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a calm corner

A simple space
A simple clean space

Our suburb is littered with post World War II houses, each of them either a carbon copy or a flipped version of the same design. Many have been modernised and extended. Ours is small, and very original. It stands strong, but as with most old houses, it is quite hard to maintain, and it’s often difficult to make it feel really clean. When you live in a house with two wild boys, a permanent Lego trail, and a big hairy cattle dog who prefers life indoors, you can feel as though you are always living in a bit of a mess. That feeling can make you feel quite unsettled.

It’s a beautiful airy summer house, and conversely it’s a breezy, freezing winter one. Every year as soon as the cold weather sets in, I seem to become possessed by minimalist fever. Running around seeing what I can offload to others, to charity, or just ‘out’. In a way it helps me to regain control over a home which has been a bit neglected over the summer. It’s also a step towards feeling less unsettled during the cooler, more home bound months of the year.

One of the main principles of spring cleaning (or Autumn cleaning if you’re me), minimalism, and probably many other domestic activities, is to start small. To work on small areas and make micro differences that add up over time. I like to have (at least) one small uncluttered space in our home, which regardless of the chaos in the rest of the place, brings some calm. Mine is our dining table area, which is in our main living space. It’s set simply with greenery, but otherwise it’s kept perfectly clear. It means dealing quickly with school bags, mail, shopping, washing and anything else which threatens to impinge upon my calm space. It’s in my direct line of vision from the kitchen, and the unclutteredness of it helps me find peace amongst whatever else is going on.

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slow spring cleaning

spring is sprung
spring is sprung

I am possibly not the best person in the world to be giving out spring cleaning advice, because it isn’t something I’ve had a lot of success with in the past. Every year of my adult life, I have made a plan to spring clean my home. It always starts really well, in a bit of a flurry of cleaning and organising actually, but by about the third week of September things usually fall into a bit of a hole. This year I’m doing things differently, by using the ideas and motivation of others to inspire me. I am also riding on the coat tails of my Minimalist Challenge success in July, and looking to take things even further. I feel as though this is my year to have an organised, minimalistic and clean home. The third week of September has been and gone, and I’m still going strong. So I thought I would share some of the ideas and tips which are helping me.

A lot of my inspiration has been sourced from a couple of my favourite blogs. The first is Jodi Wilson’s Practicing Simplicity, and her inspiring Spring cleaning guide. Jodi suggests starting at the front door. What a great idea. And don’t just clean, do something that will be uplifting every time you come home. Plant some fresh spring herbs just near the entrance of your home as well. How lovely! Why have I never considered such a practical approach to spring cleaning. Rather than simply working studiously from one room to the next, look at the high impact areas first, and work from there. You only ever tackle small bites of cleaning each day. It’s very low pressure, and the best part is that it works. After only a few weeks of doing less than 15 minutes most days, the house feels really different.

My next source of inspiration was Kitchn Cure Assignments from Apartment Therapy. It involves a 20 day kitchen organisation and cleaning challenge, which works on similar principles to the first, of small bites of cleaning. But it also incorporates minimalist ideals which push you to really assess the necessity of every thing you have. In the process of doing this, you also improve the functionality of each area of your kitchen. My kitchen is old and not that functional, but I have made some very simple changes which have completely altered the feel and workings of the room. I’ve also ditched lots of things which I couldn’t let go of 3 months ago.

Finally I am going to mention another blog which I peek at occasionally in an ‘I wonder if I could ever achieve this’ kind of way. It’s intense. When I read it, I imagine someone who has the most beautiful, clean, ‘show home’ type home. Someone who follows the plan to the letter every year in a completely disciplined way that I can only dream of. It is the Spring Cleaning Guide in A Bowlful of Lemons. It’s a 7 day spring cleaning regime. None of this spreading it over the whole of spring rubbish. Just get it done! Which I love the idea of, but it’s just never going to happen. There is preparation advice which involves preparing and freezing a weeks worth of meals, because you won’t have time to prepare food. You may not even have time to eat it. You will definitely not be able to squeeze this plan into 15 minutes a day. This is a full and hectic week of work…and I take my hat off, but it isn’t for me. I’ll be pottering throughout Spring with Jodi and The Kitchn Cure. Enjoying the process, and making my home more beautiful, as well as organised and cleanish.

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on the home straight

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Fortunately the last few big days of clearing out on my minimalist challenge have involved my partner sorting through his fairly immense wardrobe. This still counts I’m sure, even if it’s not actually me doing the ditching… I do feel as though the pressure has been off as he empties out shelf upon shelf of his unneeded clothes. I had to make the point that minimalism inferred that the discarded items wouldn’t simply be replaced!

One of the things which has surprised me with the challenge is that there is no end point. I have gone into areas that I’ve mercilessly culled just days before, and still managed to find things that really need to go. On top of this, every day I seem to uncover new untouched pockets of unneeded things. There is just so much stuff around us which sits there for years and years without purpose, gathering dust, cluttering our cupboards, our homes and our minds. Two years ago we did a renovation which effectively doubled the size of our bathroom but shrank our linen storage by two thirds. At the time I remember thinking we had made a huge mistake considering that our house has very little storage overall. But I got rid of 3 large garbage bins of unnecessary linen then, and surprisingly even more went this week. We have two sets of everything we need and that’s it.

My partner and I were triathletes in a past life, and one shelf of our old linen cupboard was filled with towels we’d received at the end of races. We’ve kept a few, but I’ve never missed one that went out in that first huge cull. Most things get kept for sentimental reasons, or just in case. For that unlikely occasion in the future where we think we may need it. But if something hasn’t been used consistently for a few years, the chances are it never will be.

I hope that the vast majority of the things which have exited our home during the challenge will find their way into the hands of someone who actually needs them right now. Our microwave has a planned new happy home where it will be genuinely needed, and lots of the kids summer clothes are heading to Bali soon for kids in need. There are piles of books for a young nephew and his future siblings. My favourite secondhand store in Fremantle, the ‘Save the Children’ store received all of our best kitchen off casts. Its a win win scenario. We get a clearer house, and someone else gets something they need, I hope….or thinks they need.

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the winter cull continues

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Week 2 of my minimalist challenge has been slightly more difficult than the first. It’s hard not to look forward. To project to how the 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th of June might feel in sequence. But the reality is that until today there have only been a few spots in the house really closely scrutinised, and completely minimised to the point where nothing else that can go.

Each day till now when I finish my little culling expedition, I consider continuing into July and just starting the whole thing all over again. But I think I’ll give it a couple of months. It seems like something which could be done a few times a year, each time with a new frame of mind and a fresh view of what’s really needed.

On the topic of challenges, June does seems to be the month of the challenge, or at least that’s what it feels like to me. Winter boredom perhaps, but Facebook and the internet is littered with challenge ideas right now. I was inspired to start an Abs Challenge by two different people, and have been pushing myself every day to do a ridiculous number of crunches, sit-ups, leg raises and spend longer and longer in the plank. It’s a strange combination of challenges I know, but I guess I am minimising my abs! So I’m culling on 2 fronts.

Linked to With Some Grace for FYBF

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minimalist june

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The impact of my minimalist challenge has been slightly noticeable in the house after just 7 days. I’ve focused on a couple of spaces so that I do feel as though it’s making a difference, and they definitely feel clearer. The actual decision of what to move out each day has been quite simple, and I love the feeling I get as the pile by the front door builds and there is a shift in the feeling of cleanliness and organisation exuding from the spaces I’ve touched so far.

The major coup of the week has been the decision to add the microwave to the pile. I moved it into the laundry about 6 months ago after realising we had no space for it in the kitchen, and I’d also stopped using it long before that. My partner occasionally uses it now, but it’s been less and less of late. So I asked him if he would consider letting me ditch it, and he just said yes…and I feel very happy about getting rid of an appliance I never felt entirely comfortable about using in the first place. So it goes on the pile tomorrow.

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getting your head around minimalism

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There have been quite a few people who have shown cautious interest in attempting the minimalist ‘thing’ since my post on Sunday, my minimalist challenge. And the absolute unquestionable truth about it, is that it WILL be difficult. That is in fact the nature of a challenge. However in the case of letting go of ‘stuff’, there are a whole truckload of reasons as to why it’s so tough for some people.

In Buddhist philosophy it says that attachment is the source of all pain. That’s always blindingly obvious when someone we love passes away or perhaps becomes sick, threatening the status quo of how we like everyone to BE in our lives. But in the case of possessions, attachment can be just as great. Just think about it the next time your child smashes something you love, or when something you love is lost or broken.

On a recent trip to Bali, a necklace which my partner chose and surprised me with a few birthdays ago, broke. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I was really upset. It can be repaired of course, but that necklace represented something really powerful to me. It was the very first really special and super personal gift that he had chosen on his own, and it was absolutely perfect. Every time I wore it, someone would comment on it, and I would feel myself glow with pride as I told them that he had chosen it himself. Well that’s attachment. Powerful emotional attachment to an object which cannot possibly represent a partner’s love, but somehow in my head it did.

Wow, imagine if you have to go through that sort of analysis with every object when you start the minimalist game. I guess the criteria needs to be along the lines of;

1. Is this ‘thing’ genuinely useful to me now, or in the foreseeable future?
2. Is it ‘something’ that I really love?
Or 3. Does this ‘something’ bring a sense of joy to my life? (or alternatively does it fill my space and makes me feel burdened?)

If the item doesn’t fit any of those criteria or it’s a burden, then there is a pretty good chance that it shouldn’t stay in your space. I do think it’s important to say that all options for recycling or transferring that item to a home where it will be useful should be explored. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure after all, and I guess as you become a minimalist you can’t concern yourself too much with the hoarders out there who are snapping up your stuff from the verge. That’s a whole new topic!!

So if you are toying with the notion of cleansing your space, and you feel a bit overwhelmed, start by asking yourself why? Then just pick one thing. Minimalism is a feeling, and it’s a really positive one.

Linked with EssentiallyJess for IBOT