6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Let Minimalism Intimidate You

Minimalism has some baggage. People associate it with all kinds of things. Some believe that to be a minimalist you have to be a single, white, rich guy with only a backpack and a penchant for world travel. These assumptions make it pretty easy to write off minimalism as something that is unattainable and therefore not worth pursuing.

Even the assumption that minimalism is the goal and not the process or lens casts minimalism in the light of perfectionism – some distant goal that only the most righteous (or whatever) can achieve. Those who claim to be “a minimalist” are therefore under suspicion because, as we all know, no one is perfect.

Pointing fingers at other minimalists and telling them how they are not quite there because of x, y, or z totally sidesteps the value of minimalism.

Minimalism is actually quite accessible, beneficial, and personal and for the following six reasons, I hope that those who wish to pursue a more curated life won’t write minimalism off as an elitist hobby.

#1: You Get to Make Your Own Rules

There is no magic number of items that fulfills everyone’s needs and heartfelt desires. What is crucial to have for some would simply be extravagance or clutter for others. We all have our own interests, talents, and life’s work. Almost everything we do requires appropriate props.

For example, as a writer, I need a computer, Internet connection, and books. Musical instruments and art supplies, however, are wasted on me. I wouldn’t want a musician or visual artist to take my list of necessities to heart and deprive themselves of something that brings them joy and makes the world a more beautiful place.

Minimalism is about finding out what makes you tick and it allows you to focus on those things by pruning away those possessions, activities and thought patterns that you’ve collected over the years but only get in your way.

A concrete example is the rule I’ve adopted regarding kids’ books: if I don’t enjoy reading it, it gets donated (or immediately returned) to the library. Life is too short for multiple readings of unpleasant works. A minimalist who is not also a parent may never consider adopting such a rule. To each their own.

#2: Minimalism Can Help You Reach Your Goals

It is easy to spend our time spinning our wheels on useless or repetitive tasks and either lose focus or not recognize what our meaningful goals actually are. Even if we know what our goals are, we may find ourselves blocked from working toward them. Minimalism can help in both of these areas.

For example, I could easily follow my kids around and tidy All. Day. Long. Then, wake up and do the very same thing again. Not very productive or fulfilling. Instead, I’ve imposed strict limits on the amount of cleaning I’ll do each day so that I can focus on other things. This allows me to raise my children, not just to look after their messes. It also allows me to work and study and write and film and so on so that, at the end of the day, I’ve achieved something valuable to me that is far more lasting than a tidy room.

#3: Minimalism Isn’t Just for the Elite

I’ve heard the critique that minimalism is only for people with a lot of privilege. You know, those rich folks that can spend their free time decorating their mansions with white paint, green plants, and maybe one framed piece of artwork per room.

I believe this to be nothing more than a distancing mechanism. What does it matter if some people who practice minimalism are rich? Or poor? Snooty? Or down to Earth? It doesn’t bar the rest of us from benefiting from minimalism. We can all still examine our own situations in order to achieve more contentment and connection to what matters to us.

I realize that I have a lot of privilege and that describing my passion for minimalism to struggling families in emerging countries might just come off as ridiculous. That said, I’m not about to throw my privilege away by leading an unexamined life that helps no one.

#4: Minimalism Can Make You Happier

“Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” – Rabbi Hyman Schachtel (1954)

I’ve seen an immediate change in perspective, from feelings of lack to feelings of abundance, through practicing minimalism. Take my jeans, for example.

Yes, my jeans. I was culling my wardrobe when this insight first struck me. I was looking at all my bottoms (slacks, jeans, shorts, skirts) and noticing how few jeans I had. I had maybe 6 pairs, so I wasn’t running around naked, but I also wasn’t wearing many of them for one reason or another. (Like those jeans I was waiting to lose at least 5 pounds to fit into.)

I was putting together a capsule wardrobe and my somewhat arbitrary target was 33 items of clothes for the next three months. I had decided that in order to have a good balance, I needed about 4 bottoms. Already, this meant my 6 pairs were in excess of what I needed. I was no longer feeling lack. I needed to weed out two (or more if I wanted to wear something other than jeans) so those jeans that made me feel badly when I stepped on the bathroom scale? Out the door! How freeing!

I know this may seem a little shallow, talking about clothes and weight, but this was just the start of the insights that began to flow in. I realized that the media I consumed could help or hinder my feelings of contentment. That comparing myself to others instead of learning what was best for me could immediately affect my happiness. The list goes on. What a wonderful gift this change in perspective has been.

#5: Minimalism Can Save You Money

Minimalists still buy things, but we tend to focus our money in areas that really matter to us. This means buying a lot less on impulse.

It also means a greater awareness of where our money is going and re-evaluating our regular expenditures. For example, we might decide that by moving to a smaller home, we can save money to travel, if that is more important to us.

Another avenue for saving is that with fewer purchases overall being made, minimalists can spend a little extra money on quality things that last longer. When items last longer, replacements aren’t as big a drain on resources.

Finally, when minimalists cull their extra clutter, they can sell those things that no longer bring happiness and make some money at the same time.

#6: Minimalism Can Help Save the World

I’m an ambitious person. One of my life’s goals is literally to: “help save the world”. Why is a sustainability writer and environmentalist so interested in minimalism?

I believe that the adoption of minimalism is the simplest way to reduce our overall impact on the planet.

Minimalists are more likely to use less electricity, less fuel, less water, less natural resources, and so on.

No matter what choices a person faces, by becoming more conscious of our life’s direction and decisions, and by consuming less overall, we can’t fail to reduce our negative impacts and to support our positive impact.

Until next time, keep living lightly!

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5 Rs to Zero Waste

You’ve probably heard of the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. While the chasing arrow symbol is meant to underscore the equality between these, recycling is the process that everyone seems to remember. Here, we’ll explore why recycling should be pushed down a few pegs if we want to be more environmentally responsible with our waste.

Béa Johnson, author of the Zero Waste Home, and one of the major thinkers behind the Zero Waste movement, places recycling near the bottom of her waste stream hierarchy. Throwing less away in landfills isn’t about recycling more, but about employing a better articulated method of “precycling”, which she expresses in her 5 Rs.

What is “Precycling”?

Remember those “reduce” and “reuse” methods that are often ignored? They return here. Precycling is about bringing home products only after considering what their (and their packaging) end life will be like.

Consider whether an item will go to …

  • Recycling center? How many times?

  • Landfill?

  • Litter?

  • Compost?

  • Polluting our environment?

  • Poisoning other countries?

And also:

  • How long will it last? Is it single-use? Will it be used a month from now?

Precycling means thinking about the ultimate destination and making the best choice available to us.

For example, you may be aware that plastic is toxic to produce and very hard to recycle. So if you’re at the grocery store and are buying pasta sauce, a good precycling choice would be to buy the glass container with the metal lid instead of the pasta sauce in plastic.

The concept of “precycling” may seem daunting, but the 5Rs provide a systematic approach to make considerations easier.

Béa’s 5 Rs:

Her list goes something like this:

  1. Refuse what you do not need.

  2. Reduce what you do need.

  3. Reuse what you have (and buy used).

  4. Recycle what you can.

  5. Rot the rest.

If you make your decisions in this order, you’ll have very little left to find a good resting place for.

But what do these statements mean?

Refusing what you do not need could mean anything from asking for no straw at a restaurant to deciding that the community pool is a better option than maintaining your own. It is considering what actually brings value to your life and what is the unnecessary surplus that just leads to trash.

What is necessary for you will be different from my necessities so there is no hard list to follow. It is more about checking in with yourself.

There are a few things that you can do to set yourself up for refusal success. For example, if you bring a canvas tote from home, you can refuse the plastic bag at check out.

Refusal Kit

Being prepared (and creative) can improve your chances of creating less waste. Pictured here is my current “refusal kit”.

Reducing what you do need means stretching what you have so that you’re not buying so frequently. It might mean using less shampoo or developing a capsule wardrobe or using scrap paper when a new sheet isn’t important. Here to, the mindset is what is important. There is no magic list for everything you can reduce.

Reuse what you have (also buy used) probably doesn’t need much explaining. If something you already own can fill a purpose, try that first. The last glass from a set your kids have broken can make a great toothbrush holder. My husband uses my hair dryer way more often than I do – and not for his hair!

We buy as much as we can second-hand and are happy to accept hand-me-downs. It is amazing the kind of money you can save here.

Recycle what you can also doesn’t need much elaboration. However, I will say that what you can recycle will vary from community to community. It is important to know what is actually getting sent to recycling facilities and what is being tossed. Outside of curbside recycling, there are other options. Many grocery stores accept plastic grocery sacks, for example.

Also, as I mentioned above, some materials recycle better than others so choose glass and metal over plastic as much as you can.

Rot the rest refers to composting. It’s easier than you might think and you can compost more than table scraps. I compost our hair and fingernails (from the bathroom) and the contents of the vacuum cleaner’s canister too.

My Take on The 5 Rs

I am in love with this hierarchy of decision making and have little to add. However, I have 2 Rs that are appropriate for my circumstances.

The first is: “Repair what you can”, which just means repairing what your ability and resources will allow. I resew buttons, for example, but I no longer spend the time patching toddler pants. It just isn’t worth it for me. I would place Repair after Reuse on Béa’s list.

The second is: “Roast” which just means “burn what is appropriate”. We rarely have a burn ban in our moist climate. While there are people who irresponsibly burn toxic garbage, I am talking about things like paper, untreated lumber, broken wooden kitchen spoons and bamboo toothbrushes. The sort of thing that is compostable but may take a very long time to break down in a home composting system.

I would place this R before Rot, though I’m likely to take paper out of the recycling bin to get our fire pit going.

Your Thoughts

How about you? Have you heard of precycling before? Does the strategy of the 5 Rs seem to be effective against creating waste? What do you think of my additions?

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Minimalism 101

Minimalism 101

What is Minimalism?

Minimalism has taken on an elitist air. Popularly, the minimalist image is of a sparsely furnished modern home with no individual touches. And no children, hobbies, or, in some cases, underwear.

To be a minimalist, you don’t have to get rid of all but 50 things so that you can travel the globe by yourself. Though, if that is your pleasure, have fun! Minimalism is as individualistic as its subscribers. Because minimalism is a process, with no end point, anyone who employs the philosophy can consider themselves a minimalist.

So what is it that defines a minimalist approach? What makes someone a minimalist?

Minimalism is a process whereby an individual decides what brings value and enriches his or her life. It also means determining what doesn’t have value and doesn’t enrich. And it is about finding ways to increase the former at the expense of the latter.

We all do this to some extent. We gravitate toward things we like and are repulsed by what we don’t. But, if you don’t make conscious choices and don’t consider trade-offs in the process, you will find that chaos rules out and progress is slow or non-existent.

Instead of freeing ourselves, we bog ourselves down with new commitments that could have made us happier. That is, when we accumulate activities/obligations we tend to tap into the wrong resources: our time and our energy. This leads us to feel stressed and exhausted. If we instead make trade-offs, something undesirable for something desirable, then we’re left freer and energized.

10 Benefits of Minimalism

  1. Fewer things to schlepp around. Less baggage to travel with, to live with, or to move with.

  2. Fewer things to clean, which means less time and energy wasted.

  3. Fewer things to buy, which can help you get out of debt and achieve financial security.

  4. Greater satisfaction with the stuff you do have. You’ve surrounded yourself with those things that bring you joy (these are now unburied, dusted off, and placed front and center).

  5. Less looking at stuff that makes you unhappy (those “skinny” clothes you haven’t fit into since your last pregnancy or that picture that reminds you of a fight you had with your Dad).

  6. More space to move in. Impromptu dance party!

  7. More time for family and friends.

  8. More time to pursue your new hobbies, current interests, or writing your novel.

  9. Greater involvement in your own life (less auto-pilot).

  10. Greater awareness of what matters to you. This can help your relationships, bring about a passionate life mission, or allow you to finally identify what you require from a shirt’s hemline.

Tips to Get Started

Physical clutter is a great starting point in a minimalist journey and helps you hone your minimalist skills.

I recommend starting in your closet because it decreases the need to navigate inter-personal relationships right off, it is a finite area, everyone has to dress, and you can see the benefits of minimalism straight away.

Setting space or number limits on things is a great tool for decision-making and can immediately change a perspective from one of lack to satisfaction or even over-abundance. A closet-inspired example of this principle is setting for yourself a cap on the number of jeans. If you say, two is enough for your lifestyle, then you can pick your favorite two, sell or gift the rest and until those two get damaged, you won’t feel compelled to buy more.

Group things before you cull them. It is easier to get rid of the pants you don’t need when you have 20 of them staring you in the face.

Don’t just think about what you’re getting rid of, determine what it is you’ll get in its place (more space, time, energy, a nicer blouse with the money you got from selling those that didn’t fit).

When de-cluttering a space, focus on what to keep before you focus on what to get rid of. Clear out the space entirely and then include those things you really want and need.

Until next time, bring in the light by living lightly!

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Meal Prepping

If I were to list the great insights of my life, I seriously think this practice would make the top twenty.

Doing this one thing simplifies my life, makes it easier to eat healthy foods, and it saves me a lot of time and money.

Meal prepping (also sometimes called batch cooking) is the act of making a bunch of meals at one time so they are ready for you when you need them. You can take them to work with you and heat them in a microwave or have them at home when you’d otherwise grab snack food. It’s kind of like freezer dinners for frugal environmentalists. Here, I will help you get started.

Gearing Up

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You could get started with what you have at home. A pot and some Tupperware is really enough.

I recommend getting some glass Pyrex style Tupperware with lids. I prefer the 4 cup sized ones, but I make do with the other sizes that came from sets I’ve bought. You probably won’t need more than five. These might seem costlier when compared to plastic, but they are worth it. They’ll last longer, be safer for you than plastic, and can travel from freezer, refrigerator, lunchbox, microwave, oven, and table without doing much more than taking on and off the lid.

(Caution: the glass will get hot coming out of a microwave or oven, I’d include an oven mitt with your lunch box, but then you can forgo the extra serving dishes.)

I also love my combination rice cooker and steamer which allows me to batch cook very easily. The kind I have is stainless steel so that I can avoid the dangers of scratched Teflon.

How I Meal Prep

I currently only prep my lunches. I usually have the same lunch for about 4-5 days and then switch to another recipe. This simplifies grocery shopping and thought time.

If I prep more than 3 days worth of lunches, I like to freeze the remainder so that the contents remain safe. Then, I’ll pull from the freezer batches that I intend to eat, letting them thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Your mileage may vary depending on the food you like to eat and how it freezes, refrigerates, reheats and so on. I recommend looking up meal prepping and batch cooking on YouTube where you can gain inspiration and find recipes appealing to you.

My Favorite Meal Prep Recipe

Cheap & Easy “Buddha” Bowl

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I have a combination rice cooker and steamer so I’ll put brown rice and water in the bottom portion and Asian style frozen veggies in the steamer. While that is cooking, I’ll cut my tofu into slices and bake them in the oven for 10 minutes at 350F. I flip once and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

After everything has cooked, I’ll dispense them into the Pyrex containers and a bowl (I’ll eat one batch for lunch on the spot).

I like to purchase Terriyaki or Korean Barbecue sauce, but you can make your own sauces too. I like to vary the sauces through the week as it keeps the meals more interesting. I’ll add the sauce to the containers while I allow them to cool. Once they cool, I put the covers on and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Ending Thoughts

Meal prepping is a practice that can save you a lot of time, energy, and money. It can be a tool for you to eat healthier and to lose weight. I find it simplifies my life and, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you give it a try!

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Minimalism: A Year Later (Part 2 of 4)

Over the course of 2017, I focused my sustainability efforts on minimalism. When I started out, I had no idea how great an impact it would make on my possessions, on my physical, mental and emotional health and on my life’s goals. I also realized that the first year was just the start of my journey.

Possessions: Minimalism and Personal Care Routines

I began my minimalist journey with my closet and so it just seemed logical to continue revamping my personal care and appearance. I began to tackle my beauty routines and possessions.

Some things I tried didn’t stick (like buzzing my hair), but overall my routines became more streamlined and better reflect my values.

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Buzzed Hair.

(One minimalist experiment I tried was buzzing my hair. While I love the look of a buzz cut on many women, I didn’t find it suited the shape of my face.)

I’ve gone for a simplified look: no elaborate hair styling, make-up, or perfume simply because I currently find no value in it (if I one day do, then so be it). Minimalists can certainly be beauticians as well, but this doesn’t interest me personally.

My selection favors routines that don’t take up too much time or space, but also that have as few ingredients as possible. I don’t use products that have been tested on animals or have animal-derived ingredients.

Oral Hygiene:

  • tongue scraper (mornings)

  • dental floss (evenings)

  • toothbrush (2x/day)

  • tooth powder or toothpaste (2x/day)

  • mouth rinse (2x/day)

Face Care: (1x/day)

  • witch hazel (in roller bottle)

  • oil blend (in roller bottle)

  • chap stick

In The Shower: (3-4x/week)

  • shampoo

  • conditioner

  • liquid Soap

Body Skin Care: (Variable)

  • dry skin brush (1x/day)

  • lip and scar balm (for stretch marks, 1x/day)

  • Nova Scotia Fisherman: Xtreme Skin Care (for my super dry hands, as needed)

  • salt deodorant

Misc. Body: (1x/week)

  • safety razor and coconut oil (shaving)

  • fingernail clipper

  • toenail clipper

  • tweezers

  • small scissors

Hair: (daily)

  • wooden comb

  • a small baggy of assorted hair ties, bobby pins, and clips

  • fancy leaf/feather hair clip (1)

  • fancy hair piece (with stick)

Women’s Health:

  • cloth pads (x9)

  • Diva cup

  • basal body thermometer (not shown in picture)

hygiene spread

Health: Minimalism and Fitness

During my pregnancy, I did try to stay fit with varying degrees of success over 9 long months. It was actually at the end of the pregnancy and when dealing with a newborn that my fitness suffered the most. As anyone involved in fitness can attest, with a break in practice, your fitness gains can easily be lost. Still carrying the baby weight, I feel as though I’m starting from scratch. My core is especially weak.

I have three kids, have very little personal time, and very little daylight at this time of the year. With these factors in mind, I’ve fashioned a simple routine that has already shown itself to be beneficial.

Early in the morning, before the kids wake up and my husband leaves, I spend about 30 minutes doing the following:

  • 4 Sun Salutations

  • App assisted, body weight training:

    • Leg Challenge Apps on my cell phone (Right now, I’m working on a squat challenge.)

    • Core Challenge Apps on my cell phone (Right now, I’m doing an app that has 5 different body weight exercises.)

    • Arm Challenge Apps (Right now, I’m using an app that has multiple exercises and a set of light weights I already had at home.)

  • 7 Minute Full Body Workout App

  • Stretching

I also try to incorporate more movement into my day by: writing while sitting on an exercise ball, moving the baby changing station up the stairs, parking further from my destination and walking, housecleaning as exercise.

I’m one of those crazy people who enjoys exercise, but it can be difficult to slip it into a busy day. By simplifying my routine and lowering my expectations somewhat (I tell myself that in warmer months I’ll get to doing more) as well as being consistent, I feel as thought my fitness is not being neglected.

Goal: Health

Health is a very important, lifelong value for me. After all, as it is often noted, if you don’t have your health, you haven’t got anything.

I didn’t expect minimalism to improve my physical health. Sure, I kind of figured it could have a positive impact on my mental and emotional health as I removed clutter and excessive obligations from my life and home, but how could paring down help build my health?

As noted above, by simplifying my exercise routine, I am able to do it more consistently which is crucial to keeping those fitness gains I do make.

I apply a lot fewer chemicals to my body while preparing for the day, keeping the ingredients simple and less toxic.

I also clean my home with little more than vinegar, water, baking soda, and castile soap.

With less stress, I feel freer to add routines to increase the quality of my sleep such as winding down at night with self-massage, daily gratitude journal, a cup of chamomile tea, and meditation.

Beyond striving for simplicity and “do-ability”, minimalism has filled my life with more intention. I think about what I do and whether or not it serves me and my goals. For instance, I choose not to get drunk because I am acutely aware of the financial cost, potential weight gain, and the cost to next day’s productivity and emotional state.

Still to Come: Minimalism and Diet

I don’t eat less. That might be a bit contrary to what one might expect from minimalism and diet being linked.

So far, minimalism has begun to affect my dietary habits, but I haven’t hit that magic groove that tells me that my decluttering has reached a satisfactory level for me right now. It is a feeling I get when the level of decluttering reveals the possessions and routines that are in alignment my values and sense of self.

I also have to make more compromises here as my husband and I have very different cooking styles and goals. This is shared territory.

Some adjustments I’ve made so far include:

  • organized and decluttered (a bit) in the kitchen

  • purchasing packaged foods with fewer ingredients

  • cooking simpler meals that are less time, ingredient and utensil intensive

  • meal prep my lunches, cooking a big batch that lasts for about five days (this has decreased the amount of processed foods I eat)

  • employing a meal plan and making a shopping list from it

  • not worrying over the “perfect” diet, just making incremental changes

Minimalism has positively impacted my health in non-minimal ways. It should be fun to see how these changes magnify themselves, when done consistently, over the course of another year.

Until next time, be the light by living lightly!

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Cat Food: A Lesson in Minimalism

My cat began avoiding her dried food. I was worried, so I bought one of those multi-packs of cans, a three pack of lids to house left-overs in, and I collected a few pieces of plastic cutlery with which to scoop out the meaty mess.

My cat was quite pleased with the addition of wet food to her diet.

While I was glad she was eating, I quickly grew to hate the additional work. As a long time vegetarian, I liked the dried kibble because I could ignore the more visceral proof that my roommate was a meat-eater.

But of course, I would now have to keep the slop as hygienic as possible. I chose to spray the cans with the diaper sprayer attached to my toilet and wash her dishes in the bathroom sink. Anything to keep my food surfaces from contamination.

Enter Minimalism

This is where minimalism enters our story. When I bought the cat can lids, they only came in a three pack and I also had multiple pieces of plastic cutlery. The facts that I hated the chore and that I had extra pieces meant that I could be lazier about cleaning. I would wait until my three lids ran out before washing her dishes. And, after three to six days, those dishes were worse than unpleasant.

I was washing the dishes and cussing myself out for my laziness when my husband pointed out that I simply had too many dishes and this was the root of my problem.

My husband, for all his playful love of fantasy, also has the firmest grip on reality that I’ve known. Of course! Why didn’t I think of this?

I promptly stored the other lids and cutlery upstairs in her carrier so that they wouldn’t be easily accessible.

Now, every time she goes through a can, I wash her dishes immediately while they are still fresh. There’s no caked on mess. Her dishes are cleaned more regularly but more easily. There’s less to keep track of in our living space.

Local to Global Thinking

So, yes, that is the story of my cat’s wet food gear, but it is also more than that. I mean, how many times have I thought that having more of something would make things simpler when, in fact, the situation becomes harder, more tedious, too cluttered instead?

I’m not saying that one is the perfect number for everything. One pair of underwear, for example, might be beyond my comfort zone and might force more frequent laundry washes. But there probably is an ideal number for most things in my life. My magic numbers will not be the same as other people’s and it may not even be the same throughout my life, but paring back and experimenting with less can be a real game changer.

Until next time, live lightly!

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Minimalist Baby Gear (0-3 Months)

We’re well on our way to having baby number three and so child-rearing has become a practiced skill for my husband and I. We also originally thought that we would stop at two kids and so most of our gear has been gifted away to friends and family. In preparation for baby number three, we’ve had to start fresh, on a budget, and with our new minimalist mindset.

The following is my “must have” items for baby. I’m not including diapers or clothes in this piece because I will be covering those categories elsewhere (see link above). This is everything else and I hope that this is helpful to new mamas and papas out there as well as parents who have recently embraced minimalism.

Feeding

Everyone’s situation will be a little different. My two older kids certainly were: my younger would have nothing to do with any artificial nipple or pacifier. My eldest had major feeding and reflux issues and required just about every intervention and product you could think of. The truth is, your situation for each kid is very unpredictable. As a minimalist, I’m planning for my ideal and I will have no qualms buying additional gear if warranted.

These are my “must haves”:

  • burp cloths (about 6)

  • a nursing pillow (Really any pillow will do the job, but I’m spoiled.)

  • a nursing throne (Hey, I said I was spoiled. Stake out a place for mama, or papa, to sit for long stretches of time. I have a glider rocker and side table for this purpose.

  • a place to record feeding/changing information (You will be asked this information everywhere or, if nursing, you may want to keep track of which breast the baby drank from last. Some use their phone for this purpose, I have a little notebook.)

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Things I would wait to buy:

  • a breast pump (Manual is fine for occasional use, but an electric can be a real life-saver for kids exclusively on the bottle or for mothers working away from home.)

  • breast milk storage containers (I plan to use mason jars if I need these.)

  • bottles, nipples

  • bottle brush

  • more burp cloths (if the child has reflux or GERD)

  • pacifiers

 

Some Things for the Breastfeeding Mama:

  • Washable breastpads for catching “let down” milk
  • Nursing Bras or Nursing Tanks
  • Nursing Cover (if that is your preference)

The numbers you want will be determined by your laundry schedule, but keep in mind you may want more nursing bras/tanks than you usually have because milk and baby spit up can prevent re-use between washes.

A set up that I love is a nursing tank and a largish t-shirt (short or long-sleeved). My belly stays covered, my chest stays covered but I can still pop open my tank to nurse discreetly.

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Sleeping

Consider how you want to set up your sleeping arrangements. Are you and your partner both into co-sleeping? Would either of you prefer that the baby has a nursery? We got a convertible crib for my first-born. It seemed very eco-friendly. We could buy the crib, turn it into a toddler bed and then buy rails for a twin-sized frame down the road. He spent his first months in a nursery and I spent the nights jumping up to check on him at the slightest whimper.

For my second-born, I bought a sidecar co-sleeper for our bed (an Arm’s Reach Mini). This worked well for the first three months, but necessitated a new arrangement when he became more mobile. A major mistake that I made with his sleeping arrangements was relying too heavily on nursing him to sleep. This limited his ability to put himself to sleep.

My plan for baby three is to put the baby in our side-car co-sleeper for the first three months (we got this item back) and then outfit a pack and play with a comfortable mattress for the remainder of the crib years, eventually switching to a twin-sized set up and skipping the toddler bed altogether. If I didn’t have the co-sleeper, I might just begin with the pack and play in our bedroom.

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Arm’s Reach Mini Co-sleeper (not yet strapped to the bed)

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2 breathable blankets, 1 night light, 2 burp cloths, 1 organic cotton crib sheet (the other is on the mattress)

These are my “must haves”:

  • a safe sleeping surface + mattress (our co-sleeper for the first three months)

  • crib sheets (x2)

  • crocheted/ knitted/waffle woven blankets (x2, these are very “breathable”, unlike the heavy synthetic baby blankets which are great for day time snuggling but are potentially dangerous) NB: I am not suggesting that a newborn should be left unattended with a blanket, but that I am more comfortable with the breathable kind when I am beside the baby in a co-sleeping situation. Use your own judgment.

  • burp cloths (2 near the crib)

  • a night light (1)

Things I would wait to buy:

  • swaddles, some babies don’t enjoy these

Travel & Parking

I’m not sure whether this is true or not, but I’ve been told that hospitals won’t let you leave with your newborn without first seeing that you have a car seat. Regardless, as a car-dependent, rural mama, I didn’t feel the need to test this out. We originally had a car seat and stroller system. You could snap the car seat directly into a huge stroller and never have to wake your babe. As my eldest was born in a cold October and was shuffled from hospital, pediatric, and specialist care, this system had some appeal – until the snow melted and he was in healthier shape.

For my next born, we kept the car seat with the base, but let the stroller get dusty. We had gotten into baby wearing. He was a spring baby and carrying him around, especially on trails and around town just seemed so much easier. I never needed to put him in a sketchy shopping cart either as he snuggled me in his carrier.

This time around, we got a car seat with two bases (for both cars) and a newborn insert all second-hand. I ditched the bulky hood and added a car seat cover as we’re due for another cold-weather baby.

For the first three months, I intend to wear my baby in a stretchy moby wrap. This kind usually only works for around 3 months anyway, but it takes care of the issue that newborn’s have with their tiny frog legs. (After which, I have my choice between my trusty mei tai, a ring sling, and a woven wrap I’m borrowing from my sister-in-law.)

When I want to put my baby down away from home, I’ll put her in her car seat. At home, I have our old bouncer back (minus a few unnecessary attachments).

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I think as a minimalist parent, you should feel comfortable getting rid of the unnecessary elements on baby gear – especially when you don’t think you’ll be able to sell the item after you use it.

These are my “must haves”:

  • car seat (the kind with a base are really great for this stage)

  • baby carrier or a stroller

  • some place safe to lay your baby down during the day such as a bouncer or baby swing

This time around, I’m trying:

  • newborn insert for car seat

  • car seat cover (if you’re having a warm season baby this may be completely redundant)

Things I would wait to buy or reconsider getting altogether:

  • a stroller

  • a grocery cart cover

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Bathing & Pharmacy

Kids don’t need to be cleaned very often. And they don’t need a lot of specialized gear. I know, marketing seems to make this realization a little counter-intuitive, but think about it: why do babies need their own nail clipper?

These are my “must haves”:

  • a nail clipper (that the family shares)

  • a soft brush (mostly for cradle cap, both my boys had this so I expect to deal with it again)

  • a baby towel (x1)

  • baby wash cloths (I have a store of these for washing kids’ faces and for multiple kids bath times)

  • a mild soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap and Nature’s Gate’s Baby Shampoo and Body Wash)

  • a mild lotion or oil (my favorite is coconut oil but I also have Aveeno’s Baby Lotion)

  • a nasal aspirator (for getting boogies out)

  • saline solution (for the aspirator)

  • a thermometer (the kids share)

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There is a hooded baby towel, baby wash cloths, Nature’s Gate Baby Wash, a soft, vegan baby brush, a nasal aspirator that comes apart for easy cleaning, saline spray, nail clippers, and a thermometer. I’m not a fan of Johnson & Johnson but this is one of their safer products that I intend to use up before replacing with coconut oil.

Things I would wait on or completely reconsider:

  • eczema care

  • cold care

  • pain relievers

  • a baby bath tub

Toys, Books, Stimulation

Babies from birth to three months usually don’t have a lot of interest in toys and you will probably receive some as gifts so there is no need to stock up on these at this stage. At about 3 months exactly, kids seem to universally gravitate toward those plastic keys – so don’t throw those out if you get some.

I believe in reading to your child, but a library card is probably the best route to take. You can purchase any favorites, but get a much wider selection and save a lot of money and clutter by taking this route.

Stimulation comes from you and all those people who want to be in your baby’s life. Simple games and cuddles are priceless and come without any clutter!

These are my 0-3 “must haves”:

  • a library card

  • any book that is fun for the parent to read out loud

  • some books written in French (or whatever family language you have other than English as these may be hard to get at the library, depending on where you live)

Memorabilia

I’m a failed baby booker. OK, I’ve admitted it. Moving on. I am a big believer in having some stuff to remember this time. It seems like a never ending cycle of kid care until you blink and then try to recall the time later on. The trick is to make memorabilia super easy for you.

For my first born, I tried the baby book thing because that is what my mom did for us. Later, I learned about baby’s first year calendars and I was won over. Put the calendar somewhere very easy to access, like in the pocket of your nursing throne. Keep a pen handy. Don’t worry over perfection.

Cameras that can be set to put the date in the corner or organize data by date are worthwhile. I haven’t used it yet, but I plan to have milestone stickers to put on the baby’s clothes for pictures. My husband made the brilliant observation that blank label stickers would be great for those milestones marketers haven’t considered. Such as: “baby’s first game night”.

Also, a fabric or permanent marker can be a great way to turn a onesie into some occasion-specific outfit. I’ve written all kinds of events or messages on my kid’s clothes.

These are my “must haves”:

  • baby calendar and pen

  • camera

  • fabric marker / permanent marker

Thing I’m trying out this time around:

  • milestone stickers / blank labels

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A first-year calendar, some milestone stickers, some blank labels for our own milestones (such as “baby’s first game night”), a permanent marker. We might use the marker on the kids’ clothes directly or add dates to stickers.

 

So, that’s it! I think you’ll find that a newborn comes with very little of his or her own expectations. This is a great time to introduce your child to the luxuries of less.

Happy Parenting with Mother Earth in Mind!

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