I have been pretty entertained by the tiny house movement and I have secretly wondered if completely downsized, tiny house living, is something my family could do. I have also been intrigued with the survivalist/homesteading movement. The people who are prepared and ready for any possible event, which quite honestly, requires a certain amount of organized hoarding.
So, here I stand, in my own middle ground (as usual) created between two contrasting schools of thought. The desire for stark minimalism, alongside the always-ready-for-anything “prepper movement”. But instead of accepting defeat by not being able to fully claim either camp, I have decided to be very intentional about the way I live, so that I can create the best possible union between these two differing lifestyles.
My goal in writing this, is for my homesteading friends to find practical tips that encourage and guide you as you embark on the as-close-as-I-can-get-to-minimalist journey! 😉 Here is my best advice on how to be a permaculture-living, survivalist-prepping, simplistic minimalist.
I am a lover of lists. And for anyone who has a lot on their mind (or their property), you need to find a way to organize your thoughts. For me, lists are the best way of doing that. Once I have my thoughts on paper or on a digital device, I find that I can more easily release my worries. I don’t feel the need to constantly hold onto so many thoughts in my brain, because they have been reallocated to another spot.
Making lists can also help in downsizing our lives because as we make lists of projects we would like to accomplish, we will have a better idea of what needs to stay and what can go. This is especially helpful for those who keep tools, toys, boxes, jars, or the like, “JUST IN CASE”.
For example, if I have a list of goals I would like to accomplish, and I am going through a shed or closet, and I find things that do not aid in the things on my to-do list, then I have a visual accountability partner. The list can help me avoid my “just in case” tendencies. If I come across something that does not have a specific job on my list, then it must go!
I usually make a daily list of tasks I would like to accomplish. I also have longer monthly or yearly lists that give me permission to create long-term goals. I like making tangible lists in planners or journals. I also love using a free app called “Wanderlist” which allows you to create lists of all sorts (grocery lists, gardening lists, books to read, etc). Wanderlist also makes it possible to prioritize and check things off along the way.
Downsize Storage Space.
Let me just start off by saying storage space, outside of our homes, is a colossal waste of money! If you are storing vehicles, tools, furniture in a storage place and not getting ANY use out of it, and also preventing others, who may be in need, from using it, IT HAS GOT TO GO! 😉 Whew, now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about the spaces in which we actually live.
In permaculture we design based on zones. Zone 0 is the space right under our noses; the space you see on a daily basis, you cannot miss it. As the numbers increase, the less you use or work those spaces. Zone 3, for example are areas you see on a weekly or maybe even monthly basis, and Zone 5 is the wild…you aren’t in control of that space, at all! Permaculture is about letting nature do the majority of the work, and only tending to it, when necessary.
When it comes to the way we live and the stuff we keep, we need to create zones within our properties. Zone 0 should be the items we use frequently, if not, daily. Zone 2 are the areas that we use less frequently, and so on. I am going to go ahead and declare Zone 5 as the attics and basements. Those deep areas that have boxes, decorations or “saved sentimental items” that haven’t been seen in well over a year! This zone has got to go!! Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, used it, or developed a plan for how/when it will be used in the last 365 days, then it really is not adding value to your life.
Decide what you use on a daily basis, and make sure that is well placed. Then continue to go room by room in your house, slowly eradicating storage spaces. You do not need Tupperware bins tucked away in every basement, or closet. The less you “store” for some “what-if” period in the future, the better off you are!
Some specific storage places to consider:
- Food. Freezer meals and canned goods are a must for a homesteading family. However, I think it is important to have food on a cycle or system of turnover. We should be seeing the bottom of our freezer and the backs of our cabinets at least once a year, and always know how much of our staple items we currently have.
- Clothing. Living in climates with 4 seasons requires a certain amount of clothing storage, but we need to be picky about what stays and what goes. If you have clothing items that you have not worn in a year, please donate it to someone who could be getting usage out of it. Multiple jackets or boots? Unnecessary.
- Books/Movies/Entertainment. We have access to SO MUCH media online or at our local libraries. Sure, maybe there are some special books/movies you’d like to keep on hand, but in our day and age, storing shelves upon shelves of dust collectors is not benefitting anyone.
- Tools/Machinery. If it is not working, and it is not on or necessary to your eminent to-do list, it has got to go. You don’t need back up tools that do not work.
- Sentimental saved items/antiques. You don’t need them. I know I sound heartless saying this, but keeping boxes of memorabilia is not conducive to your minimalist goals. Your brain needs relief, as well, and holding onto too much physically, can also translate to holding too much emotionally. Choose one or two items of importance to keep, take pictures of the rest (a way to remember them), and then sell/donate.
Recognize Quality over Quantity.
I am a thrift store junkie! I LOVE finding second hand treasures, but as I have become more of a minimalist, I have discovered the importance of making sure everything I wear and use is of high quality. Buying quality over quantity keeps us from hoarding. I don’t care how many “affordable” leggings I find/buy, I ALWAYS return to my Lululemon leggings, because they are the most comfortable clothing item I own! We do not need a plethora of kitchen utensils and devices. We need a vita-mix blender and an instant pot…(for example). You don’t need an enormous bin of every sweatshirt or jacket you’ve ever owned “just in case”, you need a few well chosen clothing items that fit multiple occasions.
I recommend making a list (I love my lists) of the things you cannot live without. Do you have a kitchen utensil you use EVERYDAY? Or a pair of pants that is ALWAYS in the wash? And then prayerfully and practically go room by room, closet by closet and determine the things that are high quality and worth keeping. How many pairs of jeans do you actually need? How many sweatshirts do actually you need? How many pairs of shoes? How many empty bottles? How many left-over food storage containers? Are you keeping anything that no longer serves you? Life is too short to keep “stuff” on hang for the “what-if” moments of life.
Know the Value of Your Time.
The biggest reason we keep things is because of the “what if” factor. “What if I need these jackets when I have a family of 4 visiting and they forget their jackets”? “What if I need this tool as a back up to my back up when I am building a chicken coop?” What if I need all these books or movies or fill-in-the-blank when I am bored and wanting to re-read or re-watch something?”
Here is the deal, all of these “what if’s” take up valuable space in your brain. And your brain is more useful doing other things. The time it takes you to create all the possible scenarios you may need something AND the time it would take you to remember, find, and put into use the one thing you have been saving for ‘such a time as this’ is energy that could be better spent somewhere else.
Your time is so valuable. Your energy, your knowledge, and your vitality is sucked up by clutter and by having to keep track of rooms full of STUFF. So, look at number 1, and make a list of what is most important to you. After you’ve made that list, keep it in hand while you go through your desk, your room, your closet, your storage, and decide if the things you are pulling out augment your list of important people/things, or detract from it.
Consider Function Stacking.
One principle my husband tries to abide by, is function stacking, or making sure that various devices or tools have multiple ways they can be used.
I know some people will disagree, but if you have a kitchen utensil or a set of china that only gets used one to three occasions a year, it is probably not worth keeping. Be honest with yourself on this one. Go room by room and look at folders, electronic devices, containers, tools, pictures, cleaning products, hair products and ask yourself how many uses do I have for this one thing, and how many times a year do I use it. If you work hard to design a home or barn or garage that has items that can be utilized in multiple ways, I promise you will find greater contentment in existing in that space and using those items.
Remember this is Not our Home.
I believe downsizing our living spaces is something we should be doing on a continuous basis. One thing that has helped me in this minimalist journey is the constant reminder that this world is not our home. There is no material thing here, that we are taking with us to eternity. So, take a deep breath and release the white-knuckle hold you have on keeping and maintaining a variety of goods and spaces. We don’t need NEARLY as much as we already have!
My husband and I often talk about the fact that we could literally lose every material possession we own on earth, and we would still be ok. Why? Because we have a hope and a peace that surpasses all understanding. Our purpose lies in God and our eternal home with Him, through the grace and life of Jesus Christ.
When you look at every single thing around you as on loan from God, it changes our natural hoarding tendencies. Yes, we can prepare and have things in place for emergency situations, but if we run out of something or lose something, we can either do without, or order another.
I believe in the minimalist message. I believe that downsizing is like cleansing our physical and our mental spaces, and yet I totally understand that to those in the homesteading world, rigid minimalism looks completely impossible. So, I took the time to write this blog to remind you that you can benefit from the minimalism movement, while still being a homesteader. I want my prepping, ready-for-anything cohort to understand that just because you may not go “all-out” in becoming a full-blown spartan, who can fit everything you own into a tiny house or back pack, you can still find peace and abundance through intentional minimization.