Minimalism for Moms

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Faith Janes of Minimalist at Home.

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 is Not:

  • 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. Tap into your power as a mom and accomplish something great for your family today.

***

Faith is a mom of three who hopes to inspire mothers to pursue “less mess and more time.” You can find her blog at Minimalist Moms or follow her on Twitter.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

Follow on TwitterLike on Facebook

Comments

  1. says

    What a great post! I couldn’t agree more that families today can easily get so overwhelmed with “stuff” and “to do’s” that it can have a serious negative impact. But as you say, Mom’s can make all the difference! As a mom, professional organizer, and blogger, I’ve decided to do just that. Thanks, and keep up the terrific posts!

  2. says

    I think anyone with children knows how under-represented family minimalism is in this movement. It’s an overwhelmingly “young” movement, almost defined by living anywhere, with nothing (except for the ubiquitous apple accessories), and no solid commitments. I’m so happy to see more family minimalists blogging about their experiences, particularly with children. People need to know that they can do this with kids – and teach their kids about having too much into the bargain. Great post.

    • says

      It is definitely a bigger battle to take on when you’re striving for family sized minimalism. But that just makes the victories that much sweeter when you realize the lessons you’re learning along with your children.

  3. Melissa says

    Bingo! Thanks for this post! I think it is so important for families to learn about minimalism so that we can teach our children how to focus on what is really important. Children are very often targets of overt consumerism, which is so sad. I am trying desparately to raise my two peeps in such a way that they are confident in their own values and don’t need a lot of possessions to feel secure.

    • says

      I couldn’t agree more about children being targets of consumerism. It seems like a natural progression that we’ve been taught. Children = mountains of toys! I wish I had learned about the benefits of minimalism before I had children because it can be hard to make this kind of mental shift. It is hard but definitely not impossible. In fact, it feels great!

      • Kat says

        Our struggle is that my husband and I are minimalists – we don’t like having a lot of things – just a few good quality standards. We don’t bombard our kids with toys for the sake of having them. We don’t buy a ton of kitchen gadgets – if it’s been done for centuries without a gadget, they probably got it right. BUT our extended family (parents, aunts, etc) are the complete opposite. Sometimes we come home and there’s a box at the door addressed to my 5 year old from aunt so-and-so who just couldn’t help but buy here a bunch of cute clothes and send it up. I truly appreciate that people care enough about our kids to want to send them lovely gifts.. I just wish they cared enough to stop! Haha… any suggestions for minimalists who are drowning in the crap other people keep giving us?? Without turning into ungrateful receivers of gifts?

  4. says

    I’m glad to see someone write about this! It’s true that if I lived by myself, I’d be the type with a table I used as a desk/dining table/coffee table (wait, okay, I already do that) but as a mother (and a wife), I have to contend with the fact that my son deserves his own space too.

    Something that helped me was giving him a designated storage space for his toys and anything that didn’t fit, I donated. (With a few exceptions, because his Batman trike he got for Christmas is just not going to fit in a toy box.) My mother laughed at the idea but now she’s impressed that I did it…and at the amount of toys he still has.

    I have no idea why I’m still typing. Good morning! ;)

    • says

      Thanks for reading, Lynn. Designated storage space is important for sure. One lesson I had to learn the hard way was to decide on the storage space first and then decide the appropriate amount of toys that will fit. With all the great storage options available it’s easy to allow too many toys to stay around just because we have cute containers to put them in.

  5. says

    Faith,
    You really have hit the nail on the head that minimalism is defined by each person and family. My family is about grown, ages 28-17, and the 2 youngest 17 & 19 still at home, so I am beyond that “house full of kids” stage (unless my 7 grands come to visit, lol!) When they were younger and we homeschooled, we did have quite a bit of stuff, books, etc, but we had never been ones for accumulating lots of “toys”. My son had legos, my daughter had her plastic horses and my other daughter her books. We limited their activities to what they were passionate about and at times had the younger 3 involved in the same activity to reduce busyness. Being part of a community theater was time consuming, but having all 3 a part worked out well!
    I think one of the most important words in the whole definition of minimalism is “intentional”. It is making decisions about life and not just taking what you are handed!
    Bernice
    http://bernicewood.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/the-cure-for-the-american-dream/

  6. says

    What a great post! Actually, being a mom is what got me into minimalism at first. Now that my kids are teenagers, we tend to go toward a “digital minimalism”, meaning less computer games, less MSN, less cellular phones calls to friends, … And less clothes, and less shopping!
    Wish you all the joy in the world with your family!

  7. says

    Great post! As the mom of 4 (now grown) children, I realized I had to limit the number of activities my kids were involved in. We chose to limit each child to ONE extra activity. It helped to make our home life less insanely busy. Thanks for passing these ideas on to minimalist families!

  8. says

    When I go to a house that has kids I can’t help but wonder why they need all those toys. They have an entire room devoted to toys that likely only get used a few times before being forgotten about. I’ve found that kids can be entertained with just about anything, you just have to have an imagination.

    • says

      You’re so right, Jenny…kids can have fun with almost anything. It’s a pretty common joke that kids would rather play with the boxes that a present comes in instead of the present itself. That should tell us something about simplifying!

  9. says

    I completely agree with this. We just moved into a smaller place and have hardly any storage area. My rule? If we haven’t used it in the past 6 months, you probably won’t miss it and it goes in the garage sale pile. We’ve already gotten rid of 4 boxes worth of stuff. I’m actually happier with less “things” and we have more money to actually “do” things.

  10. says

    Hi Faith – My favorite part of this post was the list of “nots.” I laughed, so thank you!

    Your tips are helpful without being too hard. Nice work. I’ll be sure to check out your blog next.
    xoxo
    Melissa

  11. Annabelle says

    Love this post!!! Minimalism with small kids IS VERY POSSIBLE!!! We do it. We’ve been doing it since the kids were babies!!! My kids are now 6 and 7, and LOVE to volunteer at a local thrift store (one afternoon after school per week). If they are offered a ‘free’ toy for helping out, they say, “No thank you, I’m here to give, not get.” Our house is clean, our closets are NOT stuffed – clothes are minimal and easy to find an outfit/item to wear (fewer laundry loads); clean-up for the kids is a breeze (limited number of toys), they each get one sport per school semester to do, plus homeschooled music lessons and Sunday a.m. church. We travel very light (husband backpack, kids share a small bag, and my small bag on wheels). We entertain and have friends over ALL THE TIME and the kids use their imaginations and play play play! Holidays/birthdays are simple, yet fun. This year the kids made their own birthday cakes, then decorated them! We had a blast! These are just a few examples! Minimalism is SOOOO wonderful!

  12. Pat says

    This post is great. Really hit the nail on the head. My kids are grown, but that was our lifestyle, we lived the “life of excess”. Yuck, wish I knew then what I know now! I really applaud people for taking back their lives and families. At least now I can guide my “kids” in a different direction as they are older, to slow down and enjoy llife. Not to work hard for crap that nobody cares about in the end anyway.

  13. says

    Hi Faith,
    Glad to see you posting here – I’ve been following your site! At first, I too didn’t understand how minimalism could work for me – I have only one daughter, who will be 2 in February, but she already has acquired *so*much*stuff* in her short time on earth! It’s hard to tell grandparents, for whom this is their first grandchild, to stop bringing over a new toy or a new item of clothing every visit, and I do not want to take away their joy of doting on their little princess. So, I have become more vigilant in cleaning out toys that she doesn’t play with or that are worn out, torn, or otherwise in bad shape (unusable for future kids). It’s a constant battle, and we still save a lot for the future since she’s our first — but I’m able to keep a better handle on it now. I understand why it’s important to simplify her stuff, and the stuff my husband and I own, and what a wonderful feeling it is to live with just enough, rather than too much. Plus, we’ve initiated the use of gift lists — stuff we all need, or really want, that I know will be loved and used. I have learned to be more intentional with any purchases I make and we are on our way to at least really knowing what we all own and why we own those things — so that we can eliminate anything that is unused and creating excess clutter. Thanks for the reminder that minimalism IS possible with kids — it’s all about gaining the tools to declutter our lives and homes in order to be able to focus on what is most important: family!

  14. says

    Wonderful article! We are constantly purging around here it seems and it always feels good to share what we no longer need with others or to simply give it away to Goodwill. Stuff does not equal freedom and yet it seems that the secular society says, “buy more and you’ll be happier!”.

    Love your take on this topic. :)

    • says

      Haha, thank you! Yeah, despite what the royal flaming I received yesterday, I wasn’t attacking you, Faith! I think this is a great guide for beginners, I simply felt it was missing a lot in regards to values associated with minimalism. Values and minimalism, granted, is an area I spend much time discussing. Good luck with everything.

  15. says

    Great post. I have two kids, ages 4 and 5, and they are already starting to understand that they don’t like having too much stuff. Now when they want a new toy (usually when we go to Goodwill or other resale shop) they know that we have to give one of their toys away when we get home to make room.

    I have found that too many toys were just getting in the way of their enjoyment of the toys they really loved. They are much happier now to have the extra room to spread out and enjoy the special toys they do have.

  16. says

    As a mom in a step family with kids constantly coming and going in and out of the house, being a minimalist is a struggle. We can’t control all of the aspects of our children’s lives. We only get to control a portion of their week. We do what we can to set a good example when they are with us.

    My husband and I would love to sell the big house and move into something smaller, but the kids need to stay in the same district. We are cutting back and simplifying where we can, and are nowhere close to being fully minimalist. We have goals and plans for the future, and are doing what we can now. We see living more simply as a journey.

    I’d love to hear from blended families that are on the minimalist journey too. http://plainandsimpleme.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/too-much-stuff/

    • says

      In my mind, becoming minimalist and staying minimalist is always going to be a struggle as long as kids are in the house. I’m sure being a blended family brings its own set of challenges. Your family’s version doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s version of minimalism. Just by being aware of the changes you ARE able to make will end up making a bigger impact on your family that you might initially realize. Good luck on your journey!

  17. says

    Very balanced presentation! This has been on my heart, too. We have seven children, one is now married, but all the rest still live at home. There was even a year when we had an extra young lady living with us. Having this many people living in our home exacerbates this problem. I usually have the kids, at least once a year, take everything out of their rooms, except the furniture, and tell them to only put the things back in that they love and use. It’s amazing how much can accumulate!

  18. says

    Nice post :).
    I don’t consider myself as an extreem minimalist, but I have three children (0, 4 and 6 yrs) and we don’t have a couch (in the living room, we do have one that’s also a bed that we use for guests. We don’t use it ourselfs) tv or car. It’s probably easier for us. We live in a bike-friendly country.

  19. Lauren says

    I’m so happy to see that I’m not weird like I always thought I was. People can’t believe I go through my daughter’s toys every month and get rid of/donate or that she only has one (big) bucket of toys and no more (besides stuff like her kitchen or rocking horse).

    Its so hard not to feel guilty about it being that I am a young mom. Sometimes I feel self concious that people think my daughter doesn’t have a million toys, or go to moms morning out plus dance plus music plus storytime plus plus….or that I committed to not buying her new clothes for the winter because I can’t provide as much for her. Its not that we can’t, its just that she has enough. Her birthday is right after Christmas, there will be no shortage of toys for the winter. I hate being so busy I can’t remember what we have done all day, and I don’t like spending the money on all these “classes” that I don’t feel like she needs. I have a friend who gave me SO many wonderful hand me downs for the winter, that she doesn’t NEED any extra clothes.

    I really have to work at my keeping up with the Jones’ impulses when it comes to Mallory. Ofcourse we want our children to have the best of everything, so I’m still learning how to balance that all. I’m hoping I can check out your site for some inspiration.

  20. christine says

    Lauren, I feel your pain. I am, too, working on getting “sucked in” to keeping up with everyone else. I feel that since they are little, 3 and 5, I can have a stronger impact now than when they are caught up with what their friends have at school. I purposely only sign my 5 year old for one activity at a time. My 3 year old isn’t really into anything enough that warrants a paid program. We have much more fun supporting the kids interests at home. For example, he loves birds so we got bird feeders, pulled out our bird identification book and put it in a basket by the window with binoculars that we bought at a consignment store. Both my kids love it!

    I really enjoy this forum. I am just starting up a blog and can only hope I can touch as many people.

  21. says

    im not a mom but thanks for the ideas about less clutter and clothes, i have most of my xl clothes ready to give away and altering to large and mediums still have to go through all clothes and add in my new clothes . I like to use baskets and or storage units also for magazines i just tear out the articles i like and then recycle the magazines

  22. says

    This post made me fondly (yes! fondly!) remember my 10th birthday, when my parents led a very loving minimalization event that repeated upon my sister’s tenth birthday. Since my age “wasn’t in single-digits anymore,” I was asked to choose one toy to keep while the rest were taken in for donation to less-fortunate kids. I picked my Legos, and mourned the rest…for perhaps a month. Kids are incredibly adept natural minimalists, and we oughta encourage it! :)

  23. says

    Dads can comment too, right? We are a family of four that works, paints, goes to karate, art, cricket, horse riding etc, you get the picture. About a month ago we started blocking out Sundays for family time. We go nowhere, we see non -one. We just get up, hang out in our pajamas, talk, read and play. It really works for us. Try it.

  24. says

    My husband and I have really been working toward a lot of these things lately. Your article here is a great refreshing reminder of some of the things we want to accomplish!

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Minimalism for Moms | January 21, 2011
  2. Loves of Life | December 28, 2011

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *