why I don’t stockpile for the future

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This is a continuation in our Children and Minimalism series and a companion to Reformed Stockpiler (household edition).

As a rule, I do not stockpile for the toddler. Anymore.

Baby showers are the invention of stockpiling things for tiny people. Things you think you’ll need, things your friends and family think you’ll need. A hope and a prayer of what season it will be when your tiny newborn finally wears those 18m clothes. It is all given with the utmost sincerity and good intention, but if my experience is anything typical a solid half of the gifts I received never fit well into our lives. I saved and packed and sorted and organized for nearly a year and a half until I realized nothing left would work for him. I finally wished them well and sent them on to a new home where they would be useful and loved.

Similarly, the times I’ve bought ahead for the next season or stored handmedowns hoping to save a few dollars, I’ve found that half of it isn’t practical for his size and the season. Maybe I’m a bad shopper, maybe my child has erratic growth patterns. Whatever the issue, stocking up for the future has never been wildly successful for me.

Instead, I maintain a streamlined wardrobe and replace items only as needed so we don’t have a huge collection of unworn clothing. When a big season change is coming up I make a list of what he’ll need and start hunting second hand and clearance racks to fill in the gaps. If I’m looking for something that won’t get used much I will ask to borrow it from a friend.

Not surprisingly, I don’t save (many) clothes for a future child. There are a few factors at play – 1) we don’t know if or when we might have another child, 2) it’s a huge gamble hoping the birth season and genders coordinate, and 3) I sell his current clothing to fund the next season. Not all of it is in resale condition, but I get enough money back that it alleviates some pressure on our family budget. I have kept 8-10 items that have some sentimental value, but eventually if we don’t have a second child they will find a new home.

So when do I break the rules? (Because sometimes I do…) When I find a big ticket item significantly discounted , when I know I can resell without losing money, or when we’re close enough to needing it that it can still be returned for credit. Recently I found a snow suite for $20 (originally $120!). If anything it’s a size too big, but I do expect it to fit fine next winter. I know I can sell it and likely make money, but at the very least that particular store accepts returns for life if the item still has tags and receipt. I have a small bin for these items and revisit it regularly.

I would love to hear from other parents! Do you save clothes? Do you buy ahead? What system works for your budget and trying to maintain a more minimalist home?

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streamlined toys

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This is a continuation in our series on Children and Minimalism

Toys can be one of the biggest deterrents to living with less as they seem to multiply in the night. We’re still in the phase where we as parents control what gets to stay, but I know a day is coming when the tiny one will have big opinions on his stuff.

His bedroom houses the majority of the toys although sometimes he (or we) bring things to the living room to play. Since we’ve pared back the volume and given everything a home he is able to tidy and put things away on his own. Not perfectly, but his attempts improve each day. Because he’s not quite two, we praise him extensively for any effort while helping him finish the task. Someday we’ll expect him to tidy with out loud cheers and clapping, but for now while he’s learning we’ll employ any positive motivation that is necessary.

I made his teepee and it is one of his things that I adore the most. He mostly likes to play around it, but he loves when mom or dad sit inside to read stories. The older he gets the more he crawls in and out. He likes to stash his favourite books and toys there. You can almost always find a volume of Duck and Goose and his red ball.

I picked up the rocking moose at a yard sale thinking it was a cute decoration for his nursery, but I am continually amazed at how much play time it sees. He rides on it, he makes his doll ride on it, sometimes his balls and books and lego get a turn. It definitely has brought a lot of joy to his life.

We have a stash of books in his bedroom and a basket full in the living room. I swap them with each other, or change them out entirely from time to time to keep it fresh. I want him to be exposed to a lot of literature, but he gets overwhelmed if he has too many options at one time.

Besides his basket of books, the living room has a wooden truck with blocks and two puzzles. We keep it super minimalist there and let him bring toys out from his bedroom when he wants to play.

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We built this play bench for him for Christmas and intentionally keep the design very simple so it could serve many purposes. Today it’s a tool bench, but tomorrow it can be a kitchen. Eventually we will build a stool so he can use it as a desk. We have a basket to store whatever items aren’t being used and swap out the setup when he seems bored with the current one.

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Once upon a time, when we were using his room, we built this wardrobe to house our not-yet-Konmaried wardrobes. I’d love to hide the majority of this stuff in concealed storage, but small space living doesn’t always provide the luxury of closets and closed doors.

The top shelf holds things that we don’t want the toddler to access – toys that aren’t age appropriate, books that are a little too delicate for his chubby fingers. The gorilla basket on the bottom has toys that we swap in and out for other things – lincoln logs for duplo, kitchen set for tool kit. Next to that is his farm set that he pulls out almost daily. His ride-on truck is a little inconvenient being up on a shelf, but we get it down when he asks for it and just put it away before bed. There really isn’t any other place to store it so we deal.

His birthday is coming up at the end of February and we’re carefully selecting what new toys we want to invite into our home. Because it is so close to Christmas, we will keep the gifts to a minimum and reevaluate his developmental level and needs closer to summer.

I know we are lucky that we still have control over this area. I am sincerely hoping that by intentionally modelling a life with less and treasuring the things we do own, he will naturally follow our lead. I realize he very well may not and we will have to reevaluate how we approach his stuff at that time.

children and minimalism

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Posts in this series…
streamlined toys
streamlined clothing
why I don’t stockpile for the future

It seems like an oxymoron in our western culture. Babies and minimalism. Toddlers and minimalism. Children and minimalism. We’re sold this line that these tiny people need need need stuff. 

When I was pregnant I thought I was doing reasonably well at saying no and buying less for my tiny person, but I still had a decent stash by the time that little eight pound bundle entered our home. I quickly realized we only used a fraction of those baby items and started looking for ways to offload the dead weight. I was happy to find active buy and sell websites in my town so a lot of it (and a lot of adult and house items) were sold there. Still more boxes went to a local children’s consignment store and some were donated to local charities.

I am by no means an expert on children and minimalism, but I am reasonably well versed on minimalism and my child. We’ve established a comfortable balance in our house with the things our tiny person uses and loves. Over the next few days I’ll share different aspects of that and talk about some of the challenges I expect to face as he grows and gains independence.

i said No to something i needed

Or perhaps more accurately, “needed.”

The cheap set of pots and pans we bought to set up house nearly seven years ago were at the very end of their life. We ditched them all and immediately bought two replacements – a sauce pot and a large frying pan with lid. I kept a short list of other items we deemed necessary, planning to watch sales and slowly acquire them.

Previously we had a smaller frying pan that we used a lot so it seemed like an obvious item to add to the list. I had already selected its replacement and earlier this week I found it on sale! I picked it up, I turned it over, I admired it again. It really is very nice – the Little Brother to our big pan. Then I put it back and walked away.

I realized in all those months that we didn’t have the small pan, I never once missed it. I never found myself with the bigger pan in use, panicking because I couldn’t finish a meal. We used the smaller pan because it was there, but it was never actually necessary. FullSizeRender

The big pan is a workhorse – 12 inches in diameter with deep sides, a lid, and second handle. It gets washed multiple times a day as we use it for almost every meal. We’re very careful to treat it well because it is the only one we have.

What else is on my List? Do really Need it or do I “need” it?

the actual shedding of stuff

My relationship with stuff has ebbed and flowed, but I’ve always leaned towards the less is more philosophy. Part of it was necessity – moving frequently for a few years, living in small spaces – but mostly I just don’t like clutter. I dont like to look at it and I don’t like to clean it so I try to avoid it.

About a year ago, not coincidently as my infant was becoming a mobile toddler, I began to loathe stuff. The excess that clogged up our small apartment and stole what little brain space I had left. I went through our house indiscriminately donating or selling anything that met my wrath. It was a successful endeavour – we had $1000 in our pocket and 4-5 trunkloads less in our house. Housework was easier and my brain was at peace.

Then I heard murmurings of a new book. I knew immediately that I would love it, but it was still a few months before I picked up a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It did not disappoint. With renewed energy, I went through our apartment again. I begged my husband to read it. We went through everything together once more. I wondered, after yet another trip to the thrift store, if we had anything left to get rid of.

But I still didn’t feel the ‘click’ that Marie Kondo promised. I knew we could live with less. Several months of evaluating how we live, what we use, what our priorities are and we’ve eliminated even more. It seems that every time we get close to that click our threshold drops again. Just tonight the kitchen was relieved of another boxful of its contents.

Minimalism has permeated every aspect of our lives and the journey it will take us on is still unknown. I’d love to open up the  cupboards, both literal and proverbial, in our home and share how we live and how our lives are changing.