Thursday, March 03, 2011

Minimalism and Simplicity

For those of you that check in here only to read about my triathlon lifestyle you can skip this post... all the rest of you... hey, WHAT'S UP!? Let's talk about another dimension of life... because contrary to popular belief I do have a life beyond, triathlon and the gym. :)

I've been working to clean out our house. Okay this has been a YEARS long process, but since moving to CT I've really started hitting it hard. I'm not sure what finally stoked this fire. Maybe I'm actually awake enough to notice the mess, maybe it's the fact that we spend a lot more time at home here than we did in Madison, maybe it's the looming hours of training and wanting to free up as much time as I can to be able to train then concentrate on my family and that's it, maybe it's the size of this house and the volume of stuff. I don't know exactly what the tipping point was, but it's time!

I've made more trips to the Goodwill in the last year than I can count on both my hands. I just did our taxes for 2010 and itemized... all told in 2010 we donated over $1000 worth of stuff... and most of the big donations (furniture, wedding dress - yes I dropped that thing at Goodwill bc it was easy, etc) were made after the New Year. In all honesty I couldn't really tell you what was in the $1000+ of things we donated. I don't miss it one bit, but it feels good to have some more space in the house.. space for thoughts and play and creativity. It's wonderful.

I'm really overwhelmed by both the size of our space here and the volume of CRAP we have. Crap that I am constantly tripping over and moving to clean (cause we all know I clean all the time - I DON'T. Just ask my mom.) Toys that the kids don't play with, but throw on the floor to get to the few that they do. Clothes they don't wear that also end up on the floor to get to the few things they like. And it's not just the kids stuff. Tom and I have plenty (or had) of stuff that we weren't using. I even got Tom to clean out all the clothes he hasn't worn pretty much since I've known him. HUGE accomplishment.

Right now I'm obsessed with finding a smaller space to live in. I know this part will take time (perhaps a long time), but it's what I want. We had 1600 sq ft in Wisconsin and it was perfect. We used every ounce of that space.

Along with all the stuff we're downsizing I'm trying to dumb down other areas of my life... meals, training, our daily schedules. Meals have become really simplified. Breakfast is usually oatmeal and/or eggs or toast, fruit and yogurt (for all of us), lunch is kinda like a picnic every day. Finger foods.. protein, carbs, fats.. easy peasy. Mine is usually dumped in a bowl in the form of a salad. Dinners are dumbed way down too.. veggies, protein, carbs (rice, potatoes, grains). You want a snack you say. Well you know where the fruit is or you can have a yogurt or nuts. All accessible to the kids and all only had w/ permission. No more "I'll prepare you a snack"... less time in the kitchen is good. Got a chicken in the crock pot for dinner... all I had to do was season it and put in that bad boy. Have sweet potatoes made and will steam or stir fry some veggies. I recently read an amazingly good 'parenting book' (I hesitate to call it that bc those words cause me to recoil and run for the hills as most parenting books do nothing more than make me feel inadequate and offer only complicated solutions that I know we won't follow through on) called The Blessing of the Skinned Knee (I need to write a whole blog post about this book.. it was that good). It's based on Jewish teachings (we are not Jewish), but is useful for non-Jewish families. One of the things they talk about is their weekly meal - I forget what it's called - and that they all pitch in to plan and execute the meal. We started this last week and it's great. We all do something to decide what we have (kids pick out our weekly dessert) and we all pitch in to prepare the meal and the table. This is when we can get more elaborate in our meals. We do this on Saturday so it can be nice and leisurely. And since I'm not tearing around trying to clean up all our crap I can help with everything and be calm.

I've been trying to figure out exactly what my strength routine is going to look like and I've decided that I'm dumbing it way down for now. Gotta start somewhere. Basically I'm going to do 2 to 3 rounds of the following to failure: push-ups, pull-ups (assisted when I need to which will be after approximately two pull ups), lunges, squats, plyometric jumps, plank and side plank. I'm sure I'll play around with other stuff here and there just bc I like to lift, but nothing crazy, nothing formatted and only for fun. And of course I'll follow whatever training plan coach comes up with once I get back to training. One more week... I'm ready for some structure!

All this said I was thinking today (while driving to Goodwill) about how getting rid of things sometimes makes me panic a bit. Why? Why do I panic a bit about getting rid of these things that suck me of energy, stress me out and generally just get in the way? And it popped into my head. FEAR! What? FEAR you heard me...

1. Fear that I won't have anything to fill the void with. That I'm just that boring and uninspired.
2. Fear that I WILL have time to spend with my kids. YES! I said it. What oh what would I do if I didn't have all my little 'jobs' to do? Will I fail at just hanging w/ my kids?
3. Fear that the promise that the space will open up in my mind as well letting great things come out. What if NOTHING comes out. What if I have nothing to give to the world? Could my life just be about the mundane bullshit I do to acquire and maintain all this crap?

I know all these things are just silly and unfounded... but it's what I was feeling at the moment.

Here are some great sites I've been checking out for inspiration and motivation:
Zen Habits
Three New Leaves - I'm reading his free eBook right now and it's got some good stuff in it!
Rowdy Kittens

So my future contains way less stuff and hopefully way more memories and good times! :) What about you? Do you think you could stand to give up some things and open up some space in your world for great things to happen?


  1. Hey, Laura! Thanks so much for the nod. I'm glad I (and the book) can be of some small help on your quest towards simplicity, though I can tell you're already made great progress towards it yourself.

    I loved the bit about simplifying your meal time, by the way. People tend to complicate food far more than they need to, so kudos for applying simplicity in the name of health. :)

  2. Awesome post! I have mean trying to get rid of a lot of stuff that we have too. We just have too much stuff and it is not needed. I called a donation center today to come by and pick up some old clothes my boys have outgrown. I started going through my linen closet and came across a huge bin full of old shower curtains, regular curtains, and table clothes that I have not used in years and years! Into the donation bag they went!!
    I love you idea of simplifying your meals and snacks too. I think we do a pretty good job of that, but it could be better!
    I'll have to check out that book! Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Anonymous8:25 PM

    I love this post! Your feelings are never silly or unimportant-their YOURS and just because-they are important. OK-enough therapist.... I think you're being prodictive and finding balance. We are SO busy-anything we can do to simplify is great!!

  4. Anonymous9:20 PM

    Hi! This post really speaks to me! While on my maternity leave, about oh, 5 or so years ago, while my infant was napping, I decided to clean out the basement and I donated boxes and boxes to Goodwill.

    Then, inspired by the clean feeling and space, I moved on to each room in the house, except my husband's hobby room.

    It was great clearing space and great to be helping others by donating stuff we never used or hardly used.

    My rule was if I hadn't used it or worn it in a year or more, it was donated. Then I decided that if I didn't love it, I would donate it.

    We're really simplified now. Except my husband's stuff. He's a collector and pack rat and he is stressed out by the idea of decluttering. (Any tips on that??)

    I've since gone back to work and I find it hard to declutter and keep things clean like I did when I was on maternity leave, but when I get a free weekend, I sort things and try to keep things decluttered.

    With my little one's toys, I've kept things very minimal and very simple. No junk, nothing too big, nothing to noisy. It works for us!

    Great post! Keep them coming!

  5. Anonymous9:23 PM

    Oh, wanted to add about simplied meal it! I'm going to read that part to my husband right now!

    I love one-pot meals. Or, better yet, no pot meals! We eat a ton of raw (lots and lots of salads, veggies, and fruit). That is, the kid and I do. :) My husband still thinks a meal has to have multiple dishes and he thinks most of what I prepare is a "side dish" not a main dish. Sticky point between us.

    I hate doing extra dishes and having to clean so often...just don't have the time and would rather do something else anyway!

  6. Laura, this post really resonates with me right now. I have been trying to purge for a year now. It seems that for every carload I take to goodwill, there is still more!!! It makes me crazy. But my fear is that if I get rid of it I might need it at some point. I can see how people become hoarders! I have gotten rid of sooooo much but there is still more to do. When we lived in Seattle we had 800 square feet. It wasn't too bad, it was just Andy and I and a toddler and a baby. When we moved to this house (1750 sqft) we felt like we are living ina mansion. Now we feel squeezed out. Of course, the kids that we had got bigger and we added another. Now they are in school, and do you know how much STUFF they bring home? It's overwhelming. I am overwhelmed right now with sports, working, my working out, cleaning, EVERYTHING. And I don't think my kids are overscheduled - they only do one thing at a time and not in a row. It just gets busy with 3. It will only get worse when Charlie gets older!
    I just bought a book called The Family Dinner. Really wonderful book, it has some recipes but mostly ideas on how to create the space, the time, etc. to make family dinner a priority. I am working really hard to keep the family together and not let us all drift apart in some technological haze. I love your idea of the family meal. We are going to try it!
    Anyway, I am trying trying trying to simplify. But so far it hasn't worked as well as I wanted it too. Sometimes I thinkn the people who write about that stuff don't have 3 kids. I am sure it's much easier when it's just you or you and your SO. ANyway. Good post. You are my inspiration right now! Spring is coming and stuff is going out of my house! Oh and BTW I actually want a bigger house. Not more stuff, but we really need another bedroom...and an office. :-)

  7. Oh and I am definitely goign to check out The Blessing of the Skinned Knee
    I wonder if I can get it on my kindle? ;-)

  8. Anonymous9:42 AM

    So proud of you! Listing the things we fear is so good for us, as people. Simplicity is an excellent goal, one I struggle with all of the time.

  9. Great post, Laura. I'm totally impressed with the cleaning...and even more impressed that you can do 2 pull-ups!

  10. Loved reading your thoughts here - I am the same way. I can't get rid of stuff fast enough from our home, esp. after moving to Milwaukee. Isn't it true that the bigger space and house we have, we fill it up and fast. Er!
    I felt so proud to get rid of everything of Carter's when we moved - I donated and loaded all my friends with boys up. Sad to say that he had about 12 totes full of clothes. Disgusting; I am ashamed. Now, my SIL is having twin girls (must talk) and all Addi/Nora's stuff is going to their house. It is soooo freeing, isn't it? Hope you are doing well - loved reading this post. I enjoy all your tri posts, but LOVE your personal/family blog posts, too! :) More pics of J and L, please!

  11. Thanks everyone for your support and comments. I swear I feel like I shed 10lbs of body weight every time I go to the goodwill! :) another car load today!

    Anne... congrats to your SIL! Let me know if you have any questions. :)

  12. I'm taking a load today - you've inspired me!