Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Some thoughts on minimalism

Recently I watched an indie move on the myriad benefits of minimalism.

I'll admit, minimalism is something that has always intrigued me. Who doesn't like the idea of a streamlined, pared-down lifestyle, right? Admit it, doesn't a small part of you long to own so little that you can throw a few changes of clothes in a souped-up van and hit the road?

But in 2020, when we left our old home and moved to our new, it became abundantly clear we were nowhere near achieving that mythical standard. That's what comes of having a homestead farm, a home business, an obsession (cough cough) with books, and frankly a life.

(Yes, these boxes are all books.)

Moving was an eye-opening experience in many ways, not least of which was how many possessions we had. Downsizing from a 3600-square-foot home into a 1400-square-foot-home (and then partitioning some of that square footage for Older Daughter's suite, leaving Don and I with 1000 square feet) was also enlightening. If nothing else, it allowed us to prioritize what we used frequently vs. what we didn't, what we needed and what we didn't.

A thousand square feet of living space for two people is more than adequate. For heaven's sake, that's luxurious by international standards. We have friends with a dozen children (literally) who make do with 1400 square feet and still manage to have a gracious, welcoming, relatively uncluttered home.

What this downsizing did was allow us to sort our household possessions and delete the unnecessary. We plan to hold a whopper of a yard sale later in the summer and offload the excess. Whatever doesn't sell will get donated.

But we will still be left with a lot of stuff – not so much in the house as in the barn. In fact, the house is in decent shape, but the barn is still a chaotic mess. Some of these jumbled items are long-term storage things: Boxes of books belonging to Younger Daughter, shop tools and equipment, farm supplies, stored items, etc. But a lot of it falls into the category of, "What we were thinking by holding onto this?"

Additionally, minimalism clashes with homesteading. We'll always need tools and equipment to garden, raise livestock, preserve food, fix, create, MacGyver, and otherwise, y'know, live.

The truth, of course, is minimalism by itself solves nothing, except perhaps the chore of dusting. My thought is it has less to do with the number of things owned as it has to do with how your time is spent, the focus on career and ambition to the exclusion of family, etc. For that, the minimalist movement is worthy of praise.

Here's the good news: in cleaning, sorting, and organizing the barn, we are, in a way, minimizing our possessions. Certainly we're discerning between what we need and what we don't. Let's just say it's going to be a heckuva yard sale when the time comes.

We'll never have the pure-white, stark, bleak, barren, desolate, austere, harsh, bare, empty home (can you tell I'm not a fan?) which characterizes the minimalist movement.

Instead we'll focus on making our home cozy and welcoming, with warm colors and comfortable reading spaces and "peace within thy walls," even if it means we have a little too much stuff.

Once we have the barn sorted and organized, and once have have the things we no longer want or need taking up space, we will have minimalized to the extent we want. And that, dear readers, is the best we plan to do.

What are your thoughts on minimalism?


  1. As long as there are books, and maybe a chair to sit/sleep in, that's minimum.

  2. I am not a minimalist either. I find it depressing along with the trend toward painting everything gray. (I have a whole theory about that push as well as the push for minimalism. It wasn't a mistake. It was intentional.) A few years ago I wrote a lengthy post about why I reject minimalism. This is the link, but feel free to delete this comment if you don't want people to share links to their blog. It's just easier to link than write it again! Interestingly enough, most days this is one of my most popular posts. We aren't the only ones thinking about this topic.

    1. We must be kindred spirits, Sallie, because I feel the same way. Thanks for sharing that link.

    2. Nope. I love my books and my tools. With my books and my tools, I can make all the stuff I need (grin). Like Sally, I love color! White or gray? Boring! I get clearance paint that is mistinted, then add additional tint to get the colors I want.

  3. Probably "minimalism" covers a broad spectrum. I have books by Don Aslett from the 90's all about decluttering that helped me not turn into a hoarder. And I can keep track of plenty more than some people. I've watched YouTube videos by people who say they just can't keep track of that much inventory in their homes. Well, okay, but I can. I like having enough and plenty to share with others in need; or plenty when our five adult children, some spouses and grandchildren come over.
    I especially love what Sallie said in her blog post about our possessions being part of our personal and family history. I'm decluttered, but not a minimalist.

  4. Sallie,
    I am not a fan of minimalism or gray! I totally agree.

  5. Joshua Becker, author of the Becoming Minimalist website and several books on the subject, put the definition this way: "Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing everything that distracts us from it." His writings have helped many people including me to do this very thing. A good post he wrote on the subject is this: It's worth reading.

  6. I prefer cozy but uncluttered. We too pared down from 4300 sq. ft. to 2500. But, we have boxes that have yet to be dealt with stored in our workshop also. One day....

  7. My parents grew up during the depression. Now I agree that one does not want to be a hoarder, but if you push too hard on minamalism, it means that you do not have much if that I saved "just in case". Many times I have been able to pull out of storage something that was just what I needed. I am using 40+ year old dish towels that my grandmother made that I pulled out when I could not find good cotton dish towels. Old sheets have been pulled out for garden covers when an unexpectedly early frost occurred. I do have too many books, some I bought and some inherited. Don't hoard, but do not throw away family history. Things I do not truly need, I like to give to charities, or have a yard sale.

  8. just a suggestion...
    yard sale, then auction off what is left, then donate if anything dosn't sell at auction. contact a local auctioneer and see how it's done. you can always use a few extra bux....... yes, i'm tight, or as mom use to say, squeeky dutch

  9. I don't care for minimalism because it is too limiting. I've never seen a home decor show that knew how to manage books.

    My rule of thumb is to get rid of something if I haven't used it in three years EVEN IF I LIKE IT. Now that takes some doing because I could like anything and everything.

    As for books and movies, I do get rid of stuff too, but not on quite a strict schedule. I looked at my VHS collection and calculated how much time I would spend re-watching those titles. Then I asked myself, "Do I have something else to look forward to?" Yeah, I have new worlds to explore and so, I almost say thank you to them as I put them in the giveaway pile.

    These are my techniques that I've developed since I grew up in a hoarder house. I had no organization skills at all. My husband taught me to separate my laundry into colors. We were married for three years before the first time I looked at Christmas decorations at a garage sale and said, "No, I have enough." My husband was shocked thrilled.

  10. I think it depends upon the lifestyle one wants. As a homesteader with a goal of self-reliance, minimalism is difficult because of the tools, equipment, and resources the lifestyle requires. For myself, I prefer to think of it in terms such as functional and simple.

  11. I grew up in a home that was to a large extent minimalistic. Mainly because my father saw no reason to keep or buy things that were not needed long term. I had a few books at home so read almost every book in the school library. I had 5 outfits for school and 1 for Sunday. When I was an adult I started buying books. I keep those that I am likely to re-read and get rid of the rest. At one time I had a lot of history books that I was debating about when a friend asked if anyone had books to start a library in a small town nearby. I donated 6 grocery bags full that became the nucleus of there section. When we drastically downsized several years later we donated nearly 200 books to a library sale.We still have a lot of books and I am oversupplied with craft materials, but we have open spaces and things organized where we can find them.

  12. I could definitely lean towards minimalism. Growing up I was fascinated by the idea of living simply in a two room cottage with a few open shelves and wooden pegs on the wall - one for my "everyday" dress and one for my "Sunday" dress, lol.

    But living on a homestead definitely requires a LOT of "stuff." Stuff for the bees, stuff for the cows, stuff for the garden, etc, etc. For each person, I find we each must keep at least three wardrobes; clothes for work around the farm, clothes for work at the office/church and then all of our outdoor/winter outerwear/boots/coveralls, etc.

    Our farm truck is an indispensable tool but we need two other vehicles for our respective jobs in town, too.

    And, of course, it's too easy when you have a barn to simply store stuff in there until you have time to deal with it. Currently we have an old washer and dryer and an old freezer. They each died over the winter and we put them into the barn until we had a chance to take them to metal recycling. Here it is August already . . .

    I don't think you can be a minimalist whilst living on a homestead but maybe I could at least haul the broken appliances away, ha, ha!

  13. While I am someone who likes things to have a place, I also strive for a "put your feet up and relax" kind of home.