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Musings

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Minimalist Mom

MINA BAIE

I used to hear the word “minimalism” and I pictured people living on a prairie somewhere, dressed in full skirts and aprons and a pair of worn leather shoes they had fashioned themselves. And they had no tv and definitely no iPads or makeup or designer clothes. After they cleaned up the single pot they cooked dinner in each night, and the shined and put away their shared family spork, they sat in near silence and read from one of the two books on their shelf. In other words: pretty bleak. 

But then something changed- I don’t know whether our culture as a whole changed, or if the arrival of my daughter exposed me to a different corner of the cultural zeitgeist, but all of the sudden I decided that these minimalists were onto something. Come to think of it, this happened around the time of my baby shower, when I was huge and aching and in full-on nesting mode. I remember sitting in my living room with dozens of boxes and bags of gifts and hand-me-downs. It was more overwhelming than the prospect of motherhood itself. Where the hell was all this stuff going to go? I fully believed that I needed it all, or rather, I might need it all at some point and therefore needed to hold onto all of it to avoid catastrophe and failing as a parent altogether. And then there’s a whole other level of this, that I never really experienced until becoming a parent; people give you all kinds of crap and you feel suuuuuper guilty giving it away. It was a gift! What kind of ungrateful a-hole gives away the hand-crocheted bunting that your grandmother’s coworker made for your sweet little one? Yes, it may be a choking hazard and a fire hazard, and it’s made of that scratchy acrylic yarn that was big in the 70’s. But dangit! It was a gift, and dear old Pearl has been such close friends with your grandmother for years.   

Anyway. The point is: the struggle becomes very real when you become a parent. I think we all go through a near-crisis where we are pretty sure all the stuff in our house has come to life and is conspiring against us. 

I was lucky that a friend of mine came to my house in those early days and said, “You should just get rid of all these things! They aren’t happy wasting away in your linen closet, so you should just set them free!” She was right. My grandmother’s friend Pearl had already received the joy that gift-giving brings, and I wasn't obligated to keep it forever. And with that, I felt free to pass the bunting on to the next stage in its journey. Whether that next stage was with a new family, or in the landfill… well, that’s none of my business. “Onto the next!”, I declared. 

If you’re thinking this philosophy sounds sorta familiar, that’s because my friend had read Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She loaned it to me, and I slowly picked my way through it over the next few months.

4 Ways KonMari Changed my Thinking and my Life 

1.       I thought I would just learn how to get rid of crap, but I actually learned how to truly appreciate my things- I rediscovered items I had long since forgotten or lost amidst all the clutter. In order to really love your things, you need to be able to see them. Give your stuff some room to breathe, and watch them come back to life! 

Once I had rid my closet (and my baby girl’s closet) of all the excess, I became reacquainted with my own style. I was able to rid my closet of dozens of pieces that I never wore, and I had a much better handle on what I actually liked and needed. 

Note: check out Capsule Wardrobes if you are looking to seriously simplify your wardrobe.

2. I learned how to shop. Now, instead of just running through the stores and buying it all because I might need it someday, or because I saw Kim K wearing something similar, I take items into my hands, close my eyes, and visualize it as part of my home or wardrobe. Do I really love those jeans with the rips on the actual ass cheek part of the pant? No. I do not. When it comes to ass ripped jeans, best to put leave 'em on the shelf. 

Now, be prepared for onlookers to be alarmed by this ritual. I mean it is truly bizarre to see a grown woman clutching a pair of jeans to her chest, eyes closed tight and mouth moving slightly because she is clearly talking to herself. And I’m actually quite certain this part of the KonMari method was never supposed to be performed out in the world. But it’s been very helpful to me, and I highly recommend it! Plus, you get the added bonus of totally freaking out fellow shoppers. Win, win. 

3. Almost anything can be replaced. This is the 20/20 Rule of Stuff. 

A lot of moms hold onto all kinds of gadgets and accessories because we *might* need them and don't want to get caught without them. So we plan for the worst, and allow fear to clutter our minds and our closets.

Here’s how the 20/20 Rule of Stuff works: I had the NoseFrida, the FeverFrida, and the ButtFrida (this has another name, but I reject it in favor of "ButtFrida"). We only really used the NoseFrida. The FeverFrida and the ButtFrida remained in their original packaging for nearly a year, until l finally listened to Marie Kondo and kicked them to the curb, based on the Rule that nearly all of those ‘just in case’ items can be replaced in less than 20 minutes and under 20 dollars. So far, that has been very true for me. Letting go of that ButtFrida was tough, but my daughter is nearly three now, and we haven't needed it once. If we had a random gas-passing crisis, I could run out and replace it for less than $20, and in less than 20 minutes. You might be thinking, "butt that adds up!" And here's the thing: no, it doesn't. In over two years of living minimalist, I have thrown away a TON of 20/20 items, and we have only had to replace two. 

4. I learned to value quality and versatility over a ‘good price’. This is related to no. 2, but is an important point in its own right. As I combed through my wardrobe, confronting bad fashion choices and impulse purchases from times past, I recognized in myself a need to feel like I got a good deal. The many unworn garments, clearance tags still firmly attached, told me that I needed to get a grip. I had bought all of this crap, thinking I was saving money, but it was all a waste (Marie Kondo wouldn’t call it a waste, but whatevs). I realized that the pieces I loved the most, my few wardrobe staples, were all well-made, beautiful garments that could be styled many different ways. I can’t even tell you how huge this was for me, and for Mina Baie. When we designed the Mina Bag, we had the option to choose cheap fabrics in trendy prints. But my partner and I had our hearts set on the Mina Bag playing the long game; It had to be made from genuine leather and luxury hardware. And it had to be perfect for way more than just toting diapers. It’s an investment, so we designed it to be so much more than just a diaper bag- it’s an overnight bag, a carry-on bag, and a work bag, all in one. Moms can buy it and use it for years, instead of buying lots of cheaper bags that will just end up shoved in the back of their closets, cluttering up their lives. 

I hope you feel inspired to minimalize your life after reading this! Do you have any tried and true minimalist hacks that could help other frazzled mamas? Leave a comment below, and let us know.