But I have nothing to wear… (Minimizing the closet)

Well, the kitchen is done, and we are eight days away from moving to a new home, with less than 1/3 of our dishes, gadgets and appliances. But along with a lack of kitchen cabinets, the new apartment has a decided lack of closet space and bedroom storage  Where we currently have a closet and dresser each, and keep overflow in the spare room, I will be sharing a closet and a 3 drawer dresser with my husband. I have no idea where to put everything, and can’t possibly bring all of it. Which is fine, because like most women I know, I have a tonne of clothes, yet never have anything to wear. Clearly something needs to be fixed.

There are a few things that I just won’t need and so I am leaving them behind: fancy dresses bought for weddings or other events, the extra winter coat, etc. But then there is just a lot of stuff I know I don’t need and so should really just toss.

I started the process last week with the initial culling of the closet and dresser. All the things that were easy to toss. The things that didn’t quite fit right, or weren’t flattering, or were no longer in style. The stuff I just hadn’t bothered to toss yet. That was two large bags worth of clothing. Cringe-worthy. Especially because I know I am not done.

Phase two starts tomorrow. Maybe even tonight if I finish procrastinating researching. The next decisions will be tougher. As I did with the kitchen, I have been online, looking for tips on building the ultimate minimalist wardrobe. There are lots of tips out there, usually complete with helpful images:

Could I live on just 30 items? Maybe. But limiting myself to one Batman shirt will be hard.

Could I live on just 30 items? Maybe. But limiting myself to one Batman shirt will be hard. (Source: The everyday Minimalist: http://www.everydayminimalist.com/)

Could I live with just 22 pieces? Less likely.

Could I live with just 22 pieces? Less likely. (Source: A Geek Tragedy http://www.ageektragedy.net/)

Could I live with just six items? A bit extreme for me - though I would love to try the one month challenge!

Could I live with just six items? A bit extreme for me – though I would love to try the one month challenge! (Source: The Dernier Cri http://www.thederniercri.net/)

My first realization is that I will not meet any of the definitions I found. Mostly, because it would require tossing perfectly good clothes to replace them with neutral basics. If I were starting from scratch that might work, but I am not. I have to work with what I own. Also, most post which suggest a limited number of pieces are not designed for the Canadian climate. I can easily justify another 5-10 items for seasonal variances. My life requires a down winter jacket for the really really cold months, a regular winter jacket, a dressy winter coat, a fall/spring jacket, a spring/fall dressy coat, a rain coat, and a summery jacket/coat.  I also have a running jacket. And that’s just outerwear. Then there are summer vs. winter dresses. Lined wool trousers and linen ones. (I walk to work, in all seasons. I have summer pants and winter pants.)

If nothing else, the research has been fun and inspiring. I will be applying it to my closet tomorrow, to see how close to 30 items I can come. This will not include shoes, underclothes or accessories, though I am trying to cut back on those categories as well.

Culling the kitchen

Assorted items that did not make the cut. Including the blue pan I love but cannot just

Assorted items that did not make the cut. Including the blue pan I love but cannot justify.

The kitchen-stuff-minimization project is mostly complete, and I have to admit, it was fun. I have been needing an excuse to do this for ages. It is so easy to hold on to stuff you never use just because you have it. Donating or finding a new home for things is work, and so you shove them in the back of a drawer and convince yourself you need them.

No more.
I have set up a “minimalist” test-kitchen within my kitchen, as a bit of a pilot-project. It is s till a few months before I move, so I want to make sure I haven’t either thrown out things I need or kept things I don’t need before I finalize my plans. So the cupboards on the far wall of my kitchen are the test-kitchen, with all dishes I plan to put in storage or have not yet given away in the other cupboards and drawers.

To help this make more sense, I should say that before I even entered the kitchen I spent two days doing research. With the help of my friend Google I looked up blogs and websites about minimalist kitchens (faves included this, this and this), so get some idea where to start. There is a lot of info out there. I knew I wasn’t looking for the “use a spork to eat out of your camping dishes” kind of minimalism (like this – OK, there was no spork, but still not for me), but I did need to cut a lot. After much reading I prepared a list of what I intended to keep:

  • 3-4 pots, varying sizes
  • 2 frying pans, varying sizes
  • 1 each of lasagna pan, loaf pan, baking sheet, pie plate, etc.
  • Basic cutlery set, plus steak knives
  • Knives: Chef’s knife, utility knife, paring knife, plus shears
  • 1 each of wooden spoon, slotted spoon, spatula, various cooking tools
  • 3 piece mixing bowl set plus 1 glass salad bowl
  • Assorted Tupperware/storage pieces
  • Slow cooker, rice cooker and food processor
  • 8 dinner plates
  • 4 each of salad plates, bowls, coffee mugs, dessert bowls
  • 4 drinking glasses, 2 pint glasses, 4 wine glasses
  • Assorted utensils: corkscrew, bottle opener, measuring spoons and cups, etc.

So… in other words… not particularly “minimalist” at all. Except that my kitchen contains that 3-4 times over.

Setting these aside left a pretty big pile of stuff to sort through. What was going out for good, and what was worth putting into storage? On the chopping block were various single use appliances: popcorn maker, espresso machine, waffle maker, plus the blender, toaster, kettle, etc. Also gone are all the extra utensils: the extra wooden spoons (I had about 6), the second set of measuring cups, various things I couldn’t even find a use for. A cheese plate. Extra dessert bowls. An assortment of extra mixing bowls. And so much more. Many items sold, and still two boxes of stuff on the table to give away.

Being packed away until I have a full kitchen again are: 8 x cups and saucers and 4 x salad plates and bowls. And the entire china set, which I love and will not get rid of but can’t bring with me. Plus the second baking sheet, muffin tin, lasagna pan, etc.

This is what my (usable) cupboards now look like*:

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I plan to be in my new home no later than June, so for the next few months I will be testing out my cooking only the items in the list. This is not exactly a hardship. Everything I need is there (or so I think). Still it will be interesting to see how it goes, and how accustomed I have gotten to having more dishes than I know what to do with. Wish me luck.

* Slowcooker was in use, not in picture. Food processor still in box, bought to replace the blender we just sold, on the presumption that we will use it more. Also, changed my mind about the mixing bowls. While the plastic ones pictured have lids and are thus multi-functional, I prefer the stainless steel set, and so swapped them out.

Minimizing

Life is funny, isn’t it? Last time I posted here we were finishing amazing renovations to our house. We made it bigger. We made it prettier. We had it custom designed for us. It was awesome.

And now, just 18 months after the renos are complete… we are moving. It’s a temporary move, but a move nonetheless. I can’t believe I am leaving my fabulous new house.

But I am leaving. And not only that, significantly downsizing. There is no point in renting a 3+ bedroom house for a couple who are moving to another city for only a year (barring extensions, but that’s another story). So the challenge ahead of me in the next two months is figuring out what I want to take with us. What does a couple, in a one bedroom apartment, actually need to get by. And the flip side, what can go into long-term storage, and not be accessed till we move home.

At first, I found this daunting and stressful, but I am beginning to see it more as a challenge. Despite our best efforts not to be cluttered, we have accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. We first noticed this when we had to move out for the renovation. We did our best to cull the excess stuff at that time, but when we began to unpack after the reno, it became clear we hadn’t done as well as we thought. There are still unpacked boxes in the closets and basement. If we haven’t used it in 18 months, why do we still own it.

So over the next few weeks, I am going to seriously cull our belongings. Ruthlessly. Why do we need 5 spare pillows? Multiple sheet sets for the spare bed and futon? 8 different types and sizes of wine glasses? Don’t get me started on mugs and teacups. It is out of control. While I am sure that given our personalities, we will never be true minimalists, I know we can do much better than this.

Tonight, I start with the kitchen. Single-use gadgets: be afraid. Be very afraid. I will report back soon.