A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Minimalism for Moms

Note: This post originally appeared as a guest post at Becoming Minimalist. Some of you may have already read it but for those of you who didn’t, I thought I’d include it here as well. It’s about tapping into your power as a mom and making a difference in your family through the power of minimalism. It’s one of my favorites. I’d love to hear your comments. P.S. This advice works for dads too.

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As a mom, minimalism originally seemed an unobtainable goal. I thought minimalists either traveled the globe with a single backpack of belongings or had a home with a futon and a single vase on a table…if they even had a table. That kind of minimalism works for some people and I think that’s cool. That kind of freedom must be really empowering. But for me, I have these needy little people running around my house that make it abundantly clear that kind of minimalism isn’t coming to live at my house.

Can minimalism really be applied to a family with kids? Sometimes we jump to conclusions that talk us out of starting. Let’s start with what mommy minimalism doesn’t need to look like.

Mommy Minimalism Doesn’t Have to Mean:

  • Throwing out all the family photos
  • Selling your television, your car, and your couch
  • Owning just one pair of shoes and three interchangeable black outfits.
  • Getting rid of all the toys in the house (even though we’ve all been tempted)
  • Getting rid of all the children in the house (just kidding, but I’ve still been tempted a few times)

When I dove deeper into minimalism and saw the many different ways people were applying minimalism to their lives, I was greatly encouraged. I began to actually believe minimalism could work for me. As I started on my own journey towards minimalism my enthusiasm grew and everywhere I looked I saw where it was desperately needed.

Excess and the Need for Less

Since most of my friends are moms, I began to see the many areas of excess where minimalism could make a real difference:

  • Toys spilling out of bedrooms and taking over living rooms.
  • Drawers of kid clothes so packed that nothing else would fit.
  • Kitchens full of plastic storage containers, useless gadgets, and extra items that never get touched.
  • Schedules jam packed with sports and other extra curricular activities.
  • Weekends filled with obligatory birthday parties from kids at school that you had to go to just because your kid was invited.
  • Families that never seem to have any time spent together because they are all busy doing their own thing.
  • Going into debt for Christmas presents that just end up shoved under a bed or in the next annual garage sale.

Many of these I saw in my own life and in our home. There is just so much excess everywhere – excess debt, excess possessions, and excess scheduling. It’s time for less! Minimalism doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything. It is simply a tangible way of choosing the things that are important and getting rid of the rest.

What Can You Do Today?

If you are sitting there like I was wishing things could be different, then just ask yourself “What can I do today to get to where I want to be?” A mom can’t do everything by herself, but there is actually a lot that we can control and bring back some balance to the family.

  • If you want fewer toys to pick up, walk over to the toy box and start going through those toys.
  • If you want a cleaner, more organized kitchen, go throw away a few of the gadgets you haven’t touched in months.
  • If you want a more cleaned out closet, get rid of the clothes you haven’t worn all season.
  • If you want to get out of debt, cut up your credit cards and go sell something on eBay.
  • If you want to make some family memories, cancel the plans for this weekend and spend it together as a family.

Each family is different and every journey is unique. Different doesn’t mean wrong. Whether you’re here as a seasoned minimalist or a mom still searching for answers on how to address the mess and chaos, we can all learn from each other. I’m glad to have you here.

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Thank you to everyone who answered the short survey on the topics for my next book on Family Minimalism. I got some great feedback and I always love hearing from you guys.

One of the big requests for book topics was “Advice from Other Minimalist Families.” If you are a minimalist family (with or without kids) I have created a short online list of questions that will be featured in my book and I’d love to hear your story.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to Minimalist at Home or share this post on Twitter. Thanks so much for reading!

Article originally published on 01/21/2011

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Comments

  1. Ohhh, you’re SO not being a real minimalist if you say people don’t have to throw out their TV! How dare you mistreat the word minimalism like that?

    Hahaha.. I’m just kidding of course, but I remember how you got these nasty responses when the post appeared for the first time 😉

    I really liked this post (back then and again right now) – because it brings minimalism down to ‘normal people’ level. Like something that’s not only for a radical few, but -on a small scale- attainable for everyone. I agree with the opinion that it’s better to help a lot of people make tiny changes, than to push a handful of people into radical minimalism. There’s much more gained in this way.

    Greetings from the Netherlands!

    • Faith Janes says:

      Thanks for having my back, Jurino. 😉

      I’m a firm believer that minimalism will mean different things for different people…it will even mean different things for the SAME person depending where you are in your life. To some people that takes trashing their TV while to some people it simply means having more family dinners and less hectic schedules.

      I’m all for minimalism for the masses so if a little encouragement and education can do that, then I say bring it on!

  2. I like the post. My husband and I have 3 kids (5-18 in age) and are both self-employed in jobs that require equipment (he trains horses & I’m a photographer), not just writers with laptops. We have a TV, 2 huge trucks, and my kids have plenty of toys, books, and hobby stuff. We’re not anybody’s idea of a true minimalist, but we’re aren’t buried in stuff & activities either. Yes, I want to clear out some of the toys and clothes in their rooms, but I’m doing it a little at a time rather than make it a forced clearing that they hate me for later especially since my 5 yr old is particularly attached to her stuff and has not only hers, but all the hand-me-down toys & clothes from her sisters. Yes, all the large scrapbooks & photo albums feel like clutter a lot of days, but I’m not throwing them away. I did however throw away all the negatives & duplicate photos I’d been holding onto for years. It’s a step. 🙂 But the thing that keeps us sane is that unlike all my friends that spend every hour after work & on weekends running from activity to activity, practice to practice with their kids, is the whole family is involved in only one activity: showing horses. The girls were never forced into it, but they grew up in it and they enjoy it as well. They have friends there & it lets them play hooky from school on a regular basis so it has advantages. 🙂 Even if I were a single person with no kids, I don’t think I would ever fit the version of minimalist that most people think of. I’ve tackled my kitchen, my half of the closet, the entertainment center, and I’m working on my sentimental stuff but it’s going to take a while to scan stuff to let go of the physical version. I knew I could let go of at least some of the sentimental when I ran across the photo box of photos & memorabilia I had saved for my oldest and asked her “would you rather me give you a box of photos or DVD’s of the scanned photos & memorabilia when you get out on your own some day?” She replied, “Honestly, neither one.” Now she may feel differently as she gets older and if she has a family of her own, so I will at least save the photos to DVD in case she changes her mind, but it was nice to know that she felt the same way I did when my mom handed me boxes of stuff from my childhood she’d saved. It was just too much! And while some photos, a few cards, and maybe a newborn outfit are nice to have, boxes of yellowed baby clothes and rotting baby toys/bottles/candy from 1st visit with Santa (EWWW!!!)….well, there’s just not much to be treasured in that. Sorry, that wound up a really long comment!

    • Faith Janes says:

      Thanks for your comment, Kathy. You’re a great example how minimalism can mean different things to different people. There is no substitute for family time, in my opinion. I think it’s awesome that your whole family has an activity you enjoy doing together. Best of luck on your journey to minimalism.

  3. As a mommy-to-be, I enjoy reading your blog to give me a sense of perspective about what things I want to be a part of my family’s life. I’m curious why you encourage your readers in this post to throw things away. Minimalism should out of a desire to be socially and environmentally responsible–not just uncluttered.

    Why not remind your readers that friends and neighbors can often really use items they don’t use anymore? I’ve received many valuable gifts of clothing and baby items from families who aren’t planning any new additions.

    No friends or neighbors in need? Why not donate to a local Goodwill? (http://locator.goodwill.org/) The people who shop at Goodwill often genuinely need the things your family doesn’t have space for. And the profits go to employing people in need!

    No need to clutter up a landfill when you can do some good with your excess stuff!

    • Faith Janes says:

      I certainly agree with donating what you can or blessing friends and family. When i say “get rid of” something I mean by any means necessary. We have certainly overwhelmed many a Goodwill drop off throughout our cleaning out process. In reality though, some things just aren’t good enough to donate. Goodwill typically has a list of things they won’t accept plus somethings are just trash. The amount of hidden trash we accumulate is crazy.

      Thanks for commenting. It never hurts to be reminded to bless others when you can.

  4. That’s exactly why I don’t call myself a minimalist. The so-called definition is too strict for a family with 2 young kids. Thanks for re-defining minimalism in such a doable and realistic manner.

  5. I am a mom, but my kids are almost grown. The youngest are 18 and 20, but still at home. I will never *be* a minimalist, but I like to say I am on the road to minimalism. I just think it will be a personal decision as to when we have *arrived*. I am loving clearing out all the years of stuff that have been accumulating around here. I wish that I had done it years ago. Life is so much easier without as much stuff!
    Bernice
    Getting the respect you deserve

  6. I love this article. I am a mom of 4, and I consider myself a minimalist. I have spent a year taking at least a hundred bags out of my house to donate to Goodwill. I have a 5 minute w/ a blowdryer hairstyle, one soap for everything, one lotion for everything, one mini purse, 8 pairs of shoes, and about 40 pcs of clothing. I only wear 2 pieces of jewelry, for everything I do I try to do it with the least amount of stuff necessary. At the same time, I have a 2300 sq ft home, a minivan, actual furniture and a tv. 🙂 You can be a mom, have a big family, and still be a minimalist. Thank you for writing this!

  7. LOVE this post!

  8. I know this is an old post, but thank you for reposting it. I am just starting to record our family’s journey (and I guess, my own personal journey) over on my blog. I too have wondered if minimalist blogs are taken up by a bunch of rich white men! It’s good to see some other female voices out there 🙂

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