At the beginning of this year my story as a minimalistic mother was featured on the Dutch blog www.moedersminimalisme.nl. This was something I was kind of proud of, because minimalism and time management have really brought my family and me lots and lots of advantages.
As the blog is in Dutch and I really want to share my story, I’ll translate the story here, so you can read up. So, here it goes.
Minimalistic mother of the month of January 2018 Yvonne van Dalen (43) lives with her boyfriend Ronald and their two kids (Jelle, 6, and Isa, 4) since 2013 in the green village of Vught. Yvonne has been working the past 25 years as a freelancer. Yvonne is minimalistic mother of the month.
Yvonne: “I first ran a translation agency for 15 years and for almost 10 years now I work as a newborn photographer at my Studio VaVaVonne.nl. I also coach, under the name Photographers Coach, photographers in streamlining their business. I’ve always been the entrepreneurial type, and I love organizing stuff and time.
When did you decide to start minimizing?
When our son was born in 2011 I noticed that the amount of stuff in our house increased quickly. During that time we bought and got a lot of stuff thinking “That will come in handy, you can’t do without! Just in case!”. We also didn’t really know exactly how much stuff we really needed for the baby. We thought that that was the way things were supposed to go. In 2013 our daughter was born and again a lot of baby stuff came into the house. As we moved (for my photography work) into a bigger house (the house we live in now) with studio space, we thought: now we have plenty of space! But even there the amount of stuff for the kids kept on growing. I felt as if I was constantly cleaning up and sorting stuff. The house never really seemed organized, and I felt very restless and frustrated. Why did the four of have so much stuff? Did we really need it? I was totally fed up with the time it took to ‘manage’ our inventory. In 2016 I came across the Netflix documentary “Minimalism — A documentary about the important things” and then I found out there was a solution: Minimalism.
That year, in the Summer in France, I had taken the book by Marie Kondo (the life-changing magic of tidying up) with me to read, as I was looking for the answer to the question: “How can organize everything in my house, and keep it that way, in order to create more time to enjoy life? And how do I get to that point of minimalism?”. Well, right after reading that booklet I wanted to start cleaning up, because I had finally found a method! When we came home from France I started sorting category by category. First clothes, then books and paper, then komono and emotional items.
“I always thought of myself as a really organized person”
I was taken aback by the enormous amount of items that didn’t add value to our lives and the gigantic mountain of materials we kept in all of our closets and cupboards, in the garage and in the attic. I always thought of myself as a really organized person, but that last week of Summer we drove a record number of times to the recycling center and we donated, recycled and sold piles and bags of stuff online.
What has changed for you, since you began minimizing?
Well first of all, it’s simple: my house is really organized, LOL! No seriously, I have loads of free time to do the things in my life that I really enjoy. Where before I spent hours on cleaning, because I had to constantly pick up, sort and dust stuff off, I’m now done cleaning way quicker! It’s something I can recommend everyone! I also started minimizing digitally and I’m no longer attached to my smartphone to check social media or read up on my mails all day. I’m so much more present in the here and now, and when it comes to my time spent online, I also freed up loads of time.
The second, biggest advantage is that we have such peace and quiet in our house, and we feel better and have more energy. The things we own, are our favorite things, and everything has its own spot. We no longer have to go searching for things or go out and buy double items, because we can’t locate them in our house. So we don’t have any redundant or double objects. We feel very much at ease in our home, because house serves us and we’re no longer slaves of our posssessions. The kids have changed quite a bit in the way the play now that they have donated and sold almost 75% of their toys; they are outside a lot more, they play in a more creative manner, use their fantasy, and have time and space to develop. Our house is a place for us to unwind after a busy day at work or school, and it really is our home where we relax and get together without any distractions. We’ve come to take a look at our food and how we use our energy sources, which has a tremendous effect on our energy levels.
And third, and also a very nice side-effect of minimizing is that we spend way less money than before. We were never the shopping types or fashion victims, but where I used to buy stuff and clothing because I thought we needed them, I now only buy what we really REALLY need and we take longer to think over any possible purchases. We buy our weekly groceries and that’s pretty much it really. For the kids’ birthdays and ‘Sinterklaas’ (note: this is a Dutch tradition, comparable with Santa Claus) we now have the rule that they each only get 1 bigger present (the grandparents from both sides and us pay for it together) instead of several smaller things they end up not actually playing with and which take up more space in the house. We now mainly invest in experiences and being together (Hygge!).
What was the hardest thing to minimize?
The most difficult things to declutter and get rid of were my books and my items with emotional value. I used to own cupboard filled with books that I had read with great pleasure and kept neatly on the shelves. But I’ve moved all of those books from house to house, without ever reading them again, so I’ve sold the nicest ones online and donated the rest of them to family and friends and the second-hand store. I’ve kept a small number of komono, because I couldn’t take myself letting those go (a small tin can from my grandmother to keep some memorabilia in). The rest of the emotional items I’ve let go, because I know the memories of the people those items belonged to, remain in my head. I don’t need the stuff to remember them by.
Do you minimize in waste?
Yes, although I feel that there is room for improvement. It’s not only the amount of waste, but also the products we use for personal hygiene and for nutrition. We basically choose for sustainable and healthy, and once you get down that road, you can change a lot of your waste and minimize it. We recycle paper, glass, cans, garden waste, residual waste through our community Vught. And then we try to reduce the amount of stuff we carry into our house. What you don’t buy, you don’t have to recycle.
So we only buy what we REALLY need, and make a shopping list before we go to the store. On the level of personal hygiene products, we don’t use most of the products we used to have before. I’ve gotten rid of all the handsoap pumps in the house and replaced those with Aleppo soaps. We no longer have several perfumes, several shampoos, scrubs, cremes, shower gels, etc. Our bathroom used to be filled with products, because we didn’t think about it. For the past two years I’ve been using washable panty liners, sanitary napkins and a menstru cup. I no longer use shampoo or perfumed shower gel, and my skin and hair have never looked better! We bathe in water with Himalayan salt, lavender oil and coconut oil (thanks, Dieuwke, for that tip on your website!), and I’ve made my own toothpaste. Even in the kitchen and the rest of the house the number of detergents and cleaning products have significantly been reduced. Over the coming time we will focus on how to reduce our waste to a minimum. After all, we have our planet to take care of.
What would you like to minimize in the future?
Well, our waste as I said, because all the (plastic) packages drive me crazy. Fortunately we already eat a lot differently and more consciously, so that makes a big difference. And I prefer cooking most food from scratch myself. I don’t have to go all the way and live a ‘no waste’ life. I think we already are doing pretty well. What I would love to minimize is the amount of stuff for school activities. When the kids have a school play, we put together an outfit from the things we have in the house already. But for the annual lights parade at school I will no longer go out and buy a “Made in China” lantern.
What books/websites have inspired you?
As I mentioned before the Netflix documentary from The Minimalists was an eye-opener and the book by Marie Kondo really gave me the practical tools to start decluttering. But I have, since then, read pretty much everything when it comes to minimalism, and I can give you the list of the well-known names: Joshua Becker, Courtney from Be more with less, Leo Babauta, Moeders Minimalisme. There is a sea of information out there when you’re looking to start minimizing. Long live the Internet!
What does the website MoedersMinimalisme.nl mean to you?
To me all American books and the Japanese minimalism sounded really refreshing and they’ve helped me so much, when it comes to thinking about decluttering, but for the actual practical tips I go to the Moeders Minimalisme website. How do I make toothpaste? How do I make my own cleaning detergents? How do I minimize the number of stuffed animals and toys my kids have? Where do I find that one lunchbox that is so convenient? The website is jam-packed with tons of practical matters and is bookmarked in my browser. It has become my ‘go to’ over the past years. When I think about minimizing something, I first look it up on moedersminimalisme.nl and then I find it most of the times. Furthermore I love reading the interviews with the minimalistic mothers of the months. It’s always nice to see how others have made their journey into minimimalism. I think the site is very inspiring and practical. Thanks for that, Dieuwke! I hope you’ll keep up the site for many years to come and fill it with useful information for us readers.
What are the most beautiful ‘things’ in life for you?
My darling kids, my boyfriend, my family and friends. It may sound like a cliche, but I love experiences with the people I love and you can always invite me for a visit to the sauna, a nice walk in the forest, or a beautiful trip to a new destination. I love learning, laughing, dancing, singing and I see each day as a beautiful new opportunity. The latest fashion trends aren’t important to me. I feel hugely blessed with the inner happiness and energy that I experience on the inside and I hope that my kids may grow up with the message that the most beautiful things in life aren’t things, but quality of life and experiences.
What do you think is your purpose in life?
I think it’s my purpose in life to transfer compassion and creation onto others. I hope that my way of thinking and living may inspire others to leading a valuable life and a world in which we contribute to a better quality of life. In my opinion I do this by daily carrying out little things that matter or bring value to myself or others. That this doesn’t consist of stuff may be clear. 😉
End of the interview.
So, that was it. I hope you liked it. I’d really love to hear what you feel about minimalism. You can always email me.
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Thanks for reading!