Starting my minimalism attempt

Hi Mustachians,
Warning, text wall incoming, it might as well be in the “my story” section but here I focus more on the minimalism aspect of my story, still not ready to share my full story online.
After reading Mr. MP book (finished it in PDF 1 day before I got the hard copy), I continued with some of his references (in parallel of tracking my finances, doing my budget, sending a rent adaptation letter and changing 2 insurances, while opening 3a at Finpension and an account at Investart, so I’m already stepping in the right direction I hope). One of them was about Minimalim, and especially the documentary by The Minimalists. I was not completely stranger to this as I read Marie Condo a couple of years ago and was feeling that the idea was quite good but she didn’t went to the end of the process, she explain how to get rid of stuff but not really how to stop buying/getting new ones, and she didn’t explain what to gain and that it’s not only about material possessions.
So I went to Netflix (my wife account, shared with some friends, as I was the last to want to subscribe and I’m still not a big fan and not using it that much, like less than once per month) and found not one but two documentary by The Minimalists. It was a bit confusing, but I started with the original one, not from Netflix and then shortly after I watched the other one from Netflix. Content is more or less the same. The first one follow the 2 guys on a US tour and is a little more into how and what happened with testimony. The second one, from Netflix, is keeping the same ideas and messages but with some recreated scene from their story, it feels a bit less authentic, taking the spectator by the hand a little more but not annoyingly like American TV show that have no content and repeat the same things 20 times in an hour. I might still recommend the first one if you one to watch only one of them, and it’s on archive.org for free if you don’t have Netflix.

Nevertheless, I was a bit more hooked than the book from Mario Condo. I feel that they are spot on of many things that bother me in my life, especially at home. As I have moved so many time in my life that I don’t count it anymore, I have learn to clean up my stuff, especially with the last 2 moving, with wife and small kids, where you start to accumulate 10x faster with all the stuff (you think) you need for the kids and all the things that are duplicate (or much more if you have many each) when merging belonging of 2 persons. For a couple of years and more we started sorting, selling, giving and trashing quite a lot of stuff.

But no matter how much we feel we get rid off, everyday I still feel overwhelm by all the stuff in our house. Shortly after our first kid born, we moved to another area (from Romandie to past the Röstigraben) and where able to afford a slightly larger apartment, 3.5 room in city center with no 50cm wide balcony to 4.5room with private garden. It didn’t feel like a luxury with the 3 kids but the worst is that we have still after almost 2 years a lot of stuff in boxes in the basement and the feeling that the apartment is full in every corner. Every time I open a wardrobe or cupboard, I have almost stuff falling on my. In the kitchen I have to remove stuff to get other from the back, or unstack to get something below. In my wardrobe I have 2 row of stacking cloths and the bottom if full of stacked stuff as well.

In the last 2 years I still manage to reduce quite a lot of my possession, I was the kind to collect things, yeah I know it’s the worst and you feel ashamed when you thing about the money spend on collecting useless stuff afterward, but I’ve try to reduce this habits as much as possible. I still have 4-5 boxes of videos games, all Nintendo system every made a lot of games, I still don’t want to get rid of them but they are in boxes in the basement bringing me nothing to my life, as well as DVD and Bluray (I had about 300 and reduce to 200 by trying to sell them in vain in gave 100 of them to a library). At least I’m no more accumulating these, I reduce a lot my video games and movies consumption because of less free time with the kids and when I do buy new games or movies, I force myself to get digital only. I also reduce a lot the new purchases in the gadgets category.

Thus all these efforts feel crushed by the rest of the family. Every drawing I empty, every box I free up, got immediately refurbished by other stuff from the family. I have only a tiny desk in the corner of our bedroom (because we have no extra room for an office or something) and I really have to keep it clean otherwise I cannot use the computer but still it’s a magnet to stuff, something you don’t know where to put? desk. A new bill? desk. Postcard from uncle in holiday. Desk.
I have tried to put thing to “take care of” in the first desk drawer, but it’s ever worth, it’s getting full in a month. Once per month I pay all bill, take care of paperwork as soon as possible, scan everything that might be needed in the future and get rid of the paper immediately (unless it’s some kind of important official document that need to be original, but fortunately it’s more and more rare).

But the problem is not only in the desk. In the kitchen open to living room we have a kind of workplace separating kitchen from dining table/living room, it’s something I did myself from the previous apartment where the kitchen was so small that we could prepare food in it properly. Below the surface are boxes to store food, so it’s quite convenient. However as we have a larger kitchen now, this surface is almost never needed anymore to prepare food so it end up as the first point or storage for stuff we don’t know were to put or we have no time to take care at the moment. This place is a nightmare, it’s here, in the middle of were we live most of our time and it’s always a mess. Letters freshly opened (before it end up on the desk), pill of paper or cardboard packaging to recycle before we bring them outside to the recycle box and talking about recycling paper, why on hell do we have to keep them for 2 months or more and then stack them in small bundle with a string!!! What are they thinking?! I the city in Romandie we use to have a paper and cardboard container at the back of our building, here it’s like they are doing everything to prevent you to recycle paper. It was the same for cardboard, minus the stacking bundle, but at least they re-open a collection point in the village. We put a clear sign on the mailbox that we don’t want any add nor any free newspaper but we still get 2 per week + all political garbage ads on top of all the one already in the voting envelope. Seriously I though away the remaining paper from our 2 voting envelope and the stack of paper was like 2-3cm high!

Then I can continue with kids wardrobe that are fully packed when kids are wear the same 3 cloths in loop, and the rest at the back is too small already, thus there are never socks available strangely, I guess they wear them down way too fast. And same in bathroom, you open the mirror and care products fall on you. Toys box, full. Plush drawer, impossible to close. Storage in the basement, full from floor to ceiling and you have to play Tetris every time you need to get something. On the terrace we have 3 times more balls than kids, a lot of small to large vehicles, sand toys, Garden box is full as well even if we have less than 6m2 of plants/vegetables to take care of.

Of course we are aware of most of that and we already sorted a lot, at least kids stuff and clothes but because of COVID all garage sales or grouped sales are cancelled and some stuff are easy to sell online but others not really, especially baby clothes. So we still have 4-5 moving boxed full of clothes and baby stuff to sell that we can not get rid immediately but we will eventually. We decide that if not sold by end of the year it will go to Brocki or somewhere else were it’s useful for someone. I’ve sold some electronic stuff as well and through away some more as well. However even thinking about everything that will go away eventually, I still feel overwhelm but my wife is not so much bothered by this so it leads to slight conflict from time to time.
I heard: “You should keep your video games, later you will be happy to play them with kids”, “You should not get rid of this, later when you need you will have to buy them and spend money again for something we had already”, “This is sentimental, I cannot get rid off it”, “This is a gift from XY, I need to keep it otherwise they will be upset”. Once I even scan then get rid of all baby born announcement and wedding invitation from my friends, colleagues and family, and she was mad at it, told that these people spend money and took time to make a nice card, we have to keep them. I said, keep them for what? and where? “I don’t know, in shoes box, we had to keep them”… Now it’s still stacked in a corner of our room, collecting dust, waiting to be sorted in box or anything…

This is my first problem to solve, on top of the effort to get rid of my stuff, is that I have always to bargain with my wife to get rid of anything, even for my things and kids stuff and I don’t even dare to mention any of her stuff.

The second problem, as mention, when we manage to clean up one drawer or one box or a corner of a room, it get filled up immediately by other stuff. I was wondering how is it possible, I didn’t feel we buy so much. But beginning of the years I started tracking our expense, and first I got a couple of small fight, as I’m the only working (for money) and my wife take care of the kids and home, “you want to control everything”, “You want us to eat pasta everyday?”, “I bought a coffee, is it OK or should I have asked you before”. Now she got the point and know I don’t want to control or keep her away form our money, but just made us aware of where our money goes and then we will have material to discuss if and where we really want to spend our money and where it’s not so useful or not so much bringing so much in our life. She accept that, it was not so much hard to bring her on board as she was the one who want to start a budget… 3 years ago… before she gave up to the task. And now I understand why it feel so difficult to track our expense. The first month, she start giving me receipts over receipt, over receipt. I was like, how is it possible? So I asked here: “Did you shop every day? Yes of course, I have to feed all of us, I had to dress our kids, I have to take care of everyone in this house. And we the kids I cannot spend more than 30-45min in a shop, then they are tired and start messing around and I have to stop.”

It’s here that I understood that we have to get organize not only to clean up the house, tidy up stuff, sorting and selling old stuff but as well to spend money. It’s important to make a shopping list and for that we had to make some week menu, at least half of the meals must be planned, otherwise it’s the race to get this extra missing stuff at the shop 30min before closing and to eat always the sames and not always healthy menu and on the other side spending randomly is bad for budget because we buy things we shouldn’t and because it make the expense tracking much more complicated. And it’s the same for non-food, if we need a new objects, we should plan it, be sure that we need it, compare options; re-use something we have (kids clothes from older siblings), ask friends, second hand market, compare prices,… and define a storage place for the new objects (if not obvious).
I feel that it is the most important key to success in budget and controlling expense to increase the saving rate but more importantly it’s also the key to stop accumulating stuff and feel overwhelm by objects everywhere. I’ll continue to fight in this direction and hopefully get my wife to support me as much as possible when she will see the benefit of it.

And you, what are your experiences? any advice on top of Mr.MP book and The Minimalists movies and books?

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It looks like you need to agree on a budget with your wife and if need be give her an allowance.

Has she read into mininalism and understands the benefits?

What if you make a deal to cut budget in certain areas and if successful longterm give her (better for you two together) a nice weekend away, dinner, etc?

I’ve started tracking expense in order for us to agree on a budget, of course, and she is OK with that on the principle but not sure how it will be practically, and she is maybe a bit scare about that and I don’t have all answers right now to make her feel more comfortable.

The idea is to save some money because we almost never saved anything so far, I’ve been working for almost 10 years and we have been together even longer and it’s a bit frustrating to never have money stacking on our bank account. I even start the 3a only end of last year, for both of us. I had always the feeling that we cannot afford to put money in 3a because we never reach 5 digit on our bank account or when it’s the case it was because we forgot an expense or we had an increase in taxes or something. I had the feeling that we were not spending over our capacity (and it is the case, we never had any credit not any debt, nor a leasing or anything) and that we were mostly reasonable on spending, only for stuff and activities that bring us joy and we were not the worst either, as we barely looked at our figure in bank account but on the other side we were never block to pay a bill or buy something because we were completely out of money, so I had the feeling that we were doing an OK job already, like insinctively. But I now learn where is the issue, if we don’t do a budget and don’t track expense, money will not stack by itself on bank account.

So yes the idea of a nice weekend of dinner could be good but on the other side we will do it anyway if we can so she (and I too in a sense) will not feel it like a reward but like treat that is we don’t save more, we will cut on something that really bring us joy. And thus it’s not going in the good direction to motivate both of us. And by the way, with 3 small kids, the main issue to get a nice time in couple is not money at all. The youngest cannot sleep without us, even when I’m alone it’s already very difficult to put her bed and had to wake 2-3 times in the night. And on good nights, the other 2 don’t wake up neither but to odd that all of them sleep without interruption from 20h to 8h is very close to zero. But it’s another topic.

We still have to figure out something that work for us, but at least we started the process, it will not be easy but I hope we will improve our life on many aspect, one step at a time.

I laughed out load reading your post, your pain resonates with me :grinning:

Since I am in the same boat I will permit myself to share some advice. You need to prioritize which things you want to go after and choose your battles VERY strategically. I will never mention the boxes of clothes from my wife’s childhood since I know it will put at risk my totally obsolete CD collection which I am not ready to lose yet !

Regards the piles of post. A life changing investment was to buy a small document scanner. Scan post to a One drive folder as soon as it arrives and tear up the paper immediately. We bought a box from IKEA for paper recycling which fills up in <1 week, it is incredible

Budget is tricky. You wife is surely doing a great job and you should not make her feel criticized since I imagine her totally valid response was “…then you can do all the food and clothes shopping” :slight_smile: ?

It helped us to make a forecast jointly in excel of when we would reach FI based on current savings rate, and then what would happen if we saved and invested x more per year. The numbers can be pretty motivating with compounding returns in the stock market. Having a vision for the future together is powerful and a nice couple thing

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I‘m sure there‘s an app for this, no need to buy a scanner. I plan to go paper free and have yet to evaluate solutions. I would like Smartphone-Canera to pdf to dropbox

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I startet paperless years ago before I knew the word minimalism or the acronym fire ;o)

I am Evernote user and therefore everything goes with scannable directly to the right place …

Ok, I’ll replay not specifically here as you are all 3 on the same thing. Yes I did scan all my documents for years now, I have a small (the smallest I could find) Canon printer that can scan both side from a stack of document. It get jammed quit easily compare to office machines but it do most of the job. However I figure out that for most documents where quality of the scan is not important at all, I can use CamScanner (I still fight to find a good open source alternative to this one but so far nothing worked for me, Clean Scan on F-Droid is the closest but it’s too buggy and you have to re-try too much, loose my time). I scan everything directly on my NAS but usually I do after paying the bill, otherwise I end up forgetting about a bill from time to time and get a reminder. If possible I do it right away with mobile banking app, then scan and get rid of the paper. But still remain the paper that are not just simple bill. Thing you have to do something, write back, fill a form, an article that need to be returned. Paper still stack up until you take time to do the work. And I have all the receipts in a document holder that stack up until the 1st of the month to do the expense tracking. At least I manage to import in CSV my bank statement, all Migros receipts when the Cumulus card is used, the Cashback Card and Cembra invoice thanks to a small script found here. I have mostly Coop, Aldi and some various shops to do manually but only when the store name doesn’t imply the category without needing the receipt.

I use CamScanner but I was lucky to get a one time purchase premium version that doesn’t expire, now you need to pay per month to remove watermark for example. Otherwise it’s the only app I found that scan very fast, detect the page, cut the background, remove shadow and optimize the clarity of the text all automatically in a second. Then you can export in PDF to any location, I export directly to my network drive in the appropriate category sub-folder. But I find it that you need to many click just to export, there should be a default option to export all to PDF in one folder or something. But they want to sell their cloud storage so they make manual export more cumbersome, too bad.

You can try Clean Scan as well, but it’s not working fine on my phone, maybe you are more lucky.

I use CamScanner but I was lucky to get a one time purchase premium version that doesn’t expire, now you need to pay per month to remove watermark for example. Otherwise it’s the only app I found that scan very fast, detect the page, cut the background, remove shadow and optimize the clarity of the text all automatically in a second. Then you can export in PDF to any location, I export directly to my network drive in the appropriate category sub-folder. But I find it that you need to many click just to export, there should be a default option to export all to PDF in one folder or something. But they want to sell their cloud storage so they make manual export more cumbersome, too bad.

You can try Clean Scan as well, but it’s not working fine on my phone, maybe you are more lucky.

Ouch, been there. Out of curiosity did you watch the Minimalists movie/documentary with her?

Lol, also been there.

I was also astonished by the amount of times my wife went for groceries shopping. But why are you asking for the receipts? Doesn’t she pay with card and you can track it by the merchant description of your bank statement?

And that’s why I get a vasectomy next week, after having just one kid.

Ouch, I feel your pain, esp. about how every new surface or drawer gets automatically used for “storage” of new “stuff”. :slight_smile:

I think the “secret” here is to “immediately” destroy the storage capability of anything that becomes empty. The empty furniture must go, else there is no point. The more space one has, the more stuff accumulates.
My parents probably had 2 toys at one time, I had 20, my child has 100, it’s exponential :-/

You need to win over your partner to “the cause”, else it’s all for nothing & you’d be better off just trying to feel better / comfortable with the status quo.

And digitalization is really a wonderful opportunity for us, music, books, files of bills & contracts, computer games, movies… All in a “cloud” or small hard disk
Amazing!

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Please not all in the cloud, or at least do backups. I have my NAS and it’s backuped to my brother NAS (and vice-versa). I mean it’s ok to have data locally and one back in the cloud, if possible encrypted on client side, but please please never relay only on a third party service/company. I’ve read the story of a game designer that got his Google account suspended and deleted by Google for term violations, without him knowing why (might be true, might not but with everything automated in these big data company, I would not be surprise of anything).
My self I was cut out three times by big company for my NAS remote backup, first was a relatively small company offering unlimited backup that suddenly limit to 1TB, I moved to Amazon Unlimited backup, that what then cut to 1TB and finally OVH, big French internet service provider, with theire HubiC service, here it was 5TB so I was thinking they cannot cut much more, but they stopped the service and while maintaining my file available it was slowly not more supported as a backup destination by my NAS. That’s when I invested with my brother to not relay on external companies any more.

What a nice wall of words…

It does mix up a few stuff I think.

Regarding Budget (easy part, you both agree)

  • Keep Writing down expenses.
  • If too much of an hassle, just write the totals of each receipt, dividing food expenses and everything else
  • Bonus if you split in at least 3 categories : food, house/personal care , other. ( h/p care: toilet paper, soaps, tampons, etc.)
  • Check the expenes you have in 6-12 months. You can spot if you have too much “other” or if food has a pattern.
  • Re Food: you shouldn’t “save”, just improve. (less meat? you decide)
  • Other category: it might have to be split for the kids: kids clothing, kids others.
  • Ask someone else about kids’ toys. I don’t have much experience, but imho you shouldn’t buy toys so often.
  • If you bank account can’t have 10k chf in it, it means you might not gain much in having two 3A accounts.

Minimalism:

  • The pain is visible on your posts. Talk to your wife about minimalism.
  • There is nothing you can do if you plan to win the battle alone (short of divorce…)
  • Try to declutter your living room and show it to her. There is a feeling when a room is emptier and cleaner. I’m sure it will help.

There is no fixed rule for this. You will read plenty of (famous) examples on this forum. A colleague of mine defined the wife of another colleague as her “muse”; just a way to say that her could also be doing nothing all day long and that will be ok since he needs her as muse… This is just to say that it’s you that define how much the burden is shared between you and your wife. If your hobby is to collect spores and her to collect rocks, you should accept that her stuff take more place than yours. You can though decide for the shared stuff.

Re thinking about what you said, I think one of the biggest issue you have is that you are tidier than her. I think that this is unsolvable. If that make you suffer, you can tell her that, maybe it will help.
I’m in a similar situation :frowning:

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Thanks for the input. First point, important but outside minimalism (or maybe not) I started a bit ambitious, I have like 6-7 categories with each some sub-categories, in total it’s like 20-30 categories at the moment. Some are fixed/regular cost that I can predict in advance quite accurately (rent, taxes, all insurances, telecom, all subscriptions to services, magazines, clubs, saving for next car, public transport abos…) and some are variable: food (supermarket), care product, cleaning products, restaurant (outside work), food/restaurant at work (but it’s very rare, especially these days with home office), gas, car repair, furniture and house stuff, appliances, school/day care, clothes adults, clothes kids, objects for family (including toys, b-day/christmas gifts for kids and us), activities for family (day trip, gifts (outside household), holidays (split in 4 sub-categories: transport, accommodation, food and activities/souvenirs), objects for me only, activities/travel for me only, same two for my wife (this include electronics, gadgets, anything we don’t want/need to ask each/other to buy and restaurant with friends, activities without the rest of the family, travel without the family, like when I go on rollercoaster tour with my borther, one of my costly “passion” or when my wife go with some friends to visit a city). But for they 2 times 2 categories, I think it will eventually end like a freedom budget, the total will be a recurrent transfer to our personal account and then we manage as we want, save for big purchase/big travel or spend on little things.
They are others categories that I forgot but you got the idea.
It seams extremely complicated but in fact some categories are rare so it’s not so much of a hassle so far but I’ll see after some months, maybe I will merge some categories that doesn’t make sense to details or at least assign a budget across the main category that can be assign to any sub-categories. First I want to have an overview of where to work on or where it’s ok to let it go as it is. I did only January so far, I’ll do February on 1st of March (or shortly after).

What do you mean? We get quite a good tax return, and the money is invested with Finpenson, for me it make sense. Most people I talk with maxed out their 3a from the first year they worked, me I started after 10 years… But maybe I didn’t took everything into account here?

The thing is that she is kind of on board on this, she like when it’s tidy up and she is always ok if not pushing to sale or give stuff we don’t need or want any more. It’s just that she has so much to do with the kids, kitchen and cleaning, I mean I help as much as possible but I’m also working 100% so of course she is mostly on front on these, at least during the working days, so it’s very difficult to keep up and leave all surface clean most of the time and things can accumulate quite fast I know how it is. Maybe she is a bit more focus on keeping clean than tidy and I’m slightly the opposite but both are linked anyway, that’s why I tend to be the initiator to tidy up and she is for cleaning up and when there is almost no discussion possible on how to clean, it is a bit more complex to tidy up as I have to decide where to store stuff and if we keep it or not, so I’m always asking her and she feel like judge or something I guess.
At the end there is not so much conflict about getting the rooms tidy on floor, furniture and visible surfaces but it’s mostly shifting the problem by filling up every little drawer, closet, storage boxes, under beds and basement storage. She is aware of it as well and would probably want to do something about it but it’s not a priority for her and it’s getting more and more for me. At the end of the day, when kids sleep and kitchen is clean, usually at 20h (or 21h if unlucky), we have no energy to open drawer and closets and start sorting stuffs, so it just get postponed.
This is were we have to work on together and no I don’t want it to become a fight against my wife but more a fight of both together against the excess of stuff and I’m sure it will never end up in a fight that might lead to divorce or some degradation of the relationship, we are past that for sure and even if I feel it might, I’ll stop immediately and we will talk about it before anything.

Sorry, I thought you had a low wage and didn’t get much savings.

Can you give an example of stuff you have to decide on? I feels like it’s 99% of the time kids stuff. I can’t see what else needs to be put back on drawers continously.
I think you basically have to define what you do in your life to see how the clutter and mess is created. If you spend most of your time at work and come home only in the evening, there isn’t much time to make a mess. Maybe you have a different hobby per day and that adds up. Otherwise it’s just the stuff of your kids that’s piling up. Your wife at the same time doesn’t really have much free time so she is probalby not really messing up. She might need a tool to do a thing and can’t find the time to put it back because she’s super busy. So maybe the problem lies in the fact that the clutter is slowing her down to put stuff back. Or mabye she’s overdoing stuff.
I don’t know. too many things are not said.
If I think about my own situation, I can see where some clutter come from:

  • Hobby stuff that lies around since I didn’t finish the hobby-thing yet.
  • Documents/Magazines I still have to manage/read.
  • Her stuff

100% of my issues are because of the lack of an easy to reach storage space. (and different priorities)

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