A Simple Approach to Living With Less

How is Family-Sized Minimalism Different?

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.

Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist

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.

Courtney Carver from Be More With Less

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.

Eric LaForest from Elevated Simplicity

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!).

Rachel Jonat from The Minimalist Mom

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.

Jurino Ignacio from Jurino.com

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.

Kathy Austin from Kathy Austin Show Photos

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.

Dr. Laura Aridgides from Who Is Laura

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.

Clara Ohannes from The Educated Life

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.)

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for updates to Minimalist at Home or follow me on Twitter. The only way my blog reaches more people is if you Tweet it, Like it on Facebook, link to me from your blog, or email it to your friends. Thanks so much for reading!

photo by simmbarb

Article originally published on 02/16/2011

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  1. Faith, I can’t wait to read more and thanks for including my two cents. I’m honored!

    Dr. Laura

  2. I am at a tough spot as we are trying to minimize our expenditures and pay off some debt, after 3 years of both hubby and I being employed at good jobs. Our youngest daughter is turning 18 in April and got a little bit spoiled. We spent more on her than our older 3 kids because we actually had it to spend. Since I left my job last summer it has been diifficult for her to grasp the fact that we cannot and will not pay for everything for her. It is a difficult adjustment for her to make, but she is also old enough to understand, even if she doesn’t want to.
    I am looking forward to the book!
    The world really IS at our fingertips!

  3. As a family we are now entering the tough phase. First born is now in her second year at state school, and growing up. It’s going to be interesting treading that fine line between simplification and deprivation. I don’t want my children to miss out, but to me that actually means a simpler life so they do not miss out on what is important. Hard to explain to a child but I know long term it’s the way to go. My two-year anniversary of life simplification is just 10 days away and I will be posting our story as part of a ‘faminimalism’ series on that day. I’m hoping to include other stories after mine and have two guest posts lined up. Faith please do let me know if you would like to contribute your story, or if any one else reading this would like to – I would be honoured to feature like-minded families stories on my blog. Looking forward to seeing your e-book come out. Jo

  4. I’m excited to read your new book as well- I have 2 small children (age 1 and 2) and seem to be buried in their stuff. My minimalist journey is just starting, so I’m glad this is coming at a great time!

  5. I love simplistic family round ups Faith! Most people think minimalism and family is a paradox, but posts like these show people that simplifying with a family is possible.

    Thanks for including me as always!


  6. I’m looking forward to your ebook, Faith! I started my minimalist journey because I wanted more quality time with my family – they inspired this whole process. But it’s a struggle to impart minimalist values to our kids when their friends have so much stuff and when it’s natural for kids to compare themselves to others, to solidify their place in the world. But my 7 year old is beginning to understand the concepts of clutter (watching Enough Already with Peter Walsh helps!), having enough time & simplicity. The steps we’ve taken so far have helped though & we’re encouraged to do more!

  7. I’m in Melbourne, Australia, and my kids are 10 (girl) and 8 (boy). We have decluttered a great deal of their stuff over the past couple of years, though I wouldn’t call us minimalists; more advocates for simple living. They still have around 200 books each (we’re avid readers AND library users) but have very few toys. My son is addicted to Lego, but must save his b’day and Christmas money and buy it himself. They really have not been ‘deprived’ in any way, nor feel any material lack, and can happily amuse themselves with literally a ball and a stick (though we have cricket bats, netball, golf clubs, etc., as well). I figure it is one of the best gifts I can give them: the ability to make something out of nothing and to NEVER be bored!

    Love your blog.

  8. Love the statements and they whys. Will the book include the hows?


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