a portfolio of their best work.
  • Once the designated toy storage area is filled, institute a something in, something out policy.
  • Make purchases based on your actual life, not the life you wish you had.  If you never entertain, you don’t need fancy serving dishes.  Maybe for the entertaining you do, all you need is paper plates.
  • Decide what hobbies are important and make space for them.  Make it easy to engage in the activities you enjoy.
  • Keep up with the latest gaming and entertainment technology only if that is the hobby you wish to invest in.  It will likely be the only one you’ll have money for.
  • Try before you buy.  Rent or borrow sports equipment to see if it’s something you will do often before you buy and have stuff sitting in your garage unused.
  • Invest in experiences as a family.  Go to ball games, concerts, plays, or water parks.  Visit the city, the mountains, or the ocean. Kids will remember the time you spent with more than the stuff you bought.

De-cluttering 101


One of the most effective ways to make your home feel larger, newer, and cleaner is to remove excess items.  Often we collect things over time and don’t realize how much we have until there is no more room for anything new.  Here are some tips to get started on your journey to a clutter-free home.

  1. Start small.  Don’t try to tackle too much at once and get overwhelmed.  The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  The same principle applies to de-cluttering.  Start with one category (clothes, books, movies, craft supplies, etc.) and allow yourself enough time to sort that one group of items.
  2. Keep what’s used and appreciated, toss what’s broken or guilt-inducing.  Do not keep something because it was a gift or belonged to another family member.  Memories can be held separate from objects.
  3. Don’t hold on to objects that make you feel bad like clothes that no longer fit, home decor that is no longer in style, or towels that are frayed or smelly.  Make room for things that make you happy.
  4. Don’t feel like you need to keep aspirational items, things that represent the person you aspire to be, rather than who you actually are. For example, I purchased a yoga mat and instructional guide, thinking I might take up yoga.  I didn’t.  I bought a food processor thinking I might make bread.  I haven’t.  I bought craft supplies to make cards and scrapbooks.  I did, but not so much now.  It is okay to let go of past goals if they aren’t present goals.  You don’t need stuff reminding you of what you used to want to do.
  5. Enlist the help of a brutally honest friend with a minimalist streak.  I am that friend for a lot of people.  They will give you the courage to let go of things you feel like you should keep but really shouldn’t.
  6. Consider how you can share what you have and borrow what you don’t.  We all have things that we keep because we use them seasonally or sporadically, like the 6 foot ladder to get on the roof or the air compressor to blow out the sprinkler system.  If you don’t have something, rather than buying it, consider borrowing from a friend.  Then return the favor when your neighbor is in need.  This way you can build a friendship rather than a storage unit.

Not So Lucky Clover

cloverI remember as a little girl running through the back lawn barefoot. I stopped and paid special attention when I reached the clover, the danger zone. Although it felt soft and glorious under my feet, bee stings on my toes did not. My father was a beekeeper so we had more than the average amount of bees flying around our yard.  If I found the clover patch free of stinging insects, I plopped down and searched for a four leaf clover.  I never did find one.

I’m not as enamored with clover as I once was.  Though I prefer clover over dandelions or crab grass, it isn’t what I want filling my lawn.  I did some research to find out why it grows and how to manage its growth. Here is what I learned:

  1.  Lawn grass needs nitrogen rich soil to grow well.  Clover doesn’t because it absorbs nitrogen from the air.  Clover is a warning sign that your grass may be starving to death.
  2. Water leaches nitrogen from the soil so over-watering, heavy rains, or overlapping sprinkler patterns create ideal conditions for clover patches. (My clover is in the spot that gets watered most by our sprinklers.)
  3. Weather can affect the nitrogen levels too.  During a cool spring, soil microbes may be slow to move nitrogen into the grass, giving clover a head start in its growth.
  4. The best way to prevent clover is to improve soil quality.  Aerate your lawn and apply compost or another organic fertilizer.
  5. You could use a weed killer for clover, but then you might have an ugly dead patch in your lawn.  Instead, apply corn gluten meal. It prevents seeds from germinating while it breaks down to add nitrogen to the soil.  It won’t kill existing patches, but it feeds the lawn grasses while reducing the clover over time.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll find a four-leaf clover before it goes away.

Hot Weather Help for Your Flower Garden

summer gardenIf a sudden heat wave leaves you feeling weak and tired, think about how your poor flowers feel! They have to acclimate just like you do.  Here are some small steps you can take to help them flourish this summer.

  • Deadheading. Remove spent blooms to prevent plants from producing seeds.  This way they can put more energy into creating more blooms.
  • Watering. Most garden plants prefer an inch of water each week. It’s best to water deeply than frequently so that plants can develop stronger roots.  Water sitting on the leaves can lead to scorching or disease, so water thoroughly on the ground.  Soaker hoses work well.
  • Mulch. Spreading two inches of mulch shields the soil from the sun, preventing evaporation and keeping plants cooler.  You can use any kind of organic material, from wood chips to straw.
  • Weeding. Get those pesky sprouts while they are small and the soil is moist.  If you let them grow, they steal water and nutrients from your plants and produce seeds, leading to more weeds.  Check you garden in the cool of the morning or in evening, when the heat has dissipated.
  • Add new plants. Spring blooms like pansies and violets fade in the summer heat.  Replace them with heat loving flowers like salvia and zinnas.  You can also plant summer-blooming bulbs like dahlias or calla. Watch them rise as the temperatures continue to climb.

Keep Costs Down as the Temp Goes up

As summer brings higher temperatures, it can also bring higher energy costs.  Follow these simple tips to prevent that from happening.

  • Acclimate to the rising temperature outside by raising the temperature inside.  Try to set the thermostat to 78* in the summer, which may feel cool compared to the heat outside.
  • Try to keep the setting on your thermostat constant.  Frequently re-adjusting the temperature wastes energy.
  • Use the stove top, microwave, or barbeque outside rather than using your oven during the summer heat.
  • Make sure there are no lamps or televisions near your thermostat.  It will register the heat from the appliances and work harder and longer than necessary.
  • Use an exhaust fan when showering or cooking to vent the warm air.
  • Avoid using your heat producing appliances like your dishwasher during the day.  Save those dirty dishes until the cool of the evening.
  • Make sure your cooling system filters are clean.  Dust build-up makes them less efficient.  Filters should be cleaned or replaced once a month.
  • Installing a ceiling fan in the room you use the most can make it feel like it is five degrees cooler.  It is something to consider we trying to beat the heat.

Hopefully these ideas will help your energy bill stay low as the temperatures start to rise and help you to love where you live.