How to be a Minimalist with a Family
How to be a Minimalist with a Family
Do you feel like your family is drowning in stuff? Is it hard to find what you’re looking for when you’re in a hurry to get out the door? No judgements here if you are nodding your head yes. That used to be me too.
In fact, I am a relapse clutterer. Is that even a word? Well, I’m going with it. I have tried to be a minimalist with a family in the past and I have discovered it’s a work in progress.
Four and a half years ago, my husband and I decided to travel with our then one-year-old daughter around the world. We lived in Boulder, CO at the time and forced ourselves through a huge purge.
We went from a 2.5 bedroom condo with a 2-car garage to fitting everything we owned into ONE U-Haul U-Box (which we put in storage) and the luggage we took with us traveling. It was an exhausting process and we vowed to never own that much stuff again.
HOW MUCH STUFF DO YOU NEED FOR A FAMILY?
Fast forward two years later and we found ourselves in Chicago – lured back for a job with a nice, but small 2 bedroom apartment downtown. We were true to our word and did not accumulate as much stuff as before, but somehow the clutter did start to creep. We purchased nice furniture – quality pieces we loved and bedroom furniture for our growing child.
This time when we decided to travel Europe (we’ve been away from home for almost a year now) we moved our stuff into a storage unit. It was a total pain again and I think I’m resigned to always thinking that moving just…well…sucks.
All of our belongings have been in that storage unit for months, and we have been happy so I know that we do not need a lot of stuff, toys, clutter to live a well-balanced life. That said, I am happy knowing that we’ll return to furniture that I love for our (to too distant) future apartment.
But, with that date coming rather soon, I wanted to brush up on minimalist tips and advice for families from experts around the blog world. As I unpack our belongings, I will be looking very closely at each item to see if it deserves space in our home.
MINIMALIST FAMILY TIP #1: Remember Why it’s Important to Live with Less
It can be so easy to give in and fill your home with stuff – furniture, decor, knick knacks, toys, art, crafts, the list could go on. It’s usually only the physical space we have that forces us to stop.
Have you ever noticed that no matter how many closets you do, or do not have, they always find a way to be filled?
That’s why it’s important for us to remember why we want to live with less. It makes it easier to say, “NO!” when something new is vying for our attention.
Living with less stuff gives us space to breath. This is both physically and mentally true. When you have less stuff and more space, it’s easier to play inside on a rainy day by making a fort or flying paper airplanes. Mentally, having fewer belongings gives your brain more space as it has less to categorize, organize, and keep track of.
Next, having less stuff increases our attention spans. Instead of switching from one toy to another, children will play longer with the toys they have. We have been traveling for almost a year and do not have many toys with us. Our daughter has gotten on just fine with LEGOS, coloring books, a few stuffed animals, and some card games. We also make things like play doh, blanket forts, crafts, and anything she can imagine with cardboard boxes. Why should it be any different in a more permanent home?
Third, having less stuff enables us to focus on our relationships and experiences more. I have found that as we live with less this year, we try to do more. That means going to the park, walking around the city, going to the library, and exploring new places. We’re spending more time together and experiencing new things together which is bringing us closer as a family.
Finally, I have found that by owning less, I have more time. More time to devote to things I want to do (like this blog) and less time on things I don’t like doing (like cleaning). That’s a total win in my book.
MINIMALIST FAMILY TIP #2: Think About What’s Really Needed
Honestly, how often do you really stop to think about what stuff you really need in your life? There have been times when I have rarely thought about it and that’s usually when I get sucked up into thinking I need to “keep up with the Joneses”.
But, then I realize that I am getting caught up in the game and take a step back. Think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In it he argues that humans need the following things to thrive (in order of importance):
1. Physical well-being: These are our base needs for survival and include food, water, and shelter
2. Safety: These are things like security and stability in our health and surroundings.
3. Relationships: This includes our friendships, family, and sexual relationships.
4. Self-esteem: This category is where you will find things like our self-worth, confidence, respect from and for others, and our achievements.
5. Self-actualization: The final category and top of the pyramid includes morality, creativity, and problem-solving.
These are the things that we not only need to survive, but that lead to a content and happy life. Notice how a house full of stuff is not on the list? Neither is a room full of toys for your children. We seem to get on just fine without all of the material possessions we’ve been led to believe we HAVE to have.
Now some people have asked me what my thoughts are on screen time. In our modern day, I believe some electronic use is fine. I am okay with my daughter watching a few shows or playing a few games on the iPad. The key is moderation. We try not to have screen time be the first option, but sometimes it’s helpful if she’s out of school and I need to wrap up some work or get dinner on the table. As an only child, she does struggle to play by herself for long periods of time.
Finally, I am not suggesting you take all of your kids toys away or live in a stark white-walled home that looks like a museum. Your kids should still have their favorite toys, games, books, and stuffies. You should still have items in your home that make you happy and you find beautiful. The goal is not to get rid of everything, but to live with the things that bring value to you and your family.
MINIMALIST FAMILY TIP #3: Determine Your Family Values
One of my favorite decluttering for families tips is to ask yourself, “What would I take with me if I only had a backpack?” I have found this to be one of the easiest ways to figure out what your essentials are. The physical items that are essential for me are my computer, phone, headphones, capsule wardrobe module, and some fairly basic toiletries and makeup. I am pretty sure I could survive just fine with these items as long as my family was with me.
You can change this up into a game with your kids and ask them what they would want on an island with them. By making it a game, it can be easier for children to pick out their favorite things instead of asking them to get rid of some of their toys and belongings.
Another good question is, “How much time do we spend cleaning and can we cut that down by eliminating some things?” I hate dusting and by having fewer knick knacks, dusting is not a big deal. It’s easier to wipe down tables and counters and takes me less time.
You can also declutter your time by asking, “What’s something we don’t like and how can we stop doing it?” This is a good way to figure out if there are time-sucks in your life that are also draining your energy. If so, do yourself a favor and let them go.
MINIMALIST FAMILY TIP #4: You Must Earn Your Family’s Participation
The most important thing to remember, is to earn your family’s interest. You cannot shove minimalism down their throats and expect them to enjoy it. If they are skeptical, you will have to win them over and earn their trust with the process.
When my family returns to the States and we finally go through our storage unit, I am anticipating there will be several items I am willing to part with. But, before I ditch them, I will have to make sure that my husband and daughter on on-board too. For instance, before we toss that play kitchen, my daughter will have to say okay.
This is another reason why it is important to put the stop-gap on stuff at the beginning, before it even makes it into your home. Because once, it’s there it is harder to get out. Not impossible, but definitely harder.
The good news is that minimalism with a family is possible. Sure you will have more items than a single 20 year old, but that is OKAY. That is life. The point is not to think of stuff as evil, but remember that having a home full of clutter is a trade-off.
By living as a minimalist family and owning less stuff you can spend more time together as a family, have more room to breathe mentally and physically, increase your attention span, and devote more time to things you enjoy doing. All wonderful reminders!
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