For my upcoming book Family Sized Minimalism, I interviewed over a dozen minimalist families. I asked them lots of questions including:
- What is your personal “why” for choosing minimalism?
- What has been the hardest area of your family life to apply minimalism to?
- What advice do you have for discouraged and struggling minimalists?
To give you a little peek into the new book and what they had to say, I’m including their replies to the question:
How is living a minimalist lifestyle different
when you have a family?
This is what they had to say. I hope you enjoy reading their insights as much as I did.
It’s absolutely tougher. And it’s absolutely more important. It’s always easier to see someone else’s clutter (or any bad habit really) than our own. This is magnified because family members are so close and live under the same roof. Their clutter becomes even more apparent. Compromise is an absolutely essential word to learn especially in dealing with kids. They are still observing and learning. I realize that minimalism has allowed our family to be closer and has brought numerous other benefits into my life because I’ve tried living the other way and found it lacking. My kids, on the other hand, are still just trying to figure things out.
Because my shift towards a more minimalistic lifestyle came when my daughter was a teen, I had to consider how it would affect her. I could see the long term benefits, but wanted to be sure that I didn’t make any radical changes to disturb her life. When you have children, you have to think about their needs first.
It’s an entirely different world for minimalist families because you have family who want to shower your kids with gifts any chance they get. This makes the giver feel good and I never want to take that away from them. So, I just share with them different ways to give (college fund donation) that doesn’t clutter the house with more clothes, toys, etc. that he’ll most likely use a couple of times. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t (this past Christmas!).
In their first year of life children grow out of at least four different sizes of clothing. Toys and books that amuse and delight a one year old are old hat to a three year old. There are so many valid reasons for having a lot of things when you have children. It’s challenging, but not impossible, to lead a less cluttered and more minimalist lifestyle when you have children.
It really shouldn’t be any different, apart from the fact that most radical minimalists like their freedom. With that, I mean the freedom to go wherever they want, whenever they want. When you have children, you will be stuck to school holidays (at least around here, since homeschooling is illegal). That’s the only thing, really. Children are extremely flexible and will thrive in almost any lifestyle. If you explain to your children why you chose to live with ‘less stuff than most people’ and why you think it’s better, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about peer pressure either. I’ve found that children are all born idealists, it’s the years and years of trying to ‘make them’ become normal, responsible adults that ruins this.
With a family, you can’t just live out of a backpack and travel all the time and your form of income be writing on a laptop. With kids, of course there is more stuff: clothes, toys, books, activities . . . and they require some stablility as far as living arrangements. Most families seem to have TV, DVD’s, video games, and board games. You can be minimalist and still have those things, I believe, as long as you don’t let them take over your lives or your house.
There is more of everything. When you have children (I have two), you have to think about their needs as well. It’s also a fine line to walk between eliminating excess in YOUR life, and eliminating excess in THEIR life – especially when you are guilty of putting the excess there to begin with. I don’t force my children to get rid of anything. They see my example, and can make a decision for themselves. At the same time, I am teaching them principles that will hopefully prevent them from having the extreme amount of excess that I once had as well.
Kids have junk – they have toys, diapers, lots of clothes (since they are always growing) — so it is impossible to get rid of everything even though you might like to. Also, in a marriage – you can’t force your partner to get rid of things. You have to make space for their things. I operate by setting an example – decluttering my own closet and personal belongings to set a positive example.
BOOK UPDATE: I’m getting really excited seeing the book come together. One of my favorite parts turned out to be the interview section. If you’re like me, it’s always encouraging to know you aren’t the only one striving for simplicity and it’s fun to hear how other families are doing it.
The book is still scheduled to be launched on March 14th. I’ll be emailing out a special discount code to everyone on my new mailing list. I only plan to use this for occasional updates and special offers. You can sign up now on the side of the page. (If you already signed up to receive blog posts via email, you may already be on the list. You’ll get a notice if you are.)
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photo by simmbarb
Article originally published on 02/16/2011