A few months ago, I adopted the concept of minimalism into my life. I purged wardrobes, toys, closets, you name it. If it had not been used in over a year, it was donated. I felt lighter, less stressed. There were fewer knick-knacks to clean and everything had a home. We adhere to the rule that if you get something new, an old item must be donated. Sounds easy, right? Will I ever be a true minimalist? Probably not. I have five kids at home so I do the best I can. Here are some ideas to create a minimalist life with a large family.
Create a minimalist wardrobe
Children outgrow clothes in a ridiculous amount of time, sometimes before they are even worn. Or, like one of my children, once they get it home, they decide they no longer like it 🙁 I love hand me downs, but they can take up tons of space I opted for small under-bed totes and set a limit on what we kept. The magic number is three. Three pants, three shirts, three skirts. No more. We try to keep items neutral so we can mix and match. We splurge on accessory items like scarves and socks. Each child has one winter and one spring jacket. Shoes are another story. The girls have one pair of sneakers, one pair of boots and one pair of dress shoes. Boys have sneakers and mud boots.
My own wardrobe consists of maybe fifty items. Could I pare it down to twenty-five items? Absolutely! I have several items I wear routinely. I try to hang my clothes with matching top and bottom together. This makes getting dressed easier. I own a lot of summer dresses which are great for lounging around the house. You can also dress them up to wear out. They are not very practical to clean out the chicken coop! Another plus for me is not having a buy a large separate work wardrobe. I wear scrubs to work, so that’s an easy one!
Need help developing a minimalist wardrobe? Check out this Pin!
Bulk item shopping
The struggle is real. I love the idea of bulk shopping and not having to go to the grocery store every week. Like, I really, really love it. This idea completely negates the whole minimalist idea. Well, not really. I’m okay with my pantry being full but it has led me to examine what I shop for. Do I need five different types of cleaners? Do I need paper napkins? Can I make reusable paper towels?
Here is my shopping list for monthly bulk buying items. I separate my bulk buying items into groups. Each month I purchase 6 months to a year’s worth of that item. This works great for household items like toilet paper and paper towels so long as you have storage for it. It doesn’t necessarily keep up with being a minimalist but it does keep me from having to run to the grocery store all the time! That opens up an hour or two a week for something that I really want to be doing.
Frugality and minimalism really do go hand in hand. I have begun to question the number of snacks in my pantry. I try to say they are for the kid’s lunches. The more I examine my grocery bill, the bulk of the expense are for prepared foods. My goal is to cook from scratch and move away from processed foods This is a huge challenge. I could clear an entire shelf out of my pantry if I stopped buying snacks. My pantry is a work in progress, so despite not being entirely minimalist, it has opened my eyes and made me question my current buying pattern.
Toys are another hot topic at my house. How many toys does one kid need? If you ask me, one or two. Give 5 kids one or two toys and you’ve got ten toys in the house! I try to focus toy buying expenses on items that everyone can use. A swing set, a large outside ball, a gaming console. We have a play kitchen and accessories, puzzles and board games. My youngest child loves train so he has a wooden train set and trains. My youngest daughter likes dolls. She has a dollhouse and dolls. I am slowly weeding out those toy sets with millions of little pieces. I try to buy quality wood items that will last. Melissa and Doug’s toys are my favorites!
I used to have a ton of toddler toys in the house because they were just all so cute! Invariably my kids didn’t play with them and I got frustrated with them just lying around. I live with that rule to this day, if I am finding myself frustrated by something, I try to ask myself why? Is it because items are laying around? Why are they laying around? Generally, it is because there are too many pieces and no one wants to pick them up. If that’s the case, that item usually ends up on the way to Goodwill. A big part of minimalism is freeing up your time to do what you want to do, not what you have to do. Cleaning up toys is not something I want to do!
I found this minimalist Christmas rhyme last year on Pinterest and decided to see if I could stick to it during our holiday.
Here’s another take on the rhyme!
While I may not have reached the goal of either rhyme, I definitely decreased my holiday spending! First off, I asked each child to make a list in priority order for Christmas. Usually, the first two items on those lists are what is most important to them and the rest they just make up! I was saddened this year when one of my kids said to me on Christmas morning….”Is that all there is?” That statement kind of made me angry, but also made me realize how I was responding to commercialism in my own life. Why was I trying to buy my kids everything? Would it make them think I loved them more? Wouldn’t spending time together be the better choice?
Our approach to birthdays mimics our approach to holidays in our home. I see parents spending hundreds of dollars for birthday parties with many guests. We have always had family-only parties and the birthday boy/girl gets to choose what kind of cake they want. Sometimes I bake them a cake, and sometimes it is store-bought. We have a bag full of birthday number candles that we rotate through and a birthday chair cover that we pull out for every special event. It’s become a ritual. Our older children are allowed to have one person stay for a sleepover if they choose. Our children are allowed to choose one special item and one small item for a gift. We try to keep it under a $50 budget.
I had a whole room dedicated to crafting. When I had to separate my children into their own bedrooms, I lost my room. A great purge ensued and a few months later I was angry I had gotten rid of so many of my items. My daughter loved the room. She loves to draw and make things and this was her haven. Our room will be making a comeback but will be more aligned with our minimalist life. Basic craft items to spark creativity will be our goal. Think crayons, markers, watercolors, construction paper, sketch paper and colored pencils!
How many baseball bats, roller skates and tennis rackets are in your garage? It is wonderful to allow your children access to activities, but it can be expensive! I bought all my kids bikes. Five bikes. We had nowhere to store them so they were outside all the time. What happened? You guessed it. Rust. Every single bike went to the trash. We have scooters now. They are portable, easy to store and the kids love them! They also have roller blades that can be lugged along to the park in a big tote. Before you go crazy buying a bunch of sports equipment, pay attention to how many times a week your child participates in that activity and weigh the expense
Putting it all together
No matter where you are in your journey, adopting a minimalist attitude can help you create a less stressful life. Removing items from your to-do list that are not important will open up the time to create and dream. By focusing on what is important to us individually, we can spend more time doing what we want.