I am learning to be a minimalist gardener.
I’m not talking about minimalist design in the classic sense – order and a sparse aesthetic – green lawn, groomed shrubs, concrete hardscaping.
This type of minimalism is for people who want to avoid gardening – low to no maintenance, uncluttered, tidy.
I am talking about the minimalist lifestyle and what that looks like for my real-life homesteading family. For me, minimalist gardening is about having more time to do the things I enjoy most in the garden.
I love the way Kate and Melissa over at Cohesive Home talk about minimalism – how getting rid of physical and mental clutter can allow your family to flourish in your own authentic way.
The Minimalists describe minimalism as “a tool that can assist you in finding freedom…and lasting happiness.” I like that, too.
We have spent the last few years clearing our house of clutter in a serious way. We have donated dozens of car loads of our belongings to thrift stores and charities and somehow there is always more to purge.
We were getting really tired of spending our precious weekend time cleaning and organizing our stuff.
We wanted to have more time for adventures and together outside in the garden as much as possible – this is where we thrive as a family.
We have become very intentional about what we bring into our home and it has made a big difference.
But what about our outdoor spaces?
We were really excited when we moved to our rural homestead. Within a year we had a large garden, two dozen chickens, a second child, and big plans. We collected things like gutters, old windows, barrels, greenhouse plastic and pinned hundreds of DIY homestead projects. We tried to grow ALL THE FOOD!
Every Spring we were sore and exhausted and every Fall we were buried in produce with no proper storage space or time to deal with it all. We rarely saw our friends and our kids weren’t getting the best of us.
Did we still want this? YES! Homesteading as a family is our dream.
But it wasn’t working at this pace.
It was time to take a step back and examine our priorities.
I spent the last few years focusing on minimalism inside our home and the benefits have been huge.
Cleaning takes way less time.
Finding thing is easier.
Everyone is less overwhelmed and more relaxed.
We enjoy being in our home.
It turns out, though, that minimalism goes far beyond the home. It extends to every aspect of your lifestyle, and gardening is a big part of ours.
Here are a few simple ideas for taking minimalism outside, and getting more enjoyment out of your garden.
Declutter and Simplify
Are you the one person who has not yet read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? This book has changed many people’s lives. I appreciate her method because of its focus on mindfulness and positivity.
Why not apply Kondo’s incredibly effective Konmari method to your garden? Here is how that would look:
- Commit to decluttering
- Imagine your ideal garden lifestyle
- Purge broken pots and tools, plants, trees or even gardens that do not spark joy
- Keep only what sparks joy
- Organize by category – tools, seeds, supplies, etc
Or take inspiration from the words of William Morris – “have nothing in your [garden] that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
Aim for Zero Waste
I wrote about zero waste lifestyle and gardening over on Simple Local Life in April, so this topic has been on my mind. Waste reduction and minimalism go hand in hand – they both work to simplify your life. Here are just a few things you can do to minimize waste in the garden:
- grow and preserve food you actually enjoy and eat
- eat every part of the plant and compost the rest
- repurpose, diy, and upcycle
- use natural materials
- swap and save seeds
- use natural fertilizer and pest control
Permaculture refers to a set of design principles and integrated systems that can help create a human habitat that is more sustainable and self-sufficient.
Permaculture is intended to work with nature rather than against it, which can free up time and energy – very much in line with minimalism.
I encourage you to delve deeper into permaculture, but here are a few basic ideas:
- Grow low-care, low-water plants that thrive where you grow
- Put chickens to work, fertilizing, eating pests and weeds
- Attach rain barrels to your downspouts for watering in dry spells
- Set up a compost system
- Take time to observe and reflect before doing
- Embrace community networks (share tools, resources, and labour)
- Make do with what you have and be creative
Find the Joy
Why do you love gardening? Is it the time spent outdoors? Becoming more self-sufficient? Learning skills alongside your children? It is meditative for you? Creative?
Take time to reflect on what aspects of gardening bring you joy and design your space with that in mind.
With all of the work involved in gardening, we sometimes forget to enjoy it. You could
Create seating areas in your garden where you can sit with a tea or coffee
Incorporate art, water features, or wind chimes
Plant more perennial flowers to cut down on work
If there are plants you don’t enjoy looking at, aren’t useful, or are too high maintenance, consider shifting your focus or scaling back. For example, we are shifting our garden plans this year to reflect our anti-inflammatory diet.
If you want to grow a lot of food, learn how to maximize yields with the least possible waste of time, energy, or space.
Minimalism is about balancing work with the greatest possible enjoyment. Think about what you really need and also what you want and plan accordingly.
Keep it real
For me, minimalism is about eliminating excess and living by my values so that I can spend time doing what I love and feel more fulfilled.
It is not about aesthetic perfection; it is not about buying products; it is not about getting rid of everything; and it is most definitely not about what other people think.
Minimalism is a tool that helps me feel less overwhelmed and more connected. It is about limiting distractions, obligations, noise, and clutter.
Spending all of my time weeding does not make me happy. Neither does spending too much time searching for my gardening tools.
Ignoring my children so that I can have a Pinterest worthy garden is not in line with my values.
Keeping my garden small is not part of my vision.
How to balance all of this?
For me, it is to think carefully about what tools I really need and keep them in one spot (working on that…); use mulch to suppress weeds and sometimes just embrace them; include my children in the garden, even if it is reeeaalllly messy; and plan my large garden mindfully to minimize effort and maximize joy and productivity.
I think my number one tip is to make lists – get that mess out of your brain and down on paper!
Above all, I embrace minimalism because it makes me feel calmer, more mindful and helps me get into alignment with my values and purpose. The garden does the same for me, so it only makes sense that they go together.
What brings you joy in the garden?
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