In this final post on our “different kind of spring cleaning” series, I thought it’d be good to wrap it up with a bit of wisdom regarding more conventional life stuff. Even though I’m learning about life from living out of a backpack and confidence in doing us, there’s plenty of application for me for life back on the homestead as well.

So far, we’ve talked about minimalist beauty and health routines, minimalist kids’ playthings, a minimalist aesthetic that leads to simple upkeep, and a minimalist approach to saying no to all but the best. Now? Let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of daily life.

Here are a few of my favorite tricks to keep things saner. Nothing is rocket science here, but sometimes it’s good to get a basic reminder that the best ideas are often the simplest.


1. Kids need very few clothes. I knew this before our travels, but boy has this hit home with me, as our three kids have been fine with literally four shirts, two pair of pants, and two pair of shorts all year long. Resist the urge to buy lots of shirts just because they’re cheap—if they don’t need them in that size, it’s still clutter and an added expense, no matter how inexpensive they are.

2. Do only wrinkle-free cotton with kids. I just don’t think fancypants fabric is worth the hassle.

3. Keep kids’ clothes in buckets or small drawers—I find that big, deep drawers begets too many clothes that get buried and forgotten about. If you’ve got deep drawers, use simple dividers (I like these) for each category of clothing and keep pants separate from shirts, and then use fewer drawers for clothes. This way, you don’t accidentally fill a pants drawer with 27 pairs of size 5 jeans, and you’ve got empty drawers for other things like toys and drawing supplies.


4. Don’t worry about perfectly-cornered laundry folding, especially for the kids’ clothes. Sometimes I’m even cool with just tossing a wad of shirts in a bucket, since they’re all jersey cotton and they’ll end up that way by the boy as soon as he pulls out his favorite. (Sure, I think it’s important to teach them to fold clothes, but it’s not a big deal all the time.)

5. If you’ve got kids of a similar size, just buy a bag of socks they can share (the size range is really wide for most socks). I have two close in age, and once I stopped buying socks in two separate sizes, sorting got a ton easier—they all went in the same bucket, newly-labeled, simply, “socks.”

6. Teach kids laundry skills young, then have them be in charge of their own clothing as soon as possible. Our oldest started doing her own laundry around age 8, and it made my life much easier. She does a load about once a week, and she only has to run out of underwear once before she remembers to make it part of her routine. (Bonus: they leave the house thinking laundry is just a part of life. Because it is.)

7. Once they’re in charge of their own, provide their own laundry spot (so, one basket in each bedroom). When dirty laundry is on the floor, there’s only one place it belongs—in their basket. Then once it’s full, they know it’s time to do a load.

8. Or if your people aren’t yet capable of doing their own laundry, provide literally one spot in the house for laundry—somewhere universal, like a laundry room or a master basket in a public space in the house. All dirty clothes go there, every time.

9. I prefer doing one load of laundry at a time, max, over designating one giant Laundry Day and trying to conquer Mt. Wash-ington. Intentionally only do one load per day, for example, and fully do that load in all its steps, from loading in the washer to putting away in closets. This is what they share in this video series, and I agree with them.

10. When clothes are out of season, store them in an easy-to-reach spot, such as that shelf at the top of the closet. Use smaller reusable boxes and label them by size and season—when the weather comes, all you have to do is grab that box for each kids’ size, instead of wading through a giant Winter or Summer Box.

11. You know what? Adults need very few clothes, too. We’ll talk about minimalist, capsule wardrobes soon, but in the meantime, let’s just say I’ve surprised myself with how content I’ve been this year with little more than a few shirts and bottoms myself. I’ve traded them out with new purchases every now and then, but it hasn’t been often. More on this soon.

laundry clothesline

12. If you’re up for the task, line dry your clothes when the weather allows. This might seem more complicated than simple, but it helps minimize your wardrobe because you tangibly process each item of clothing (and therefore question its necessity). Many Americans balk at the idea, but the majority of the world line-dries as the norm. It’s one of my favorite chores, actually. I know a lot of neighborhoods in the States don’t allow it, but I think lines of laundry are gorgeous.

Dishes and kitchen gadgets

13. Keep out only the amount of dishes for the exact number of people in your household. So, six people equal six bowls, six plates, six spoons, etc. Store the rest somewhere nearby, for company or when you just need a few more (I kept the rest above the fridge in our house). You’ll be surprised how much less you’ll wash the dishes—a quick hand wash after each meal, and done.

dirty dishes

14. Start the dishwasher at the end of the day, right before you head to bed. Unless you have a really large family, you shouldn’t need to run it more often on an average day (especially if you do number 13). Then empty it first thing in the morning, while you wait for the coffee to brew. You’ll start each day with an empty dishwasher.

15. Speaking of coffee, I’m a fan of a simple French press or Aeropress, and really don’t see the need for anything more. We’ve used nothing but a French press for years now, and in all the guesthouses we’ve stayed at this past year, I find it humorous when various gadgets make coffee so much more complicated than it needs to be. (Those individual cup-pod-coffee thingies are virtually nonexistent outside the U.S., if you’re curious.)

16. You don’t need lots of gadgets, especially if they do only one thing (the exception, for me, is our beloved ice cream maker—and even still, you can make ice cream in other ways). I’m a fan of a good mixer, a slow cooker, a food processor, a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, a few pots and pans (not many, though), just a few really sharp knives, and a couple spatulas and wooden spoons. Everything else, to me, is extra, and even without these things I can improvise. I’ve come to learn this after cooking in over 20 kitchens this year.

Paperwork and other shelf storage

17. Paper clutter ads up, even when traveling. There are very few things that need saving—for those, use a simple storage file box (I like this one), or at most, a small file cabinet (you can often find those at thrift stores). Everything else can be scanned and stored on a hard drive or cloud (like Dropbox). To scan, we just photograph or use an app with our smartphones.

desk files

18. Unless you reference a book again and again, or it’s a kids classic, question whether you need a permanent copy (a simple test: Would you save it to pass down to your grandkids?). I prefer paper books over digital, but using mostly Kindles this year has taught me how to better streamline books when we return. I love books as much as anybody, but access to our public library’s digital collection has confirmed for me that I really don’t need to personally own many books. And when I do, that means I really love them.

19. Start the process, if you haven’t yet, of digitizing media like music and movies. Buy mp3 versions of music, or buy a monthly streaming service, and buy digital versions of movies. We no longer have any reason to buy a physical copy of a movie, and I look forward to eventually replacing all our DVDs since we just download movies on our Apple TV now (a minimalist can dream). Then use a service like Netflix or Hulu to stream TV shows.

20. Consider e-books and digital resources. Our ten-year-old got a beginning knitter’s digital course this year for her birthday, and she loves it (it’s on Craftsy). And even though I do prefer paper books (see number 18), some of my favorite books are e-books—Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie is a recent favorite of mine. Before you buy a hard copy of anything, ask whether a digital version would work just as well for you. Massive space saver.

20 simple tips for a minimalist approach to clothes, dishes, and paper

Speaking of—the annual Ultimate Homemaking Bundle sale started today, and the 2015 second edition of my e-book, One Bite at a Time, is included this year. If you’ve got spring cleaning on the brain, like I do, you might really find value in this resource.

I know what you might be thinking—how is buying 18 thousand e-books simplifying my life? I get it. But in my experience, these bundles have actually been valuable, especially since I’ve found a simple way to store them in Dropbox.

(Read why I like e-book bundles, and how I store them digitally.)

If you’d like to learn more about what’s included in this year’s bundle, head here.

I’ve skimmed through a lot, and my favorites so far are Supercharged Food for Kids, Project Organize Your Entire Life, and How She Does It. These three would normally cost me $38, but the bundle itself is only just under $30 with an actual value of $1,290. Oh, and I LOVE the bonuses this year—I got myself this scarf, I’ve already signed up for this Craftsy class, and I’m psyched to try out Green Kids Crafts for my 7-year-old when we return.

Anyway, these 20 tips have been solidified for me this year as tried-and-true, universal, no-matter-where-I-am home managing truths. I’m itching to head home soon and get back to a daily routine, but in the meantime, I know they’re as true for me here in this German guesthouse as they are in my little Pacific Northwest home.

What are your favorite tricks for keeping a minimalist approach to clothing, kitchen, and shelf space?

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