the call

I have been waiting, not at all patiently, for The Call. I’ve spent the better part of the last year moving towards a new career that would be more inline with our family values and goals. I completed the required certificate in January. I watched as my classmates got interviews and then job offers. I inquired and was told my application was under consideration, that more interviews would be scheduled in a few weeks. Vague, but slightly comforting. I watched as classmates’ applications were completely dismissed. I prayed. I prayed hard. My heart jumped into my throat every time my phone rang. I was disappointed every time.

Last Friday, completely unsuspecting, I got an email. The Email. Was I available Tuesday morning at 10? Yes! I would move heaven and earth to be available. I planned my outfit, I rehearsed answers to common questions. I invented new questions. I talked to myself incessantly the entire weekend. Tuesday at 10am I met the woman who held my future, my family’s future, in her hands. She was positively delightful.

I expected to go away and wait, agonizing again, for The Offer. For some of my classmates it came hours later, some days, some waited over a week. How long would I be tormented? But as our interview was wrapping up she simply said, “We would love to hire you. When can you start?”

We would love to hire you. 

I start next week.

breathe

Between multiple illnesses (just for me!) and a side job for a friend, this week had me whipped. There was very little intentionality, just a whole lot of survival.

We did play multiple rounds of Peek-a-Boo While Running. Not recommended as the running blindly resulted in at least one bloody lip, but this guy lives on the edge. Sigh. Do two year olds ever stop moving? These days, every picture is blurry because something is always in motion.

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Tomorrow we greet the new week. We reset. We breathe slowly; we move intentionally. And this week we’ll practice running with our eyes open.

 

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?

reformed stockpiler

For years I was in the habit of buying a lot when an item was on sale.

What is better than one cheap tube of toothpaste? Six cheap tubes of toothpaste! 

Seven months ago, when we started our hardcore journey towards having less I took stock of all the extra consumables squirrelled away in our one precious hall closet. Toilet paper, tissues, soaps… if it was something we used with any regularity and I had found it on sale we most likely had a backup. Or five.

I committed to using up what we had before buying more. When the last package is open, then it goes on my shopping list. And you know what I discovered? There are sales all the time! There is plenty of time between opening a bottle of shampoo and finding the next one for a discount. In fact, I’ve stopped adding most items to my shopping list until they are half consumed to save the amount of time the next one is waiting around.

We’ve discovered and relished empty space in our house as the stockpile has dwindled, but this practice has also had a positive effect on our budget. I no longer walk out of the grocery store wondering why my receipt was $40 more than expected (because toilet paper was on sale!). Instead I can guesstimate the total much more closely because I know that one package of toilet paper will be ~$10 and that is all I will buy. Just one!

We have become avid meal planners which helped us use up our pantry stock and puts boundaries on what we buy in advance. If it won’t be used in the next week or two it can wait for another shopping trip. I would love to meal plan a month in advance so I can do only one trip for nonperishables and then supplement with fresh produce, meat, and bread as needed. For now, meal planning a week at a time has been a great step towards those bigger goals!

Do you stockpile? Do you find it helps your budget or hinders it? Do you have ample storage space or do you find stocking up steals space that could be better used or just left pleasantly empty?

entry

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The entry is one of my favourite  places in our apartment. We started with nothing, just a 4.5’x 3′ nook to the left of our front door. We added the coat hooks, built and stained the bench, added a mirror, and a soft woven basket for seasonal accessories. Perfectly functional with a little bit of pretty.

We try to limit it to one coat and one pair of shoes each. Our few extra coats and shoes go in a closet down the hall, but this is the perfect catch all just inside the door.

streamlined clothing

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This is a continuation in our Children and Minimalism series.

Creating a streamlined wardrobe for the toddler has been a long process. He received so many clothes as gifts at baby showers and of course I bought things that I liked, then handmedowns found their way to us. It was a lot to process, and a lot to discard, while coming up with a wardrobe formula that we can follow each season.

For a while I found that we had an abundance of fancy clothes. Things that were not practical for everyday wear so he wore them once or twice for a few hours before they were outgrown. Now that I am buying all of his clothing myself, I limit his nicer outfits to two bottoms, two top sets for each bottom, and one pair of shoes. In the summer we switch to shorts and one shirt – just the t-shirt or roll up the sleeves on a button down.

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We are very casual west coast people so this is totally appropriate for a toddler attending church or holiday parties or other occasions where one might dress up. The only social situation we’ve encountered where this style wouldn’t fly was a, capital F, fancy wedding back east. I bought him a pair of grey slacks, borrowed a white button down shirt, and he wore his nice shoes (Converse at the time). We as adults had to dress up more, but toddlers can get away with a lot. I am very happy his outfit, which was worn once, cost only $13.

At his age, weekday clothing is just a step above pyjamas. He is in daycare full time. He is running, climbing, and napping and his outfits have to be comfortable in all of those activities. For winter months the uniform is knit pants, a t-shirt, and a long sleeve shirt. I try to source these items as inexpensively as possible – handmedowns, second hand stores, clearance racks – because chance are good that it will all be rags when it’s outgrown. I want him to play hard and experience new things. I don’t want his daycare teachers worrying about dirt or paint or food on his clothing.

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We have seven of these outfits sets – Monday through Friday, a spare at daycare, and a spare at home. When I put clothes away I stack each outfit together with a pair of socks so there is zero decisions to be made if we are rushing in the morning. I try to make both shirts match the pants, but the shirts probably don’t match each other. The vast majority are not pieces I love, but at this age we are going for function, comfort, and affordability. In the summer we switch to knit shorts and just a t-shirt.

Since we live in Canada, footwear and outerwear change significantly with the seasons and my only rule is to be reasonable. With things like snow suits or swim suits, I buy one initially and buy a backup if it becomes a necessity. His clothing is also wearing out or it is outgrown frequently. I replace each item as needed, but our overall total stays the same. Recently I noticed his shirts getting shorter so I did a big inventory, made a list, and hit the end of season clearance racks to find replacements.

I know as he gets older he will develop opinions on his clothing, but it is my sincere (although perhaps naive) hope that we can work together within these boundaries. He can choose what to wear, we set the limit on how many outfits are allowed each season.

Much like his toys, this isn’t a truly minimalist wardrobe, it is just streamlined and practical for our needs at this time. If he wasn’t going to daycare or if we could do laundry more frequently I would probably pare it back more. Our current formula will definitely be adaptable as our life and needs change.

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.