Scaling Down

1 Aug

When we moved to the farm and to our new home – a hundred-year old cottage that was the original home of the property – there were a few aspects of the house that I overlooked at first and only after we were packing up our city house did it occur to me that maybe these things would be a problem.

First off, there is no dishwasher. I know, boo hoo, major catastrophe right? Well, in a sense, yes, actually. These two kids of mine seem to go through dishes like they aren’t the ones cleaning them. Hmm…food for thought. Anyhoo, I had this horrible image of dishes piling up and quickly taking over my kitchen, my dining table…some sticking out from under the couch. But here’s the breakthrough: when you don’t have a dishwasher, you actually do the dishes. Like, right away. Now, I am a fairly clean-freak sort of gal, so maybe it’s just my slice of type-A neurotic tendencies coming out, but by god, there is rarely a dish to be seen messing up my counter. You stay on top of your dishes and therefore your mess. Makes me second-guess the need for the 24 mugs we have seemed to acquire.

Next up we have fridge space. The kitchen is lacking some strategic appliance placement. Basically that means there is no room for a normal-sized fridge. When we remodeled our city house, we purposely found the smallest normal-sized fridge we could (actually quite hard to find these days) so the thought of going all the way down to a college-dorm-sized ice box wasn’t too daunting but still reserved a place in my “what to do about that” list. So we have the counter-sized fridge in the kitchen and another of the same size in the back mudroom. The second one holds all the sauces, condiments and extra eggs or flour that you don’t use on a regular basis. The main fridge holds everything else – and it turns out when you live on a farm where the produce aisle is a fifty yard walk away from your front door, you don’t need a lot of cool storage space.

Meals are so simple for me these days, mostly because it’s summer and you just go out and pick your dinner, but also, quite frankly, because we got rid of ¾ of our stuff in our fridge. You only have 3 or 4 dinner choices rather than 24. This tired ol’ brain just cannot process that many options at the end of the day. Or maybe not ever. Hmm…maybe I’m just getting old?

The simplifying of your stuff just makes so much sense to me right now. Again, perhaps it’s the chaos that two children bring in to my life, that I just want to strip everything else down and start fresh.

Bear with me, but here is some more of the physical stuff we have minimized- after the jump:

Cars – We just bought a 13 year old TDI VW. It is older than the car we are replacing. But here is why I love it (aside from the TDI part! whoot whoot!) – it is basic. No fancy screens, few electronic aspects to it, it is not run entirely by a computer…simple, basic and clutter-free. While basic in car-talk can mean clunky (and in our case this is somewhat true) it can also just mean, well, basic. Oh, and it’s a manual which is super fun to drive. Danica Patrick watch out.

Clothes – Ok, this is a hard one for me. I have never met a deal I didn’t like or a sequined cardi that I didn’t need. If I had my druthers, I would be a total clotheshorse. I love clothes, I love fashion – my lifestyle choices aren’t so cohesive with such fashion but I do as I may. Digging in the dirt and then getting hugged by two little muddy raspbery-stained buddies does not render itself a great opportunity to showcase your best wares. Give me a few more years though and I will be back in the game. So, yes, simplifying clothes is a hard one for me. I understand the benefit of owning just 5 really nice shirts – no matter what you paid for them – that you adore instead of the 17 ho-hum ones. But I like all 14 of my striped shirts! And plus, you just never know when you may need that Russian fur hat or those fantastic red vintage heels. You just never know.

Kid’s StuffSimplicity Parenting is a great book to read regarding your kid’s stuff – and your stuff for that matter. It outlines how your environment (i.e. your living room), your daily routines, the toys/books and exposure to the world has a huge influence over your children. So to simplify this is almost crucial to your child’s well-being. Sound a little dramatic? Perhaps, but there is some good stuff to be gleamed from this book.

Your kids don’t need 27 different books – this is one I seemed to fail the most on – they only need about a dozen. Too much choice can lead to anxiety. Same with the toys – they don’t need an entire room devoted to their hundreds of toys – many missing pieces, broken or lacking any creative character. Again, they need about a dozen. Read the book if you don’t believe me. This was easy to do when we moved. I gave away probably about half my kid’s toys and they have not made one peep about it. I gave away even more of their books (I had a bit of a book problem) – you know, the ones they picked up once and never looked at again, the ones with Disney characters and the weird scary ones that didn’t make any sense to this adult brain. I refused from the start to have any toys with batteries – mostly because i knew the sounds that these objects would make would drive me right over the bridge. But I am not a wood-only, handmade toy sort of person – I see the benefit of the plastic trucks and baby doll stroller. As long as the toy has some imaginative power behind it, I’m good with it. We now have a drawer full of duplos and a drawer full of random knick-nacks that the kids use for various acts of play, a basket of trucks and cars and a drawer full of books. Kids have a knack for making a stick into about two dozen different things. So the simple stuff is all they really need but a few special toys are fun too. Done and done.

All that Other Stuff – Do you really need 10 toothbrushes in your bathroom closet? Did you really save that much money by buying them in bulk rather than on a need-by-need basis? And what about the 6 different cleaners you have stashed under your sink? Or the 3 different lotions, 4 large-sized pyrex baking dishes and 65 different crayon colors? You start looking around and you will be shocked at what you find. I was. Having to box up everything in your house has a way of showing you what you hoard and what you need less of. I recommend it every 10 years. At least.

So that, my friends, is how I cut the clutter. It was mainly because we moved and had to pack everything up but I am going to try to stick to this less-is-more mentality going forward. The physical stuff is important to reduce but the “noise” is also crucial to minimize – the rhythm of your day, the schedule, the communication, the accessibility…I’ll touch on that later in the week. Or month.

And why is there a picture of my foot up above? You don’t see how it is relevant to this post? Me, neither. I just like it. So there.

Ciao.

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