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Ask Sherry: All about being a minimalist

You asked, and I am answering every Friday once I have enough questions!

You can ask any question using the form here.

You seem to consider yourself a minimalist but when you posted your clothing/accessories/jewelry haul from last year, you had added a staggering 100-150+ pieces to your wardrobe in a year. What up with that? Do you think you will ever practice minimalism in your wardrobe?

Excellent question!

1. Addressing “you seem to consider yourself a minimalist”..

…is actually that I DO consider myself a minimalist. Not seem to. I do because I am one.

See: Minimalism.

In short, minimalism is about prioritizing what is important and what isn’t. If you take a look around my home, you will see everything but my closet is pretty dang minimal.

I have yet to find a family who has less stuff than we do, with a toddler unless you count these austere Japanese, but I do like some creature comforts like a real lamp (not some bare lightbulb hanging over my head), and things to make life fun and comfortable.

2. I’ve never claimed to practice minimalism in my wardrobe

Again, see: Minimalism.

It’s pretty much the only area where I don’t. I love style, variety, and having different outfits. It’s fun for me, and sort of a hobby if you will.

3. Will I ever practice minimalism in my wardrobe?

Already in the works as my Week of Money posts can attest to, though mostly motivated by money and my newfound, renewed interest in perhaps living off the blog 100%.

I have in the past weeks, been going through my wardrobe, culling pieces here and there to align with my New York meets Paris style, deciding to give away a c/o bag from Dagne Dover instead of keeping it like I would have done before (psst, Dagne Dover giveaway is here).

Does your partner read your blog? Does your family?

The former doesn’t care, the latter doesn’t know about it.

What digital camera(s) do you have? What do you use to take photos?

All of my Instagram shots are taken with an iPod Touch because it’s easy to get the files (emailed to myself) and it’s quick.

For real shots of Baby Bun where I plan on printing it or otherwise (or in the Dagne Dover review post for instance), I used a Sony RX100 which I reviewed here against the Canon G12 and S95 (both the Canons have been sold because I never reached for them).

I will mention that I used the Canon G12 a lot in my travel photos as it is excellent for many reasons (swivel screen, easy to use, sturdy, etc), but it is bulky and heavy, so after I got the Sony RX100, I used it sort of exclusively instead of lugging the G12 out. The Canon S95 was tucked in my purse for impromptu shots but in the end I replaced it with the Sony RX100 (better, sharper shots).

I am due for an upgrade to the latest Sony RX 100 V which was released last year, but I don’t have that in my budget until I get another contract, get back on track financially, and then I can buy one.

Do you have any efficiency tips? How do you manage to stay efficient?

Efficient in what, specifically? It would help to know where.

I will say that I mainly the ToDo app on my iPod Touch (amongst other apps) to keep my life in line. If I lose this thing or the app dies, I am s-c-r-e-w-e-d.

If you’re interested in how I set up my iPod Touch to make my life efficient and organized, and how I have done the categories, let me know and I’ll do a post on it. 🙂 I sort of did a post here on how I organize my life, but that sorely needs updating.

In general, I tend to do the following:

1. Loosely Plan beforehand

I have a schedule which is roughly structured like this:

  • Saturday: Grocery Shop Day (Partner) / Toddler-Free Mommy Time Day (after lunch) – I get to go out & do whatever
  • Sunday: Household Cooking Day / Toddler Wrangling Day – my partner cooks for the week
  • Monday: Personal Cooking Day – I make meals or supplement what my partner cooked
  • TuesdayFriday: Open to do whatever, which includes cleaning, playgroups etc.

Knowing those days ahead of time helps.

Planning ahead also means that before my partner goes  go to the grocery store on Saturday, I have a list for him ahead of time of what I plan on cooking that week so he can buy it for me and we save gas / time because only one person goes.

If I forget to give him the list, that’s on me and I assume the mistake and go to the store the next day.

I sort of don’t understand it when people go to the grocery store and then come back saying: OH I FORGOT ______ FOR THE _____!!!

My face: O_o .. Don’t you have a grocery list?

It’s nice to be loosey-goosey and flexible in life, but when it costs you time and gas to go back or stress from having to now re-jig a recipe you have never tried before with a missing key ingredient, I can do without that ambiguity, thankyouverymuch.

I usually go through my recipes and meal plan ahead of time, something I lightly touched upon in this post about how I keep a Minimalist Fridge.

In addition to that, I know for instance that I need overripe bananas for an event coming up that I plan on making this Banana Cake for, and I have loosely tracked that these bananas generally need to ripen for at least a month.

I put that on the list 4 Saturdays before, my partner buys lightly green bananas (to avoid bruising when they ripen), and they stay in a bowl until they’re overripe, and ready on the day I want to make the recipe.

It’s simple but time-saving and hassle-free. I am not loosey-goosey for things that are important.

2. Multi-task where possible on low-concentration tasks

You can’t talk to your mother or friend while watching TV but you can talk to them while doing the dishes, or other such quiet activities (not vacuuming).

I also like to watch TV episodes while I do the dishes for some sanity time (hello wireless, super amazing rechargeable Bose headophones!).

For things that require major concentration, I focus on and do (e.g. writing blog posts) because you’re just wasting time trying to do two things at once when it would get done quicker done by their lonesome.

3. Watch out where I can improve & combine tasks

When I am doing something that is related to another task, I try to combine or schedule a mini process around it.

For instance, dishes? They’re constantly getting dirtied. I just do them all at once either in the morning or at night, and unless I need something in the sink that’s dirty, or need to clean the kitchen for cooking day the next day, I don’t do them twice a day.

It’s a waste of time. Do it all at once.

Or showering?

I shower with Baby Bun every other day (we don’t need to be that eerily squeaky clean and it ruins your skin especially for eczema and wash my hair every other day as well), combining two tasks of getting himself & myself clean, and if I need to shower after doing yoga, I wait until I am done my yoga, and then wrangle Baby Bun into the shower with me.

When I do my monthly budget roundups, I have a list of things I complete each time such as:

This particular flow doesn’t waste time in my having to go back, re-check balances for the post, etc. Everything is done at each step-by-step.

Or let’s say I need to go get my passport renewed (every 10 years), I have a mini procedure that looks like this:

  1. *Get alert that Passport expires this month* (you can set it tasks to recur every 10 years)
  2. Download PDF of Passport renewal
  3. Fill out Passport application
  4. Obtain Passport photos
  5. Go to Passport office

It looks stupidly simple, but I have it as a project task in my app and each time I finish a task (scheduled for when I am able to do each), I check it off and it reminds me until it’s done.

I am never without a valid Passport and I never forget about it before going on vacation I booked, checking the passport 2 weeks before and saying: OMG NO!!!! I have to pay extra for a RUSH passport.

(Waste of money.)

The way I see it, efficiency achieves two things: More time or More money. Both of which I love.

How do you get work done while taking care of a small child? I’m referring to intellectual work, housework, reading. Could you give some ideas?

Gag & hog-tie them in the corner and hope for the best.

Just kidding..

Sort of. 😛

Really though, there is no easy way to take care of a small child (at a toddler age) and still get everything done.

If they are children that can feed themselves and talk to you and have a conversation, this may not work but right now at Baby Bun’s age (toddlerhood), here are some ideas:

1. Have Baby Bun in the same room as I am

I don’t leave him alone anywhere. He can get into anything and this is not the time to be lax in parenting.

I know some parents leave their kids in front of a TV but as I don’t have one, I don’t have that option, so he needs to be in my line of sight.

2. Read / Listen to Podcasts while feeding them

Oh no, but you’re not interacting 24/7 with your precious angel“!… to which I say “thank goodness” … because if I did, I’d go mad and he’d end up in an adoption agency in no time flat.

Or shipped off to my parents in a little care package with a note pinned to him saying:

SURPRISE!!!! YOU HAVE A NEW LITTLE BOY OF YOUR VERY OWN! P.S. Speaks two languages and eats a lot. Good luck with that.

All parents need time to themselves and if I can carve it out of the day while feeding him and reading a book while doing so, Imma do it.

I use these Bose headphones (wireless, rechargeable), and I listen to podcasts. I can still hear him (it’s not 100% soundproof), and I have mastered the art of toddler lip reading.

I even play with him while listening to podcasts because I can still hear him, and my brain is being mentally stimulated while he does .. what he does… and I still get to enjoy him.

You can also decide to not have headphones and put on the radio or something, which also works.

3. Incorporate them into the housework

I do laundry and make him help me open the dryer door, throw in the wet clothes, and then remove the clothes, sort & put them away.

When I vacuum, I make him gather everything off the floor and put it away nicely so that the floor is clear to clean properly.

It takes 3X as long but they love it and it gets done. I’ve gotten to the point where I tell him: HELP MOMMY WITH LAUNDRY!… and he goes, opens the door, and pulls out all the dried clothes and puts them in the basket, then he puts it away.

I get about 30 minutes out of this because it takes him forever.

Or give them a box and let them go to down, make it into a robot head they can wear, a house they can lay down in and scribble in, or a box to use to go around “collecting” things to put in it (Baby Bun collects all the puzzle pieces and cards).

4. Tell them you need to work

When I actually NEED to work at a certain time and have no choice, I tell Baby Bun he has to be quiet and behave for X amount of time, which works. He usually does it and I get stuff done (like writing this post).

Once you’re done, thank them for waiting nicely and play with them (so that they see that waiting has positive benefits).

5. Find a playgroup to foist them off on

Playgroups where you can drop your kid and then leave to go to a cafe to read, or blog or whatever, are a godsend. I do this twice a week and would do it every day if I could.

6. Set them down with a puzzle or toy / game they love

If Baby Bun gets a puzzle he loves, he can spend at least 15 minutes doing it. 4 puzzles x 15 minutes = 1 hour.

7. Hide toys & bring them out again

When he gets bored of said puzzles or toys, I hide them, and bring them out again a month later. He says: OOO! NEW TOY!! … and I get another half hour.

8. Have a super secret backup toys hidden

I have super secret backup toys (this car) that I bring out and give to him when I truly need him to be engrossed in it for at least half an hour, and I only bring it out on secret occasions when I NEED TO DO STUFF.

9. Make them nap on their own or have quiet time on their own listening to music or the radio

I got an extra half hour out of his nap time by leaving him and not patting his bum any more. He is a trooper and now I get 2 hours.

10. Create games that take forever to finish that they can do on their own

I invented a game called “Picnic” where I lay out the blanket and leave him with his stuffed toys and these great sliceable fruits shown above.

He has to set the table for his stuffed animals, go through a complicated wiping-mouth & paws/hands & drinking water routine, then take his sliceable fruits out of the boxes which have lids on them, slice all the fruit, place it properly on the plates, arrange it so it’s all symmetrical.

Then he has to make them each eat a piece of fruit (in order of The Hungry Caterpillar with required commentary of what is happening each day) one at a time.

Then he has to go through the complicated routine of wipe their mouths & hands/paws, help them drink water again, help them “clean up” the fruits and the table, and then “go home to their Mommies and Daddies”.

Total time spent = 45 minutes

Make more complicated games like this.

Still have a burning question?

You can ask any question anonymously using the form here, and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Am my own Sugar Daddy. Am a millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I have 11 side incomes that are on track in 2020 to make me $50K - $75K. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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Posted on February 3, 2013

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  1. Tania

    Minimalism, the word, didn’t originate referring to less possessions or a lifestyle. It was a description of art. So it’s annoying when other self described minimalists judge others in that regards. But this sounded more like a curious reader. Your home posts made me envious, lovely & spare. Goals! I’m in the middle of packing hell right now & in the process of combing a household with my sweet BF so I’m not seeing any minimal surfaces for a long time! But I have to say I made great strides in my closet! Btw that map necklace! Have you shared that in the past?

  2. Kandice

    So the minimalism police are out, eh? (I was tempted to use “huh” instead, but using “eh” reminded me of when I lived in Canada, so…)

  3. Potato

    Every kid is different, but I was able to get much more work done when Blueberry was a toddler than now. Sure, now she can dress herself and eat on her own… but there are no more naps, and she wants my attention more (even if she’s bigger and needs it less), and she plays less quietly. So I used to be able to sit in the living room with a laptop and work while she figured out a puzzle or played quietly. Now, even though I can leave her in another room, she’ll play by singing “let it go” at the top of her lungs, and keep popping in “Daddy, can you play with me noooooowwww???”

    And no naps.


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