Monthly Archives: May 2011

2011 in 2011: update for May


As of May 3, 2676 items had left our home.  As of May 31, I am at 3134.  I’ve also sold a couple of items on craigslist, and made $195 from those sales.

How did I manage to rid my home of nearly 500 things in less than 30 days?  I dug deep.  And sometimes I didn’t have to dig that deep at all.  One big contributor was giving 75 items of clothing and 20 toiletry items to the forest fire victims of Slave Lake, Alberta.  I also sold 140 pieces of Lego on craigslist.  Whew, did that ever feel good.  I gave away 31 plastic hangers because my wardrobe has shrunk so dramatically that I only need about a third of the amount of hangers I needed previously.  I finally unloaded my breadmaker and crockpot at the thrift shop.  I also allowed myself to realize that the three pair of high heels I had hiding under my bed hadn’t been worn in over a year, and would be better off at the thrift shop where someone might take them home and actually wear them.

You might think that 3134 things seems like a lot of stuff and you might be wondering if we have anything left in our home.  The answer is yes, we do still have stuff and, quite frankly, a fair bit of it.  But there is a lot more space in our small condo now.  We are down to one set of pots and pans (from two sets), and we are no longer storing a ton ugly glassware in our kitchen cupboards.  Half of our kitchen storage is now dedicated to food, and everything kitchen related now fits in the kitchen cupboards.  This alone is a small miracle given the fact that our kitchen is only about 150 square feet and storage space there is very limited.  But it no longer feels crowded or like I am juggling things on the counter to make the space look presentable.  The kitchen looks bigger because there is less stuff left sitting on the counter as there is more room in the cabinets.

There is more space in the bedroom closets as well.  My kids are down to one storage bin each of off season clothing (winter jackets and pants) and items they haven’t grown into.  They also tend to wear the same things from their closet over and over again, so right now they are working with 5 pair of pants and about 10 shirts each.  It feels great to only have a minimal wardrobe for the kids, as I am doing laundry every couple of days and they can’t manage to wear everything in that short period anyway.  I’m planning to pare the kids wardrobe down even further as they outgrow or wear out some of the items that are currently in their closet, and I’ll be letting go of more items if I notice they aren’t getting any love.  As for my closet space, I’m down to 33 items for the next 3 months and it feels fabulous!  I barely even have to think about what I’m going to wear – limited choices means less time spent deliberating over what to wear and just getting on with it.  Project 333 is already saving me time getting ready in the morning, and I’ve begun to think how I’ll be putting together some of my wardrobe items over the summer (if summer ever arrives in Vancouver).  I also know that by sticking with Project 333, I’ll be saving money too.

Have you considered decluttering in 2011?  If you’ve started the decluttering process, what challenges have you come across and what benefits are you reaping?  I’d love to hear from others who are in the trenches too!

project 333: at the starting line


One of my goals for the year is to start consciously participating in Project 333.  The main purpose of Project 333 is to have a complete wardrobe with only 33 items in it and wear that wardrobe for a period of three months.  I’m hoping that once I get started, I’ll be able to have no more than 33 items in my wardrobe at any given moment.  You can learn more about Project 333 here.

In my daily life, I’m pretty minimal.  I make coffee at home instead of going to Starbucks.  I eat at home instead of eating out (most of the time, anyway).  But an area of my life that deserves some attention is clothing – specifically my own closet and that of my children.  While I quickly purged about half of the kids’ closet in an afternoon last week by donating three full bags of clothing, my own closet has been getting overhauled over a longer term.  Since I undertook a challenge to rid my home of 2011 items in 2011, I have donated over 150 items from my wardrobe.  I then decided to see if I could get the contents of my wardrobe down to a respectable number, and as I had been playing with the idea of participating in Project 333 for the past couple of months, I decided to jump right in.

So without further ado, here is a list of my current wardrobe items:

  1. Levi’s jeans
  2. Banana Republic jeans
  3. Costco leggings – black
  4. JOE leggings – grey
  5. American Apparel leggings – navy
  6. American Apparel leggings – brown
  7. Old Navy purple leggings
  8. GAP black corduroy skirt
  9. GAP grey corduroy skirt
  10. GAP denim skirt
  11. Dressy/long empire waist striped shirt – black/grey stripes
  12. JOE wrap shirt – violet
  13. Striped overshirt – grey stripes
  14. GAP hoodie – oatmeal
  15. Formal black dress
  16. GAP sleeveless casual dress – black
  17. American Eagle sleeveless casual dress – blue
  18. Casual jersey knit dress – black
  19. JOE t-shirt – purple
  20. JOE t-shirt – black
  21. JOE t-shirt – melon
  22. JOE tank top – pink
  23. JOE tank top – black
  24. JOE tank top – purple
  25. JOE tank top – turquoise
  26. American Eagle t-shirt – grey with sequins
  27. American Eagle tank top – brown with sequins
  28. American Eagle tank top – blue
  29. American Eagle tank top – grey
  30. American Eagle tank top – grey
  31. Lululemon crop pants – brown
  32. Yoga pants from Costco – black
  33. Yoga crop pants from Costco – blue

I’ve come a long way since the beginning of this year, and now recognize which items in my closet are being worn regularly (as well as those which are not).  The purpose of writing all of these items out in a list is for it to act as a reminder to me that I don’t actually need anything, and that I can probably avoid stores altogether at this point.  It’s a means of staying accountable to myself and hopefully will give me some strength if I’m having a moment of weakness.  If I do find myself in a store and poised to make an impulse purchase that I will later regret, I’ll refer to this list in hopes that it will deter me from making the purchase.

What’s not included in this list?  I have one purse.  I have one bathing suit.  I also have one drawer dedicated to socks, underwear and tights.  I considered lumping the leggings in with the undergarments, but there’s clearly too many leggings for one person on this list and it would probably benefit me to clear some of them out as they get worn out.  I also have fourteen pair of shoes, but only half of those are suitable for summer weather and I’m hoping to pare down the size of my shoe collection by the end of the summer.  I’ve got a couple of clothing items in a bag waiting to be donated, and some of the items on this list might make it there as well.  I’ve packed away a couple of sweaters and some winter weight clothing, and those items will be making a reappearance in the fall and incorporated into my list of 33 things, when I’m hoping I can pare down my wardrobe to 33 items in total for the entire year.  Given that the weather is so mild in Vancouver, I think it’s a real possibility.

Do you participate in Project 333?  If so, how far along are you in the project and how has it changed your life?

project 333: epic fail in the shoe department


One of my goals for the year is to start consciously participating in Project 333.  The main purpose of Project 333 is to have a complete wardrobe with only 33 items in it and wear that wardrobe for a period of three months.  I’m hoping that once I get started, I’ll be able to have no more than 33 items in my wardrobe at any given moment.  You can learn more about Project 333 here.

Living in Vancouver where the weather is mild, I find I can wear the same clothing for 10 months out of the year in the rainy/chilly season and get by with limited seasonally summer clothing for the other two months in July and August.  I’m not kidding when I say I wore my winter coat outside as recently as two weeks ago, so it’s not too much of a stretch that I won’t need anything more.  Having recently decluttered a few items from my shoe wardrobe, I thought I had probably better take stock of what I own and whether or not I can whittle my small collection of shoes down even further.  I currently have fourteen pair of footwear, and no, I don’t get a chance to wear all of them regularly.

Here’s what I’ve got right now:

  • 1 pair of ballet flats in gold bought from Fine Finds
  • 1 pair of brown Ecco hiking boots
  • 1 pair of Ugg cardi-boots knock-offs (from Old Navy)
  • 1 pair of dark blue cowgirl boots – made in Italy, these are gorgeous!
  • 1 pair of high heel black boots
  • 1 pair of Nine West Jamie high-heel gladiator-style strappy sandals – gorgeous and PINK!
  • 1 pair of CrocsPatricia” sandals – no, these are not hideous and they are super comfy too!
  • 2 pair of Havaianas, 1 each in pink and orange
  • 1 pair of Converse All-Star sneakers in black
  • 1 pair of Reebok runners (for indoor activities)
  • 1 pair of Nike runners (for outdoor activities)
  • 1 pair of Nike cross-trainers / hikers (for outdoors)
  • 1 pair of Kamik rain boots
Off the top, I’m pretty sure both pair of Havaianas and one pair of runners need to go.  I won’t be replacing most of them when I’m finished with them, and there’s a couple items I’m thinking of donating in the near future (like the Ugg-style boots and the Ecco hikers).  Anything I’m not donating in the near future will be worn until they’re worn out.
Here’s what I’d like to end up with:
  • 1 pair of dressy boots (preferably with high heels)
  • 1 pair of casual boots (need to be comfy enough for daily wear)
  • 1 pair of high heeled sandals (for dressy occasions)
  • 1 pair of flat sandals for daily wear
  • 1 pair of casual sandals comfortable enough to walk in/for daily wear
  • 1 pair of indoor runners for working out in
  • 1 pair of outdoor runners for daily wear

Looks like I need to cut my footwear collection in half, and I’m hoping to do so by Fall 2011. I’m planning on trying to wear all of the summer seasonal items as much as possible this summer, and then letting go of what I don’t plan on keeping over the winter.

How many pair of shoes do you own and how many do you wear regularly?  Have you considered decluttering your wardrobe or your shoe collection?

retail me not: greening your wardrobe at the thrift shop


I dropped off a few pair of shoes and some costume jewelry at My Sister’s Closet this afternoon, adding another dozen or so items to my list of 2011 items that I’ve decluttered from our home this year.  My Sister’s Closet is a thrift shop in downtown Vancouver where they accept and sell clothing donations from the community (both personal and business donations), and the proceeds from sales go to women in need who are trying to re-establish their lives without the influence of violence or abuse.  I try to do a lot of my clothing shopping there, as I’d prefer to buy something that is gently used and contribute to the practice of recycling, rather than purchasing something brand new when a gently used option was readily available.  I was reading David Suzuki‘s Green Guide, last week and a point he made has really stuck with me.  He writes:

By reducing your consumption of goods by 1 kilogram, you can save approximately 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of natural resources and prevent 200 kilograms of waste and pollution.  By this measure, individual acts of conservation can have a huge effect.

I can honestly say that reading that statement and internalizing that piece of knowledge has done more to limit my consumption than I would have thought possible. I don’t think those numbers will ever leave my consciousness.  Anytime I am in a store now, I carefully consider each purchase and keep this idea in mind.  I think that is what is so appealing about shopping at thrift stores: by shopping at a thrift shop, we are able to limit our contribution to the stream of waste we all generate as human beings on this planet.  In addition to the fact that the proceeds from donations are going to a great cause, shopping at thrift shops is a form of recycling. We all need clothing to wear to protect us from the elements and it’s important to feel good about ourselves in the clothes we do wear, so why not try to limit the environmental effects of those purchases as much as possible?

Here’s how to make the most of thrift store shopping:

  • Shop in thrift stores that are local to you.  I am lucky to have two great thrift shops within walking distance of my home, and there are a couple of thrift stores in nearby neighbourhoods on bus routes.  I tend to stick with things that are easily accessible and don’t require a ton of extra effort – try to find a good local thrift shop in your neighbourhood or that you don’t have to go to far to get to.  Otherwise, it feels more like work than like fun.
  • Visit regularly.  Sometimes items are donated to thrift shops and they are such gems, they end up getting sold quite quickly.  Besides supporting a great cause, My Sister’s Closet often has some fabulous finds!  If you’re pretty selective about what you do own and wear (like me), it’s a good idea to stop by your local thrift shop once or twice a week.  I often find I spend a couple of minutes in the store to see if there’s anything worthwhile, and if not, I am on my way.
  • Shop only in season.  Most thrift stores don’t have enough room to store items that aren’t in season, so try to keep this in mind as a good idea for your own closet too.  If you see a nice wool sweater on the rack but it’s the middle of July, consider foregoing that purchase.  You might not even like your impulse purchase by the time the right season comes around.
  • Donate your own items when you are no longer wearing them.  I love going into the thrift shop and seeing things for sale there that I donated.  I feel like I am contributing a bit to the community by donating items that can be sold to others who will use them, and whose proceeds can go to a cause that supports those in need.
  • Consider a capsule wardrobe.  I’d like to go into this further in a future post, but consider the fact that you probably wear only a certain kind of clothing or certain items pretty regularly throughout the week.  My wardrobe consists of t-shirts, leggings, a couple of skirts and two pair of jeans.  This is my uniform.  If I need a pair of leggings, I stick to looking for those at the thrift shop.  If I find a designer purse or a fancy dress that I will never wear, I leave it for someone else to find, no matter how good of a deal it might be.
  • Bring your own reusable bags.  Most thrift shops provide plastic bags, but consider bringing your own bags if one of your goals of choosing thrifting over shopping at conventional stores is to reduce waste.
  • If you’re looking for something specific but can’t find it in the thrift shop, consider an online marketplace.  If you’re looking for something specific but are getting discouraged because you can’t seem to find it in a resale shop, consider posting a “wanted” ad on craigslist or another local online marketplace site.  Someone else in your community might just have the item you are looking for sitting at the back of their closet, just waiting to go to another home.  These sort of online sites are another great place to find gently used items for a great price.
I am not against buying clothing brand new, as I know sometimes it’s just not possible to find what you’re looking for in the right size.  However, I have a pretty minimal wardrobe and I can manage to get by with what I have already and supplement my wardrobe by making a few select purchases from the thrift shop over the course of the year.

Do you ever shop at thrift shops?  If so, do you find it easy or hard to find what you are looking for in your hometown?

in a panic


One morning last week, the fire alarm in our building went off and my kids went berzerk.  Like ber- to the -zerk.  You would have thought the walls around us were burning.  I tried to calm the children (easier said than done), while getting them to put on their shoes and coats.  Once that was done, the thought of the potential that this could be a real emergency flickered across my mind.  As I put on my  own coat and started to hustle the kids towards the door, I thought if this were the real deal, what would I want to take with me?  I grabbed my purse, which contained my wallet, my keys and my sunglasses.  I took a second to look around and grabbed our family’s digital camera off the counter and put it in my pocket.

As we started out the door, the alarm stopped.   Magically enough, the crying also stopped.  And then I started thinking, is that all I would really miss?  I realized I would mourn the time lost spent shopping for my belongings and those of my family, but not actually the items themselves.  Don’t get me wrong, I do own nice things, but they are not irreplaceable.  And acknowledging that is really quite freeing.  Everything I own is merely a tool to make each day either easier or more enjoyable.  As I tend to be a pretty consistent minimalist in most areas of my life and home , it’s in the area of clothing (particularly kid clothing) that I like to indulge in sometimes.  Realizing that my kids don’t need any more clothes and they really are quite content with what they already had is a great feeling.

The people of Slave Lake, Alberta haven’t been quite so lucky this past week.  Although all of them have escaped with their lives, their small town has fallen victim to a forest fire, with about a third of the homes and buildings being lost.  A local business has been collecting donations this week for the people of Slave Lake and on Wednesday, I dropped off a couple of bags of the kids clothing.  A lot of what I gave away were clothing items my kids had told me they would never be interested in wearing.

I couldn’t help thinking that there could be kids my own children’s ages who had lost theirs homes and all their belongings, including their clothes.  It felt good to be able to give to them items from our closets when they were going unused in our home.  I’m sure they will be appreciated, and I hope that the people of Slave Lake know that people across Canada are keeping them in their thoughts as they face recovering and rebuilding following this natural disaster.

how to celebrate your birthday like a minimalist


The big day has arrived.  I’m 35 years old today.

I happen to love birthdays.  When I was younger (read: without kids), I liked to celebrate for the entire month.  Now, I’m lucky if I get to go out for dinner.  My day so far has been lovely, with the kids and I heading out earlier than usually this morning for a special outing.  We’ll be having a visit from a special visitor (my mom will be spending a few days with us) and I got a few birthday well-wishes at school drop-off.  It’s been a pretty great birthday.

My style for birthdays is pretty minimalist.  Here’s how I like to celebrate:

  • No birthday gifts or cards:  My husband and I got into the habit early on of not exchanging gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas.  Before we had kids, people thought that was the strangest thing.  Now that kids are in the picture, for some reason this practice is more socially acceptable.  Perhaps this is because when there’s kids around, it’s always about them even if it’s someone else’s special day?  But I digress:  we don’t do gifts, and we occasionally do cards.  My husband is more likely to give cards, as I tend to think of them as a waste of paper – why not just articulate what you want to say?
  • Choose experiences over gifts:  We had a coupon for free entry to Science World, so we went this morning.  That outing combined with a great walk in some fabulously sunny weather and lots of fresh ocean air resulted in an enjoyable morning, both for myself and the kids.  By having experiences rather than buying something you can prevent contributing to both the clutter in your home and the waste of our planet’s precious resources.
  • Walk, bike or take public transit if you are heading out:  Choose experiences that are local to you if at all possible so that you can take advantage of getting outside and enjoying the fresh air.  Public transit is another great option when leaving the car at home.  Most of the time, the journey is as enjoyable as the destination.
  • Eat birthday dinner at home:  Restaurants contribute to a lot of food waste.  A lot of the food in restaurants goes into the garbage and has to be hauled great distances to be disposed of in a landfill.  Not to mention the fact that all that food that is wasted could actually be going to feed someone who doesn’t have the means to feed themselves.  If you do plan on eating out, be sure to forego the take-out containers, and if you must take home your leftovers or get take out, consider bringing your own reusable, stainless steel to-go dishes!
I’m planning on settling in now for the evening with a nice glass of wine and some great company.  Here’s to another fabulous year!

the minimaList: the joys of toys


At one point, we had a lot of toys.  With two kids, a small space and a lot of very generous family members and friends, it was easy for things to get overwhelming pretty quickly in the toy department.  I think the kids were pretty overwhelmed with all of the toy clutter too.

"But I only have two hands, Mom!"

Most of the toys in the above picture no longer live in our home.  The kids didn’t question the toys leaving the house, and they haven’t asked for a single toy since they all left.  It was a slow process which began with getting rid of toys that had been outgrown, and continued on to toys that were unloved or just didn’t get played with very often (or at all).  Next on the chopping block were toys that had a million pieces – these always ended up getting dumped out of a basket and onto the floor, and then left there for me to pick up.  I’ll admit to wanting those gone more than the kids did, mostly because I was always the one who ended up picking up all the tiny pieces that had been left all over the floor and rolled under the couch.  Finally, it was the toys that were liked by the kids well enough but were just so loud and obnoxious that I couldn’t handle keeping them in our tiny home.

How do you go about paring down the kids’ toys when they seem to love everything equally? Here’s what worked for us:

  1. Decide if your child has too much.  First, you need to get all of the toys they own together and decide if there is altogether too much for one child (or more) to take advantage of.  If you have so many toys that the majority of them are “out of rotation” at any given moment, then you might have too much.
  2. Sort the toys into categories, and decide which categories are important to keep.  We kept crafts (which includes paper, crayons and paints), a small tub of kitchen toys, some Playmobil, and a tub of Lego.  This, for us, is a manageable amount of toys.
  3. Purge entire categories if necessary.  We got rid of a huge collection of Hot Wheels cars, as well as a large wooden train set.  As much as I loved some of the toys we got rid of, if kids are more interested in dumping the lot onto the floor than actually playing with the toys once they are there, it’s a big sign that they aren’t really that into the toys themselves or they’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of toys.
  4. Try to sell or donate rather than toss.  We’ve had a lot of success selling our unwanted toys on craiglist.  Find out of there is an online marketplace in your area that will make the process simple, or consider buying a table at a kids swap meet to try to get some money for some of those unwanted toys. Another fun thing to consider is donating the toys, either to an organization that can appropriate them to children in need or to someone in your community.  I’ve donated toys to Gordon Neighborhood House, as well as just posting items for free on our local craiglist.
  5. Purge anything broken or unloved.  Broken toys can be a choking hazard, especially for little ones.  If a toy is of poor quality and is broken beyond repair, I would lean towards tossing it in the trash.  Research the possibility that any broken toys can be recycled, rather than thrown away.
  6. Re-gifting is a form of recycling.  If you have no room for a gift your child has received, consider passing it on at the next birthday party or other gift-giving event.
Finally, I’ve had to curb my own enthusiasm too when it comes to buying toys for my kids. Although most toys we’ve owned were received as birthday or Christmas gifts, I will own up to the fact that I did purchase some of the toys myself.  Before we entered the toy purging phase, I leaned towards buying toys that were well-made or that were expensive.  One of the hardest lessons I learned about buying things for my kids is that just because a toy is expensive does not mean my kid will like it or even play with it.  Now I get to save my money and my sanity – not spending money on toys also translates into not spending any additional time picking up those toys lying all over the floor.