August 11, 2014

Trying To Keep It Simple

Minimalism in action. Our landlords took pity on us and brought over a table and a chair for
us to use until we get things of our own… if we get things of our own.

After living in the efficient simplicity of our van for a while, we are loath to start collecting things again while in our new home.  However, some things are quite nice to have.

Like a table and somewhere comfortable to sit. Or a cheese grater, or bed big enough that my feet don't hang over the end (we moved the bed from our van into our bedroom).

The van had just enough room for us and a limited number of things and no more. In comparison our new home feels downright huge. And empty.

We are in a situation we have not been in for many, many years. We need more stuff.

Having said that, we are enjoying some parts of going majorly minimal. When a place is not crammed full of things it has a beautiful open and airy feel. There aren't so many things to run in to, or get in the way when stumbling to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Doing dishes is a snap when you only own three plates, two cups and a handful of cutlery. Our kitchen seems huge with drawers and cupboards looking sparse and clean. Counter tops are clear and usable.

Minimalism now seems like the way to go since more than likely there will be another move in our future, perhaps as soon as next fall. Considering that, it would be nice to not have a bunch of junk to move, or otherwise get rid of. We have just been through that exercise when we left the west coast and I don't want to do it again for a while.

But how do you make cookies without a cookie sheet? And can you ask guests to sit on the floor and share a plate and cup between them? How do you clean a floor without a vacuum or broom?

I don't like needing to acquire more stuff, but when it comes down to it, a few functional things are what make our lives more enjoyable. People need stuff. Not much stuff, but at least some.

The challenge during this acquisition phase will be to keep it simple and not catch Consumeritis. As you know, this disease is as widespread and virulent as the common cold, and about as welcome.

Keep it simple, keep it simple, keep it simple...


  1. What a beautiful room and simply because it has all that light shining into it. The house we live in is always dark like a tomb. I'd love to punch a hole in the ceiling and put in a skylight, but it's not our house. We plan to move again within 2 years and we need to downsize a lot more to make the move easier on us.

    1. Clamco,

      One of the things we like the best about our new place is the light. Our old place was dark and mouldy in comparison. Now the sun shines into our home for most of the day - great sunrises and sunsets.

      I am so glad that Linda and I started downsizing way before we moved. It was difficult as it was, but all our earlier work made it possible. I thought you guys had downsized a lot already, but I do know there is always more to be done. Good luck, it is a battle worth fighting.

  2. Anonymous8/11/2014

    Recently I discovered that one can be too minimal! I pared down to the point that it made my life more difficult and a lot less comfortable. My room actually echoed and at first I liked the emptiness, but found a little warmth and at least one nice thing to look at is a good thing.

    Even our pioneering ancestors wanted some little comforts in their lives and a few tools to make everyday tasks doable. If we look to their example of having a home that is functional and made more beautiful by handicraft, I don't think we can go wrong.

    1. Miss Marla,

      I believe we can arrive at the optimal quantity of things to make life comfortable, but not cramped. But where exactly is that line? Through experimentation we can discover where it is for each of us. Sometimes we need to go too far to find out how far is far enough.

      I think if you keep functionality and beauty foremost in your mind you will end up with comfortable surroundings that make life pleasant, but not plush.

  3. Anonymous8/11/2014

    I can really relate to this! I especially like the part about doing the dishes ;-)
    It's such a relief, not to own too much stuff. Being able to fit everything into a car, and move way.
    Yet, I agree: a chair to sit on, a table and a confortable enough bed are necessary.
    We found that pallets could be a nice, cheap and easy way to make temporary furniture during these empty-house periods. Add a bunch of wild flowers in a glass, and home you are.

    1. bymarion,

      There is a dishwasher in this place but I can't see us ever using it - I could load it with every dish, pot, and pan we have and still wouldn't have a full load. Plus I don't mind doing dishes by hand, especially because now I have a window over the sink.

      I like the pallet idea - regular furniture is boring, expensive, and HEAVY. We have been thinking about how we can make our own furniture, even a few pieces like end tables and coffee tables. I knew a fellow once that used cardboard to make all his own furniture, and it worked very well.

      The wildflowers are a nice touch, and free. Home, sweet home.

    2. Anonymous8/12/2014

      Yes, exactly, a window over the sink makes a dishwasher completely useless and boring ;-)

  4. It will be excitingto see how you fare and to hear what you simply have to have. As always you are an inspiration to me.

    1. T.M.,

      Since one of the ways we save money is by making all our own food, many of the things I think I need are in the kitchen. For example, a cookie sheet is a nice multi-purpose tool, and it is hard to grate cheese or potatoes without a grater.

      But then there is also a place to sit, eat and work. Both Linda and I love a HUGE table, like in a library. It is nice to have a big table to spread out and get messy and creative.

      The inspiration goes both ways my friend. Together we are getting this thing figured out.

  5. You ARE an inspiration and it will be interesting to see how you draw the line between 'needs' and 'wanst'. Kitchen worktops are a great place to assess how one's minimalism is coming along...or not!

    1. CharlotteP,

      I still have more counter than stuff. The house has a separate pantry which takes a lot of things off counter tops.

  6. You're new place looks beautiful and serene, Gregg. I think kitchen equipment is essential for those of us who want to eat sustainably and cook nourishing food. I also like to cook extra for future meals and so have a good collection of glass containers to store food in too. We have only a couple of extra cups and plates, but I would have no hesitation in asking my guests to bring their own if needs be !
    A futon with a slatted base could be an easily transported form of bedding.
    You are in the wonderful position now of being able to decide if things are useful or beautiful before you bring them into your new home. Given all of the deep thinking you've done on this topic I imagine you will soon arrive at that magic place known as 'enough' :)


    1. Madeleine,

      Of all the things we gave away I miss my kitchen stuff the most. It is what I am replacing first so I can get back into making everything we eat.

      I love the idea of asking guests to bring their own set of eating implements. It was what we did in the housing coop I lived in when we gathered for potluck suppers. Everyone brought their own kit.

  7. Anonymous8/13/2014

    Hi Gregg,
    I've been following this blog for some time now and it's really informative and inspiring. Thank you!
    On this topic, I'd say - take the middle path. Not too many - No too less :-)

    1. P.,

      Glad you have joined us. I do like the idea of the middle path in everything we do. Balance. Steady as she goes...

  8. Anonymous8/13/2014


    Your new abode looks so beautifully clean, simple and open. I get a calm feeling just from looking at the picture you posted. I hope you will keep it looking like this - it is what I am aiming for in my house. I am so happy that you and Linda have had such a happy conclusion to your journey! Your blog is so inspiring and I truly enjoy it.


    1. Sophie,

      The challenge is to retain the openness of our place while fitting in the things we need to live the life we want. We have found that slowing down helps to quell the urges to buy too much. Impulsive behaviour often leads to bad consumer decisions and an overstuffed home.

      Slowly we move are finding what is enough for us in our new location. Thank you for sharing your good thoughts with us.

    2. Anonymous8/15/2014

      Gregg: Yes, it really is all about balance. I think every person can find the right place of "just enough". It will vary from person to person, which is how it should be. I'm at the place now where I have my needs fulfilled and I can be very selective about my wants. I've found that I enjoy something so much more when I've thought about it carefully before I decide to bring it into my house! Now I truly love the few "wants" I've purchased since I know that they are meaningful to me. I know this will be the same for you and Linda. It feels so good to be in control and putting together a thoughtful and beautiful home.

    3. Sophie,

      Key words: "in control", "thoughtful". These are not usually associated with consumerism which is about "buy whatever you want now and deal with the fallout later".

      By maintaining self control and being thoughtful we can avoid the many traps and pitfalls laid for us by profit and power driven interests.

  9. Anonymous8/14/2014

    About to squeal seeing this clean bright space! I have a feeling that you and Linda will make wise choices about what you bring into your new space. You already know a lot on this subject. More importantly, you know who you are and what your values are.

    I love reading all the comments here. So much inspiration in this blog and community.

    I recently scaled down my bedroom. I got rid of a nice dresser and armoire and most everything that was in them. Can't tell you how much more I like that room! My bedroom now has a comfortable bed, a couple of shelf units and a small child-sized chest that double functions as a night stand and storage for journals, etc. I have a couple of pictures on the wall and curtains. One shelf unit has a mirror above it and a couple of small bins for socks, etc. I use it as a dressing area. Very few nick nacks, only really special ones. The other shelf unit is mostly empty, but I plan to move in a few things as I clear other areas, maybe a few books. I like light weight shelf units over real furniture. They are a cinch to move.

    As I continue mass scale down here, I'm mindful about the cost of things, not the money, but the cost to move them, the time cost to care for them, maintain them, space to store them, effort to dust them, vacuum around them, etc.


    1. Terri,

      You are very wise to consider the true "cost" of the things you acquire in life. What you pay at the time of purchase is just the beginning.

      Your bedroom sounds wonderful. I love furniture that does double duty like your chest that doubles as a night stand. Your room sounds like a nice balance between space and stuff.

      Congratulations with your ongoing scale down.


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