I was talking about the perils of home improvement and getting a contractor in which might have led one to assume we were improving our house by adding stuff. Actually, we were trying for just the opposite.
I live in a twenty year old apartment in the heart of the city – mostly because it is so convenient. But being in an old apartment with space constraints has its disadvantages. Things were totally falling apart and something had to be done. But once we started, we realized that this was just the chance we had been looking for to cut the clutter and update our home to reflect how we live.
When we’d bought this house from its previous owners, they had filled it with storage of every kind – built in cupboards, stand alone wardrobes, console tables, crockery units, a bar, even a steel almirah! Moving from rented accommodation with limited storage we were very grateful for all this. However, as time went by we realized we were accumulating things just because we had space. Especially kids’ stuff. Gifts, party favours – every kind of junk. Even though we have been giving things away on a regular basis, there was scope for more and this was it.
My husband and I both come from homes with a lot of stuff in them. And again, that was how it was back then. Our parents on both sides are what we call self-made. They were not born into money. My dad has always stated proudly that everything in our house was bought with his hard earned money (And that we need to be grateful to mom for choosing to stay home and take care of us, but different story). The point being that every possession means a lot. My parents cannot let go of stuff and in growing up, I have come to respect that.
Things are different for us. My husband and I started work in the newly opened up Indian market. We benefited from the IT boom. We benefited from both of us working. We were never voracious consumers to be sure, but we suffered from a certain urban lifestyle. Our kids went for birthday parties. They had to give gifts, and got them in turn. Although I eventually started recycling any duplicate/avoidable gift we got out to the next party my kids attended (except for very particular friends and felt no shame in doing this), we have ended up with a lot. Party favors especially have been extremely frustrating. Most parents after planning complicated parties with themes and events and the best food find this one place to apply the budget cuts and most party favors in my experience fall into the category of cheap plastic junk. Something that can be used for maybe a month before it needs to be tossed onto a landfill. Dreadful! For my part, I have started giving out bags of cookies instead but back to the minimal mission.
Here’s what we have done so far:
- Remodeled leaky kitchen and given away standalone cupboards and crockery units
- Had slow close hinges put in the kids cupboards – doors have had to be changed for this. I need ideas on recycling/upcycling those doors!
- I painted the laminate study tables with inspiration from this wonderful blog. I am not finished yet – will post the pictures once done.
- Had the couches re-upholstered. I feel noble about this. We could so easily have bought new ones since it is sale season here. Besides, the images the repair guy has sent me are far from edifying. I don’t know if he polished the faux leather I got to upholster with but the couches look shiny! Aargh – will need help on how to dress down shiny brown leatherette couches.
- Had the house repainted – this is still ongoing.
- Reused the leftover quartz from the kitchen to make bathroom counters.
- Put up steel almirah and wardrobe for sale – any leads on buyers of old furniture in Bangalore would be much appreciated!
- Gave away all usable clothes and shoes we don’t wear often to Goonj. Shoe closet feels super roomy now! Plus mom’s old sarees and clothes left behind by visiting family (with their permission).
- Have collected all outgrown toys, boardgames that came as gifts and I did not let kids open since we already had them (hence new) plus more kids clothes to give to Goonj next.
- Gave away last years’ school books and extra stationery(so much of it, but these are mostly the more responsible party favours here) to the ten thousand books drive.
- Gave away music system plus DVD player and music/movie collection to my house help – a NetFlix subscription plus an iPhone with a bluetooth speaker works for us.
- Gave away old hob to cook
- Gave away old lights/curtains to house help/cook. As an aside, it is not an act of dumping that I am doing here. These lights/curtains were left behind in the house when we bought it. We chose consciously to not redo at the time but use them some more. They still have a lot of life left in them but we may never do all this again! This is a treat to ourselves. And let’s be honest – in India, raw silk, blackout, pleat curtains are definitely a treat to my cook and house help!
- Have already given away most of my cosmetics/make up to kids of friends/house help. I don’t really wear much make up and now my dresser is quite sparse. I still need to give away this old bangle collection that I never wear but love so dearly.
- Need to sell one mattress to convert the guest room to a living room. This last has been tricky. I’d thought we had consensus on this but turns out we didn’t. My husband is iffy about not having a spare room for guests and visiting family but my thoughts on this are – why keep a whole room aside to be used only for a few weeks a year. Our current (tentative) plan is to replace our bed with a storage bed at some point in time (when we have family visiting) and buy foldable mattresses that we can keep in them. So, we can set beds up on the living room floor and put them away when done. And so, we have separate sitting and living rooms. The living room will be where the bookshelves and TV are – where the kids can read their comics instead of lounging about in bed. Or watch sports with their dad. The sitting room is where people like my mom, mother in law and I can hang since we like harder chairs and restful, organized spaces! But this last is tentative.
- Then there are some things I plan to buy! I have a collection of curios and artifacts from all my travels and had displayed them on my few shelves to an ever increasing state of chaos. Maybe a small chest to store them so I can display a few every week and rotate them. So there should be less dusting to do and maybe no permanent marks on the wall from hanging paintings!
- Plus I want to buy/upcycle some planters. I moved completely from ornamental plants to kitchen gardening at some point of time and this would be a good time to bring in some colour and fresh air in the form of indoor plants. They’re sure to be a great change from old furniture!
With all these, hopefully we will have a leaner, cleaner, more spacious home. At least that’s the objective. I’m sure there’s still scope to do more. And my greatest takeaway has been that before you start remodeling to a minimal lifestyle, you absolutely MUST identify what matters most to you and how/where you spend most of your day/year. Once you can identify how your house and you function, keep just the basic stuff and find homes for the rest.
I would love more advice on this though. Have other people done this and are there suggestions/things that I am missing?