Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Food Minimalism (Becoming Minimalist)

I'm still kind of writing this series by the seat of my pants, as I continue to uncover what "becoming minimalist" means to me.  I'm loving this, you guys!!  I'm realizing that there is a ton of overflow from the practice of becoming a more minimalistic thinker and today, I'm sharing how I have seen it bump into my household running, specifically with food management. 

I mentioned in a recent post, that I had stopped the giant overstocking of food from Costco.  I got a ton of great feedback from that so I know that many of you are tracking with me on this.  I mainly quit doing that, because; 1) it was expensive. 2) It required management- in that I didn't have a great place for all of that excess storage so I was constantly breaking down boxes, moving half of the items into the pantry, trying to find containers for the rest in the garage, etc. 3) Our freezers were full to overflowing and meats were getting lost and wasted from freezer burn etc.

So it got me revamping a lot of our food items.  I put three little storage bins into the freezer that is attached to our fridge.  One for veggies, one for dairy (shredded cheeses mostly) and another for meats.  There was a pull out drawer at the bottom which became bread products, as those seem to be the largest.  I labelled all of the bins and we mostly stick to that storage in the inside freezer.  If it doesn't fit, it probably needs to be dealt with. Outside, I have a really tiny model of an additional freezer.  It's so small that it doesn't hold much, but it's handy to have.  It's a great place for storing the extra casseroles or soup that I often split in half to freeze for later!

I guess the point I'm making, (same point I've been making all along) is that in all of life the more you have the more you'll have to spend your time managing it and minimalism for me... is all about freeing up that time for anything else!  I grocery shop weekly, I meal plan, I budget, I allow for leftovers but keep in mind a great meal I can sub in, in the off chance there aren't the leftovers I had planned.  Mostly, I try to cook fresh, delicious things that won't go to waste and will nourish us.  Because I can open up my fridge and see the organized plan, rather than old foods rotting and hiding behind crowds of bottles, containers and other things... I'm better able to do that.

I'm also better able to enjoy the process.

Remember this post I did, where I decanted my spices? It freed me up to truly consider what I needed, get rid of what I didn't, and then enjoy a more streamlined process, using what was left.  It was so worth it... At some point, I just decided to stop the madness in every area of my life and this is one more of those areas of massive positive.

I get asked a TON of great questions but here are my top two lately...People keep asking what happens if the jar I'm decanting product into doesn't hold it all. Answer: I just tuck the ugly packaging in front of the pretty jar and use that remaining part up first... but it doesn't happen very often, as I do try to use containers that are sized correctly in the first place. (If you're not buying huge containers of spices at Costco (I'm sorry but I'm totally calling this one out)... you'll need WAY less space to manage things like THAT!) (I can't tell you how many homes I go into, where the bottles of oil and vinegars and spices are totally, 100% out of control. Too many... who needs that much taco seasoning before it all goes stale, anyway?!) (Maybe the taco truck guy... I bet he uses that much seasoning.) (Palm to forehead.) (Just saying.) I run a family of four and we do just FINE with regular sized spices and things.  (They do have a good price on their vanilla extract...  But I like Trader Joes' better. So.)

The other great question, is that when getting organized, it really costs something.  Bins, baskets, drawer dividers.. not cheap!  People ask me how to get minimized and organized with out it costing a fortune.  Answer: Little by LITTLE!  Minimalists don't tend to jump quickly and make stupid purchases that go to waste next week when they 1. see something they like better 2. see Joanna Gaines's next collection (oh yes I DID.) (And for the record, I do adore her stuff and own two of her items...) (I'm just saying, and I know you know.) or 3. haven't thought through the whole space and planned the RIGHT thing.  Minimalists purchase better, just less.  Minimalists purchase carefully, so less waste.  And, minimalists commit longer to what they do buy, because of those first two things. Get the right things, think it through and take your time.  (When I began deeply organizing my home a few years ago, I would often buy one acrylic drawer tray per grocery shopping trip.  Or just do one drawer at a time.  I knew what I wanted and it took me several years to hit every space in our home.)

Fun fact, side note...I read somewhere that if your kitchen area is decluttered and organized, you'll likely weight about 25 lb less than those who don't keep a kitchen tidy! 

What?! WOW! I just wanted to end on that motivating thought.  

And please don't hate me for calling out the size of Costco spices.  

Friday, August 24, 2018

Interrupting with white...

 Last week, I tackled a project and decided to interrupt my becoming minimalist series with a small post to share the details.  I painted my DeLonghi espresso maker white. 

(I like what I like, and what I like is white.)


It was a really quick, one day project and I've had lots of questions about my process, on Instagram so here is the nutshell.  For this specific project, I did a TON of careful cleaning, then taping off my machine to cover the stainless portions.  That part took at least an hour.  No lie, and very important. 

Once prepped, it got two very light coats of a good spray paint primer, with two or three hours of drying time in between coats. Then I used a spray paint meant for appliances and followed the directions to the letter, working on multiple, light coats, letting it dry for about six hours.  And that was it.  I peeled off the tape once dry.  

I got asked about how we painted the kitchen aid mixer as well, and for that, just research it like we did on YouTube.  There are a ton of amazing tutorials on taking it apart, hanging pieces in a spray booth, and using things like auto grade sandpaper in between coats, etc.  It was more like a four day process but also worth it, just know it's work and you have to do it very specifically which is why I'm not sharing the processes here.  Research and follow the good instructions out there and then rejoice when it's done like we did. Ha! 

 I love that the espresso maker now matches our white and black electric tea kettle (tucked away in the tea drawer after our ceramic one broke sadly) and it also matches all of my white coffee accessories as well as the black and white mugs that I pull out when the weather cools!  It may not be everyone's taste to paint things a cohesive and soothing white, but OH HOW IT IS MINE! I loved the turquoise these many years, but I love this more.  So happy to have taken the time to make the change. I'll be back soon with more of becoming minimalist! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Cutting boards & Towels (Becoming Minimalist)

When I began this series, I kept circling back to my cutting boards.  I used to keep two ratty looking plastic ones, with corners melting from dishwasher misuse, and one day I looked at them and wondered why I still even used them.  They looked horrible, and tucked away, not being used, were two darling wooden cutting boards that would have worked just as well.  I immediately tossed the two ratty ones into the trash which should have long since been their resting place.

Which is a piggy back from my previous post about appearances...  We keep an excess of things without even thinking about why, often keeping our best things in hiding for some reason, not using them up and wearing them out.  Instead, we use our ugly looking muffin pans with rust on them instead of the nice one. (Er. Maybe that was just me...) In becoming minimalist, my first thought was more or less, "Do I actually need all of these things (example: cutting boards)?" Once I realized that my own personal capacity was really about two cutting boards total, (I mean, I only use one at a time anyway...I can't remember ever having two cutting boards sitting on the counter in use at the exact same time, ever.) (And I don't tend to use one strictly for meats because my habit is to hand wash them all immediately in really hot, soapy water, though I know some households have one just for meats.) I decided to evaluate my stash and keep only that which was in good condition, and would be used.  I can't say that I miss those two plastic cutting boards at all.

So that leads to a similar mindset about towels (and really all of life, when becoming minimalist). Do you want to venture a guess, how many homes I've walked in to organize, and found myself staring at a leaning tower of way too many towels? I get, that some people use a fresh towel daily. (My opinion on this however, is unless you're not cleaning yourself in the shower, you're just wiping clean skin down with the towel, and probably only need to change it on laundry days, which in this house is about twice a week.) That means for our home, we all really only need two towels a person, per week, but I keep inventory at three, to include those times when random extra teen boys need showers, or we have some overnight guests, which is also rare.  The total bath towels I have to manage in this family of four is twelve. Really, it's actually only four towels on laundry day, plus hand towels.  Not so bad.  I can handle that, and that's my capacity.  

What I see in the homes where they have stacks and stacks of towels bulging from their overstuffed linen closets, is this.  They tend to rotate through a few towels that get kept in the bathrooms, but the majority of them stay in the closet, never getting used, always looking new, and they keep washing and rehanging the same old towels, never dipping into their excess stash. It's true... so these lovely piles of towels just sit in a closet, getting that musty closet smell, and eventually they hire us to come in and take them to a donation site. Waste, from not living minimally.  Very common.  

 (RANT: And please don't even get me started on saving special towels for  guests.  For crying out loud...if the towels you're using for your LOVED ones in your own home aren't quality enough to offer guests, 1. Your guests should probably go to a hotel because they probably are a bit too much for the rest of your daily life and 2. Your loved ones are precious enough to get a nice towel, don't you think so perhaps it's time for an upgrade? You can get a decent towel for $3 at Target if you have to keep things on a low budget. Just saying.) (I prefer to get my fluffy white ones at Costco because they don't cost a fortune, bleach up great and last forever.) 

So I guess all this to say that if you're striving for a more minimalistic lifestyle with less clutter, less to manage and less stress overall.. these are the general guidelines behind every single minimalistic mindset out there-  Get rid of the crap.  Keep the quality, but keep the quality at a minimum so you have less to manage and store. 
Ahhh, minimalism helps one breathe... 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Decanting (Becoming Minimalist)

You guys. Your comments and emails on the previous post were the BEST.  (Seriously, go back and read what people said if you haven't yet!) I love that we're all on board in our hearts, as we work out what our own personal capacity is.  I think my ideas for more posts have grown now, so I'm going to try and cut them down to size, in smallish bites.

Today, I'm focusing on appearance, and why it matters with minimalism. (It's not what you think.)  One thing I've noticed about minimalists, is that because they have less to manage... they tend to make what they are managing appear appealing. As in, living in the details, appreciating the beauty in the everyday, taking the time to slow and make something lovely just for the sake of the lovely.  (This is why the Danish Hygge movement has become huge by the way.) I read a passage recently in my favorite book series (The Madame Chic books, and yes I am going to reference those books continually until each and every one of you have confessed to not only reading but also loving them as deeply as I do.) about this. The author was making a strawberry tart with Madame Chic, and just dumped the berries in. She was chided by Madame Chic, do this task "avec precision!" This was an ordinary evening dinner- just for family, but what I loved, was the message about living well because you can.  

These days God gives us on earth are such a precious gift, and the people we serve in our homes matter so much... why not offer them the best of your details and services.  Make that tart beautifully with artfully arranged berries swirling in a circle, saving the best berry for the center. Our homes can reflect this same heart of serving and doing, through the process of becoming minimalist and making that which we are managing lovely.  It makes the job more pleasant, which in turn makes our attitudes more pleasant, and it's all connected and spilled out as we go about our tasks. Oh I triple LOVE this!!

So after this occurred to me, I decanted my supplies.

Seriously, it's all connected.  Go with me.  Remember this post, a couple months ago, where I edited my spices (I honestly only used about half of them for crying out loud) and the ones that got kept, were all regulars, but I decanted them into matching jars, and made them all look pretty? It is my favorite kitchen drawer.  I've even seen my kids showing it off to their friends so don't think that living this way, organized, intentional, pretty details in the minimalism, doesn't have an impact on kids of all ages.  It DOES!

I decanted my baking supplies into mason jars with simple labels.  Nothing expensive or fancy, just neat, tidy, and glass so I can see at a glance, what I'm running low on! Efficiency goes along with minimalism and makes life all around easier on the back end, once a system in in place. Less waste and less excess. 

Beyond that, I'm also showing above, that I also edited my oils and vinegars so that I only kept those I use.  I'm also showing my extracts, since I keep them handy and tidy, in a small tin that I repurposed.  (You could house them in anything, and I liked the way this looks, plus I had it on hand so it was a zero expense change.) Everything works so well on a lazy susan by the way. 

Small changes, no matter how small, can make a huge difference in your quality of living.  Have you seen this in your home as well? Do you decant ingredients or pantry items so that you waste less? Do you, like me, love something that serves a purpose, has a low cost and low effort, but high impact?  Minimalism gets a certain reputation and I'm hoping that if you're on the fence about it, you can see that it's more about how you work with what you have, rather than what you do or don't have!  I'd love to hear more of your thoughts in comments. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Capacity and Home Curating (Becoming Minimalist)

Okay here I go, into this new blog series about becoming minimalist!  I have an absolute passion for this topic, being that I am seeing first hand, working as a home organizer, the way having too much creates life chaos.  The best way to tackle this subject, (and make it apply in our homes) is one step at a time, so buckle up, I've got about ten more posts on this subject, coming your way over the remainder of summer/early fall!  (In this post, I'm be sharing a few recent overall home photos that reflect a few changes I've been making. (More on that in a sec!) As we continue, I hope to share some of the lesser seen places, like the garage!) I'm so glad you're following along- your thoughtful comments and emails have really helped me figure out what direction to take this!  
 Capacity.  Have you ever given much thought to this word?  Those who know me in real life, are aware that I adore this word.  I often use it when describing that I'm done, full up, had enough, etc, by saying, "Well I am at capacity with this situation." Knowing that I'm there, often guides me to setting proper and protective boundaries for the future.  For example, in a difficult relationship, once I hit what I feel is my own capacity, I set a boundary for what I can do and what I can not do and go from there.  Make sense?

In the same way, our homes have a capacity.  Often, we push past it and burst the seams and then wonder why we feel stress as we come home each night.  In my own journey, becoming minimalist, I have begun to re-set the bar for my own capacity, at a way lower height and I'm thrilled with how it's shaping up and shaping ME.  Over the past month, I have donated or consigned two full carloads of unwanted, unneeded or unused items.

If you go back years through my blog, you'll be shocked at the amount of editing I have done in the past many years to this point... I mean, it's crazy! You can almost tell when I began doing home organizing for others, as the editing process got REAL!  I would say that I'm the most comfortable in this home, the more minimal I go.  In fact, last week, what really spurred me forward in this becoming minimal journey, was a shopping trip with some of my besties.  I didn't bring a lot of shopping cash because I didn't need much of anything, (I did snag that little wood pinch bowl for my sea salt, above, at Crate & Barrel). I just went for the company and inspiration.  We came home with store catalogues from places like Crate & Barrel, Room & Board, Restoration Hardware, etc.  After coming home, I spent the evening pouring over the pages, realizing that what most spoke "restful home" to me, were (shocking- wait for it) the rooms with clean, minimal, almost hotel-like simplicity.  I spent time the next day doing the most serious edit on our home that I have ever done.  I pulled things off walls, removed excess clutter, emptied more drawers, condensed kept items to only what was often used, needed and intentional choices.  In the space of the past month, I believe I actually opened every drawer or cupboard in my home, touched nearly every item, and made a simple keep or go decision on the spot.  It was ridiculously freeing, and most would say that I didn't have a lot of clutter before this.  But it wasn't my capacity yet and deep down I must have known that.
(I let go of cookbooks I absolutely never use, even though they are the cutest ones ever.  Dishes that I use about once a year went because I've switched to solid, quality white ones over the last two years, and I just enjoy those best.  I edited  through things like wooden spoons, cloth napkins, vases, serving pieces, throw pillows, pillow covers... anything that was being stored, or not regularly used pretty much went! )
 (In the process, I also did some furniture re-shuffling, moving this buffet back in here from the office, and tweaking the office space that I had just shared, once again. Don't laugh.  It was all due to that cowhide rug that came home from Adrain's old office space.  It just needed a better home than in my bedroom and the office is used by Adrain a lot so I made the whole space a bit more masculine feeling. More on that at the end of this post.  In the end, I recovered, the chair cushions, hung a lovely photo from Adrain's office above the desk, got rid of the navy lamp and rug, took down small art for the letterboard I love, and painted the wood dresser... You'll see in a moment.) 

We currently have a three bedroom, 1 den, 2 bath, 1500 sq foot home. I have mentioned this before, that in about three years, we hope to sell it and downsize to a one bedroom, 1 bath condo.  Our goal is less space to manage, less home to clean, less weekend to spend doing, and more time playing! That said, we still will need to downsize belongings like crazy in order to fit into a condo that small and that's why I am on the journey, not done with it.  My job isn't chaotic, but I go into chaotic spaces almost daily, and often come home and edit as needed, as a precaution if you will, after seeing what chaos left unattended can do to a home and family.)

(I wanted to share the kitchen as it currently is, with minimal counter clutter these days as well as a few different angles of the layout so you can see that it indeed does matter. There is only one thing actually hanging on the wall in the kitchen/dining space- a wooden "B" on the walls.  Everything else is leaning and can be easily switched out as they are all pieces that get fairly regularly used.) 

(On that note I want to talk about large scale, vs. small scale for just a moment.  I find that lots of small items can sometimes feel more cluttery than say, a large scale piece that commands attention.  I love the grouping of the bread boards with the tall vase of fig branches, and the huge candle holder on the table.  I removed a couple of the chairs, placing one at the desk and one in our master closet where they can be easily grabbed with larger gatherings. I love the way that feels and looks.  Adrain loves having a chair in the closet as well so it was a win-win!)

 When it comes to our homes, capacity is a two part process.  The first is through purging because most of us have more than we actually need, use or want, and the second, is carefully shopping in the future with that reached capacity in the front of our minds, and curating the homes we desire because of that forethought. It's a one in/one out mentality. For now, capacity in my own home means for example, that we own one set of sheets for each bed. We wash them once a week, dry and remake the same bed at night.  We don't need more sheet sets, because that means more managing of sheets.  Folding, storing, finding space for more... etc. We don't do that. (If I were to purchase any new ones, it would be to replace the old ones, rather than add to.  Does this make sense?  So I would  bring one in, and take the old set out, thus maintaining my current capacity.)

 (Our entry, with the chair consigned, since nobody was using it like I thought.  I painted the white frames, switched out to black and white prints and painted the plant holder on the table, with chalk paint. White just calms me and feels right, so I went with it. I switched out to all fake plants, throughout for zero maintenance. Everything about the evolution of this entry space felt minimal, because there is a place for everything, yet no maintenance for me to manage.  Does that make sense? The lamp is welcoming and useful, the plants are pretty in any place in the home and can go anywhere as they are fake.  The photos are my favorite part though.  Years ago, I had a sofa to ceiling gallery wall and that was great for where I was at, for that time.  It got to be too much though and eventually came down.  Now, I keep two sweet photos above my tv, from when my kids were small, and I keep these current photos here, that I can trade out each year as they change. I love this so much. I don't actually want a ton more photos everywhere.  Just the ones I love and what is current. It works really well for me to do it like this.)

This mentality of capacity and curating, works in all of life from clothing shopping, food shopping, etc. It has changed my LIFE. For example, I  have a small pantry and two teens who often bring friends over.  Yet I seldom shop at Costco these days, and hope to get rid of my card membership soon.  My thoughts about storing and back stocking have changed as I grocery shop weekly.  It means we have just what we need, carefully chosen weekly, only what we will actually eat, less waste, less food getting lost, and just overall LESS.  (Too many things were getting lost in the freezer, getting wasted or forgotten and I decided I didn't need this massive amount of food and supplies on hand at all times. If it doesn't fit into our pantry, we've pushed past enough in my opinion.  Not everyone would agree with me, and some find security in overflowing shelves in the garage for what they don't have room for in their home.  The nice thing, is that we all have our own personal capacity and can work to curate a home that speaks of that, no matter what our own limit is.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this mentality, as I believe it's been lost in this present culture of more, having more, getting more, keeping more, storing more, saving more for just in case... I also believe that many other countries would laugh because they do the one in, one out thing by nature.

Let me know what you think in comments...and below, I'll share the recent office changes that just happened since my last post, after all that purging, editing and painting! Adrain did tell me that this office is very calming to him now. I love that, and I love that it gets used so much.