Check out the benefits and downfalls we discovered after actively working toward a minimalist or simplified lifestyle with our large family!
I have written a few times about Minimalism. A better term for how we are approaching this lifestyle is more like “Simplification”. With as many little people in our household as we have, we may never reach a truly ‘minimalist’ lifestyle. To simplify our lives though, is completely doable.
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How We Define Minimalism or a Simple Life:
For our family, minimalism is simply defined as only owning or holding on to things that we love. We are trying to slowly weed those things out of our lives that we don’t truly love. Why would we hold on to so many things? Guilt, the initial cost, or the idea that we might need it some day to name a few. There have been many benefits, and a few holdups that we have encountered over the past 6 months as we have incorporated this lifestyle change.
What Have We Done to Simplify?
Each month I have a different area of the house that I deep clean. I do this so there is never a Spring Cleaning per se. Deep cleaning keeps me from having inches of dust build up on baseboards, blinds, ceiling fans, etc. It also keeps overall clutter to a minimum. I really like things kept clean, but can’t clean everything in my house each week. I have peace of mind knowing that each thing will get done in its own time.
During the past 6 months as I have rotated through the areas of my home, I have really focused on how to simplify. My main living areas, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, and laundry room have all received special attention in getting rid of non-essentials and really paring down what we think we need. We may not have the perfectly blank walls and minimal furniture vibe of minimalism, but we definitely have our things pared down to where we can do a quick clean of the entire house in 15 minutes or less.
Donate, Sell, Trash
Through the process of decluttering and simplifying we have gotten rid of SO MUCH STUFF! We have donated so many dishes, clothing, toys, and other items that we just do not need to neighbors, friends, and family. We have taken load after load to the local thrift store as well. I have sold large pieces of furniture and small things here and there. I’m certainly not making a fortune off of what I sell, but it is nice to get a little bit back. Things that are beyond repair or that I wouldn’t buy from a thrift store have been thrown away. Luckily this has been pretty minimal.
As I am starting on my second round of Deep Cleaning my house since reading about the KonMari Method, I am getting rid of even more things. Our neighborhood does a Swap and Share each year where people sort their items out at the local church building instead of taking them to a thrift store. Everyone is able to then shop those items for free. Knowing that these items that I am now collecting can benefit another family helps give me the push to donate the item rather than hanging onto it for no reason. I love that I can benefit from minimalism, and others can use the items I now longer need!
What are the Noticeable Benefits?
In the places where we got rid of furniture that we weren’t using or that I didn’t love, we now have open spaces. Areas of our home seem bigger and more open with less stuff. (imagine that!) I have noticed this works with cleaning off surface areas and decluttering bookshelves as well. The less stuff and clutter that hangs around, the more clean and open a space feels. When everything has a specific designated spot to be put away in, our house stays MUCH CLEANER. It is easy to have the kids clean up because they know exactly where everything belongs.
I love having space in my closet, and also having a more clear mind each morning as I get dressed. My wardrobe was cut nearly in half simply by getting rid of things I didn’t love. Because I am in the season of my life where I am having babies and therefore having constantly fluctuating weight, I do store some clothes that I will fit into again within reason. I have been surprised at how keeping only the clothes I love makes getting ready in the morning much more simple, and I feel more comfortable and beautiful throughout the day.
This has probably been one of the most noticeable differences to me. I am mindful of every purchase, especially for birthdays, or other occasions. We still have to buy the same amount of disposable products (toiletries, food, etc) as we did before, since I like to have a few extras on hand so we don’t ever run out. I only buy what I KNOW I will use though, instead of trying new products just because they were on sale.
With toys, decorations, and needless purchases, I really think about:
- Does this item have a place?
- Am I going to get tired of seeing this laying around if the kids don’t clean it up?
Individual gift purchases are now more about adding on to sets of toys and games that we already own and I know that the kids love. Rather than buying a toy that has one specific purpose and function, we add on to an existing set. We got rid of quite a few games that we didn’t really love. These were replaced with quality game sets that we have already tried and enjoy playing as a family.
I find that I am also more willing to put money into experiences. Rather than buying a bunch of useless Dollar Store toys that will break and be ignored within the week, we can spend that money on an experience. Going to the pool, out for a fun treat, or visiting a new place is all a memory that will last a lifetime and won’t have to find a space on a shelf to collect dust somewhere.
Living in Excess
This has been a fun thing to see switch in my kids mindsets. As they do their monthly bedroom deep clean, it is interesting to see what things they decide to donate or throw away. I have a child that loves to collect trinket boxes. Over the past 6 months, 3 of these have been donated as this child realized that they just didn’t have the need for so many items that all have the same function. The minimalist mindset is one that needs to be taught to children so they know that not every scrap of paper that comes home from school is special and needs to be saved forever.
DVDs, CDs, books, all can be accessed for free. We use Netflix, Pandora, and the library, so we have been sorting through and keeping only those items that we truly love, use, or reference often. We have found that if there is a book or movie that we are really wanting to use, most often a friend or neighbor has that item and lets us borrow it free of cost. We can enjoy the item and then return it without having the added burden of finding where to store another item.
The more I have purged, the more I have been able to see what things I really value. I didn’t realize how much stuff I was holding onto for no reason at all. Sometimes it was just because I had a box of things that I hadn’t sorted since we moved, or a box of things that has just been moved from house to house that we really can’t even remember the contents of. Hanging on to things that we ‘might need’ for years on end: useless.
If my house were to burn down right now, I would be most concerned about getting my family members out. There would be a few items (mostly pictures) that I would mourn their loss for a time. Everything else is completely replaceable though. It takes money and time to replace things, but you can never replace people or the memories you have made with them.
What are the Downfalls?
It is really hard to get rid of things that you have been hanging on to simply because of the initial purchase price. We all make needless purchases, but the guilt of seeing that item hanging around unused can eat away at you. Honestly, there has not been a single thing that I have gotten rid of that I regret. I know I have taken bag after bag and carload after carload of items to the thrift store, but I couldn’t name more than a few of those donated items. It honestly was just STUFF. The best part is, that once the item is out of the house and I don’t have to see it on a daily basis anymore, the guilt for that item is gone as well!
Back to the fire scenario: if everything were to burn, the cost of re-purchasing clothing and beds for our large family alone would be staggering. Making sure that our initial needs are met in the ever changing hobbies, interests, clothing sizes, and food portions in our large family is top priority over ensuring that our kids have the latest and greatest toy or item that will quickly go out of style.
There have been some things that I have gotten rid of that I have received as gifts. Some of these things I never used, and some I just don’t use anymore. The best way I have overcome this guilt is to passing these items on to someone else. Knowing your unused items will benefit or be appreciated by others removes the guilt so much more than keeping that item around and feeling bad that you aren’t using it.
Where to Begin
With only a few downfalls, the benefits completely clearly win! If you have been thinking about starting a minimalist lifestyle, go for it! Start by getting rid of your own items that you no longer use. In the KonMari method, she suggests to start with clothing. If that seems too overwhelming, start with your toiletries and get rid of old bottles of product. You could even start by getting rid of duplicates in your kitchen.
For me personally, I like to start in the smallest and simplest room in the house: the smallest bathroom. It has nothing sentimental and pretty much only items of function in it. If that is not your thing, try starting with a drawer, a shelf, or even your car interior or a purse. Whatever you do, just begin. Start small and clear a space that you will see often. Seeing spaces clean and free from clutter will encourage and inspire you to continue on!