When I first heard the idea of minimalism, I was newly married and living in an RV to pay off debt. Life was simpler and the idea of getting rid of most of our stuff felt…freeing. We purged about 80% of our things when we had our first baby. Now that we have four kids, I feel like we’ve finally figured out how to become a minimalist family.
The first thing I did when I heard of minimalism was roll my eyes. Can you *actually* live with just 5 shirts??
Then I started digging into it a little deeper and fell down a rabbit hole.
It turns out, minimalism is kind of easy when you’re single and living in an apartment.
But 6 or 7 years ago, no one was really talking about how hard it is to declutter and donate a house full of things when there are lots of other people with opinions living there.
Is It Possible to Become a Minimalist with Kids?
Yes. In fact, I would argue it’s necessary.
The times in my kids’ short lives that I’ve been the most stressed (and consequently, the least patient with them) was when our house was cluttered and we were weighed down by “stuff.”
I’ll take this moment to stress one very important thing – minimalism is supposed to make your life more stress-free and enjoyable.
Please please please, don’t set your sights on minimalism and stress your kids out in the process.
Imagine as a kid that your mom gets on a minimalism high-horse and demands that you donate 90% of your toys.
Instead of trying to launch into full-blown minimalism overnight, I feel based on our experience with our own kids, that the right way to do it is one step at a time.
Get rid of the broken toys or the ones missing pieces.
Implement a toy rotation system that doesn’t force your kids to say goodbye to the majority of their toys forever.
It really is possible to take minimalism for a test drive to experience the benefits without having to convince all of your family members – especially the tiniest ones.
How to Get Your Spouse on Board with Minimalism
I feel qualified to speak to this because I was the stubborn partner in our marriage refusing to declutter all of our things.
My husband thought minimalism was a no-brainer.
I thought he was trying to give away everything we’d worked so hard for.
I looked around at all of the things we had and, even though we’re a middle class family without tons of expensive things, felt like we’d be starting over.
If you have a spouse that refuses to entertain the idea of getting rid of all of their stuff, hear me out.
They aren’t trying to make you miserable or throw a wrench into their plans.
They’re probably just thinking like I was. That they had to defend the right to keep every single thing because their determined spouse might get rid of everything.
That’s how I felt at least.
If I didn’t demand to keep every random purchase I’d ever made at a garage sale, my husband would happily sell it or throw it away.
That’s how it looked at the time from my place of high anxiety.
What I came to realize after lots of (years worth!) patience from my husband, is that minimalism is actually the opposite of going without.
If you have a spouse that refuses to get on board with minimalism, ask them if they’d be willing to take minimalism for a test drive.
When they see the benefits of living with less, I’m positive they’ll be hooked.
Minimizing our belongings has given me the ability to do so much more.
To enjoy time with my kids instead of relentlessly managing all of our “stuff.”
We can go on vacation without stressing about coming home to a complete disaster.
To pick an outfit out of my closet without combing through dozens of things that might fit again someday.
The First Step to Becoming a Minimalist with a Family
The first step is to realize you’re never going to be a perfect minimalist.
There will always be clothes to be donated and kitchen gadgets to be given away.
You will still somehow accumulate things without ever meaning to because you aren’t the only one living in your household.
When the pressure of perfection is off, you can simply get started.
The easiest place to start with family minimalism is the kitchen.
It’s the room that everyone uses, but almost no one is overly attached to that third or fourth can opener in the junk drawer.
It’s also a focal point in your house. It will be almost impossible to minimize the kitchen without everyone noticing what a huge difference it makes.
In my opinion, minimizing the kitchen is the first step to getting everyone in your house on board with becoming more minimalist.
Small Changes to Become a Minimalist Family
The next step is to just commit.
Decide now to stop adding to the clutter and to become extremely intentional about anything you bring into your home.
Before buying something, decide if you’re buying it just because you think it’s a good deal, or because it’s something you actually NEED.
Do you have something else that serves the same purpose?
At the height of my decluttering, I donated our ice cream scoop because I decided a spoon works just as well.
When I’m about to devour a pint of ice cream after a hard day, I still look for the stupid ice cream scoop. On a normal day, I don’t really miss it.
Refuse to buy gadgets or single use items.
Getting your shopping under control is one of the biggest steps to minimalism, but the one no one really talks about.
Stop shopping for convenience or comfort.
As you get farther along in your minimalism journey, decluttering will give you the same high that shopping once did.
You’ll find yourself looking around wondering what else you can get rid of, I promise!
A Quick Step-By-Step Guide to Family Minimalism
Once you’ve dedicated yourself to not adding to the clutter, take these quick steps to make a big difference in your minimalism journey.
These are the exact steps I took.
- Donate all duplicates. Literally the ONLY thing we’ve had to replace is our second can opener so my husband could take one in his lunch sometimes.
- Turn all of your hangers around in your closet so the opening is facing you when you open your closet doors. Set a reminder in your phone for a year from now. When you hang up your clothes going forward, hang them the correct way. In a year when that reminder goes off, donate everything you haven’t worn. Chances are, if you haven’t worn that outfit in the last year, you never will. I have maybe 7 short sleeved shirts left and zero regrets.
- Quarantine the paper clutter – I put all of our paperwork into a bin. All of it. I go through it as I can and manage the papers that come in, but now I know where any paper is that I could ever need.
- Donate almost everything you’re keeping for your “maybe baby.” I was keeping every single article of baby clothing and every single toy just in case we have another one. I set a timer for an hour, quickly dug out every favorite outfit I couldn’t part with, and donated everything else. All 9 lawn and garden bags full of it.
- Focus ONLY on decluttering. Don’t try to organize as you go. What they say about minimalism being like an onion really is true. Minimalism and decluttering happen in layers. Don’t waste your time trying to organize things that may not end up staying. When you can say “I think we’re just about done decluttering…” you’ll know it’s time to organize.
- Remember, no matter what happens, buying bins and baskets will NOT make you a minimalist! See rule #5.
Minimalist Toys – What to Keep
I have written an extensive post about what toys to keep on your journey to minimalism.
Something I think you may need to hear is advice I heard from the Minimal Mom on Youtube that has really stuck with me.
The life of the item you’re hanging onto “just in case” is expiring whether you use it or not.
Hear me out.
What if you donated or sold that toy to someone else?
How hard would it be to replace?
What if you leave it in your garage for months or years and it gets broken?
The life of that toy was now spent in storage instead of being used by someone else all because you couldn’t bring yourself to part with it.
It didn’t benefit your kids or anyone else’s.
It’s a tough love stance that really clicked with me and might resonate with you too.
In fact, it applies to all areas of your home.
If you aren’t going to use something in the immediate future, forgive yourself for buying it, and then LET IT GO.
Minimalism is a journey. It also has no defined parameters. You’re a minimalist when YOU say you’re a minimalist.
No matter what, a simplified home, minimalist or not, is going to equal a happier, less stressed family.
Just start. I promise it’s worth it.