Real Life Minimalists: Verity

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, I’m pleased to feature Verity, who tells us how she’s simplified her household while adding to her family. Check out her blog for more tips on living a minimalist life with young children.

Verity writes:

Verity

Verity

If you had met me 10 years ago, I would have been the worst candidate for minimalism. More was more to me. Even in junior high, I started collecting furniture and decorations to furnish my future home. My relatives soon learned that I was happy to take anything they were getting rid of.

As a newlywed, our first apartment’s clutter level was manageable only because my husband is a natural-born minimalist who brought hardly any junk into the marriage.

Within 3 months, a fixer-upper home purchase led to an influx of tools, and 3 months after that, two relatives downsized and lovingly donated much of their old furniture and books to us. I had enthusiastically agreed to take their stuff, but gaining 40 years of built-up clutter was a powerful object lesson not even lost to a natural hoarder like me. I still remember standing in the garage surrounded by the ceiling-high stacks, and feeling for the first time, the true weight of possessions. Our house was still under construction, I was 2 months pregnant, I couldn’t lift most of the ‘donations,’ and I didn’t know where half of it should go.

Five months later our first child was born early, and church members, friends, and family gave us bags and bags of clothing and toys. As an optimist and people-pleaser, I never told anyone ‘no,’ and I always thought I would use the items.

I realized it had gone too far when at a year, my toddler had TWENTY-THREE pairs of pajamas.

I thought back to when my son was born. We only had 5 preemie sleepers that fit him his first 6 weeks. That had felt very easy to maintain. Why was it so much harder now that he had so many clothes?

In desperation, I googled “how many outfits should a toddler have?” I downsized his clothes to 12 outfits and was thrilled to find at least laundry manageable.

With the birth of baby number 2 and the start of a family business, things were stressful again. I worked desperately to maintain balance by reducing family clothing to 8 outfits per person and decluttering the kitchen and bedrooms. Again things got easier.

That was about the time I ran across Francine Jay’s book. It was incredibly freeing. I learned that I could let go of old objects, unfulfilled and outdated dreams, and others’ expectations of me to strive for what I really wanted. My eyes were opened to the weight that possessions had on me, and I gained the courage to say ‘no’ to well-meaning family that wanted to ‘help’ by giving me items.

Since then we’ve gotten rid of at least half our stuff even though we’ve had two more children. Clearing out most of the basement opened up space to finish a place for the kids to play and a guest room, 5-6 every day outfits per person has helped me keep laundry under control, and maintaining a clear-of-knick knacks living area has kept the chaos at bay despite 4 children under the age of 5. While our friends with smaller families are moving to bigger houses, I’m surprisingly content with where I am.

Embracing the ideas that drive minimalism has helped me to let go of stuff not only physically but emotionally. I was able to get focused on what was important to me: my relationships with God, my husband, and my children.

Moreover, the concepts of contentment prevalent in a simpler approach to life have helped me to teach my children contentment instead of a need to gain. What started as a personal journey for me has become a family journey. We make our purchases and choices based on family goals, conviction, and faith instead of what the culture says we need.

Baby #4 just arrived, and we are living comfortably and happily in a small rambler with no plans to move in the near future.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

Related posts:

  1. Real Life Minimalists: Deb
  2. Real Life Minimalists: Fox
  3. Real Life Minimalists

16 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Verity

  • Mrs Brady Old Lady

    Check out Leo Babauta’s blog, he’s got a squillion kids and regularly blogs on minimalism with kids (I loved this posts on travelling with kids). Joshua Becker wrote Clutterfree with Kids.
    Had a look at our blog, loved the way you and your husband worked out that the solution is not to buy more toys but to teach your children to share!!!
    One small note of alarm – you posted a lot of pix of your (lovely and cute) children on your blog. One word – Paedophiles.. A lot of people I know NEVER put pix of their children on-line.

    • Mrs Brady Old Lady

      Sorry, I meant “had a look at YOUR blog”. I did a day-long car boot / yard sale yesterday, sold most of my clutter – YAY – but am still tired…

    • Verity

      You sound sweet! Thank you for your kind words!

      I LOVE Leo Babauta’s blog! I’ve read a couple of his books as well! Joshua Becker’s book is the next book on my list actually. I read a review on it a couple months ago, and I am just finishing up the book I’m in the middle of before I buy it. (There is an increasing amount of material out on minimalism with children, but it’s still at the beginning stages.) I really enjoyed Francine’s article a couple week’s ago on teaching her own sweet daughter, and I’m looking forward to her writing more on the topic in the future.

      Thank you for your concern for my kids! It’s actually a subject not to be taken lightly as it is a valid concern! When I was pregnant with our first we took a self-defense class. I learned about developing a personal protection plan for if someone breaks into my home, about carrying something to defend myself, and about using stages of awareness when I am away from home. We have gone to great lengths to be ‘tough targets’ though many parents (including some of friends) have taken the further approach to remove the target by deleting their Facebook accounts etc. I completely respect that prudent decision!

      I’m glad your yard sale went well! Those can be exhausting!!

  • Lovely story! With our two toddlers, we just downsized from a three-bedroom home, with large downstairs, giant closets, and basement storage, to a two-bedroom rental with much less closet space. Made me realize how lazy we’d been–with so much space to store, we had been storing willy-nilly. Discarded a lot of old clothes, “memorabilia,” and toys. It seems like a family of four SHOULD fit in a two-bedroom!

  • Being content is such a lovely way to be! I expect you know of it but I find Fly Lady brilliant too…

    • Verity

      Yes! My mother in law had told me about Fly Lady a few years back, and I have spent some time reading her fun site.

      She has some great ideas and a doable approach.

  • Verity, so glad you discovered the freedom from clutter! I recently made a move myself. Moving always puts our things into perspective and gives us a unique chance to determine what is necessary in life. Keep up the good work!

  • Tina

    So glad to read your essay. I keep filling a bag a week to give away to Goodwill. More things are going to the preschool and park district programs. Don’t want to burden my children and grandchildren with clutter.

    • Tina – bravo to you for dealing with your clutter NOW and not leaving it for your kids/grandkids to pick up after you. I wish more adults and elders had that kind of foresight and maturity.

  • Susan

    I love your story. It sounds like you’ve had an enourmous positive shift in your outlook compared to where you started. Congratulations on all the hard work of getting your house in order!

  • Susan Anderson

    It’s interesting how much space and stuff people think they need today. My grandparents had eight children in a four-bedroom house with no family room in the basement and no tv, microwave, toaster oven, dishwasher, clothes dryer, electric vacuum and they managed just fine and were very happy!

  • kfu

    I really enjoyed reading this. My favorite line is “…let go of old objects, unfulfilled and outdated dreams, and others’ expectations…” This really hit home with me and helped me realized that I, too, need to let go of outdated dreams and stop thinking about what other expects of me. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you for sharing! It really surprised me, the influx of stuff that came with our child. We still have to periodically “purge” her toys, clothing, etc. One thing we’re going to try is having a toy “library” at her grandparents’ house. We’ll pack away some of her toys and send them there, along with some new additions. And when she visits, she can exchange one of her toys from home, for a new one from Grandma’s house. I think it will be a nice way for Grandma to “spoil” her, without filling our house with toys! :-)

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