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.
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.