Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Green & Simple Living, Part 2

(Part 1 can be found here)

Another thing that happened around then, was that we moved.  And some realizations came out of that move.  We were living in a small apartment, had a couple of kids, and quite a bit of stuff.  I had started feeling like I was spending all of my time taking care of all of our stuff.  We had spent all of our married life so far buying the things that we wanted and needed, or thought we needed, and I was started to get overwhelmed with it all.  When I got pregnant with our third child, we started feeling like it was time to move, so we started looking around at apartments.  We looked for several months and never found anything that we liked and could afford.  This was just after the housing crisis, and in a weird turn of events, we discovered that we could buy a house for less than we could rent an apartment.  So about a week after our baby was born, we were out looking at houses.  We ended up buying a house, but it was a short sale, which was really common a few years ago, and that meant that it could take a few months to get the bank to approve the sale.  So, now that we were anticipating a move soon, with three small children, I wanted to get a head start, and I started boxing up everything that we didn’t really need out.  Wall decorations, knick knacks, extra dishes, things that we weren’t using every day got boxed up.  And I discovered that I really liked having less stuff.  There was less stuff to become messy, so there was less to clean.  I hate dusting, so having decorations put away and not needing to be dusted was awesome.  And not only that, but our house seemed calmer.  Bare walls and surfaces made our house seem less overwhelming.  I hadn’t really realized the effect that all that stuff was having on me.  Having several little kids was providing enough noise and chaos, and all the stuff was just adding to that and making everything feel even more overwhelming.  Having less stimulation around was making all the noise and action much more manageable.  Then, when the move actually came, we boxed everything up, and since we lived in an upstairs apartment, we ended up moving all of our stuff into a pile in the lobby downstairs while we waited for the moving truck to arrive.  Seeing all of our stuff in one place was pretty eye-opening.  I already knew we had a lot of stuff, but seeing that monsterously huge pile confirmed it.   I suppose that, compared to the average household, it wasn’t like tons and tons of stuff; after all we had been living in a small apartment, and it only fit so much, but we knew that it was way more than we needed, and we knew that it was burdening us.  It was a rare opportunity for us to see that, because when is your stuff ever all in one big pile?  Try to imagine, if you can, all of the stuff from your house, all in one place.  I think it would be hard to imagine that accurately; I know I never  could have imagined it, if I hadn’t actually seen it.  It was a much bigger amount than I had thought, and I was really grateful I was able get that acurate look at everything we had.  We had kind of a unique situation in that we actually had to live in a temporary apartment for a couple of months while we waited for our house sale to finish going through, so we used that time as an experiment to see what we needed to live and what we didn’t.  We kept a lot of things boxed up, and pretty much just got out what we needed.  We didn’t put any decorations out, we kept available toys to a minimum, we put away extra furniture, and we kind of tried out a more minimalistic lifestyle for a couple of months.  And we loved it.  Just like I had experienced when I originally started boxing things up, our home seemed calmer and my work seemed less overwhelming.  

So that experience kind of started another aspect of simple living for us, which is minimalism.  We got rid of a lot of stuff that we realized we didn’t need, and that has continued for us.  Now, I wouldn’t call us true minimalists, in that we don’t have a bare house or anything close to that, but we do try to not have a lot of stuff.  There’s a quote by a man named Wiliam Morris that says, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  And that is really what we try to do.  We have things that we do not truly need, like books, and such, but they are things that we love, and we try not to keep things that we no longer need or love.  I always keep an eye out in our home for things that are not being used, and I always have a donation bag in our laundry room that I put things in that we no longer need.

Just to be clear, you don’t have to be a stringent minimalist to live a simple life.  But for us, minimalism has been one way of getting rid of the things that are not essential, in order for us to have more time and energy to focus on the things that are important to us.  Because really, everything, whether it’s physical things, activities, thoughts, or relationships; all of those things take time and mental and physical energy, and the more resources you spend on any area of your life, the less you will have for the other areas.  So for us, having less stuff is one way to clear some space and have more time and energy to spend on other aspects of life that mean more to us than our stuff.

To Be Continued....


PUPPPsMom said...

I identify with a lot of this. At the end of a season of 3 years of micro tiny living, I really know what we use and what we don't. It will be interesting to see what we allow back in as we get used to more space.

Annaleah said...

I would LOVE to hear what some of your essentials and non-essentials are, and, eventually, what all you do decide to bring into a bigger home!

PUPPPsMom said...

Maybe I'll do a post about that someday! Here's a sneak peak:

I have narrowed down my kitchen to these things:
1 cast iron frying pan.
4 pots of varying sizes.
1 glass baking dish.
1 itty bitty drawer of utensils (spatula, can opener, slotted spoon, measuring spoons and cups, and a handful of odds and ends)
1 blender
2 mixing bowls
3-4 mason jars
2 mugs
1 butter dish
1 small cookie sheet
1 hand held mixer.

That's it. For real. I've lived for most of 3.5 years cooking with just these things! I have missed pie pans and a crock pot. I'm sure some cake pans will come back out. But I've learned to make do because I've needed to. I'm looking forward to having a few luxuries back. Like my kitchen aid mixer!!

Annaleah said...

Wow! That's amazing! I definitely could limit my kitchen stuff more if I had to, but my essential list would still be much longer than that! I'm really impressed that you can feed a big family with just those few things!

Annaleah said...

I'd love to hear about other areas, too! Kids clothes, maybe? I'm always curious about this because I think we have way less than most people (one dresser drawer each), but I still find that they have things that hardly ever get worn! What do you find is a good amount?

PUPPPsMom said...

I've definitely had to get creative! Pies and banana bread can be bakes in s stainless steel mixing bowl!

My girls each have 1 small backpack of clothes. And I think it could even be less. Just like you guys, even with this small amount, they have things they don't wear. Just the other day, I asked my six year old why it was taking her so long to get dressed. She said it was because all her clothes were "old." I'm considering removing everything but one outfit and one pair of jammies for a while to help her learn thankfulness. Because of course, her clothes aren't old. She is the oldest, and the one that gets the least amount of hand me downs and the most new things. Anyway, that's off topic. But I think having too much does decrease our thankfulness.

Annaleah said...

It's such a shame we can't sit and chat in real life! :(
But this is still fun! :)

So, how do you store leftovers? Or do you try not to have any? I have a number of Pyrex bowls and pans, and I've thought about cutting back some, but I use them all the time for leftovers, as well as cooking.

Haha! I can totally see Joanna saying something like that! Yes, thankfulness seems like such an elusive thing sometimes. I'm always hoping that keeping things simple will help them to learn to be thankful, but so far I'm not sure that's happening! I feel like they are constantly asking for new things! It drives me crazy!
And that brings me How do you keep them to a manageable level and how do you keep your home from being chaotic all day? Or maybe you don't! :). We don't have that many toys, and I rotate them to limit mess, but still...they have so much little stuff, Lego's, and random stuff that just ends up everywhere. And things still get brought out and then left, when no one's playing with it. I would get rid of more, but we're way past the age that things can just quietly disappear, and though I've started having them help me purge, their willingness to get rid of stuff is limited! :) I'm pretty sure you've mentioned before that you guys only have a few toys, so I'm curious about what kinds of toys you have, how you're able to keep the number down, and if your kids help you with that! And art supplies?

PUPPPsMom said...

Oh toys! I am not a fan. Currently, each girl has a small drawer for their personal toys, and we keep one small drawer of baby toys. But even those get strewn about! We keep auxiliary bins of others toys in a storage area to pull out for special occasions (read: when we really need them to stay occupied for a while.) We have a bin for Legos, play mobile, dolls, kitchen/food play, and blocks/puzzles. This seems to help my sanity a bit.

As I ponder this kid attitude of not-so-thankful, it occurs to me that it is probably simply a product of that pesky sinful nature. I will really enjoy seeing my children develop as they accept the Lord and we start to see the Holy Spirit at work in them. There is only so much modeling and training we can do as parents until then. He is the best thankfulness inducer! Can't wait!

And about those leftovers. Ziplock bags are my friend. Tiny fridges require flexible containers to fit wherever there is a wee bit of space. I expect our lives to become a whole lot more "green" when we are not trying to live tiny.

Oh, and art supplies! We have a small bin (maybe 18x7x6?) with ziplocks of markers, crayons, and colored pencils. Another similar sized bin houses glue sticks, scissors, and other odds and ends. Then, all the paper and school books have to fit into the rest of the space in the tiny overhead compartment that is our school/art area. I'll have to do a post about it. We recently made the switch to a motorhome from the airstream. It fit the goals we had for mobility and comfort better with our new family business (a whole 'nuther story). Even as the house project draws to a point where we will actually be living in it soon, we still find ourselves living tiny!

If we even find ourselves north of Seattle, I'll have to drop you a note and see if we can visit!!

Annaleah said...

Sounds likes you guys have had lots going on! I would love to see a new home tour, if you get the chance! :). And, yes, definitely let us know if you're ever in our neck of the woods!

There probably really isn't a good solution to the toy problem. Sometimes I think that if we lived smaller and HAD to have less, that would help, but I think that is just wishful thinking. We occasionally have days with no toys, or just one, and the house still gets plenty messy, so I guess that should tell me something!

The kitchen is definitely one area that I feel like I should be able to do with less, but I find that I truly use most of the things I have. Maybe I just need to realize that with the way I use it, this is my minimum. Still, you've made me think I should take another look! I've been thinking of doing some rearranging anyway, to make it a bit easier for the kids to do things, so I might plan a little overhaul this week!
As far as them being thankful, I think you're right. Knowing it's not all in our hands is a bit relieving, really!