Today would be my paternal grandmother’s 90th birthday. It’s also a Saturday, my day to clean around the house and do home maintenance. I may be one of the few people who find immense satisfaction in taking really good care of my property, and I attribute that characteristic to my grandma, the type of woman that had us dry off the entire shower and tub after every single use to avoid buildup of water spots.
I remember one time when visiting her and my grandpa’s house in Washington state, she pulled out a little box filled with index cards, and proceeded to show me all the monthly tabs she had with home maintenance tasks for everything you could think of, behind each of the monthly tabs. From painting the windowsills and door frames on an annual basis to planting flowers in her outdoor boxes during certain months, she had her home maintenance tasks compiled in a detailed, organized system.
When I reached adulthood, we would send letters back and forth to each other, where much of what she wrote consisted of the various home maintenance tasks she and my grandpa were working on at the time. I never got the sense that she didn’t like the work, but my grandma was one of the most practical people I’ve known, so it was more of a matter-of-fact that if she owned something, she took care of it.
I’m sure part of her practicality around maintaining her belongings in the best way possible so they lasted, came from growing up during the Great Depression, but it was somehow passed on to me even though I didn’t grow up near her and only visited her home a handful of times as a child. As an adult, and especially since embracing minimalism, I have put a lot more time and effort into taking care of what I do have, and have found it to be very personally satisfying.
As I went about my day today, thinking of not only my grandmother, but also of the difference between my cleaning habits now, and how they used to be, when I only had time (barely!) for general home cleaning.
I realized that much of my time before decluttering was spent picking things up and putting them away, over and over, which left little time for cleaning, let alone proactive maintenance. As I got rid of things I wasn’t using, or were duplicate items, and put into place the Leave No Trace rule inside my home, I found that I had significantly more time to actually take care of my belongings.
Here are some of the tasks beyond general cleaning that I realized I was able to do on a very regular, sometimes daily basis, directly as a result of decreasing the belongings I had to care for –
Wiping down the smaller kitchen appliances like my blender base after my morning smoothie.
Sewing minor tears in clothing and reinforcing buttons before they come off completely.
Spot cleaning walls from everyday marks.
Wiping down garbage can lids before putting in a new bag.
Using leather conditioner on my purse and sandals to keep them supple and soft.
Cleaning the inner rim of my washing machine drum of lint buildup.
Wiping crumbs out of the fridge before putting away new groceries.
Laundering couch throw pillow covers on a regular basis.
Spot staining the wooden dining room table and chairs.
Folding my clothes Kon Mari style.
Cleaning around the kitchen faucet.
One of the more rewarding aspects of minimalism for me, has been the time I’ve gained to really take care of the items I’ve chosen to have in my daily life. Being able to keep up on more detailed care, like cleaning the fabric softener tray in the washing machine from the buildup it gets, or wiping down the kitchen garbage can lid of the nastiness that inevitably splatters, keeps deep cleaning projects that take a lot of time, to a minimum. I’ve also noticed that the fewer belongings I have, the more I slow down and consider how to best care for what I do have.
I also take into consideration before bringing new items into the house, what time commitment they will require for optimal care and maintenance so they last a long time and function well. This has curbed quite a few purchases, even smaller items that I simply wouldn’t want to have to add an extra minute or two for when dusting!
My grandmother was not a minimalist. Along with taking meticulous care of everything she owned, she also stored a lot of things she ‘might have needed’ some day. I’m sure this also stemmed from the scarcity she experienced during her childhood. However, I am very grateful for the home maintenance lessons and example she set of always keeping her belongings in excellent condition and well maintained. It has been an added benefit to my journey as a minimalist in progress.