Family minimalism has been a big part of our simplifying process, and I know it can help your family too!
The first two years of our marriage we lived in a small 500 square foot, two bedroom apartment. When we first moved in we designated the extra bedroom as our office room. It quickly became filled with stuff. We’d inherited a lot of furniture and other things from my parents house, and since we were newly married and didn’t have much, our siblings and others gave us lots of stuff they were getting rid of. We love a good deal and couldn’t say no to free stuff, so we kept saying yes.
But over time, the stuff piled up and we ran out of storage room. Our small kitchen held so many cooking appliances that you could barely see the counter. It seemed like every nook and cranny had a pile or box shoved in it. We were careful to live within our financial means, but we were definitely living outside our storage means.
Next we moved into a 2500 square foot home in Minnesota. Again, kind people gave us anything and everything they were getting rid of. Again, we appreciated it. But before long parts of our house, particularly our playroom, felt like they were bursting at the seams again. And then it all kind of hit the fan. I was sick of spending my whole day cleaning and feeling like I’d gotten nowhere. So I hit the internet looking for solutions.
Finding family minimalism
I’d heard of minimalism and was intrigued. But it didn’t seem to fit for us. As a mom of two, I wasn’t ready to only own what I could fit in my car. I didn’t think it was realistic to downsize to the size of a carry-on, and I certainly didn’t want to live in an empty 2500 square foot house. Marie Kondo wasn’t much help either, because my wardrobe was already quite pared down, and dealing with my clothing really wasn’t my main struggle. I also, on no level, related to keeping only what “sparks joy.” Especially in parenting, there are a lot of things I need that don’t spark joy. Nipple cream? No thank you. Diapers? I could skip them. Peri bottles for postpartum care? Nope.
Finding The Minimal Mom on Youtube was a game changer. She has 4 kids, a fairly small home, and has found a way to make minimalism work for her family. Here was someone I could relate to. Someone that could show me what my life could eventually look like. Someone who, like me, had a really hard time managing the stuff they had. And she’d found a reasonable solution. (To see a tour of their minimalist family house, click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnRwtQ3_wG4&t=15s)
The Onion Method
So I started in, using what she refers to as the onion method. Layer by layer throughout my whole house, I got rid of anything I felt comfortable parting with. I started with toys. I cleared out most of the larger play things, unless they were things that were used at least every few days. Anything that was falling apart or didn’t fit into categories I designated got kicked out (more on that to come in another post).
You’ll never believe what happened. The playroom that was bursting at the seams and rarely got good use was suddenly one of the favorite rooms in the house. My kids actually started playing with their toys. And I didn’t hate cleaning up after their play anymore.
Next I moved to the living areas. End tables were the first things to go here. Excess flat surfaces are the enemy to family minimalism. They tend to collect clutter from all over the house. Of course we couldn’t get rid of all the flat surfaces in our house. We still need a dining table and counter tops, and the built in shelves in our living room would have to stay. We sold a couple of end tables, and it made our living areas much easier to tidy.
The kitchen was another project all together. This one I did slowly, cupboard by cupboard. As I went I found better places to put things, places that made more sense and made the kitchen easier to use. I even ended up with two totally empty drawers and a couple of empty shelves!
I’ve worked my way through most of the other rooms in the house as well. I’ve taken van load after van load to the donation center and made several hundred dollars by selling things on Facebook marketplace. And I still have so far to go. But my house feels more peaceful. I’m less overwhelmed. Cleaning still isn’t something I enjoy, and I still struggle to keep my house tidy. But it’s easier. It takes less time. And I have more time to spend on the really important things.
What family minimalism is and isn’t
Family minimalism does not mean having a certain number of dishes or being able to fit all your children’s toys into one box. It is not living with less than what you need. In no way is it blank, white walls or furniture that can shapeshift into other furniture (but if that’s your aesthetic there is nothing wrong with that).
Family minimalism is simplifying down to the things you use regularly and getting rid of the excess. It is creating more time and space for the things you love and using less of your valuable resources for the things that don’t truly matter to you. It is totally adaptable to your needs, style, and stage of life!
Practicing family minimalism means that you move things out of your house that aren’t contributing positively to your life, as we’ve discussed, but it also means carefully monitoring what you bring in. Don’t grab those free things just because they’re free. Pick them up if you really have a need for them. When you go to buy something, ask yourself where you’ll store it. If you’re buying things for a project, ask yourself if you’ll finish it (realistically) in the next week. Take inventory of what you have before going to buy more (especially true with groceries and clothing). Limiting what you bring in the house greatly increases the energy you have to deal with the stuff you already have.
30 Day Challenge
Sign up below to receive a 30 day challenge to get you started. You’ll only need to spend about 5-10 minutes a day on this. It may take even less! Just go through that area until you’ve found at least one thing to get rid of. But remember… you don’t have to stop at just one! Decluttering is addictive, and I’d bet that at least some days you won’t want to stop at just one! I’ve also designed it so that you can do it again and again. And if one of the areas doesn’t apply to you, skip it or replace it! This is meant to just help you catch the decluttering bug and see the benefits of having less.