THE BACK STORY
It kind of started as an accident before we realized it was a thing. Now certainly many think we may have gone mental because we’ve gone minimalist, but in the most chaotic times in our lives yet, we found peace in purging – we embraced the minimalist lifestyle and let go of the stuff.
About two and a half years ago, we sold our first home – and we sold pretty much everything else we owned with it. What we couldn’t sell, we gave away to others who could use our stuff. I’m talking EVERYTHING but basically the clothes we needed and a few of the kids’ favorite toys. We were trying to move to a larger home for our growing family in an area closer to our kids’ beloved school.
Any family who’s moving will tell you that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do – so I said screw it, and decided I wasn’t moving nearly any of the stuff. Moving with four little kids, managing multiple businesses, and our fifth baby on the way, and truly unsure of what our next home would be, that was the way to have a manageable cope container.
For the next two years, we had no choice but to stay minimalist. We were very fortunate that my parents welcomed us and provided a 2-bedroom 1-bath mother-in-law suite attached to my parents’ house connected through their basement, and basically their entire basement too. But still – it was minimal space for a family of 7.
Yep – you got it – at 29-years old, I decided to sell my house, sell all of our stuff, and basically move into my parents’ basement while we figured out how we wanted to develop our businesses, and where the heck we were going to buy a house.
During this already-crazy time, we put an offer on a home, ended up not buying that home, and then bought a home that turned into a rehab nightmare, which nearly bankrupted us (There you have it – It’s the cold hard truth folks), resulting in taking on even more jobs to financially finish it.
At the same time our kids’ school essentially closed, which was a heartbreak for our family because we loved our school community, and it sent us scrambling to find a new one that would work for our family. My mom also was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and Cancer in the kidney shortly after, and I thanked God for having the opportunity to be in the situation to live with her so I could be there and present next to her while she went through it all (After undergoing three surgeries and chemo, she is currently cancer free).
The point is – like was flipping crazy – out the wazoo packed with uncertainty and decisions and stress. And the only thing we could do to sustain it, was to let go of all the extra. And it felt – so – GOOD.
About mid-September 2018, our home was finally move-in ready. So, each child packed a large suitcase, and Michael and I each had a large suitcase, and we moved into an empty house.
THE NITTY GRITTY
It’s hard to fit the whole philosophy into one blog post, so I strongly encourage you to check out The Minimalists to get the full picture of what this life is all about.
Interested? Here’s. few FAQ and tips to get you started!
#1 Do you think everyone should be a minimalist?
Not one bit. You do you, and this is us.
I hesitated to write this because I would never want it to come across as if I’m ever judging anyone for having too much stuff. We believe in keeping everything you need and makes you happy. In fact this new minimalist lifestyle took form also a place of being unable to keep up with the society norm with with time and expenses with our large family, but we know this lifestlye isn’t for everyone.
We know it might seem strange, and we understand everyone has different needs and different lives.
#2 Do the kids need to be a strict part of it too?
No. Absolutely not. But, kids do tend to absorb the behaviors around them. When we suggest they haven’t used something in a while, they’ve so far been eager and open to get rid of it or excited about turning it over for something different at Kid to Kid or selling it in a local mommy group so they can take the cash to Target next time they want or need something. We probably just got lucky on that one so far – the jury’s still out on the baby and toddler tendencies of course.
Our oldest does tend to carry around many books and notebooks and pens and pencils around with him at all times, and you know what? He has a heck of a hard time staying organized and keeping track of it all. He leaves a trail everywhere he goes. So we gently remind him (Okay sometimes not so gently) the his life would be so much more manageable if he maybe just picked one book to bring with him to run errands with us rather than 10 and five notebooks.
Also minimalists don’t believe in getting rid of things you use and bring you happiness and that you love. We do suggest he cut it down when we can, because overburdening oneself with excess items also leads to disorganization, which can lead to stress and inability to focus, and he always seems open to the idea because he does tend to get overburdened with everything he likes to carry around with him – and many times he is eager for the opportunity to make space when he comes across a new book or notebook he might love in the future.
So far they have kept themselves in check from having too many toys or clothes and even offer them up when they’re starting to feel things are tight in their cubbies.
#3 How do you get rid of everything without it being a huge waste of money?
It starts with what you buy. Don’t hit the clearance section, don’t impulse buy on Amazon (Been there). Research, think about it, ask for others’ reviews. Quality vs. Quantity.
Then assess each item you have and keep what you need. A minimalist lifestyle is also very much about reserving waste of energy, waste of emotions, waste of time, waste of space. If tripping over an old baby bouncer every time we go into the basement is going to save you $25 when and if you have another child, the waste of space and energy and emotions are not worth it. We just simply don’t have room left in the mental capacity jar for extra stuff.
Also, we believe in buying everything we can used. Often we take unused items we no longer need and trade them in for new used items we need at local stores like Kid to Kid. As a large family, we thrive on hand-me-downs, and usually end up using things we need up until the last thread is no longed hanging on.
And to give a specific example – had we kept all the furniture and stuff from our old house, we would have had to invest in storage space which would have cost about hundreds a month. About two years passed before we could have moved them into our house. If you do the math, it just wasn’t worth it, and ended up saving money by simply choosing to re-buy as we need years later. Let alone the energy it would have taken to pack it all, move it all in, organize it, then move it all out of storage, into the house, unpack it and organize it and need to make decisions to purge anyhow.
Disclaimer: we are grateful for having had the opportunity to store valuable items such as studio equipment and music gear at a relatives’ house. But even many of those items have been posted for sale.
I know this also sounds like an episode of Extreme Cheapskates, but the minimalist lifestyle can be quite the opposite unfortunately. It often is the decision to spend hundreds on an adult pair of pants (Like a beautiful pair of Skinnygirl jeans that I can love and wear every day and feel great about) that will withstand being worn almost every day for years rather than about a sixth of the price of each of ten pairs of pants we own and aren’t crazy about. It includes maybe even spending thousands on an accessory that is quality and will withstand the wear and tear and last longer and require just one of it. And then those come along with expensive maintenance costs. But again it’s one expensive item in place for spending the same on dozens of the same category of items.
This theory of spending, by the way, also goes hand in hand with keeping spending in check according to the Dave Ramsey mentality.
#4 What about food?
The same philosophy trickles into what we eat. We try our best to stick to a healthy, minimal diet and our favorite recipe blog is The Minimalist Baker. For us, Michael stops at the grocery store almost every day on the way home from work and buys only what we need for dinner and the next day’s breakfast and lunch and we don’t go to the store again until we’ve eaten every last leftover, oatmeal piece, or half-eaten apple.
We don’t find that buying bulk would save us money even as a large family, because we would just end up eating the bulk of it within a few days and running out to the store regularly anyways to get things we run out of. Now, I’m sure we could ration it and control it, but it would just be taking up space and more energy and time to manage it ahead of consuming it.
I applaud those of you who can mentally prepare and list items you need a week ahead of time and meal prep and organize it and use it as you need it. I tried it, and simply just don’t have the mental capacity for it, so a minimalist approach it is for me (Or I should say my husband, since I’m a pretty terrible cook)! Which by the way that is also considered minimalist so kudos to you.
But, we are never a family to turn down a baked cake or casserole. We gleefully indulge, and are appreciative for anything gifted to us. And heck even a bargain if we need one to get through!
For instance, we have dinner with my in-laws at least once a week, and dinner with my parents at least once a week. Whether it’s at their house or out at a restaurant, we are grateful for anything they treat us to.
#5 Speaking of presents.
Presents fulfill their purpose when they are given because they bring joy to the receiver, and happiness to the giver for extending a kind gesture.
We let our kiddos keep any present as long s they want and can use it. We try to integrate the presents given to us in our lives, and if the present simply does not fill a purpose any more, we pass it on to be enjoyed by anyone who can use it.
We have a small collection of sentimental items like baby’s first footprint or a particularly meaningful first drawing, but we don’t tend to feel attached to items no matter where or how we came across them.
Christmas is simple. Each child gets one present they really want and love.
#6 How do you stay clutter free?
We have a set container where items go that aren’t used. We have a regular pickup scheduled with The U.S. Vets. to come and schedule it regularly. Anything that can be traded in for something we need gets saved for Kid to Kid, and when the kids need something, we go and trade what we have for what we need (Usually obviously having to spend a little more to get what we need).
We assess each situation and weigh it against the waste of time as well. If it’s simply not worth the time and effort to sell something, we happily give it away to someone who can use it. Or even if we see someone can use it and it makes them happy, then that alone isn’t worth the time or money to make the effort to sell it if it will serve purpose to someone else who might need the item we are giving away.
#7 Another note about time
I thrive on the nonstop. But it was another non-minimalist tendency I tended to have to “stack the deck.” I enjoyed signing us up for anything possible to keep myself and the kids busy and entertained and do one right after the other every single day – nonstop. I mean nonstop till we dropped.
Now I still currently must work quite often, but for our personal life, we try to keep planning and activities to a very bare minimum. We have our set evening dinners planned with family, church on Sunday followed by Sunday lunch with my parents, but anything else we take it as it comes.
My kids haven’t really shown any interest in a particular extracurricular – believe me we tried it all. But then they lacked passion for the activities and it caused more stress than happiness or fulfillment, so we just simply stopped and opt for hiking, family drives, impromptu play dates, reading, writing, drawing, city-sploring, birthday party invites, and just good ole family snuggle time and dance parties as our extracurriculars. It’s all about calm and taking it in as it comes.
I strongly believe though that it is not my responsibility to keep my kids from being bored. I’ll certainly keep an eye on that as they get older in order to be careful that they don’t let their boredom lead to mischief, and guide them to filling time with wholesomeness, but for now – they’ve got toys, art supplies, music, plenty of room to run, fort-building skills, rainbow loom kits, lego sets, whatever they find entertains them, and anything extra goes in the to-go piles. Each child on average has about 300 toys, and only plays with 12.
I should add, if they show interest in a hobby, we’ll certainly explore it and encourage it, but we no longer feel obligated to the idea that kids must be involved in regimented extra activities if they solely add chaos.
What do you think?
By all means again, I want to stress that we realize this is unconventional to society. I know there must be at least ten things you found appalling in this post. But in a world where children are dying because they have NOTHING at all, it feels silly to even be writing this blog post (Yeah I know I got all dramatic on you for a second). And hey there’s certainly moments when the car is packed with stuff that we let add up for the week with our five kiddos – the important thing is re-evaluating all items and purging as you see fit. If this post can help you find a little more peace and clarity by seeing that a crazy big family can do it, then it has served its purpose too – if not, just toss it in the give-away pile ;-).
Have a thought or two about it? Drop it in the comments!