Lots of people are talking about it, but it seems just as many are confused about the true meaning of minimalism, especially if you are a mum managing a household of non-minimalists.
It’s easy to see why.
The fact is minimalism means something different to everyone.
You have aesthetic minimalists that live in pristine, white-decorated homes. There’re homesteading minimalists that live off the land. Minimalists that are motivated to achieve a relaxed lifestyle. Some are minimalists not by choice but as a result of finances. And there’s plenty of combinations in between.
For example, I’m a self described Eco-Minimalist. My motivation is driven by leaving the environment in a better state for my girls as well as having the time and money to be out enjoying said environment.
I have a way to go myself, but I can say that what I have accomplished so far has led to reducing my weekly shop to about £70 a week for a family of 4.
It has also created a much calmer living space where even Lee feels noticeably less stressed being at home.
And in less than a year we have reduced our household waste to a half full wheely bin every two weeks.
It’s not a fast process by any means, but everyone has to start somewhere.
So how can you establish a minimalist lifestyle for you and your family?
The definition of minimalism according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary is:
a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme sparseness and simplicity.
Let’s focus on the two key words from the definition – sparseness and simplicity.
Those words lay a great foundation for a minimalist lifestyle, but the two words make minimalism sound like you live like a pauper and can’t enjoy anything.
Don’t worry though. That’s not the case.
When you learn minimalism, you’re letting go and giving up the excesses around you (things you can ‘spare’ and possessions you don’t need). Letting go of things represents the sparseness.
Doing so will lead to the simplicity part of the definition-and tidier home!
A simpler life means you have more time to enjoy living and spend less time managing all the things.
This is especially true for mums whose whole existence at times seems to be remembering where everyone’s stuff is!
What if we could free up some of that brain power?
That’s what minimalism means for a mum.
Then spreading that minimalist mindset to your family means that there are less things for them to worry about, freeing up their brains as well.
So, here’s something to try to get you started.
Take the items around your home that you haven’t used in recent memory and put them away in a place that is hard to get to for a month or two.
If you have older children give them a box for their things, too. Making a change as significant as this one is much easier when you have each others support. Kids are also more likely to keep you in check, too.
Once time has passed did you need any of those items? Did you miss them?
(I do this with my kids’ toys all the time. They haven’t missed or noticed anything, yet).
After a few weeks or a couple months the items you didn’t need, or miss are the items that you would sell or donate.
There’s no point in keeping something you aren’t using for “just in case” or “maybe somedays” or “but it was a gift.” Give the items to someone who will appreciate them and more importantly use them.
You may have major emotional attachments to your things and that’s normal. That’s part of what makes decluttering so difficult.
If the process starts to stress you out then be sure to read 3 Ways to Avoid Minimalism and Decluttering Burnout.
Next clear out the non-stuff.
Your next step to a minimalist home: letting go of time commitments.
Minimalism is getting rid of all the excess around us so that we can live a life that brings us joy and happiness because we now have time for it-or so we hope.
Think back to your childhood: Did you need a bunch of stuff to be happy or could you find happiness in a pile of library books, a single bag of building blocks, or adventuring on your bike until the sun went down?
That’s what minimalism is going to help us find again and pass on to our kids—that happiness we achieved from within when we didn’t have all the excess we do now.
Think back again. Was your schedule as a kid jam packed with a different extracurricular activity every day?
If yes, did you enjoy it? Did it create more stress? How much time did you have to yourself?
If not, did you enjoy it? Do you feel like you missed out? Did you do what you wanted with the time you had to yourself?
Minimalism as a mum is not jamming the diary so full of extra-curricular activities that you don’t have time for a family meal, or a spontaneous outing.
It’s up to you to be the one to set limits with your family time. Have your kids select one activity that means the most to them and that’s it.
Give them (and you) time in your schedules to decompress and just be.
Now, instead of having to stress about schedules and always having to be somewhere, you can focus your time on doing what you want to do and having some time to do more spontaneous family things and (gasp!) to even be bored once in a while.
Learn to say, “no” to time commitments.
You and your family get one life together and while there are certain obligations we must attend, if you are invited to something non-essential it’s ok to say, no.
Leave some weekends for yourselves to do what you want to be doing and not what you “have to be doing.”
Look forward to weekends again.
Let go of debt
In today’s world of consumerism it’s not surprising that many of us have a lot of excess things in our homes.
We’re bombarded by advertisers from birth; programming us to want more, more, and more.
There’s a saying that caught on in the 80s- He who dies with the most toys wins-and many people still define success by being able to afford a lot of possessions – a lot of expensive possessions. Possessions that can lead to a lot of debt.
Being in debt leads to stress. It means working more to pay it off, which means less time to do what you want with your time.
It’s time to take the pressure off.
No more keeping up with the Joneses.
Whether “the Joneses” represent your neighbor, friends, family, parents at the school drop off, or colleagues at work; buying cars, bigger houses, bright shiny objects, new clothes every week, or other items that you don’t need or won’t use simply drains your wallet of hard-earned money.
More importantly it drains your schedule of precious time.
Time that can be spent with your family experiencing new things or making memories.
Sure, you can add to your stockpile of “treasures,” but they will deplete your mood when you discover months down the road that you haven’t used these items and have wasted hundreds or thousands of pounds in the process.
That’s not to say that material possessions are bad. They’re not. Having a tv or an iPad handy can literally save your sanity as a parent.
Again, it’s about deciding what is necessary for your family to be satisfied. To admit that, yes, you have enough.
Unfortunately, when you start to feel overwhelmed and stressed and feel you must give up things that are important to you just to keep up, then consumerism has become a problem.
It’s time to make some changes.
Minimalism won’t happen overnight
As a parent, you are in the unique position of helping your children grow into adults that know what they need.
Adults that don’t feel like they need to spend money on more and more to be happy.
Adults that are satisfied with what they have and less stressed because they have time and money for what matters most to them.
It’s up to us to make the hard changes ourselves so they won’t have to. By setting an example, your kids will grow up thinking that this minimalist lifestyle and mindset is normal.
Minimalism doesn’t have to be complicated.
All it really boils down to is this:
Reassessing your priorities so that you can get rid of all the excesses around you that doesn’t allow you the freedom to do things you find most valuable and that bring you the most happiness!
Easier said than done, I know. But life is a journey not a destination and so is the process of creating a minimalist home for your family.
You got this, mama.
Let me know where you are in journey by commenting below.