Note: This is a guest post from Zoë Kim of The Minimalist Plate.
Seven years ago, my husband was in the military. During one deployment to Africa, despite our careful planning, the kids and I were left alone to pack up and move everything while he was gone.
“You never realize how much stuff you have until you try to put it in a box,” Allison Fallon once said. Or in my case, until you try to put it in a box for the 10th time with kids in tow.
It was during this move that the real cost of my clutter started becoming painfully obvious. In this stress and overwhelm, my desire for simplicity was born.
At every opportunity, I peeled away the layers of my clutter—the broken stuff, the perfectly good stuff, and the sentimental stuff.
Eventually, my useful things now all had a home with room to breathe! With an uncluttered home, I spent less time looking for and taking care of my things and more time doing things I love. And, yet still, there was clutter.
Hadn’t I gotten rid of all my clutter? Indeed I had. But I was learning, as Eleanor Brownn once said, “Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships, and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.”
Clutter. Busyness. Overwhelm.
Clutter takes many forms—it finds its way onto our calendars and to-do lists, it leads us to Pinterest perfection, fear of missing out, mindless scrolling, and constant discontent. Clutter is anything—good, bad, or indifferent—that distracts you from a more meaningful and intentional life.
What’s the first step? Less. When your family is living in the land of tired-busy-and-overwhelmed, the first step is almost always less.
Minimalism isn’t just reserved for the single, the college student, the baby boomers, and people who seem to live a less complicated life than you do. Minimalism is for everyone, for families: small families, large families, especially for families.
Families need minimalism too.
It’s Time for Calm.
In a survey of a thousand families, Ellen Galinsky, the head of the Families and Work Institute, asked children, “If you were granted one wish about your parents, what would it be?” Most parents thought their kids would say spending more time with them, but they were wrong. The kids’ number one wish was that their parents were less tired and less stressed.
Studies have shown that parental stress depletes their immune systems, weakens children’s brains, and increases their risk of obesity and mental illness just to name a few.
Becoming a minimalist family helps you and your kids let go of the things creating undue stress in your family’s lives.
It’s Time to Stop Doing It All.
If your family is living like it’s an iPhone—always on, always connected, with an app for whatever needs to be done—you’re sure to be drained.
The desire to do more keeps our family doing just that—more—counting the things we do instead of doing the things that count.
So let’s say we start saying “no” to always being connected, and always doing, and honor each other’s right to do the same?
Denaye Barahona Ph.D., a Family Wellness expert at Simple Families and author of the foreword for my new book, says, “The world our children are growing up in today isn’t just cluttered, it’s chaotic. The chaos is leading to an epidemic of stress and anxiety in childhood.”
Becoming a minimalist family gives you the tools to filter out the clutter and chaos causing stress and anxiety in your child’s life. Isn’t that a worthwhile cause?
It’s Time to Stop Being Broke.
“If time is money, then I’m broke. I think a lot of us are.” — Jeff Shinabarger.
And by our own accounts, many families are broke, time-wise. What is the most common short answer to the question, how are you? Busy. Tired. (Or both!)
The world says a successful family has the perfect house, obedient and adorable children excelling in multiple extracurricular activities, parents doing it all perfectly (just like advertisements show us) while climbing their career ladder flawlessly.
Where does this successful-family-focus often lead us? Broke in our busyness—spending time working to have things we won’t have time to enjoy. Why are we doing this?
No family says, “Our goal is to raise our family spending more time pursuing status, possessions and money, and less time on relationships, contribution, purpose or faith.” Yet sadly, many of us live that way only to realize later how backward we had it.
Becoming a minimalist family helps you see (and have time for) what really matters.
It’s Time for Gratitude.
Gratitude helps us appreciate the value of something and the things we already have. It’s hard to want more things you don’t need when you’re resting in gratitude. Gratitude sounds more like, “I have more than enough. I’m going to give some more away.”
As a family, maybe the only thing we really need is more gratitude.
It’s Time for a Healthier Diet.
If you’re juggling the needs of others while living in clutter and overwhelm, it’s likely affecting your family’s diet.
A recent study found that participants in an orderly environment chose healthier snacks than those in a cluttered environment.
As Dr. Eva Shalom explains, “Clutter is stressful for the brain, so you’re more likely to resort to coping mechanisms such as choosing comfort foods or overeating than if you spend time in neater surroundings.”
It’s Time to Get Organized.
The National Association of Professional Organizers reports we spend one year of our lives looking for lost items. It’s time to get organized once and for real! And I couldn’t agree more with The Minimalists when they said, “The easiest way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it.”
The truth is most of us don’t have an organization problem; we have an own-too-much-stuff-problem. (tweet that)
It’s Time for Better Relationships.
Relationships are a bedrock for living well, and healthy families are an essential element of any healthy society. Our family plays a defining role in teaching us how to connect and contribute to society.
Clutter and busyness distract our attention from the present moment. When you have a family, this means you’re distracted from the important moments with your family. Relationships suffer when we spend too much time plugged into all the wrong connections.
A minimalist life holds benefits for everyone—especially for those of us with families. Giving up excess stuff is always a gain—more time, space, and energy to pursue our purpose, passion, and meaningful connections with those we love.
If your family struggles to stay organized and clutter-free, I’ve written a book just for you. It’s called Minimalism for Families and it will help you begin and continue living a minimalist lifestyle with your family.
Here’s to you and every family making room for what matter most. In your home, in your mind, and in your heart.
Zoë Kim blogs at The Minimalist Plate where she inspires others to live an intentional life by owning less, creating new habits, and cultivating opportunities to give.
Her new book, Minimalism for Families, comes with a whole bunch of family-based bonuses if you pre-order now. I was happy to provide an endorsement for it.