Today starts the beginning of my Becoming Almost Amish series, where we look at 10 Amish principles to live by and I share how I have applied or plan to apply them in my own life to work towards a more simple, sustainable lifestyle. Each of these principles and strategies were inspired by Nancy Sleeth’s book Almost Amish.
Amish Principle #1: Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside.
When we think of simplifying, we usually think of getting rid of stuff. So the home is a great place to begin, since that is where we keep all of our stuff. What I loved about the way Nancy explained this principle was that she drew the connection between the way our homes impact our lives: Cluttered homes lead to cluttered lives, and cluttered lives can harm families. Our homes reflect our values. They reflect who we are inside and what we hold most precious. If our houses are cluttered, our hearts are too. So it seems like decluttering our homes is the first step towards choosing health!
I can definitely relate to this line of thought. When things start to pile up I begin to get overwhelmed. I used to tell people “you can easily determine the state of my life by looking at my bedroom.” Messy bedroom= chaotic life. Obviously the less stuff you have, the less clutter you have to deal with. But what does that look like practically? Here are some of the different strategies Nancy suggests for decluttering the home:
Keep Stuff Out
The only way the clutter builds is if you bring things into the house. My best technique for combating this is to not go shopping. I remember the days of my youth when we would go to the mall for fun, usually leaving with purchases we had no use for. If I stay out of the stores, I won’t even know what I am missing. This also applies to the many advertisements created to lure us into the stores—I don’t subscribe to catalogs, I don’t watch much tv (therefore avoiding commercials), and we don’t subscribe to the newspaper, which means none of those annoying circulars. It is always funny to me how easily I get lured into looking at the ads on the big shopping days like Black Friday—even though I know I don’t need anything! Those marketers sure are tricky! My stepdad has a great rule: if something comes in, something has to go out. I have not gotten to that point yet, and I will admit that I do stop by the thrift stores more often than I should, but this is an area I am trying to work on still.
Invest in Quality
If you invest in quality pieces, you will have less to fix and fuss with. The Amish are notorious for their high quality items that get passed down from generation to generation. This is definitely an area I am not accustomed to, because usually high quality things are more expensive, and I would rather save money. My husband is teaching me that getting the “best deal” is not always a way to save money, as you will have to replace or fix things more often. When we got married we decided to invest in nice furniture and nice kitchen supplies that I am sure we will have for years to come!
Kitchen as Heart of home
If you’ve ever connected with someone over a meal, you know how important this principle can be. Nancy explains that what comes out of your kitchen doesn’t have to be fancy– but healthy, home cooked meals go a long way in spreading love. I have definitely experienced this in the last couple of years as I have learned to cook and even added more traditional cooking skills like fermenting to my repertoire. I love being able to take food to friends in need or share the harvest from my garden. We make it a priority to have dinner together each night, something that I hope continues as our family grows.
Clean out bedroom closets
This was probably the easiest area for me to tackle. I had been toying with the idea of a capsule wardrobe for a long time but I wasn’t sure how to make the switch. Using the Kon Mari method helped me to get rid of a lot of things last summer, but I knew I still had a ways to go. Enter pregnancy and the nine awkward months where you never know which items are going to fit from day to day. My sister loaned me her massive maternity wardrobe which was nice, and forced me to pack up my pre-maternity wardrobe to clear space in my closet. Having that distance for a few months helped to sever some of the emotional ties I had from seeing the items hanging in my closet every day. Last week I had my husband bring all the clothes up from the basement and I got rid of at least half of my wardrobe, fitting everything I planned to keep in two small bins. I took an inventory of what I have, and plan to develop a capsule wardrobe post-baby with pieces that are timeless, will last for a long time, and go with many things.
Clean out your vanity
This is a step I took last year when I quit my job and switched to a more natural lifestyle. I still say that the best thing about not working is that I don’t have to wear makeup! (I know I didn’t HAVE to wear makeup, but the thought never really crossed my mind before) No makeup means no makeup removers and overall better skin, so no need for all of those crazy skin products. I also try to make a lot of our home and beauty products from scratch, which luckily use the same base ingredients. It’s nice to not have a whole cupboard filled with bottles that are half used!
Organize attic, garage, and basement
These are the areas I haven’t tackled yet, but I know need some work. My husband does a really good job of organizing things, and even cleaned out the garage so that we would have more room to get the baby in and out of the car. He’s been gently reminding me “there’s a lot of stuff in the basement now…” which includes several bins of “sentimental” things, china that we don’t have room to display/use, suitcases, baby items, and holiday decor. I did downsize our Christmas decorations last year, but I am sure there is more I can get rid of! That seems like a good winter project to tackle. When we bought our house we promised that we would never fill our garage to the point where we couldn’t park a car in it, and thankfully we are both on the same page so we can keep each other accountable in this area. It is so easy to store things (there’s even a whole industry for storage units!) and forget what you even have. I am learning that it is better to get rid of things you aren’t using, and if you need to buy them again in the future, it is not that big of a deal.
The best resource I can recommend for simplifying your home is Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It is a real game changer. Coming up next week: Technology!
Have you noticed that a less cluttered house leads to a less cluttered life? If you have any tips for pursuing minimalism around the home, I would love to hear them!