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?