I’m going to take a step or two back. And explain the “simple” in the My Simple Home experiment. I’d like to be clear.

Image by Maxwell Holyoke-Hirsch
Image by Maxwell Holyoke-Hirsch

You’ll notice the series is not called “My Minimalist Home”. Minimalism is a righteous aesthetic, but not always practical. All those ardent minimalists out there can be painful. And their all-in-one gadgets can cost a bomb. I really enjoyed reading this Slate article on how minimalism isn’t sustainable….and how the original minimalist zealots have backed off on their message to something…simpler. You might like this fresh perspective too.

I don’t call it “My Green Home” either. Sustainable timber and chemical-free options are great. But generally green home features and rants suggest more buying…More Stuff, albeit derived from new-growth shrubbery. It’s consumerism dressed up in hemp clothing.

You’ll also notice I don’t speak of “Decluttering”. Decluttering denotes chucking stuff out, and often perfectly good things that are then replaced by a less cluttery version of the original. And complemented by a visit to The Storage Shop to buy a whole heap of containers and filing solutions. Which is More Stuff.

Instead, I’ve gone the simple slant. Simple is minimalist, green, decluttered, low waste, practical, economical and all the rest of that good stuff rolled into one. Well it should be.

Simple has as its mantra one word: less.

Go to the shops less. Buy less. Consume less. Recycle less (recycling should be a last resort). Less furniture. Less gadgets. Use up what you have first. Improvise. Make do. Use the same thing for two purposes. Need less.

Recently Leo Babauta listed what he didn’t own over on mnmlist. I’ve decided to do the same, as prompted by his elegant list.

I don’t own:

A toaster (I use the oven grill)
A microwave
Paper towels (I lick my fingers)

An electric jug. I use a kettle on the stove top.

Books that I’m not going to pass on to friends (I’ve written about this before.)

Wrapping paper

Candles, knick-knacks that don’t serve a purpose or have sentimental value, scatter cushions.

Collectibles

Tissues (I use loo paper)
Debt (I save up, then I buy)

A DVD player (I use my laptop)

Gears on my bike

A dryer

A heater (although I’ll be getting one shortly…but only the one. I prefer thick socks and jumpers)

Air-conditioning and fans (in hot weather I sleep with wet sheets and a wet flannel)

An eReader/tablet (my phone and laptop are enough for now. I’ve written on this before.)
Hair styling products (I use salt water)
A gym membership (I run, do yoga, ride my bike)

Coffee table books

Books about books or decluttering

My own yoga mat (never have had one, not in 21 years of doing yoga twice a week)

Nail polish, polish remover, cotton balls

Magazines or newspapers (I’ve never bought a magazine in my life)

Exfoliator (I, seriously, use sand when I’m at the ocean.)

More than one of the following: beach towel, chopping board, running shorts5

More than two of the following: bikinis, running bras, socks

More than three of the following: bras, serving/salad bowls, kitchen knives, saucepans, necklaces, rings

….

The above does not make me a better person. But it does make my life easier and more elegant. I save time from not going to the shops. On weekends I get out of town and do fun things instead. I save angst not deliberating whether I should buy something. I either really need it, or I just don’t. I don’t have to tidy much. Or look for things. Over the next few months I will have to buy a few more things. Like a couch (nope, I don’t own one), and some plates (I own four) and some wine glasses (I drink out of some antique vases). But at each step I will endeavour to keep things simple.

A small update: I appreciate all this can sound awfully pious. I will stress that I do this “simple” stuff, in part, – and here’s the caveat – because I do happen to get given/sent/offered a lot of stuff. Which I resist and discourage. I guess it’s a reaction to this excess. And perhaps to off-set it. A commenter below made the point I probably don’t own a hairdryer because I get my hair done professionally. This is a little true. I do TV appearances weekly and can usually stretch out one of their blowies for a few days. I also got given two of my bras…four years ago. And I get sent a lot of books…which I give away. I was given my one chopping board…it’s not what I’d choose myself…but I stick with it rather than buying another…

Anyway, I was thinking you might benefit from my list, and from thinking about what you can use up and not replace. How you can do “less”…feel to share your suggestions on what you use in a dual purpose kinda way below…

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Holly

    Hi,

    Whatever you call it, minimal, less or simple its a great tool for cutting out the crap you don’t need or need to pay for.

    The Minimalists have a great blog and are encouraging like minded people to meet up and discuss topics.

    You might find it helpful. All the way from the US to AUS.

    http://www.theminimalists.com/community/

    and http://www.minimalist.org/

  • Ash Wanderlust

    I love this. I’ve been travelling interstate and internatioanlly since 2006 and move every year, which means I am always conscious of buying “things” as I knnow I will have to transport/lug it around. For two years this was really difficult, but now is second nature, and if I REALLY want something for a REALLY long time (hello, copper cookware!) I’ll get it and donate what it’s replacing.
    It also serves as a cleansing process for me in a way. Ensuring I don’t become too attached to anything or keep anything that holds old “energy” (I say with the risk of sounding like a crazy person).
    But, kudos… There’s nothing wrong with having friends over for a loungeroom picnic with a couple of candles and wine from an old vintage vase!

  • Marie

    Late to the game but just found your blog and this article. It resonated so much with me I can’t tell you. I’m in my mid forties and live with my spouse of almost 20 yrs. We’ve never been materialistic or focused on gathering stuff for the sake of it or impressing others. When both my parents died a few yrs ago and we had to clean out their house for donation and figure out what went to who it was the most painful and stressful thing I’ve done. It forever changed how I viewed ‘things’ beautiful or not. Unlike my siblings I ended with only a few items which meant the most to me…no not the most valuable other then pieces of jewelry given to me directly. I chose way back then to live as you Sarah.,.with SIMPLICITY. it became my mantra. Our friends have commented on few items we own and the entire bottom FINISHED basement is unfurnished except for our old bed as we did buy a new bed and mattress when we moved for my back. I’m always passing things on if we’re not using them and someone else can. And, I agree with the whole ‘decluttering’ movement/ fad, in most cases it creates bags of discarded items that usually go to landfill. Keep your life simple and you won’t create the need to declutter or purge or whatever the newest catchphrase is in the first place. I’m all for surrounding yourself with beautiful things that have value and meaning to you but as another commenter said, ask yourself if what you have really does have value or is it simply to impress others or fill a temporary void? We have really ugly blinds in our living room but I refuse to invest money on something new until I find what feels right (yes fear of committment), until then we simply ignore the blinds and focus on our great view!

    Thanks Sarah! I’m not judging those who choose to live differently…I’m just throwing in my two cents.

  • Marie

    BTW Sarah, it did sound like you added to your post after reading comments. Suggestion? Your first post was wonderfully written and spoke your truth without sounding like it was the ONLY truth and way to live. You have a great way of encouraging without the soapbox that way too many bloggers get on. I’m on my own path in healing and making peace with my immune system while on very strong drugs. It’s a process right? At least blogs like yours give me some hope. My goal is to have my own blog one day as I keep getting asked to do so. We also share the goal of offering help and info for free when possible. I am a business owner though and get that food and roofs must be paid for ; )

    Look forward to new posts!
    M.

  • Keilana Olotoa

    I am a lot late to this party…however my 2 cents; I grew up in poverty. Real poverty. I am not poor now, but after living on the city treadmill for years, my family relocated to the country. We earn 1/4 of what we did but our lives are simple. Or house is furnished (apart from beds) from 2nd stores, clearing sale, freecycle etc and it looks beautiful. Elbow grease, paint, a staple gun and pallets made our home. We live well, gardens, orchards, animals supply our food. Recently when my son burst out laughing at another 10 year old boasting about his $50 Hurley tshirt I knew it was all going according to plan. Simple is true, its real, its honest, and it is a wonderful way to live

  • John

    A bike with no gears. Sarah should go for a unicycle instead. One less wheel!

  • Alison

    I am married with four children and am very much a minimalist in possessions…
    perhaps not about number of children 😉

  • Alison

    Um, no

  • Deb Chandler

    my problem is I kind of like ‘stuff’ but I do try to get ‘stuff’ from op shops/markets/garage sales etc. we have a cupboard bursting (sorry) with plates and glasses – most of which are from the above! Most of my clothing comes from op shops – and I tend to do a cull every six months or so (when the new season comes in)

  • Geoperno

    I like beautiful things, objet d’art type vases, statuettes, ashtrays et al. So I buy them, if they are a reasonable (a.k.a. Cheap) price. I hoard bits of aluminium, timber, bricks, and I rarely throw much out at all.
    Each to their own……..best of luck.

  • Bejo

    Wait, no mention of running your own biomass power plant? No rainwater harvesting for drinking and washing yourself? No mention of chemical-free cleaning cloths? Why do you need for a DVD player? No gears on a bike is just silly; without gears you burn more calories; this is wasteful.

  • Isabel

    Bras. OK, but how many pairs of knickers?

  • I’m suprised so many people took issue with this post.

    As with all Sarah’s blogs, I feel, it wasn’t a “you need to do these things as well” or “if you don’t do them, you’re materialistic/shallow/excessive”. It’s simply a list of what Sarah does/doesn’t do.

    I enjoyed it, Sarah. At first I read it with incredulity (“I could NEVER do that”) but now I read it with awe and inspiration (“Why COULDN’T I do that?”). I would love my life to be simplified by reducing the ‘things’ in my home. Off to declutter tonight, me thinks!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Most of us are surely surrounded by far more ‘stuff” than we need or is ever used! To me, stuff = time absorbed, and I value nothing more than my time. So I’m constantly endeavoring to scale back my stuff and do things simply. If I can’t find a simple way to do something, I find a way to cease doing it!

  • Great list! I can relate to a lot. I recently went through my own purge and eliminated a few of the things you mentioned, like knick knacks and some beauty products. Others I will use up and then not replace. It just feels more simple and more free to have less stuff in my life. Less to maintain, clean around, and just have around. I can’t explain it, but it just feels better.

  • henripen

    I enjoyed this list! I did chuckle and mutter ‘piss off’ when I read ‘gears on my bike’ ;p as I live in a bloody hilly place! I am tending to live more simply as time goes on also. And I love it 🙂

  • Anna Winter

    I’m just starting out living life away from home, as a second year uni student and this blog post is very inspiring and helps me keep in mind the things I truly need rather than want! Helps me question things and definitely keep to a budget! Thanks Sarah! x

  • I’m the same. i was stuck in public housing in USA for years, having no clue how to get out, since no other affordable places were available to me. Moving anywhere, even if I could find something, was too costly. Finally, completely trapped and hopeless that I would ever get out of my situation, I realized that there was an answer. I took the leap. I left the USA with my dog and only a few suitcases. I moved to South America where we live here with very little “stuff.” I am free of the bullying and hatred I had to live with in USA. Freedom is well worth it even though it comes with a price. Shedding off the state babysitters who misjudged me completely, and now, taking responsibility for myself as human being is a joy. I am happy not to own a fridge, stove, oven, dishwasher, microwave, TV, radio, stereo, DVD player, hot water heater, central heating, AC, and for godsakes no Facebook. Real human companionship rocks.

  • Kay McLeish

    I really admire your philosophy; it’s not a matter of being trendy or ” holier than thou”. Your actions have wide repercussions. There is a certain taboo around discussing moral issues; I don’t see why. it is only simple logic that we only have limited time and energy. Therefore energy spent on the pursuit of the perfect home or latest gadget is time that can’t be devoted to caring for our friends and neighbours. I’m no saint, but I’m also finding consumerism increasingly boring and empty. If you want to find a really good use for the cash you will save look at the site ” Giving What We Can ” which collates information about the most cost effective charities. Also, for the greenest possible diet, acquire a ” Nutribullet ” or similar poweful blender gizmos
    and have low-waste, low-energy, incredibly healthy and quick meals

  • Diane Burnett

    Wow, how judgmental – “All those ardent minimalists out there can be painful. And their all-in-one gadgets can cost a bomb.” I’m on the minimalist path myself – I have no idea what an “all-in-one gadget is” – but I’m loving being off the consumer roundabout, being less stressed, having so much more time to do the things I like, rather than always the things I have to do. You comment on an “easier and more elegant” life – whatever that might be – yet you frown on minimalism.

  • Mayne Vaughn

    I don’t think your life is “easier”. I think it is more time consuming and surely more uncomfortable. No heat, no air conditioning. That’s silly. What next, no underwear? No thanks, I choose to live a simple life, but a high quality life. I eat at a table with all my best stuff, flowers, I light a candle, and put a napkin in my lap even if I’m eating alone because I’m worth the trouble. I don’t lick my fingers and I don’t use toilet paper on my nose because I know that NEITHER of those things are sanitary. It’s disgusting. The dirtiest thing on your body: your hands. That’s how people get things like stomach viruses, they are passed by fecal matter from hands to your MOUTH. And the way we get e. coli from fresh greens we buy in the store in a bag, well, it tells you someone bagged them without scrubbing their hands. Then tissues. I don’t need tissues either. I use handkerchiefs, I wash them in hot water and disinfectant, and they’re the only thing I iron (because I don’t like ironing). I use them because they are softer than tissues. Because I’m worth the effort. I read this article and it sounds more like someone who is really young, doesn’t like to read, and really doesn’t have much experience in really experiencing pleasure. I do agree with buying less, using all you have, and not buying impulse items, but no way will I give up dining by candlelight or my books or sentimental items that mean a lot to me, like my grandfather’s microphone that he used while broadcasting on the radio for over 50 years. I don’t just want a simple life, I want to enjoy it to the full.

  • Bernadette Keane

    My family have all left home and now at last I can minamalise ,Im so excited but the amount to get rid of is huge ,I have a stove kettle ,Im even thinking of replacing my cooker for a worktop one lol

  • Twentysomething

    I love your food Sarah, and I think you have some good ideas about simplifying your life to reduce stress and make things more manageable. However, I do find it somewhat problematic, even a little insulting, to prescribe living free of debt to reduce stress. This is so painfully self evident that it really doesn’t need to be explained by someone who is, ironically, earning millions off selling an aspirational ‘debt free’ lifestyle. I feel that what you’re describing is simply what it’s like to live in your 20s. There’s no need to be self congratulatory about it.

  • Tali

    You know, I haven’t been into a shopping centre for years, I mean I used to spend so much time in them, and worked in retail in my teens. Now if I really need to get something, I do a lot of deciding in the weeks beforehand before I go in so it’s a in and out situation. I like looking a beautiful things too, but I don’t feel the “lack” anymore like I did in my 20s. I’ve had a mindset shift, and it feels incredible, and I’m not a hippie either. I live close to Melbournes CBD.

    I love your blog post Sarah in that it’s different from others. You’re not just cashing in on a “new health movement” which don’t get me wrong, is fun but still requires a person to be strong within themselves and be true to what is right to you. I had a light blub moment after reading your article on how being a vegetarian may not be the most sustanible choice too. We are not all a one-size-fits-all case. I’m a lazy reader but your blog posts have got me thinking…I too cut back on the avocado toast, and I’ve become very selective in my media choices too – that too is consumerism for my mind…and I’ve unsubscribed to several things due to this, but also have made it my thing this year to become more policallg aware too, and read and watch the right things to educate myself on this too.

    • Tali

      Ps…you know what else? My grandmother became so financially grounded and secure…I never appreciated it until after she passed. Looking back on my time spent with her, she was so, so elegantly frugal, reused things, didn’t waste, composted, was highly self educated, stayed away from most main steam television was an activist in the issues which she was passionate about, yet enjoyed beautful things and had an abundance mentality without the hype. It was a paradigm shift to realise and start to embody these steps myself too. So that the economy is more truthful too and balanced.