Meet Laura Spawn, blogger at SimplyClearly.
How and when did you become interested in minimalism?
I became interested in simple living and minimalism when our family was living in New York City in our 1,000 square foot apartment. I was also going through a time of personal evaluation of what was truly important to me in my life, and had started trying to shift my focus more to people, but was still feeling held back by societal definitions of success.
I came across Becoming Minimalist and Zen Habits online, and was introduced to the actual community of minimalism. I had no idea there was a group of people who believed that ‘less is more’. I felt at home immediately with the ideas and I just kept reading and reading. I felt free to declutter my life, my stuff and my commitments.
You’ve said that your husband was initially a bit resistant to your minimalism. How does he feel about it now?
My husband wasn’t really too resistant to getting rid of items we didn’t use, but there have been times when he has felt I have gone too far and our house has looked bare to him. When that has happened, we usually try to fill in the gaps together and reach a point where we are both comfortable. I have also learned along the way there are certain areas that I don’t declutter without him, like kitchen items and bedroom décor.
What about your kids? Are they ever embarrassed to be in the weird family that doesn’t even try to keep up with the Joneses?
Our children were 5, 7 and 9 when I did my first round of deep decluttering, so at that point it was an exciting, fun thing mom was doing. As they have gotten older, they have been a bit disappointed at times at how few gifts have been under the Christmas tree or how many birthday presents we have set out, however, they have gotten used to it and now understand that they will receive gifts that they REALLY want and will value, rather than a bunch of smaller gifts that are fun to have, but not really quality or desired.
As my daughter has reached her teens, she definitely would like more clothing, but we are still working on learning to care for the clothing she has before adding more to the closet. I am also trying to help her see the value of capsule wardrobes, which can be a little difficult at times, but she is fairly open-minded about it.
Do you feel your kids are internalizing any of the deeper aspects of minimalism, or is minimalism all about possessions to them at this point?
They have definitely internalized the belief system that it is important to have those items in your life that you truly enjoy and are using on a regular basis. They are also quick to remind me while we are out shopping if we have a duplicate item at home, or something else that will do the job without having to make a new purchase.
They are also very open to buying used items and clothing from consignment and thrift stores as well as donating their own clothing and toys, sometimes to my dismay when they are clothes or toys I wish they liked and used!
What do you feel are the three biggest improvements to your life since you have become a minimalist?
There are so many ways minimalism has improved my life, the top three benefits I would say in my own life include-
Less time spent on laundry. With five of us in the house, laundry used to feel constant at 2-3 loads per day. After all of us reducing our wardrobes, we are down to one load a piece per week plus towels.
More time spent in nature. I’ve always loved the outdoors, hiking, fishing and camping, but it seems as though living a more minimalist lifestyle has made it more of a priority in our family’s life. Cutting down on time spent watching TV or playing video games seems to naturally create more time for us to spend outdoors.
Healthier meals. Simplifying our dinner meals has been one of the biggest benefits of simplifying for me. I used to spend at least an hour to two hours baking and cooking dinners with lots of ingredients and steps as well as multiple side dishes. Most of our dinners are now cooked in 20-30 minutes are made from whole foods, making them extremely healthy.
Have you noticed any downsides?
Sometimes it can be a little difficult around the holidays and birthdays with family members sending gifts that we wouldn’t necessarily use, and it does take more time and planning effort on my end to come up with gift ideas for family members that I feel are intentional and also are in line with my own values of gift giving from the heart that I have really spent time thinking about and making sure they will be enjoyed and not cause clutter for my family.
Sometimes this can feel a little stressful for me, but overall I still enjoy the nature of gift-giving and taking my time to really think it through.
Is there anything that you would have done differently when you first began the journey to minimalism, if you knew then what you know now?
I would have definitely taken more time to consider why I was decluttering certain items. Not that I would have kept any of them, but the temptation to fill the space again would have been less had I been more consciously aware of why I was getting rid of items to begin with.
What are your children’s favorite minimalist meals?
A couple of my children’s favorite minimalist meals are-
Plain yogurt with a spoonful of frozen orange juice mixed in and topped with Grape-Nuts and blueberries or bananas.
Tostadas spread with black refried beans and topped with roasted corn and cherry tomatoes and queso crumbling cheese.
Do you have a meditation practice?
I do try and meditate regularly early in the morning. Many times I actually meditate while folding clothes very precisely or while vacuuming. Rhythmic housework seems to be a great meditation practice for me personally. I also like to sign up for the Chopra Meditation courses when they are available for free.
What’s your number one tip for new minimalists?
My number one tip would be to ‘dive right in’. I know some people work better doing a little at a time, but I find it seems to bring the most benefit and momentum to keep going when you do enough that it makes an immediate difference in your life. I would start with some major decluttering and/or getting rid of one of your biggest commitments that is not bringing value to your life.