Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fresh Produce and Apartment Living

After moving back to the states I knew I was going to miss the abundance of fresh, local produce available just steps from my apartment building in Ramat Gan, Israel.  Even though we now live in farm country, somehow it is more difficult to access fresh local produce on a daily basis.  Our area has a wonderful farmers market, but only on Saturdays and sometimes we cannot make it there on a weekly basis.  We decided to recreate our herb planters that we had in Israel, but wanted to experiment with growing some produce in pots.  Living in an apartment means no yard to create a large garden.  We decided to start small with one potted cherry tomato plant, and a pot for green onions made from an onion that had started to sprout in our kitchen.

We have been benefiting from constant fresh green onions for some time, and they seem to be flourishing in the tiny pot on our patio.  But today, we finally got to taste our first ripe cherry tomato grown organically on our own patio.  And may I say it was sweet, juicy and delicious!  There is something so satisfying and rewarding about growing your own food.

Apartment living has been wonderful for our minimalist lifestyle.  The perfect amount of space, no maintenance, no yard work, and low cost.  However, the ability to have our own garden beds is something that keeps me wondering if we would want to get a small house with a yard in the future.  Luckily we have plenty of time to think about it and we will be sure to weigh the pros and cons to stay true to the quality of life we want to have.

Definitions of "minimalism" and "simple living" are different for each person and each family.  It is about living consciously and putting value and importance on what really matters to you.  That could mean living out of a backpack, not owning any furniture, having a flexible job or being able to grow your own cherry tomatoes on your patio.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Minimalism Maintenance

It has nearly been 2 years since I embarked on my journey towards minimalism.  I have gotten rid of a lot of belongings and cut down on what I purchase and bring into the home.  All my clothing, both for summer and winter can fit into one suitcase, all of our books fit onto two shelves on a bookcase, and paper clutter is at an all time low.  Even with all of these goals accomplished, even a minimalist needs to do some maintenance every now and again.

This weekend I found that some minimalist maintenance was in order in my home.  I took the plunge and got rid of the rest of my makeup and toiletries I was hanging onto and not using, I went through our lone junk drawer in our coffee table, reviewed our paper files, chose two more books to donate to the local library and found 2 more items of clothing to give away.

Even though this wasn't a huge purge or a massive overhaul with shocking before and after photos, it felt good to check in with how my home is functioning and how it makes me feel.  Do you have the feeling that you need some simple living maintenance?  Here are some tips I lead my Your Simple Home clients through:

1) Sit in each space and reflect on how the space currently functions and how it makes you feel.
2) Think about how you WANT the space to function and how you WANT to feel in your space.
3) Do the answers to 1 and 2 match?  If they do, fantastic! If not, some maintenance may be in order.
4) Set goals for your space to help you with decision making on what to keep and what to purge.
5) Work one shelf, drawer, table, etc. at a time.  Take it slow, this is not a race.

What other maintenance tips and tricks do you use to keep your home simple and enjoyable?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Honoring Memories Through Possessions

I was recently inspired by one of my Your Simple Home clients. While at her home, my client explained that she had a hard time letting go of gifts family and good friends give her even if she absolutely hates the item. Because the item was given with love, she was filled with feelings of guilt at even the thought of letting it go. We decided to start off small and tackle a bookshelf in her study. We came across a lot of clutter, however, she shared some extraordinary items full of family history and amazing memories.

One item was a framed, handwritten letter from her great-grandmother.  She wrote the following story: "...this letter was written by my great-grandmother to (in the voice of my grandmother) announce the birth of my maternal grandmother. I cherish it not only because it is a family heirloom, but because it is written in a very different era (hand-written, even) after World War I but before World War II. Simply put, it was a period I cannot fathom but this piece at least allows me to imagine."

The second item was a vintage Ken doll,  She wrote,  "When my paternal grandparents came to this country after the Holocaust, their financial resources were obviously limited. My understanding is that both of my aunts received Barbie dolls... sort of. My oldest aunt was given a Barbie doll, while my younger aunt was given Ken. You can imagine the disappointment that my aunt felt. So my aunt gave this doll to me when I was about 13-years old. It serves as a reminder of what my family went through in order to thrive in this country and the sacrifices---big or small---that had to be made by all. It is not particularly attractive nor is it in good condition, but it's of great importance to me."

We discussed how these items made her smile, brought her joy and many positive family memories.  We then worked to declutter the items on the bookshelf that did not bring her joy and that took up space and energy.  By getting rid of the excess styff, these treasured items could be displayed and honored in a way that they could be enjoyed by her and her family on a daily basis.

She wrote, "Being able to have both items represented in the room has been wonderful!"

We all assign emotional value to our possessions, and if an item carries memories of loved ones, they can bring all sorts of emotions to us.  When clutter is an issue in our lives it comes time to take stock of the possessions we have and think about why we have them.

Questions to consider:

Does the item bring me good memories or bad ones?

Do I enjoy having this in my home and in my life?

Am I able to enjoy the item on a daily basis?

Sometimes we love the sentimental items we own but they become lost on shelves, in piles and in storage.  When this happens, we do not honor the memories the item gives us and we miss out. Getting rid of the excess, of the items that do not invoke positive emotions, we make room for the ones we cherish.  Our homes should be places of comfort and joy.  By making conscious decisions of what comes in we can maintain those feelings.