Bathroom Minimalism

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Simon is cleaning Jolene’s ear, while she cuddles with one of her “babies.”

A few years ago, I focused on kitchen minimalism when I was still in the apartment. It definitely made the move from the apartment to the house easier. I have no regrets over anything that I got rid of from the kitchen. I have everything I need for everything I make to eat. I seem to use all of the kitchen items in my cupboards on a regular basis.

Since I recently made the switch to cloth baby wipes to conserve toilet paper for the pandemic, I decided to do a little bathroom minimalism. Many bathrooms tend to be overflowing with items either in the shower or on the back of the toilet. If you have cupboards in the bathroom, we often forget what is there.

I do not get to use my bathroom much, as it is difficult for me to use the stairs. I have a commode I use downstairs. But at least once a week, I do make it upstairs, at least to clean up there. Actually, I do make it upstairs every few days to shower. Even though I could technically use the sprayer on my kitchen sink downstairs to “shower,” that is not preferred unless I am having a day when I cannot do the stairs at all. In that case, I typically go without the shower. I digress.

Here is my process for bathroom minimalism.

Mouth & Eyes

My toothbrush and contact stuff / glasses are downstairs in one of my kitchen cupboards closest to the sink. I have two reasons for this.

First, it is difficult for me to do the stairs, so it is easier for me to have my toothbrush and glasses on the first floor where I spend most of my time.

Second, even when I was in the apartment and there were no stairs involved, I kept my toothbrush and glasses in a cupboard near the kitchen sink. I heard that there are many germs in the bathroom – flushing toilets, etc and it is not good for your toothbrush to be in that environment. Also, I heard it is best for your toothbrush to be able to dry completely between uses. 

Therefore, I keep my toothbrush and glasses in the kitchen, not in the bathroom. I keep them in a cupboard near the sink so that they are not cluttering up my sink area and are out of sight.

The shower

Many times, people have very cluttered showers. There are lots of shampoos, conditioners, soaps, etc in there. For me, this makes it harder to clean the shower because I have to move all of those things for a proper cleaning. I try to have only what I need in the shower.

So, what’s in my shower? Here are the details – my shower has sliding doors, so on the door outside the shower hangs a hand towel and the bath mat. I have a vertical grab bar to help me get into and out of the tub/shower without falling (this was a frequent occurrence before the grab bar was installed). The grab bar also helps me to safely get out of the bathtub if I actually take a bath. 

Once inside the shower, I have a non-skid mat on the bottom of the tub that helps me to not fall down. I have a little rubber thing over the drain that allows the water to drain but catches hair so the drain does not clog. 

On the little soap shelf, I have the plug for the tub in case I want to take a bath. Next to that is a rubber frog (like a rubber ducky, but a rubber frog) for bath tub use.

On the bathtub ledge, is the pump shampoo / body wash. There is only one company I have found in the United States that makes toiletry products without all of my allergens. Therefore, I can only order bath products from this one company. Luckily, their shampoo is also a body wash. It works wonderfully. One item in my shower washes my entire body. 

On the bathtub ledge is also my allergy friendly conditioner, which I use for shave cream. There is no allergy friendly shave cream, so my work around to that is to use conditioner. Next to that is my Billie razor, which is one of my favorite products ever.

That’s it. That’s all I have inside my shower. No caddy. No over the spout hanger. No products lining the wall falling down all the time. That is everything in my shower. I have two bottles of product, a razor, a rubber frog, the tub plug, bathmat, and drain catcher. 

When I am in the shower and the bath mat is on the floor in preparation for me to exit, my bath towel hangs on the outside shower rail, so it is close to grab.

Bathroom sink and medicine cabinet

There is no cabinet underneath my bathroom sink. I do have a medicine cabinet above the sink. Sitting on the side of my bathroom sink is one pump bottle of my allergy friendly hand soap. That’s it. What else do you need on the side of the sink to wash your hands? The hand towel is conveniently hanging on the outside of the shower door.

The following items are in my medicine cabinet: razor cartridges, band-aids, neosporin, small manicure set (nail clippers, tweezers, etc). 

There is nothing else in my medicine cabinet. I have heard that heat and humidity found in bathrooms is not good for medications, such as tylenol. Due to this, all of my medication is downstairs in one of my kitchen cupboards. I have a shoebox of medication downstairs. Every 6 months, I go through the shoebox and pull out any cough syrup or anything expired to take to the medication disposal events in my county. I do not keep medication in my medicine cabinet.

Toilet area

Many homes have lots of things on top of their toilet. Items are either directly on top of the toilet, or on a rack or shelf above the toilet. I have no rack or shelves above my toilet.

My toilet has grab bars on both sides that help me to sit down and stand up. The only thing on the back of my toilet is a box of paper facial tissues. That’s it. If for some reason, I need to take the lid off the back of the toilet, I do not want to have to deal with “cleaning it off.” I have one box of tissues on the back of my toilet. 

However, now that I am using cloth baby wipes for pee, I have a basket of clean baby wipes on one side of the toilet, and a bucket for used baby wipes on the other side of the toilet. I also have a small wastebasket next to the toilet. That is all.

Open Floor Space

I am blessed with a large bathroom. In a corner of the bathroom, I have a chair so I can sit down to get dressed. This helps me so that I do not fall. Above the chair are three hooks on the wall. On the hooks, I hang my towel post-shower, and my pajamas. Sometimes there will also be a hoodie sweatshirt or flannel shirt on one of the hooks in case I am cold. 

Next to the chair, I have a little stand with my “toiletry tray” on top of it.

These are the items in my toiletry tray: 

Flashlight (I have a flashlight on every floor for emergency purposes)

Bottle of perfume

Allergy friendly body lotion

Deodorant

Half pint size mason jar filled with Q-tips that has a reusable plastic lid

Vaseline

Those are pretty much all of the items I need post-shower. I try to make myself as low maintenance as possible.

Bathroom Storage

I do have a closet and two cupboards in my bathroom. The closet contains all my clothes and the cleaning supplies for the bathroom.

In the two cupboards above the closet, are my winter blankets, my hair clippers, extra towels, wash clothes, feminine hygiene items. 

I also have all the back-ups for my allergy friendly items in bathroom storage. I typically order two of each item so I have one to use and one for back-up. It takes 1-2 weeks for me to receive items when I place an order. I also like to place a big order when I do order so that I get free shipping. So there is an extra allergy-friendly shampoo, allergy-friendly lotion, allergy-friendly hand soap, etc in my storage cupboard. Really, what else do you need to store in a bathroom? 

Technically, the winter blankets should probably be stored elsewhere, but I have so much storage space in my bathroom, that I decided to take advantage of it.

How many towels?

A few years ago, when I went through my bathroom, I had downsized my towels, hand towels, etc.

When I moved to the house, I had to buy all new towels, as the bad water the last 4 months I was in the apartment dyed all my towels this funny blue color and I could not get it out.

I have three towels, four hand towels, and about 8 washcloths. I am one person, so this works for me. All of my towels are beach towels, so they are multi-purpose. I love using beach towels as everyday towels because they are bigger and I can cover my whole body with them. Plus, the beach towels feel more plush and luxurious than normal bath towels. I typically use about two towels a week. I figure I have a third towel in the unlikely event I have company. 

The third towel can also actually go to the beach as a beach towel. I have plenty of towels for one person. I rarely have company. 

Conclusion

Of course, everyone’s bathroom space is different. I am fortunate in that I have a large bathroom that allows me to move around safely and can accommodate extra items like grab bars and a chair to help me. 

Everyone’s bathroom routine looks different. I try to keep mine as simple as possible. I’m sure that for most people, their shampoo and body wash are two completely different items. For me, the one company that makes my allergy friendly stuff has a shampoo/body wash combo (and that’s the only way it comes), so that is what I use. Thankfully, even though it is one company, I do have choices in my shampoo. For example, I can choose tea tree oil, unscented, lavender, etc. So while I may have one shampoo/body wash choice, at least I have multiple options. 

If you are still in quarantine, maybe take some time to look at what is in your shower. Do you really need all that stuff? Only have what you need, and not only will you shower more safely, but it will be easier to clean. 

The First Rule of Minimalism

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Jude decided to sit in the fabric box.

One of the first rules of minimalism is to put like items together. By putting like items together, you can rid yourself of duplicates and make an accurate determination of just what you have and what you need.

Maybe it’s because I have a challenge doing stairs, but I do have duplicates in my house. There are items I have on the first floor that I also have on the second floor. For example, I have a vacuum cleaner on the first floor and I have a vacuum cleaner on the second floor. I have a hard enough time doing stairs without falling when it is just me on them, forget trying to carry a vacuum cleaner up and down steps. In this instance, having the duplicates makes sense for my level of functioning.

There are times when duplicates do not make sense and that is when we minimize. Early in my journey, I remember going through my kitchen cupboards and putting every single coffee mug on the kitchen counter. I happen to really enjoy glassware. 

When I put all of the like items together, I discovered I had something like 38 coffee mugs for one person! I could use a different mug every day of the month and not have to do dishes. That is entirely gross and also unnecessary. I paired down the coffee mugs so that now I have 8. 

This weekend I was working on the upstairs of my house. The goal is to make the upstairs as empty as possible. I spend 95% of my time downstairs, as stairs are a challenge for me. If I can reduce the amount of stuff on the second floor, then everything will be on the first floor where it is accessible to me. 

While working upstairs, I happened to remember that the first rule of minimalism is putting like items together. This is helpful in identifying duplicates and being able to rid yourself of too many items.  I also discovered that putting like items together is helpful in this time of pandemic to remind us of how much we have and to be grateful for it.

Everyone is having meltdown right now about not having enough supplies. Some people are hoarding. Last week, I was down to two rolls of toilet paper when I received a shipment of 12 rolls, bringing my total up to 14. 

When I started to put like items together upstairs last weekend, I suddenly remembered that there was also a roll of toilet paper in with my camping gear. I got it out and put it in the pile of 14. Then, I discovered that way in the back of the bathroom cupboard was 4 individually wrapped rolls of emergency toilet paper. 

First, I would not have been able to access those 4 rolls if I was having a bad balance day because I had to stand on a chair to reach them. Second, I took the 4 forgotten rolls and added them to the pile of toilet paper and I now have a grand total of 19 rolls! I officially have enough toilet paper to last at least until the end of the year, if not longer. I also relocated the toilet paper to a place that is easier for me to reach so I do not have to stand on a chair and am fully aware of exactly how much I have.

Because this house is so large, I kind of have things spread out everywhere. Going back to the first tenet of minimalism has been helpful in getting me to identify and reduce clutter. When you put everything together and see how much you have, it is easier to get rid of. I am going to continue to work on reducing the items upstairs by either boxing them to leave or rehoming them someplace downstairs where I can use it. 

Remember when looking to reduce the clutter that is in your home – start with just one item. Make sure that item has a place. Only keep however much of it you need.

Are your items spread out all over your house too? They probably are! Houses are meant to be lived in and life is messy! Take an hour during quarantine and identify an item you want to minimize – whether that is coffee mugs, sweatshirts or something else. Gather all of that item in one place and reduce. You will be glad you did! 

 

Minimalist Cleaning

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The easiest way to clean as a minimalist would be to live in as small of a space as possible with as few belongings as possible. Is this feasible? I’m sure there are people doing it, but it is definitely not for me. Everyone’s version, journey and definition of minimalism is different according to what works for them and their family.

Even though I live in a large house that is challenging for me, I like the idea of open space. I live with three indoor only cats, and they have plenty of room to play or just to be alone from each other. I have a great big world to be in, but for my cats, this house is their world. So we have a large house with a few things. My goal is always to maximize open spaces. 

So far, on my minimalist journey, I have been doing a decent job of paring down items so that I only have what I need and things that I may not necessarily need, but enrich my life and make me happy. Over the past year or so, I have written about my transition to handkerchiefs to reduce the amount of facial tissues I purchase. I have also made the transition to cloth napkins. I can tell you right now, that I have not bought a single paper napkin since. 

I have significantly reduced my paper towel use, saving paper towels for only the most unsavory of cleaning jobs. An example is that I use paper towels to wipe out the cat pan after having soaked it in hot water with a little bit of vinegar. By my estimate, I have reduced my paper towel usage to about four rolls per year. Actually, I think it is slightly over three rolls, but I rounded up to four. 

I have been using cotton cleaning cloths for dusting and washing windows. I do also use disinfectant cleaning wipes for some areas. 

Cleaning is not my favorite activity. Is it your’s? If so, why? I try to spend as little time cleaning as possible while still living in a clean, organized and sanitary home. I feel that I have more valuable things to do with my time like being with the people I love doing things I enjoy.

My next step in trying to minimize my cleaning is going to be the introduction of microfiber cloths. I recently had to dispose of an empty can of Pledge and discovered that is a difficult thing to dispose of in my area. I also dislike dusting and cleaning windows. I realized that one of the cleaning cloths I have been using is a microfiber cloth. I did not think anything of it. 

I decided to google microfiber cleaning cloths to learn more about them. The one that I have been using seems to be less effective. I have had it about 2 years and was thinking it was time to buy a new one. So it piqued my curiosity to research cleaning cloths. I had bought the microfiber cloth to reduce my paper towel usage.

Researching microfiber cloths was eye opening. I learned that while it is okay that I have been using the microfiber cloth with windex, that windex is not technically necessary. If I had two microfiber cloths, I could use one slightly damp and one dry to achieve the same effect. Or, I could simply just use one and go around wiping absolutely everything in sight with no cleaners whatsoever.

This is definitely a game-changing idea. I have a set of cleaning supplies upstairs. I have a set of cleaning supplies downstairs. We all know I have challenges with stairs. By having a complete set of cleaning supplies on each floor of the house, then I am not having to haul things up and down on a regular basis. 

If I can reduce my usage of cleaning supplies, not only will I save money but also time. I can just go around wiping everything with a cloth.

Since my one microfiber cloth needs to be replaced, I have actually ordered a package of multiple microfiber cloths in a set of three colors. This way, when they arrive, I can have one color for the bathroom, one color for the kitchen, and the third for windows, dusting, and everything else. 

I will let you know how things go once I make the full transition to microfiber cleaning cloths. I am currently waiting for my order to arrive. Do any of you use microfiber cloths for cleaning? Does it simplify your cleaning routine? 

 The introduction of microfiber cloths carries with it the same challenges as the introduction of handkerchiefs and paper napkins. The initial outlay of money for these items can be hard for working class people. However, if you can afford the initial payment to purchase these items, it will save money in the long run because you will be purchasing less disposable paper products. 

Thus, the reason why it has taken me a few years to make the transitions to handkerchiefs, paper napkins and microfiber cleaning cloths. 

I am definitely seeing cost savings in that I am purchasing zero paper napkins, significantly less paper towels, and significantly less paper facial tissue. Let’s hope that the switch to microfiber will save me not only money, but time as well. 

Do you have any other minimalist cleaning tips to offer? Or time savers? My greatest nemesis is mopping. Personally, I would rather vacuum than sweep or mop. But you cannot have carpeting everywhere. Any mopping or floor cleaning hacks? 

Return to Minimalism

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As the snow flies, life seems to slow down. My fall was busy preparing for winter. I had put minimalism on hold. Since winter equates to being stuck inside the house, I have the opportunity to return to my minimalism journey again. I had put things on hold briefly trying to get settled into the house for the past year and half.

Everyone’s minimalist journey looks different and may change over time. My current location on this journey is that I am trying to get as much of my belongings on the first floor of my house as possible, as I have difficulty doing stairs. In the upstairs of my house is the bathroom and the spare bedroom. Aside from those two spaces, my goal is to have everything downstairs on the first floor so that it is easily accessible to me.

I currently have one closet of items upstairs to go through to achieve this goal. I have about 3 boxes of items to leave the house and go to donation centers as soon as the weather clears. It amazes me that no matter how much I remove and donate, I still come up with more items to leave the house each year.

Of course, the number of items coming into the house has decreased, so that is helpful. There is no area in the house that feels particularly cluttered or overwhelming. I am trying to make things as easy for myself as possible.

Even though the house is about twice as large as my former apartment, square footage wise, most of the largese is on the second floor of the house. The first floor of the house is in fact 100 square feet smaller than the apartment we previously occupied. So I am technically trying to get rid of 100 square feet worth of stuff in order to fit everything on the first floor. Of course, some of that 100 square feet of stuff is in the spare bedroom on the second floor. I just need to be sure that it actually is set up as a spare bedroom and that there is not anything in there that I need on a daily basis. 

Typically, when I go about minimalism, I do one room or one area at a time. For example, I recently went through the closet in the spare bedroom. I emptied the entire closet, then I only put things back in there that I knew I was keeping and would not need on a daily basis. The closet in the spare bedroom now contains the Christmas tree and Christmas box, the summer/camping boxes, and the upstairs vacuum cleaner. 

My goal this winter is to get the closet in the third bedroom up there completely empty. That could mean that the items in that closet completely leave or it could mean that the items in that closet find a place somewhere else in the house. Once I achieve the goal of emptying that closet, then I will work on the downstairs of the house one room at a time. The downstairs is my main living area.

Downsizing the upstairs is practical in that I cannot do the stairs well to get up there. If I have so many things that I need to have daily items upstairs, then I have way too many items. Everything needs to be downstairs with me, so I need to make it work down here. If my upstairs is relatively empty, then I do not have to worry about going up the stairs to take care of anything. If something ever happens to me, then it is less for other people to have to deal with as well.

For me, minimalism has practical applications in that I am using it to enhance my functioning. Having clear floor space downstairs is an accessibility issue for me. I need the space to be able to get around and the cats need space to play.

Do you have minimalism goals for the winter? This seems to be the time of year I work more on inside projects and save the outside projects for better weather. 

Stay warm.

Unmentionables

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There is a lot out there about minimalism wardrobes, capsule wardrobes and how to downsize your closet. Almost all the advice and recommendations focus on what we wear every day. Underclothes (unmentionables), pajamas, and workout gear are all exempt. That is, all workout gear, that you actually wear to workout, like the time my yoga pants actually went to yoga. 

There are many different recommendations and formulas such as number of items, quality of items, etc. However, today I’m going to focus on the unmentionables section, since I have spent the past several weeks updating that section of my wardrobe. Keep in mind, that reducing your wardrobe and decluttering is not an excuse to go out and by a whole new wardrobe. The trick is generally keeping a high quality stock of functional clothing that is rotated in and out as it serves its purpose or wears out. The exception to this rule, is underclothes.

Taking a top down approach to “unmentionables,” let’s start with most female’s least favorite clothing item: bras.

Bras are uncomfortable. I am sure I am not alone in thinking that they are my least favorite wardrobe item to shop for and wear. According to research, most women in America are not even properly sized and are wearing bras that are simply ill-fitting. Bras are one of the first items we put on every day, and very rarely seen by anyone other than ourselves. So, it’s no wonder if we tend to overlook such a hardworking piece of our wardrobe.

I recently came to this realization that none of my bras were properly sized for my body type. They are extremely uncomfortable, and are one of the first clothing items I remove when I return home each day. When I really looked at the state of all my underclothes, I realized I had completely ignored this category of clothing in my minimalist efforts.

I started by being properly sized for bras. This is for both cup size and inches. I can tell you it made a world of difference. Once I was properly sized, I purchased new bras. The fit is much better and my new bras are more comfortable. Not only were my old bras improperly sized, but the elastic was worn out, the fabric on the sides worn almost threadbare, and they had basically served their time.

Now, as a minimalist, when downsizing any piece of my wardrobe, I try to donate clothing items as much as possible to reduce the amount of textile waste in our garbage system. What to do with old, worn out bras? Turtle rehabilitation.

Yes, you read that correctly. Turtle rehabilitation. There are sanctuaries that care for turtles who have injuries to their shells – whether they were caught by a boat propeller that cracked their shells, or were caught in some plastic polluting our oceans, the cup part of bras are used to help turtles shells heal. Even if your old bra is so worn out that it’s not supportive for your breasts, the cup portion can help a turtle in need. Goggle bras for turtle shells to find information on a turtle sanctuary near you where you can send your old bras to help with turtle rehabilitation. They need and take all sizes. 

By the way, we are still at the end of October. This is also a reminder to have your mammogram. 

By purchasing new bras, my clothes fit better as well. I honestly don’t remember when the last time was that I updated my underwear drawer. It was definitely years ago and long overdue.

Speaking of underwear drawer, that is the next item of unmentionables that I updated.

I am not sure how I have been overlooking this clothing item, but if you have not updated your underwear drawer in awhile, do it now. I hear that some people do this annually at Christmas. People may loathe receiving underwear for Christmas, but it is definitely a wardrobe item you need to keep up to date. 

When I was growing up, Christmas stockings usually included a new toothbrush, some fun kid’s toothpaste that was normally “too expensive” to obtain, and an orange. Underwear is rarely ever on my radar. Yes, I wear it, but be mindful of replacing it. If you are one of those families who gifts underwear and socks for Christmas, be thankful.

I was lucky in that when I replaced my underwear, there was some sort of special sale pricing. I now have 10 new pairs. As far of disposing of old underwear, I do not have any suggestions for that. Unfortunately, the old underwear went in the trash.

This brings us down to socks. Socks are pretty obvious in that when they have a hole, you either repair them, which happened more frequently back in the day, or you get rid of them, which happens more frequently today.

When I really analyzed my sock drawer, I realized that although they did not have holes, I had worn out the elastic, and the white was just not bright anymore. It was rather shocking when I did buy new socks and saw the new socks next to the old socks. The old white socks looked rather grey. That was gross.

As far as recycling or re-purposing old socks, they are great for cleaning. I put one on the end of my broom handle and use it to dust the blades of my ceiling fan. You can also just put an old sock on your hand and use it to dust your whole house. Not only can you do this with old socks that are no longer useful, but if you have the type of household where you have a sock that has lost it’s “mate,” you can just use the sock for dusting. I have also taken old socks and turned them into cat or dog toys. 

My next project I am working on is my pajama drawer. It’s been about five years since I have bought pajamas and all my sleep shirts are pretty threadbare. These are just some of the hardworking clothing items we wear every single day and rarely think about when doing a wardrobe overhaul. Other people may not see us wear these items, but updating them can still make you feel good about yourself and loved. Have you updated your “unmentionables” recently? 

 

Baby Skunks, Dead Birds & Crazy Squirrels

 

Reason # 538 why I am not equipped to be a home owner. I pet a baby skunk this morning on accident. I didn’t know it was a skunk when I started petting it. I thought it was one of the homeless cats in my neighborhood. I have never seen a skunk in person before.

This morning, I went out to the outdoor cat shelter that I constructed this winter for the homeless cats at about 6:30 am. With the 80 degree heat, I have been leaving bowls of water out for the outside cats. The homeless cat for whom I made the outdoor cat shelter, Clarence, is a black cat with one little patch of white on the front of him.

When I went outside at 6:30 am, there was a little furry butt sticking out of the outdoor cat shelter. It looked like Clarence was having a drink. For the first time, he did not run away. I took this as a positive – he must be getting used to me.

I started petting what I thought was Clarence. Then, when the animal finished drinking and turned around, I was able to clearly ascertain that it was not a cat, but in fact, a skunk. I’m pretty sure it was a baby skunk, as it was about half the size of one of my indoor house cats. 

I slowly backed away and left the garage. 

No, I did not get sprayed. The baby skunk did not seem fazed by me at all. 

Tonight, when I got home, I removed all water bowls from the outdoor cat shelter. I wiped everything clean. I completely closed the garage door. If I happen to notice a cat outdoors when it is below zero again this winter, then I will reopen the door so the cat can have shelter. But I can’t really encourage skunks to hang around. I have no idea where baby skunk came from, but that was not the best surprise at 6:30 am.

The baby skunk incident comes about a week after the dead blue jay incident. One morning last week, I noticed a blue jay laying in the grass next to the bird feeder. It was my first encounter with a dead animal for which I was responsible for disposing of. I used a shovel to pick it up and throw it behind the garage. It had a broken neck. I’m not sure if it flew into a window, a building, or what. What is even more weird is that a few days after that, I was outside doing yard work, and the carcass was completely gone. No idea what happened to the dead bird. 

There are two squirrels terrorizing my bird feeders. These things are getting bold. You would not believe the acrobatics they are doing to reach the feeders. I was going to get a super soaker to start spraying them, but every time I open my door, they run away. There is no way I would be able to attack these things with a super soaker. They are annoying just the same. 

I’m having adventures in wildlife just as I am beginning to adult this summer.

More on adulting to come. I’m quite impressed with some of the positive changes I have either made this summer or have in the works.

The best part is, that baby skunks, dead birds and crazy squirrels are no big deal. They are no big deal because I have slowed my life down to a point where I am calm and able to handle the crazy. I’m pretty sure that if I had encountered a baby skunk, a dead bird and crazy squirrels a few years ago, it would have been a crisis because I was so overwhelmed with life that I was not able to handle anything extra being thrown at me.

One of the benefits of minimalism is that when you slow your life down enough, events like wildlife encounters are no big deal. As they should be. 

My summer is wicked busy, but busy in the best possible way. I have not had a summer this good in at least 4 years. Expect to hear more from me in the coming weeks about the positive changes I have made and the ones in the works for the fall.

For now, let’s hope my adventures in wildlife are coming to a close. Hopefully baby skunk will get a clue to go elsewhere when he sees the garage door closed tomorrow morning. I pet a baby skunk and remained scent-free to tell the tale. How many people can say that? 

Points of Privilege

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Note: This post is in the same series as The Toilet Paper Chronicles and Cowboys & Hankies. They can each be read independently, but if you would like more on the same topic, click the links.

Studies have shown that homelessness can cause anxiety and that people typically end up on one end of the spectrum or the other. The one end of the spectrum is hoarding. The other end of the spectrum is minimalism.

Hoarding makes sense on multiple levels. When you live in poverty, you often do not have the money or resources to be able to dispose of trash or other items. There is also a sense of urgency in procuring things and holding onto them “in case you need them.” Some people go from having absolutely nothing to wanting all the things.

I have a family member who falls into this category. Their house is quite literally filled with wall to wall, floor to ceiling stuff. It is all very clean and well maintained. They are constantly buying even more things. Their basement, attic and garage are all full to the brim. I refuse to go to this person’s house because it is too anxiety provoking for me.

Then, there is a smaller group that falls into minimalism. That is the group into which I fall. When I was homeless, it was very stressful trying to hold onto and keep track of your things, even if all that you had in the world was only enough for a paper grocery bag (yes, I lived like that at one time). I personally experience extreme anxiety when I am surrounded by a lot of things. I do not like being responsible for things. The things I do have, I keep nice. Too many things that I have to keep nice, maintain, and dispose of just drives me nuts.

There are points of privilege and points of loss in everyone’s life. For some, minimalism is a necessity. Like when I was homeless and everything fit into a paper grocery bag – that type of minimalism is a necessity. That is all the stuff you have in the world.

Then there is the form of minimalism in which I now engage that I feel is a privilege. It all comes down to economics, economics, economics.

Going in the same vein as The Toilet Paper Chronicles and Cowboys & Hankies, I did recently decide to order a set of ladies’ handkerchiefs from a maker on etsy. I have been doing quite well with the $4 handkerchiefs I had purchased at Walmart, but was having difficulty making 6 of them last a week until the next load of laundry.

I purchased a set of 10 beautifully handmade ladies’ handkerchiefs in a bunch of fun designs from etsy. These ones are also flannel cotton and much softer on my nose than the Walmart ones. In fact, the ones from etsy feel like heaven on my nose.

I realized this weekend that the fact that I had $20 to spend on cloth handkerchiefs is in itself a privilege. It is a good investment. With the money I am saving on paper facial tissues, the cloth hankies will pay for themselves in about 2-3 months.

However, it is that initial layout of cash that most people don’t have. As with the toilet paper scenario, with facial tissue, it feels cheaper to shell out $1 for a box of tissues when in fact that $1 is more expensive. It is that balancing act of having to live on a small finite amount of money.

I have the added benefit of the fact that I have room in the house to store a stack of (now 16) cloth handkerchiefs. I also have a washer and dryer to launder them on-site without having to trek to the laundromat. Someone living on the streets with all their belongings in a paper grocery sack or a back pack does not have any of these privileges.

I also recently decided that I want to try to use less paper towels. Paper towels are something I have to buy and spend money on. I am trying to decrease expenses. Sometimes, to decrease expenses, you have to have an initial outlay of cash and it can take months or years to see the benefits of your purchase.

In an effort to try to decrease my paper towel usage, I purchased microfiber cloths that I am using when I wash the windows. After I use a microfiber cloth, I can put it through the wash and it comes out clean again for reuse.  Now, the only thing I am using traditional paper towels for are cleaning the cat pan or anything else that is really gross. I just can’t bring myself to use cloth to clean really gross things.

My next task will be switching from paper napkins to cloth napkins, but that one may take a little bit. I am looking to buy cloth napkins from the same maker on etsy who made my cloth hankies.

Sometimes, when I think of minimalism, I ask myself: “What do I really need to survive?”

This is the extreme form of minimalism where people try to have fewer than 100 belongings or whatever can fit into a back pack. This form of minimalism works for some people. That’s great, but that’s not me.

Some people are forced into that type of minimalism by life circumstance.

For me minimalism is what do I need to survive plus what gives meaning to my life. Minimalism is not just about taking away, it is about what adds beauty to my existence here on Earth.

Of course, I try not to have frivolous things. But, I do. I’m sure we all do. Even if you live out of a back pack, I am sure you have even just one item that probably is not completely necessary to your survival, but is meaningful to you.

When I visit friends who have fewer things, I envy them. I get so overwhelmed being in this big house. I did not want a house this big, but this was the one that met all the requirements for the low income housing program I was in and I needed a way to keep my family together. So, here we are. One person and two cats rattling around in a huge space. The cats love it, of course.

I constantly look around thinking “do I really need that?” Do I want to clean that?

Then I realize that some of those people I envy live that way not by choice but by necessity. I am fortunate in that I have many privileges. But still, I think, I can get by with just a little bit less.

Even though I am on the minimalist spectrum after my homeless experiences, I do have some hoarding tendencies. As previously discussed, toilet paper is probably the biggest hoarding tendency I have. I always buy the  jumbo packs because they work out to be cheaper, and tend to get another one when there are 4-6 rolls left because I am so paranoid about going without after the childhood I had.

I still think there are things I can declutter on this minimalist journey. Sometimes, you reach a plateau. That’s ok. Right now, I think I’m taking a break from decluttering for a month or two. Mostly because it’s summer. When the weather is nice, I like to be outdoors as much as I can. Who wants to be stuck inside cleaning or decluttering?

For me, minimalism is a choice. I have over 1600 square feet that I could fill with stuff, but I purposefully choose not to do that. For me, minimalism is a point of privilege. I have the resources to take things I don’t want and dispose of them, recycle them, or donate them. I have a vehicle that I can use to take things out of my house as much as some people use their vehicle to buy things to haul to their home.

I have the convenience of an on site washer and dryer to be able to keep things clean and buy cloth items that can be reused so that my consumable expenses decrease.

What are the points of privilege in your life and how does that effect your minimalism journey?

Cowboys & Hankies

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A stack of six white hankies on top of a rolled hand towel and beach towel.

Everyone has their own reasons for undertaking the journey of minimalism. Some people want more time with their family. Some people want to lower their carbon footprint and be more environmentally friendly. Others are looking for ways to improve their health after a life changing diagnosis. For some people, all of the above are reasons for getting into minimalism. For others, it’s something completely different.

One of the side effects that typically happen in minimalist journeys is the desire to reduce the use of disposables, specifically paper products. We replace paper towels with cleaning rags. We actually use our dishware and cutlery instead of buying paper plates and plastic forks.

Some paper products are kind of necessary. Toilet paper is necessary. We all know from The Toilet Paper Chronicles, that tp has, in fact, defined my life. There are some that have found ways to go without toilet paper. I am so not going there. Too gross. Plus, my identity. The Toilet Paper Chronicles may need a sequel one day. I digress.

Tissues. Have we ever thought about tissues? This is another area that has the potential to hold the ew factor. However, it’s not as bad as you think.

What ever did we do before the invention of kleenex?

Kleenex is a relatively new paper product that has come on the scene within the past 100 years. Prior to that, everyone used handkerchiefs. With hankies, come the stereotypes of southern belles dropping their painstakingly embroidered linens to get the attention of some passing gentleman. Handkerchiefs conjure up images of cowboys, who stereotypically wore the red paisley kind to display their outlaw status.

For me, it was relatively simple. My grandfather always carried hankies. I was one of 13 grand kids. With so many of us running around, it was rare that grandpa would share a hankie with any of us “snot nosed kids,” but when he did, you felt special. Grandpa’s hankies were always super soft and felt like a feather on your nose compared to the scratchy paper tissues that grandma would bring home from the five and dime.

My grandfather had the stereotypical cowboy hankies. They were paisley. He had them in both red and blue, although I remember the blue most often.

With the improvement of technology, commercially produced tissues have improved. In my childhood, tissues were always rough on your nose. You knew when someone was sick because the tissues would rub your nose raw. Compare this to a cotton handkerchief, which is much softer and does not product the same effect. Cotton handkerchiefs get better with time and use, while paper tissues are a one time thing.

First there was kleenex, now there are puffs. There are other brands as well. If you look at the production trajectory of paper tissues, the goal seems to be to make them softer to use. Not only has the paper gotten softer, but they now also add things like aloe and lotion. Lotion, by the way, is lethal for someone with nut allergies because it contains almond oil.

Due to the lotion issue, tissues are something I always carry with me. I don’t want to be stuck someplace where I’m having to grab a tissue from someone else, and have it contain lotion that all of a sudden precipitates the need for an epi pen and a trip to the hospital. I understand the reasoning for adding lotion to tissues, but can’t the world be accessible for everyone and we just skip the almond oil?

I’m one of those people where my nose runs all the time. It especially runs when the temperature changes. For example, when I come inside from the cold outside, my nose will run due to the temperature change. It is clear snot. I use a tissue, and my nose is done running until I encounter another temperature change (when I go back outside, it runs again). The challenge is that in some buildings, the HVAC system is so screwy, it almost feels like one part of the building is a different temperature zone than another. This can cause my nose to run simply by walking to other areas of a building. It’s annoying.

When I was re-evaluating my budget recently. Where does all my money go? I noticed that I happen to spend a lot of money on tissues. I have tissues at work, in my car, on all floors of my house, in my purse, and in almost all of my pockets.

I specifically use pockets for tissues. This means that every time I do laundry and clean out my pockets, I am constantly pulling out tissues to throw away. We have all had those times when we have done laundry, missed a tissue in the pocket, then all the clothes come out with little white cotton specks on them. It takes forever to get tissue pieces off a load of clothing with those rolling tape things. When it happens to an entire load of laundry, that really sucks.

I have decided to try to go back to the “old days” of my grandparents and return to the use of handkerchiefs. There are makers on Etsy, one of my favorite web sites, that make some really nicely patterned and sewn ladies’ handkerchiefs. Before I make that big of an investment, I want to be sure I can actually make the transition from tissues to handkerchiefs without any issues.

I bought a small box of 6 handkerchiefs in the men’s department at Walmart for $4. Unfortunately, they are not the paisley cowboy hankies of my youth. These are plain white. For a trial run, that’s okay. If I make the switch long term, then I definitely want to order hankies from Etsy because I have other cloths that are white and it is a little confusing right now.

In order to get the paisley cowboy hankies of my youth, you could simply buy a bandanna and use it as a hankie. In my experience, today’s bandannas are scratchy no matter how many times you wash them. When you buy a cloth product specifically intended for use as a hankie, it tends to be softer and more gentle on your nose.

Of course, I washed the hankies before use. While they are not as soft as I would like, they are still softer than paper tissues. The softness I remember from my grandpa’s hankies will come with time as I use the hankies and they are washed more.

For the ew factor – first of all, it’s clear snot. Get over it, people. We have paper tissues shoved into every pocket, purse and crevice, what difference does it make if it is a paper tissue or a cloth hankie? The hankie goes in the wash and comes out clean.

If you have multiple people in your household and decide to transition your entire family to hankies, then I would recommend color coding everyone. If everyone has their own color of hankie, then that gets rid of the ew factor of accidentally using someone else’s hankie.

Right now, I have 6 hankies, so I am using one per day. That is enough. I don’t even use the whole thing. Like I said, my nose will run briefly with temperature changes and then stop.

I still have paper tissues in my house for visitors. I have paper tissues at work. However, I have started to carry a hankie in my pocket for my own personal use.

The ew factor decreases if you keep in mind that key point – hankies are for someone’s personal use. Of course, personal boundaries are a little blurred if you have children, but that’s life. How many times did your mom lick her finger to fix your hair or clean a smudge from your face when you were small?

An advantage of using hankies is that if one accidentally gets left in your pocket, you won’t have to deal with little pieces of cotton paper all over your clothes. A hankie is a cloth – if it gets left in a pocket and goes through the wash, it comes out clean. No harm, no fowl.

The benefit of hankies is that I am decreasing my carbon footprint by producing less waste. How many times has your wastebasket been full of just tissues? Yes, I have to wash the hankies, but they are small. It doesn’t take up much space to wash a week’s worth of hankies in with my laundry. In fact, I would say that a week’s worth of hankies is probably about the equivalent of adding two wash clothes to the laundry as far as space goes.

Before we had automation, factories and the growth of the disposable economy, everyone used handkerchiefs. For cowboys, they were versatile. We probably don’t even think of using a hankie to blow your nose, because when we see cowboys in movies, they use them as a fashion statement. They also use them to keep dust out of their face. However, the intended purpose is to blow your nose.

For me, hankies, remind me of my grandfather. They remind me of a time before he had to use a wheelchair when he was still well and would go for long walks on the farm. He would check on all the animals and just walk the land at night to assess what would need to be done the next day. He had a blue paisley hankie that he would use to wipe the sweat from his brow in the middle of a hard, hot day in the saddle. My grandfather and his hankie was the picture of a true cowboy working the land, tending the animals, and loving his family.

Where ever you are on your journey to minimalism, I invite you to at least entertain the idea of the return to the handkerchief. You may not be able to get over the ew factor, and that’s okay. Hey, I live alone, so it’s easier for me. Consider color coding if you have multiple people going for hankies.

For me, in these first few weeks of hankie use, it seems worth it. My nose is a lot happier because the hankie is softer than paper tissues. My wallet is happier because I did not have to purchase paper tissues this month – and I was purchasing economy packs either monthly or bimonthly. The garbage man is happier because I am producing less trash, which means that the bags he’s lifting out of my trash can to put in his truck are lighter too.

While I have been good at throwing the hankie in the clothes hamper at the end of the day, I did have one accidentally go through the wash because it was in the pouch of my sweatshirt. The hankie came out clean and there were not any little white pieces of paper on my clothes. It was great.

I will formally evaluate my hankie situation after a few more weeks. At this time, I am thinking I will go on Etsy and order hankies from a maker. This way I can have a color or pattern so that it is clear it is a hankie and I do not have to think too hard about what is a hankie, what is a cloth napkin and what is a cleaning cloth when I am folding and putting away laundry. I will continue to keep paper tissues in my house and office for guests. Since I am not using the paper tissues, maybe the box will last me a year instead of just a month.

If you want to be a cowboy, find the red paisley handkerchiefs.

Be a rebel. Use a hankie.

 

Clean Slate

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Many beginning minimalists will hear the advice that if you are unsure about getting rid of something, put it in a box for 3 months, then get rid of it. This is great advice for people who are scared about getting rid of something for whatever reason.

Unfortunately, this method doesn’t really work for me. When I put something in a box, I won’t remember what is in the box come next week. I don’t really need to keep it for 3 months. I have yet to declutter or get rid of something and then miss it after it was gone. I cannot tell you how many items I have gotten rid of or what left because I really don’t remember. Poor memories and ignorance are both forms of bliss.

When I moved into the house, I have double the space I had in the apartment. My community has a huge garage sale event the first weekend in June. I had started putting decluttering boxes in one of my empty rooms to store them for this garage sale weekend.

These boxes have frustrated me all winter. When I go into that room to clean, seeing them there stresses me out.

When I thought about the logistics of a garage sale, I honestly have no idea what is a reasonable price to put on an item. I also really don’t care. I was thinking of doing a “pay what you will” sale where people could take an item and pay what they feel it is worth (and if you need an item and take it for free, that is okay too). However, the more I thought about it, I was worried that people would think I was weird.

Not only that, but participating in this sale would monopolize an entire weekend of my time. Do I really want to spend an entire weekend holding a garage sale or a pay what you can sale? No, I do not.

I ended up taking all the boxes to their appropriate donation locations. One box went to the animal shelter (see Dog Gone Down), several boxes went to the Salvation Army, and one box went to a local Boy Scout fundraiser/call for supplies.

Now that all the boxes are gone, I feel so much better.

I feel like I have a clean slate again to be able to move forward in my decluttering journey. I literally and figuratively got rid of that which was holding me down.

The ultimate goal for the upstairs of my house is to have the spare bedroom with closet in use, the bathroom with closet in use, and then two empty bedrooms with empty closets. Part of this is because the stairs in my house have been challenging for me. I have been falling down a lot.

The upstairs bathroom is the only bathroom in the house. I can’t get around that. If I have one bedroom upstairs as a spare, then I am prepared for any company who may decide to visit and stay over. I pretty much live downstairs and stay downstairs. What is supposed to be the dining room is actually my bedroom. I have a large eat-in kitchen, so the dining room is in no way a loss. I really need to minimize reasons to go upstairs. The cats are up there more than I am.

Getting rid of the boxes I don’t need gives me the opportunity to settle into the house more and organize it how I want it to be organized. I have only been in the house for 7 months, and I still have moments when I can’t find things because I don’t remember where I put something in the new house. I can tell you where the item was located when I was in the apartment, but good luck finding things here sometimes.

Each person’s decluttering journey is different. If it is helpful to you to put something in a box and then wait 3 months to get rid of it, then do that. For me, it is beneficial to get rid of boxes shortly after they are full. I pretty much held onto these boxes all winter and they drove me completely nuts.

I am also still in the process of settling into my house. It’s going to take time for this house to truly feel like home and for me to establish exactly where everything’s place is located. The nice part of this clean slate is that I literally have the rest of my life to figure it out. I’m not moving again, so I’ll be dying in this house.

I have the advantage of achieving this clean slate by moving into a new location. If you do not have that privilege, you can achieve the allusion of a clean slate by reverse minimizing.

Sometimes you have to empty an entire room to figure out exactly what you want to have in it. If it is too difficult to subtract by decluttering, try emptying an entire room and then only add what you love. This exercise mimics moving. When you move to a new location, you are starting with a blank canvas – a clean slate – and adding your stuff.

Oh, the psychological tricks we play in our journeys to simplicity.

Use whatever works for you. The goal is to have more time for the people and things in life that are truly important to you. Whether you decide to add or subtract, to get rid of boxes immediately or wait, it’s your choice. Our goal is the same, but the journey is different.

What methods do you find helpful in decluttering?

Empty Rooms

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Part of what makes vacation so appealing is that it is not only a break from everyday life but also offers a clean slate. Sure, you get a break from cleaning the house, paying the bills, doing your job. There is also the little thrill of staying in a hotel room with no worries.

Hotel rooms provide a bed for sleeping, a bathroom for the essentials, and usually a TV or some type of entertainment when you are trying to wind down for sleep. You don’t have to worry about cleaning them. All you have to deal with is your luggage – which is probably just enough for the time you are there.

 

One of the items I decluttered this week on Minimalism Monday was luggage. I have been experimenting since about 2012 with minimal packing and minimal luggage. Over the past almost 7 years, I have flown to Chicago, Boston, Montreal, and Philadelphia for 4+ day trips, ran full marathons, and taken camping trips (some a week long) with one small piece of luggage. Each time I flew, my luggage was considered a “carry on,” so I had no checked luggage. Each time I flew was with one backpack. I typically travel with one backpack or one small duffel bag.

When I say one small duffel bag, I mean the small LL Bean size duffel bag. In decluttering my luggage this weekend, I discovered that I also have several medium and large duffel bags for luggage that are never used. I could pretty much fit my entire wardrobe in the medium duffel bag. I can’t think of any travel destination that would require my ENTIRE wardrobe.

I did not even use my luggage when I moved. I left all the clothes in the drawers, and removed all the drawers from the dresser. For closet items, I put a garbage bag over all of them and just picked up the bunch and went.

Luggage was an item I got rid of this week. Since I only use either a backpack or the small duffel bag for traveling, that is what I kept.

Back to the hotel room scenario …

Hotel rooms offer clean slates. You just deal with your luggage each day and everything else is about experiences. In a hotel, you shower, dress, and go out to enjoy the day. This is not like home, where you go through multiple outfits in the morning, throwing clothes all over the room, and struggling to get out the door. On vacation, you wear what you packed because that is all that is with you.

By the way, if you have mornings at home like I described where you go through outfits in the morning trying to decide what to wear because you “have nothing to wear,” then I highly recommend a minimalist wardrobe. I would start with Project 333. It’s an amazing feeling to wear what you love every single day.

When I moved into the house, it was like I was offered a clean slate, similar to a hotel room. Here is this empty space – what are you going to put there?

Even though I have more space in the house, I am still getting rid of things. As I have said repeatedly, I do not want to be chained to this house – I want to be able to go out and enjoy life, whatever that may look like.

So, the goal in the house is empty rooms. Yes, I realize that sounds insane. However, I went from a 5 room apartment to a 9 room house complete with basement, attic and garage. That’s twice as much space to maintain and clean.

This month for Minimalist Monday, I decided to start decluttering one closet. It ended up turning into going through and rearranging the entire upstairs, which lasted almost all day. However, at the end of it, I have 6 boxes for donation, one completely empty room, and another room that will be empty once everything goes to donation.

This is progress. Empty rooms are easy to clean and not time consuming. Wash the windows, floor, and molding. Done.

I only keep things in my home that are either useful or beautiful. Yes, I do the whole “spark joy” thing. I know many people roll their eyes over the whole “does this spark joy method.” However, with the house, I feel that some of the questions I’m asking as I declutter are slightly different.

Instead of asking “does this spark joy,” I am now more commonly asking myself “do I really want to clean and maintain that?”

Do I use this?

Do I love this?

Does it bring me joy?

Do I want to clean this?

Belongings are supposed to make you happy. I look at a Monet print in my living room. It makes me smile and I’m happy. I’m totally fine with cleaning the glass every week to see this beautiful painting.

However, if you are constantly grumbling that your Saturdays are being taken up by cleaning when you would much rather go to a movie/go ice skating/play a game with your child, then you need to also look at your belongings and ask “Do I want to clean this?”

I actually did get rid of about four wall hangings when I moved into the house for this very reason. That is four more frames I have to clean. Yes, I liked the prints. However, the amount of joy they brought me was not enough to override the amount of annoyance that cleaning it brought me. I kept and hung the pictures that I really love.

I get to see and use “special occasion items” every single day. What “special occasion” are you keeping that china/those keepsakes for? Isn’t every day life enough of a celebration? Use the fancy plates while you are here to enjoy them. Use them while your kids are home before they go off to college and leave. You’ll have great memories of family dinners with the fancy plates while the kids were home.

So yes, the goal this year at the end of Minimalist Mondays is to have two empty rooms and one empty closet. I currently have one empty room, so that is progress. I know that some people get weirded out by empty rooms. However, I am one person in a big beautiful house who wants to spend my time enjoying my beautiful house and not cleaning it. I want to sit in my yard in the summer and have a bonfire and roast marshmallows. I don’t want to be stuck inside maintaining this house. If there is not stuff every where, I can enjoy life. Empty rooms make sense for me.

Deep down, empty rooms make sense for a lot of people. Isn’t that why we love hotel rooms? They contain the essentials we need for a few days and the only thing we have to be responsible for is the luggage that came with us. Why can’t home feel like vacation too?