The Minimal Family: Living Simply With Kids

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the minimal family

I have been seriously decluttering our apartment for the past month or so, and have donated a staggering amount of items! At last count we were up to 30 garbage bags and boxes of thing we had donated, not counting the books, appliances, etc. we have forced on gifted to friends and family members.

The amount of stuff we don’t use that we have managed to accumulate in a 2 bedroom apartment blows my mind. I’m not at all a packrat, and tend to purge pretty religiously anyway, so I can’t imagine what this place would look like if I DID have hoarder tendencies.

As I have been going through common areas like the kitchen and bathroom I have had to make some tough decisions about how many items are truly neccesary to us. How many towels does a family of 5 need? Will we be doing laundry every day, or should we keep enough so we don’t have to wash as often? There are 5 of us, so do we need 5 dinner plates, or should we keep a few extras for entertaining? Is it possible to be minimal in an active family? There are a lot of resources online for minimalists who are single, but very few for families.

I’m going to share how I answered those questions, but keep in mind that minimalism is not one-size-fits-all. You will have to answer those questions for yourself.

Having an uncluttered life is more important to me than a beautiful tablescape.

I love a well-put-together home. So many bloggers are not only amazing interior decorators, their homes look like they were ripped from the pages of a magaize. Part of me craves a beautiful space, but the truth is, I don’t want to store stuff. I would love to sit at a beautiful, holiday-themed table, but what am I going to do with all of those pinecones and plate chargers in the off season?

I decided to keep 5 plates, 5 bowls, and two salad plates. We have 5 mugs, 4 3 stemmed wine glasses, and 6 unstemmed wineglasses that serve as regular drinking glasses. If we entertain guests, I will use paper plates. No, that isn’t glamorous, or earth-friendly, or even pretty, but freeing my kitchen cabinets of clutter that I might use sometime brings more value to my life than being able to set a beautiful table for guests. Maybe you feel differently, and that is ok.

Minimalism isn’t about being frugal or not wasting.

Minimalism is indeed a personal journey, but I feel that many people mislabel frugality or non-consumerism as minimalism. While there are many areas of intersect between those movements, they are not the same.

When I first began on my journey to minimalism, I threw a LOT of stuff away. And most of it was plastic. I didn’t sell things I probably could have for profit. I generated a lot of garbage within the first month. I don’t keep every bag and paper scrap I think I might be able to reuse. I don’t buy all of my food in bulk when its on sale.

What really changed was what I was bringing IN. I began purchasing things that were better quality, that I really loved, and that would be around for years to come. I quit bringing things into my house just because they were a good deal, or someone gave it to me. Once my space was minimized to where I wanted it, very little was going out because it was all being used. I no longer look at every price tag, I look at what I need. When I am only buying what I actually need, I am buying dramatically less. The side effects of that are saving money, and consuming less, but those are not the driving forces.

Most moms are innundated with resources for couponing, saving money, and learning to buy more for less. But our family has decided to just own less and need less in the first place.

How do you keep all of the toys organized?

One of my rules of thumb is that if something needs to be organized, you probably need to minimize it. Now this gets to be a little bit of a gray area when toys are involved. I definitely want my kids to have toys to play with, and I much prefer them playing with toys vs. sitting in front of the TV. But in a small apartment it doesn’t take long before Captian America figurines and One Direction CD’s have crept into your living area.

The best solution for us has been to give each child a large, plastic tote. When the toys don’t fit in the tote, its time to get rid of some toys. This doesn’t include tablets and books, which are stored on their bookshelf. 

I find this is the area that I have to revisit the most often to keep on top of it, but this has been a good compromise for us. As the kids gets older I look forward to swapping out some of their cheap, plastic toys for things like musical instruments and experiences like sporting events or the museum.

How much space does a family need, anyway?

There are 5 of us, 7 if you include the furry children, and we all exist in a 1,000 square foot apartment. Now, my stepsons don’t live here full time, but they but we do have them for about 3 months out of the year. We homeschool, I operate 3 businesses from home, and we mostly cook from scratch.

I don’t know what your living situation, but I am guessing not many of you live under those kind of space restrictions. The point is, don’t make excuses, make it work.

While a family is going to need to keep a larger inventory of some things on hand, it is still possible to minimize pretty dramatically. Even after months of purging and minimizing, I am still finding more clutter to get rid of almost daily.

The quality of our life hasn’t decreased because we don’t have as many coffee mugs, or even appliances to make coffee, to choose from. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite is happening. The less stuff we have, the cleaner our living space stays, and the less time we spend cleaning and organizing.

Minimalism isn’t going to be for everyone. But if its a lifestyle you desire, don’t let having a family be an excuse to hang onto the clutter. Is it possible to be a minimalist family? We think so.

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Hi! I'm Melissa!

Melissa is a former hairstylist of 20 years who has a passion for living a simply creative life. She loves inspiring others to pick up a planner and get their lives organized, to clean out a closet and minimize their clutter, and to clean up their physical and mental space to lead their most fulfilled life. She is newly single, a mom, soon to be grandma and crazy dog lady who constantly rewatches The Office.

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