Several weeks ago, I asked for suggestions for post material as I can often hit a hard writer's block.  The suggestion was to talk through some of the lifestyle choices we've adopted for our family and the ways we seek to embrace a simplified and minimalist lifestyle.

To be fair, Dillon and I started out in a small house, migrated to an even smaller apartment (where I actually lived at home for a season, but thats a whole other story) and have had two other places we've lived since then.  That's a total of 5 places, 5 moves (with one being international) and 5 different opportunities where we had to go through our crap.  After seeing the same items 5 different times, you get tired of shuffling around things you aren't using.  So, here are a few tips and practices we've adopted to keep things organized and uncluttered in the Sider house.

1. Go through your items (i.e. cupboards, closets, storage) AT LEAST twice a year:  If you haven't used it in the 6 months, you probably don't need to keep it.  There are exceptions to this rule (i.e. seasonal decorations, seasonal clothing), however, part of being thrifty and living simply is to purchasing items for longevity.  I'm the first to say that I LOVE decorating for Christmas, however, the thrifty perspective would suggest buying plain white Christmas lights that can be used throughout the year, or to decorate by changing out photos in frames, writing sayings on chalkboards, and keeping the decor as transferable as possible...because the reality is you probably don't need an extra set of dishtowels simply because they have Santa's face on them.

2. Buy items for multiple uses:  I eluded to this point already, but it's definitely worth taking into serious consideration when making purchases.  Whether it be home decor, jewelry, clothing, shoes, appliances, etc., one should take into consideration all of the ways an item can be used before making a purchase.  This may mean investing more money into a particular pair of shoes or kitchen appliance simply because it can be used longer and more often.

3. Don't buy anything simply because it is on sale:  As a person who's eye is always on the price-tag, I am a sucker for a good deal.  However, most of the time (but not always) items are on sale because no one wants to purchase them, meaning they are cheaply made, out of style, or match very few things.  As super-cute as those hot pink pumps might be, they aren't worth spending the $12 on if you will only get a few outfits out of them.  Not only that, but they will be taking up space in your closet that may be better used for something with greater longevity.

4. Downsize: The tricky side of living thrifty is to toss or donate the things you don't need.  For example, when we were first married, I was convinced I needed an ironing board, so one day I went out to purchase one.  Not only do we own very few things that need ironed (and I use that criteria for current clothing purchases), but I hate ironing.  Now we have transferred this ironing board and iron from 5 different houses and have only every used it a handful of times.  As hard as it is to get rid of items that are basically new, it doesn't do any good to simply have the item in storage when someone else might be able to use it.

5. Be intentional with children's toys: Our baby girl is just shy of 4 months old, so this is more of a principal we plan on practicing more in the future.  When thinking through toys for littles, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to make your purchases more intentional.

  • Is it versatile and can it be played with a number of ways? (i.e. blocks, legos, play food)
  • Will it be useful as my child grows? (i.e. books, balls, shovel and pail)
  • Can it be used without batteries? (i.e. kitchen set, play phone)
  • Does it encourage problem solving? (i.e. puzzles, play-dough, velcro-foods)
  • Will it encourage my child to use their imagination? 

6. Thrift often: There is a common misconception that when we need something, we HAVE to purchase it brand-spankin'-new.  False.  Sometimes you can find exactly what you need just by browsing through your local thrift store or by looking online.  All of Nora's clothes have been thrifted as well as the majority of our home decor and books.  However, keep in mind though that cheap in price may also reflect cheap quality.  See #3 for clarification.

7. Be OK with borrowing: One of the saddest pieces of North American culture is our siloed way of living.  When we are in need of an item, typically our first thought is to purchase before borrowing.  If you are doing a house project and need a specific tool, see if a friend already owns this item before buying new for a one-time use.  If you are looking to read a specific book that you know someone else already owns, borrow that sucker.  Be willing to push yourself outside of your comfort zone for the sake of simplicity.

8: Determine where and how to invest: As much as I enjoy living a life that is comparatively simple and minimal, there are times where we have been challenged to invest more into purchases.  For example, we recently had a piece of luggage that we've had for a while, tear.  Instead of going with a cheap replacement purchase, we chose to invest in a brand and in gear that would be longer lasting and bought a Patagonia duffle-bag instead.  It was more than I would have liked to spend, but we travel often and trust the brand and know that they stand behind any wear and tear on their items.  Same principal can be applied to other purchases talked about through this post.  There are times when cheap and thrifted will do the trick, but sometimes you need to determine when to invest.

So there are the top 8 things I do in order to keep the Sider House simple and as decluttered as possible. 

What are other ideas for minimizing your mess?


Ashley Sider