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Keeping: Lego. Please read the text for an explanation.

Last year, we launched a minimalism project in our home. It’s still going strong today. I am not a proponent of labels of any kind, and I would not be quick to describe myself as a minimalist. My definition of minimalism might be different from the definition of someone who lives in a white-walled studio apartment with three pieces of sleek modern furniture in the living room and two pieces of cookware in his kitchen. Our home is far from looking like Bea Johnson’s, though I admire her style and will continue to borrow tips from her. To me, minimalism is a concept that is as unique as the person who chooses to subscribe to its lifestyle. Does our home look empty? No. Wanderlust Juniors’ Lego collection continues to grow with each birthday and Christmas, to my chagrin. I continue to remind myself that sometimes, simplifying doesn’t only mean detoxifying our home of material objects; more often, detoxifying means cultivating an attitude of equanimity toward the clutter of my loved ones.

We continue to work toward detoxifying our home and have found that, although it becomes a natural process after the first big cleanup operation, it is a constant work in progress to discern what we want to keep in our home and what must go. I created a list of items that we have discarded and those that we have kept following our big cleanup:

 

What we discarded:

Books and magazines

I used to collect yoga, fitness and nutrition magazines, keeping them for the myriad articles to which I was sure I would refer over and over again. In truth, there were a few useful recipes and tips in the magazines, but not enough to warrant holding onto the growing stacks that took up space in the basement. I took photographs of interesting articles or recipes and saved them on my computer’s hard drive. I also used to purchase cookbooks. Although I did enjoy perusing the books in search of tips and recipe ideas, overtime, I created my own repertoire of recipes to which I continue to return. If I do need to find a new recipe, I use good old Google. I have donated or gifted the cookbooks. With regard to fiction and non-fiction books, I have kept the classics, as well as other favourite books that I enjoy re-reading. I choose to keep the books that I look forward to sharing with my children. For those of you wondering, I do read on the Kindle sometimes, but prefer printed books. Mr. Wanderlust’s library mainly consists of non-fiction books on geography, history, philosophy, and comparative mythology.

Children’s art work

I’m one of the millions of moms who feel a pang in their chests at the mere thought of throwing out their children’s art work. I still feel that pang from time to time, but have learned to deal with it in a pragmatic yet sentimental way that suits our family. I choose a few art pieces that are special to my children and/or to me and Mr. Wanderlust, and we keep those in a box. I take photographs of the majority of the artwork and email them to an address I have set up for Wanderlust Juniors. In those emails, I also provide updates for the boys on their latest interests and challenges. It’s my hope that when they will be older, my children will enjoy the trip down memory lane with this extensive documentation, and will cherish the several ‘favourite’ original works of art that we keep carefully tucked away.

Clothing, makeup and skin care products

I have a simple rule: Whenever I purchase an item of clothing, I discard a similar worn item. This means that I only purchase shoes when the current pair I have starts to look shabby. This rule applies not only to my wardrobe but to the wardrobes of Mr. Wanderlust and Wanderlust Juniors. I purchase clothes for the children twice a year, on average, and replenish their clothes as they outgrow them. I should also mention that I only purchase makeup items or my basic skin care products (if you’re wondering, those skin care products are sweet almond oil, cocoa or shea butter, baby lotion, and J.R. Watkins hand cream) when the tube or bottle is almost empty.

Single-use kitchen gadgets

Several years ago, I purchased a cake pop maker. I used it a handful of times before tossing it into the back of a cupboard. I used to bake our own bread in a bread machine until I realized that I prefer a special type of bread that I purchase at the local grocery store and haven’t been able to recreate at home. We have donated the bread machine and sold the cake pop maker via a local buy-and-sell Facebook group to a father who wanted to spend some time baking with his daughter. If I want to bake bread at home, I can always spend some time kneading it by hand and bake it in the oven. Or, I could use our stand mixer.

What we kept:

Favourite mixer

I enjoy baking. Immensely. Although I could stand in the kitchen while furiously working out the forearm muscles of my right arm while whisking batter, I choose instead to use that time helping Wanderlust Juniors crack eggs or grease the baking sheet for the cookies. Our orange Kitchen Aid mixer is lovely and we use it for everything, including kneading dough for bread and cinnamon buns. For now, we have no plans to discard it.

Photo albums and journals

I do not enjoy looking at photographs on the computer. In my old-fashioned way, I love scrapbooking and documenting our family adventures with little notes and (yes) stickers. Wanderlust Juniors and I spend a long time studying the photographs while seated on the living room sofa, laughing together while sharing stories, learning about one another’s unique perspective of the memories we built together. For that reason, I continue to print photographs, and although this contributes to the growing number of photo albums in our home, those albums are worth all the moments of bonding that they allow us to create.

I have kept a journal since I was in my early teens and started to discover a love of writing. I use my journal for everything from recording insights, inspiring quotes, stories, planning vacations, and planning weekly menus. My journal is my personal, private version of a Pinterest board.

Pretty dishes

I will preface this paragraph by explaining that I do not have many fancy dishes that I keep for the special times when we have company for dinner. However, I do keep an extra set of dishes for those occasions. I’m referring here to a special set of cappuccino cups and saucers, espresso cups and saucers, a set of fine tea china, and cut crystal glasses that we have inherited from our families. We enjoy this small collection and it’s special to us. Most importantly, it brings us joy. Will we buy additional items to contribute to the existing ones? No way.

Travel souvenirs and gifts

Before we settled down and had Wanderlust Juniors, Mr. Wanderlust and I used to collect travel souvenirs everywhere we went. We have acquired enough of them to fill a few small shelves. Those shelves are also occupied by gift souvenirs brought to us by friends and family members upon returning from their world travels. The items themselves are meaningless, but the stories they contain allow our house to feel like our home, reminding us of our journeys and values. These days when we travel, we abstain from purchasing souvenirs, or buy only the ones that we truly want to have, and preferably ones we can use, instead of admiring them on a shelf.

Knitting yarn and needlework projects

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Also keeping: a few favourite items that I knit for Wanderlust Juniors.

I will confess that I used to collect yarn. Knitters tend to be notorious collectors, and it’s logical. We know the great value of good-quality yarn and we search for bargains that we refuse to pass up. However, when I realized that my yarn collection – a relatively small one when compared to the collections of many fellow knitters – had to be cramped into the small cabinet in which it’s stored, I knew something had to change. I stopped buying yarn. Just. Like. That. These days, I use the yarn I have for the projects on which I’m working. I no longer rush to finish a project in order to start another one, nor do I have several projects on the go at any one time. I knit fast, but in short increments of time. This is due both to my work schedule and commitments at home. If I pass by a pretty yarn shop into which an invisible and undeniable force lures me, I walk into it as I would into a museum. Oh, it’s difficult to resist reaching out to touch the soft, candy-coloured fibres, and sometimes I give in. Then, acknowledging that I don’t need to buy new yarn, I walk out of the store. In case you’re wondering, I also avoid walking into clothing stores in order to browse. It helps that I don’t enjoy shopping and despise the mere idea of walking into the typical mall.

The bottom line:

I don’t believe that the goal of minimalism is to discard every trinket in our homes until we are left with the bare necessities. I do believe in creating a home that feels comfortable and reflects the lifestyle of the family that occupies its space. A lifestyle of minimalism is the opposite of a lifestyle of over-consumption of food, technology, and various other resources. Minimalism is about practising awareness with each decision, with the ultimate goal of creating a lifestyle of ease and simplicity.

Would you like to leave a comment regarding your own interpretation of minimalism, or your criteria for what you choose to keep or discard? Please do so in the space below.

Do you know someone who might enjoy reading this blog? Please share it with a friend via email or social media!

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My friend and I sat at a restaurant on a recent Friday evening, catching up over dinner. We hadn’t seen each other in four months, we realized, and a friend date was long overdue. As we perused the dessert menu, the chatty waitress approached us and, seeing my friend’s iPhone case, gushed, “I love your phone case!”

 

I looked over at the back of my friend’s phone, at the words written in gothic letters and an image I immediately recognized from the ubiquitous Game of Thrones series.

 

“I love Game of Thrones! The new season is starting on Sunday, and I can’t wait,” my friend excitedly replied.

 

“I’m going to have a marathon Game of Thrones weekend,” the waitress continued. “I need to catch up on all the previous episodes before I start watching the new season.”

 

The animated exchange continued and very quickly, I started to feel out of the proverbial loop. The waitress must have noticed the tentative smirk on my face.

 

“You don’t watch the show?”

 

I believe I saw her take half a step backward in surprise.

 

“You have to watch it! You have to catch up.”

 

“I wouldn’t have the time to watch it,” I replied demurely, looking down at the dark-wood table.

 

What I didn’t mention is that, these days, I don’t watch anything on TV. Until very recently, I used to be an avid Once Upon a Time fan, drawn to the show’s fantasy element (a favourite genre). I confess, I was more than a bit obsessed with the story. The passion suddenly dwindled a few months ago. I used to watch one hour of TV per week. Now, I don’t watch it at all. And I don’t miss it.

 

When Pawel and I had first moved in together, all those years ago, we chose to not have a TV in our home. If we wanted to watch movies, we would watch them on DVD, using one of our computers. That was also the one and only time when, in-between studying for undergrad exams or writing essays, I binge-watched Sex and the City seasons on borrowed DVDs on my laptop. Even when I did not watch DVDs, I found that I liked not having a TV in my home, that no one felt inclined to turn it on to create ‘background noise.’ Without a TV, I could reclaim my time. I could focus my attention on one task at a time, instead of multitasking by studying while watching a show.

 

To simply state that I currently don’t have the time to watch TV shows might sound holier-than-thou. Of course, I have the same number of hours in the day as everyone else. I choose to not make the time for television. The idea of binge-watching a show no longer appeals to me. No, it doesn’t just not appeal to me; it sounds kind of torturous. Likewise, Pawel doesn’t watch TV because he doesn’t want to direct his attention to it when he could be spending time woodworking.

 

Of course, Pawel and I do sometimes go out to watch a movie — probably about once every two or three months — but we are very selective in our film choices. I also have a small collection of favourite films that I like to watch at home from time to time.

 

Not watching TV allows me to make time for mindful activities that I truly enjoy. I do make time for reading, writing, yoga, meditation, crafting, and (yes) sleep. There have been times, in a distant past, when I would stay up late to watch a show in spite of feeling tired.

 

It’s a choice. This choice suits my quest to living more mindfully while embracing the minimalism lifestyle. So, perhaps, I shouldn’t be as demure about it.

 

Do you watch TV on a regular basis? Would you be willing to give it up for a week, as an experiment? Feel free to leave a comment. 

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This is a candid account of how meditation sometimes feels, even after many years of semi-consistent practice. I wrote this piece for a writing course that I took last fall, and it has become a favourite. I wanted to share it with you as a reminder that we all deal with the chattering monkey mind. Whenever I feel impatience and frustration start to arise, I remind myself to approach my practice with a sense of humour. Who said meditation has to always be taken seriously? Be patient with yourself and perhaps, for just a quick but important moment, you can step into the temple and live fully in it.

Stillness. One of the doors into the temple. And how illusive it is!

“Ooh, I just sat for a few minutes without thinking a single thought!”

Inhale. Exhale.

“Sssshhh! Quiet! That was a thought.”

Inhale. Exhale. “Continue to focus on your breath.”

Inhale. Exhale. “It will lead you to stillness.”

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale. Exhale.

“What should I make for dinner?”

“Thinking.”

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Silence. There’s suddenly nothing but silence and the sound of my breath, travelling. My thoughts continue to circulate, but I’ll keep them in that perpetual vortex, allowing them to spin without escaping through the door into the temple. Oh no, this temple deserves peace. This temple only welcomes silence, but it tolerates the hum that continues to buzz just outside its front door. Accept it, but keep it on the other side.

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New from the workshop:

MaoriHeiMatau

This is a Maori-style Hei Matau (fish-hook) design, made of beautiful chocolate-brown Cocobolo. The inlay is made of pale yellow crushed shell. 

Although this piece is so new it has yet to be added to our online store, there are other pieces in the shop that might appeal to you. Pawel has been working on custom orders recently and would be thrilled with an opportunity to create a special piece for you. So, drop us a line to let us know what you have in mind.

Favourite links:

Here are a few interesting articles I read over the past week and would like to share with you:

Skills in Flux

A New York Times article about the skills we need to develop to succeed — socially and professionally — in ‘today’s loosely networked world.’ This article resonates with me — an INFP with a small circle of friends whom I hold very dear and work hard to keep the connection alive. I often have to negotiate extroverted social networking, followed by periods of relaxing a bit more when I have a chance to get to know a person better and build a true connection. It’s a lifelong learning process that demands evolution of various communication and social skills.

Bare essentials: Learning to live mindfully with objects that ‘spark joy’

This article almost made me want to take a 2.5-hour road trip to London to check out this exhibit. However, having recently been on such a road trip for a work-related meeting, and given that I don’t enjoy driving for longer than an hour at the most, I am reluctant to make the time for the trek. In any case, I wanted to share this article with you because it brings focus to a mindful lifestyle in a tiny home, living with the bare essentials, which is a fascination of mine. We are currently living with as few possessions as possible, though I know we can downsize further. I found it interesting to read the comments of other readers about what possessions they would keep if they had to leave almost everything they own behind. What would you keep if you were to downsize and move into a (tidy and uncluttered) tiny home?

Minimalist Living: When a Lot Less Is More

An article on why the current generation of 30-something adults is embracing the minimalism trend. This is a fun read and even features a quiz to help you find out whether you just might be the owner of too much stuff or if like me, your results will be, “You’re a minimalist. Live a little.’

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Thank you for you support!

Wishing you a fantastic weekend!

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Image: https://unsplash.com/

It started with a typical Saturday afternoon, during a weekly house cleaning session. One moment, I was wiping dust off the floor-to-ceiling book shelves in the basement, which serves double duty as a playroom, and the next, I found myself starting to pick up toys with which our children no longer play, putting them into an empty cardboard box. The children were playing upstairs at the time, but upon hearing me make noise in the basement, they came downstairs to inquire.

“Boys, you have many toys with which you don’t play anymore. Correct?”

They both nodded.

“I’m wondering whether we can share these toys with children who might make better use of them.” I watched their faces for a sign of understanding.

They nodded again and agreed with me when I explained that this meant we would collect toys that are no longer needed or wanted in order to give them away. I clarified that we would never have the toys returned to us.

The boys readily started to pick up one toy after another, considered whether they need it, and then added it to the box, which filled very quickly.

The children got to keep their favourite toys (mostly Lego) and are now able to easily find the toys they need when they need them. Not surprisingly, they realized they don’t need very many toys at all, and since they naturally gravitate toward Lego and other building blocks that encourage the use of imagination and creativity, I have a suspicion they will not be easily bored anytime soon.

This impromptu de-cluttering session led to a change of perspective. For the remainder of that day, whenever I stepped into another room in our house, I asked myself whether we need all the material items we managed to acquire over the past 7.5 years after moving into our current home. Pawel and I have never had a fear of letting go of material objects. Neither are we serious collectors of random tchotchkes. Yet, there seemed to be too much stuff that we do not need. I grew tired of seeing busy kitchen counters. I spoke with Pawel and explained to him that I wanted to edit our home and throw out, sell, or give away various pieces that we do not need to keep and/or do not enjoy. To my relief, he told me he’s on board.

I will continue to write more about our project to ‘edit ruthlessly,’ inspired by the Ted talk by Graham Hill. I will also share photographs of our home as it looks now, after our most recent de-cluttering session.

For now, let me leave you with a few of our reasons for choosing to de-clutter our home:

  1. Having fewer possessions that need to be maintained and cleaned / dusted on a regular basis allows us to spend less time cleaning our home and leaves more time for family fun.
  2. Getting rid of old stuff simply feels good. We like to think of it as a home detox. We have more empty space in our home, which feels refreshing. I used to feel the need to fill every empty spot, but that is no longer the case. I want to live in rooms that feel comfortable but appear more spacious.
  3. We don’t like to feel that our possessions own us.
  4. Editing our possessions helps us to appreciate the items that we do have and use on a regular basis. We don’t need 10 different pots and pans in the kitchen, but we appreciate the two large pots we use for cooking soup every week (one to reheat and bring to work in a thermos for our lunches and the other to enjoy for dinner, at home).
  5. It’s easier to find something in an uncluttered home. We know where every item is located.
  6. Our style has changed in the past few years and our design philosophy has evolved.
  7. I was inspired by the numerous minimalist bloggers who have emerged in the recent years. I enjoy reading about families who have drastically reduced the size of their belongings and moved to live in small apartments or tiny homes. I have always preferred to live in a smaller home, so I’m intrigued by the tiny home trend.

How do you feel about minimalism? How would you describe your own lifestyle when it comes to collecting possessions? Perhaps you also have recently gone through a substantial de-cluttering session. I would love to read your story.

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