Real Life Minimalists: A. B.

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.

Today, A. B. tells us how children’s stuff can make a minimalist journey particularly challenging—but with time and persistence, it’s possible to pare down. I think many of us will relate to her story and be inspired by her progress!

A. B. writes:

I don’t know how long I’ve been on this minimalist journey. My first memory of it was in 2007 when I decided to take a break from work in hopes of simplifying my life, I was in my early 20’s and already tired. I cleaned out half of my overwhelmingly full closet that year. I still had a guest room full of junk and an entire garage full of stuff I couldn’t access.

In 2009, we began a family and said yes to A LOT of hand-me-downs. I was saving money and felt grateful. I had never had a baby before and everyone was quite happy to pass their stuff on, how was I to know what I’d need? We didn’t own a home and had moved a lot through the years so I brought it all with me. In hopes of saving future money, I held on to the stuff for our future home. We couldn’t park in the garage for years.

In 2012, we had a second baby and a new house to call our own. We received tons of hand-me-downs for the house and more for the new baby. I decided that all boxes were staying in the garage until we went through each and every one of them. It took months before we could park in the garage. A lot was donated, and a lot ended up in the attic.

In 2013, I was overwhelmed by all the kids’ hand-me-down clothes. It was organized but nothing went together, it was a hodgepodge of clothing and I had to re-assess every few months due to quickly growing kids. It exhausted me! The whole house was a playroom and stuff was everywhere. I was frustrated. I kept all the toys and clothes for the next baby to come.

But something changed when I got pregnant, I wanted NONE of the baby stuff that I had kept. Three kids at three different stages worth of stuff was not how I wanted to spend my time. I now knew what my baby needed. I got rid of all but a few baby toys knowing she wouldn’t want them once she realized what her sisters had…big kid toys. I donated 3/4 of the clothes and kept what only fit into one small box for each size.

That year I had done the opposite of nesting, I spent all free hours decluttering and purging as we expected our third baby. I attempted to sell a few items but hated to bring yard sale items back inside my house and I ended up donating. Now, when I have a yard sale and a person asks me how much I just say “make an offer,” and take whatever. Who cares, I don’t want it and they do. Surprisingly, my kids have seen me purge and declutter on a weekly basis for the past few years that they don’t seem to mind much when I sell or donate something. Oftentimes, I hand over the cash from selling to give to them to put in their banks. It’s quick money that they can happily save.

I’ve explored this journey along with my young kids and I am still figuring out just how far I want to take it. For me, this journey wasn’t a quick one. It has taken years of opening up the same boxes, closets and cupboards again and again and making new decisions on the same stuff. My husband and I still clean out the attic every year together and get rid of more stuff. It has gotten easier each time.

It’s the upkeep to this lifestyle that I wasn’t prepared for and I am still learning how to stay on top of it. It would’ve been easier and less time consuming for me to just attack it all head on from the very beginning. But in my defense, this wasn’t first nature for me, and we just had THAT much stuff to begin with. So much still comes in from school, church and family and I struggle finding the balance. For now, I’m very happy with where we’re at and so proud of how far we’ve come. I never had a minimalist goal, what motivates me is how good it feels to feel more peace in my home and the idea of living with less just speaks to my soul.

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

15 comments to Real Life Minimalists: A. B.

  • A.B., it sounds like you’ve come such a long in finding a balance that works for you and your family. To your point about figuring out how to stay on top of it, I know from experience that it gets easier when your kids get older. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Tina

    A young friend is saving everything her child has. I said she’s six and an only child. Pick one thing a week or a month to save..My kids are 43M, 40F, and 36M. I dressed them mostly in bright primary colors and my daughter had very few pink or pastel clothes. People gave me bags of clothes and special things were from garage sales, rummage sales, or thrift shops. It seems no one realizes kids grow. My daughter got a bag of clothes from a friend, picked out what she wanted, and passed it to me. I picked out a few things, and gave the rest away. I buy maybe one new article of clothing a year.

  • A B

    Hi Tina,

    When people passed on clothes to me, I used to feel obligated to take it all until I realized I could say no thank you. Now, I ask if they mind if I pass the clothes along to a friend once I’ve gone through them. This helps me feel free to pass on the items instead of pressured to keep them. I have many friends who have held onto everything as well, I’ve learned that it is not necessary but they are very happy to store it all. Sounds like you figured it all out early on, way to go!

  • Peggy

    I finally asked my (small) family for no more physical gifts to/from us… They agreed, and my home and our holidays are better for it :)

    • A B

      That’s great Peggy! Birthdays and Christmas are tough, I’ve been quite vocal about not overdoing the gifts but still struggle. Do you mind sharing how that has affected your celebrations? Easier? Less fighting over toys? Anything suprising?

  • MChicago

    My daughter is 5 and I have yet to part with all the things she has had from the day she was born. My husband and I went back and forth for years on whether we should have another child, but in the end I think we will decide it’s not for us and are happier for it. My sisters and sister-in-law are all at a prime age to have children but none of them do so I don’t know what we are saving all this for…the horrible, terrible, no good “Justin Case” haunts us :). We have tons of space for all these things and they’re very nicely organized but at the end of the day, they serve no good to us or anyone else…any suggestions on how to let it all go?

    • A B

      The quote “organized stuff is still stuff” comes to mind. It’s up to you if you want to let it all go in the first place. If I were in your place of unsure, I’d pick a box and go through it, see what thoughts and feelings come up. This may help you to identifying why you are keeping it and if it is necessary. You mentioned 1) maybe I’ll need it in the future and 2) maybe a family member will need it in the future. You could in Kon Mari style thank the stuff and send it on it’s way. Ask family members if they want it and they can store it themselves. Or find an organization (I use one for domestic violence victims) and donate it to all the babies in need. Simply looking at it may help you realize it has served it’s purpose and it’s time to find it a new home. What else could you use your storage areas for if the baby stuff was gone?

  • A B

    That’s great Peggy! Birthdays and Christmas are tough, I’ve been quite vocal about not overdoing the gifts but still struggle. Do you mind sharing how that has affected your celebrations? Easier? Less fighting over toys? Anything suprising?

  • Oh, I can so relate to your post – it’s only recently that I’ve finally gotten rid of all the stuff in our garage. It really does take time to work out what to donate/sell/recycle/bin. I’m so happy that you’ve reached a stage where you feel happy and content x

  • Tina

    I had a plumber out. He said he sees 2 or 3 hoarded up houses every week. I am trying to give away or recycle 20 things a day. Every time I hear about someone renting a storage locker for junk it bothers me.

    • A B.

      Hi Tina, You know, the storage industry really is growing and you make a good point. People are more apt to keep their things instead of taking them on and decluttering things they don’t need. 20 things a day is amazing! I find that I declutter in spurts but every day that goes by I do find something to get rid of. it started as a desire for less now it is a desire for empty space.

  • Tina

    I realized I had plenty of clothes, craft items, and books. I fill a big bag with materials for my grandsons’ art teacher. Then I fill a bag with books, magazines and DVD’s for the library. There are always bags for Goodwill. When I go to the library, I drop off food for the food pantry.

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