Monthly Archives: December 2011

retail me not: buying nothing in 2012

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I’ve been off enjoying the festivities of the holiday season for the past couple of weeks.  I thought very little about decluttering and mostly just enjoyed spending time with family and friends (and indulging in food and drink entirely too much!)  But my thoughts of coming up with a new challenge for 2012 to keep my home clutter free have recently resurfaced.  Even though certain family members could not restrain themselves from buying large gifts for the kids (which we will be sure to have a conversation about that FAR in advance of the Christmas season next year!), our goal of keeping with a minimalist Christmas was somewhat of a success.  The kids received one joint gift from Santa, and one DVD each in their stockings.  That along with a letter from Santa wishing them the best of the holidays and a couple of foil wrapped chocolates was enough to thrill them.  We gave our oldest a book and our youngest received a puzzle from us (purchased at the thrift store no less!), and for those who like numbers, we spent $25 on each of our childrens’ gifts this holiday season.

However, as reasonable as Christmas was in the spending and consumption department, I did notice when putting the gifts away in the closet that there is one area of our home that is far from minimalist, and I would argue has become a bit indulgent.  It is the area of children’s clothing.  While I’ve had great success in sticking to a limited wardrobe myself, I seem to have issues with buying clothing for my kids that is either a) a great deal or b) too cute to pass up.  While I’ve spent the last twelve months decluttering my home, which has included kitchenware, bathroom towels, small appliances, endless amounts of toys, shoes, and my own clothing, my kids’ closet has become a bit of a boondoggle.  Granted, they share a room and one very small closet between the two of them; however, there are two large bins of clothing on the floor of their closet that doesn’t even fit them yet and is too big to wear.  Erp.

So here is my challenge for the coming year:  2012 will be the year of not shopping.  Not only will my husband or I NOT be buying them any toys or games (I spent WAY too much time clearing away toys in 2011), but I am holding a moratorium on kid’s clothing as well.  In the past, any time I spent shopping for my kids was dedicated to buying ahead for them, for events to take place in the future: next winter, next summer, next Christmas, ad nauseum.  So for 2012, I’m hoping to not only to enjoy all of the cute things already in their closet, but to develop a habit of not buying ahead.  This will be good practice for living in the moment, as well as enjoying and being grateful for what we own already.  The only things I would consider buying them this year would be socks and underwear, but they have no need for any more of these things currently.  I’m hoping that this challenge will have a positive impact on the amount of space in our home, and I won’t be buying and hanging onto superfluous amounts of clothing for my kids “just in case.” I am also pledging to buy nothing new in the clothing department for myself for the entirety of 2012.  If I do need to replace anything in my already little wardrobe, I’ll be heading to the thrift shop, otherwise, I’m putting a stop to shopping for myself too.  I’m hoping to cultivate a focus on other activities that are more experience rich than shopping.

As a parent who has for a long time preferred shopping for my kids to shopping for myself, I have no idea how this challenge will go.  I would love to hear stories of encouragement of how you have curbed buying for children in your family, or how you have downsized your kids’ wardrobes without too much whinging from the peanut gallery.

project 333: a new way of living

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One of my goals for the year is to consciously participate in Project 333.  The main purpose of Project 333 is to have a complete wardrobe of only 33 items and to wear that wardrobe for a period of three months. You can learn more about Project 333 here

When I embarked on the process of decluttering my home at the beginning of this year, my closet, and more specifically my wardrobe, was an area that needed a lot of attention.  My closet housed over 200 pieces of clothing for myself alone and I wasn’t wearing most of them on a regular basis.  There was maternity clothing that I had no plans to ever wear again, dress pants left over from a previous career in the corporate world, and a ton of stuff I had bought on sale but never really loved enough to wear with any frequency.  The bulk of my wardrobe was filled with items that were purchased at deep, deep discounts.  Over the past year, I’ve strived to develop an immunity to marketing that includes the words “SALE!” and “75% OFF!” because I’ve come to realize that what I really liked about things that were on sale was the price more than anything else.  And when you get an item home and take the price tags off, if you don’t really love it what really was the point in buying it in the first place?  I’ve tried to replace the high of shopping the sales with a contentedness around what I already have in my closet.  I’ve got myself a list of basics that work really well with my current lifestyle (stay-at-home mother with two children) and that I feel are stylish enough for me to feel put together when I leave my home.

Here’s a short list of items that have become true staples in my cute little wardrobe:

  1. A pair of dark wash jeans
  2. A pair of black leggings
  3. A dress that can transition from summer to winter with some strategic layering
  4. A cardigan or wrap style sweater/sweatshirt
  5. A pair of black yoga pants
  6. A pair of really great boots
  7. A pair of comfortable yet stylish flats
If I throw in a couple of t-shirts (either long sleeve or short sleeve, depending on the season), I can have a really great small and functional wardrobe.  This will be my last update for my own personal Project 333, as I’ve succeeded in incorporating this challenge into my life for the long term (but I will continue to update my own Project 333 page so as to keep myself motivated in maintaining a small wardrobe).  My goal was to have a wardrobe that was no bigger than 33 items for all seasons, and although I’ve not quite succeeded, I do currently have less than 33 items in my wardrobe in rotation (including shoes) and I plan to have even less for the summer months.  I have about 10 items that are currently in storage until the warmer months reappear, but for right now I am content with the few things hanging in my closet.  I’ve discovered a love of accessorizing my outfits with jewellery I already own, as well as a handful of scarves that were spared from the decluttering I’ve done this year.

Thankfully, I’ve found it’s easier to be content with less, and to appreciate more what I already have when I’m not constantly looking for the next big sale.  Another bonus of being committed to maintaining a small wardrobe is that I’m not spending money (or time!) searching for the next elusive “perfect thing” to add to my wardrobe.  Because, as my husband likes to say, the only way to truly save money is to not spend it in the first place.

retail me not: avoiding the mall and embracing the real spirit of Christmas

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I’m finding that since wrapping up my decluttering challenge for 2011, I’m twisting in the wind.  I suppose December is a poor time to be left with idle hands and no project on the go.  This time of year is like a siren song to a reformed shopper.  Every time I leave my house, I walk by stores that are decorated beautifully for the holidays, but all of them are calling out to all of us to spend money on things we don’t need or to buy things for other people who don’t need anything else cluttering up their lives either.  I’m especially drawn to stores (and the items contained therein) that claim to make entertaining friends and family easier or more enjoyable – hence my most recent purchase of a box of pre-made gingerbread people with all of the accoutrements necessary for decorating these cute little guys and girls.  I had visions of having friends over with their kids to decorate the cookies and everyone going home warm from hot chocolate and fuzzy from the sugar high of eating the aforementioned cookies.  Alas, I decorated them myself on Friday night.  And my family and I ate them over the weekend.  Clearly, I have issues.

I’m not afraid to admit the atmosphere of the holidays makes me feel overwhelmed.  While I try to focus on the merry and the jolly aspects of Christmas for the sake of my children, I find that I feel more pressure at this time of year to buy things (clothes, home furnishings and toys) than at any other time of the year.  Luckily for me, December is already half over.  But I’m finding myself thinking about shopping every single day.  I know from previous years that these feelings fade by the time Christmas day has arrived, so I’m not worried that my feelings are anything out of the ordinary.  However, it is a bit strange to acknowledge that I currently have a little voice in my head telling me that I need to go shopping.  That I need to buy things for my home in order for me to have a happy holidays.  That I need to buy toys and other gifts for my children in order for them to have an amazing Christmas.  I try to remind myself that I spent over $400 on clothing for my kids last Christmas, and after opening all their gifts they promptly asked (that same morning), “But where are the toys?”  I’ve learned that having high expectations around gift giving (and receiving) ends up being a bit of a letdown, but apparently that isn’t stopping my psyche from entertaining all of the marketing that is being driven into our brains during this holiday season that tells us we should be shopping until we drop.

So instead of letting that little voice get me down and make me feel like I am depriving myself and my family of the spirit of Christmas by not rushing out to the stores to shop, I am looking to the future.  I’m planning for another challenge for 2012, which will help us focus on not only maintaining our clutter-free home, but will allow us to stay in our little home as long as we want to stay here (even though by all accounts, our family should have long outgrown our small space).  I’m hoping this vision of a new challenge will get me through the next two weeks without a last minute dash to the mall to alleviate my fears and anxiety about not shopping at Christmas.  I’m going to make myself a homemade eggnog latte and put on some Christmas music, which hopefully will be enough to talk me down from the ledge where I am perched with my credit cards and loyalty cards clutched close to my chest.

2011 in 2011: un fait accompli

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Un fait accompli – noun, def: An accomplished fact, something that has already occurred; a done deal.  

Yes, it’s a done deal.  I’ve finished my decluttering project and have decluttered 6033 items from my home this year.  I didn’t manage to finish my “little project” before we left on our vacation in Puerto Vallarta, but I am finished in advance of the end of 2011.  This will allow me to focus less on decluttering and more about getting into the spirit of Christmas, which is coming up pretty fast this year.  My wish for Christmas this year is that we’re able to avoid a major influx of gifts and toys for the children, and the only way I know how to accomplish that is to not buy them anything myself.  So they’ll be getting one joint gift (a Lego set) from Santa that they can both play with.  No, I’m not a grinch.  I just don’t like seeing the wrapping flying off the presents on Christmas morning, only to see the same toys and gifts neglected within a week due to the fact that the kids got too much stuff.

We returned from Mexico this past Sunday and although I did not think once about decluttering anything while I was there (heaven!), I did have some time to reflect on how happy the people there were and how interesting that fact is given that they have a lot less materially than a lot of other people in North America.  It is definitely a powerful observation.  Here’s a few other things I learned while travelling this past week:

  • You can go on a week’s vacation and bring only one backpack with you.  For our family of four, we packed four small bags for our vacation – two small duffel bags and two day-size backpacks.  For future trips, I am going to aim for one backpack per person.  My six year old demonstrated that he is already big enough to carry a backpack with all his things in it, which is great news for any parent travellers out there.  I brought enough clothing with us that we didn’t have to do any laundry (just hand-washing a couple of items), but the good news is that if you have access to laundry, you don’t need to bring as many things with you which can lighten your travel load considerably.
  • You may not need more than ten items of clothing for a week long trip.  And, as a bonus, your back will thank you.  I brought only ten clothing items with me, and not only was I content with the size of my wardrobe for the week, I brought too much and didn’t get  a chance to wear everything.  The kids were more likely to wear all the clothes I brought for them, but I discovered halfway through our trip that there was laundry facilities in the lobby of our hotel and had I known, I would have packed only half the amount of what I took with us for them to wear. My husband, the pack mule of the family who ended up carrying three of our bags most of the way home, had a huge realization when we arrived home and he told me he brought five pair of shorts with him on our trip and he only ended up wearing one.  I know he’ll remember that point the next time we go somewhere.
  • If you pack lightly and opt to go for only carry-on baggage, people will look at you like you are a terrorist when you tell them this.  It happened a few times – in Vancouver as we prepared to leave, in Mexico at the check in counter on our way home, and again at Canada customs when we flew into Calgary on our way into Vancouver.  There were even announcements in the airport at Puerto Vallarta that recommended limiting carry-on luggage – the reasoning was that it was “for your own safety.”  As far as I know, there aren’t any dangers to taking only carry-on luggage, I guess as long as the security screening process is effective.

All in all, the trip was amazing and lots of fun was had by all members of our family.  Perhaps we won’t wait so long between travels next time – our last trip to Mexico was for our honeymoon eight years ago!  I don’t think I can wait that long for another pina colada.

How do you like to travel?  Do you travel light or do you like to take all the comforts from home including the kitchen sink?  If you have any good packing secrets for aspiring minimalist travellers, be sure to share them in the comments!