Thursday, May 22, 2014

Large Family Minimialism {4 Tips For Getting Started)

1200 Square Feet. 6 children, ranging from (nearly) 11 down to 1. 2 adults, one Michigan basement that cannot be relied upon not to ruin things (ask me how I know) and a dearth of usable closet space. That's what life looks like over here.

I grew up in a home with 6 siblings myself, but it was nearly three times the size of our little mouse house here. My Mom did a good job with keeping little but something about a large house makes it much easier to hold onto things. Sometimes stuff isn't clutter, but things that can hide in plain sight. Things you don't need, don't use, don't really want but just have. Things that will take time to go through and figure out so you never really do. Stuff.

Like it or not, taking care of stuff consumes a lot of our time. Shuffling it here or there, storing it, cleaning it, caring for it, thinking about it. Not only is that something I don't have space in my home for, but I don't have space in my life for. I have 6 children which means I have 6 reasons for spending less time on stuff and more time on people.

I don't really want to own stuff. I want to have the tools I need to live a good life, the things my children need to play and learn. But extra stuff? It does nothing for me. If anything, it detracts and distracts from the life I want. Stuff is never just stuff. It's a job, it's a "someday I'll get to that," it's a cloud hanging over life. At the end of the day, I want to spend more time on the porch watching my kids play and less time cleaning up. Less stuff means less time dealing with it. More time for the life you want, spent the way you want it. I could always use more time for the things I love. Finding minimalism is like finding a treasure trove of time. And who doesn't need more of that?

Now, I feel the need to say if you come over, you'll think "This is what she calls minimalist? There are puzzle pieces mixed with cheerios and broken crayons punctuated with the odd matchbox car....everywhere!" Well, ahem, yes. There are. Minimalism is a process and something that is ongoing. It's not something you wake up to one day and go from there. Minimalism is more of a journey. The needs of our family have changed a lot over time and I can imagine will only continue to change. No matter how minimal you are, if you have 6 small kids in a smallish home, things will be a bit of a mess. I want to be clutter-free, not joy-free. So there are water color paintings stuck to my fridge with A-B-C letter magnets. A lot of games and puzzles on the shelves. And of course knitting, and yarn, copious amounts of both because clutter is clutter but yarn is yarn.

Here are 4 things I changed when I started pursuing minimalism. I'm still working on it, I'm not "there" yet by any stretch, but I'm enjoying the process.

I Said Goodbye To The Clothing Bins.
You know those bins full of clothes, labeled "Boy, 2T" and other similar such stuff? I don't do that anymore. I don't keep clothes that no one in my home fits. I know that the idea to keeping it all is that you'll spend less in the long run, but I found out early on that the clothes I saved were never guarenteed to fit the next child during the proper season, and even if they did - several years in storage weren't always kind to the clothes themselves. Elastic quit on a whim and everything looked a bit more tired when I pulled it out. So we pass clothes on to friends or donations. I save some things that can be handed directly to the next child straightaway, but everything else is passed along.

I Got Rid Of Redundant Kitchen Appliances.
You know what someone with a lot of people to feed and barely any cupboard space needs? An ice cream maker and a bread maker and (insert incredibly specific use appliances here)...There's no space for them and I didn't use them with enough regularity to warrant the real estate they were taking up in my life. Also, how many can openers does a girl need? Spatulas? Pots? I took a long hard look at what I really needed and really used and got rid of the rest.

I Got Honest With Why I Keep Things.
Things I don't use or really want, but was holding onto for some emotional reason or other. A dress hanging in my closet because I bought it on my trip to Europe when I was 15? Was incredibly hard to let go. But I haven't worn it in a decade and I have a picture of me in it, at 15, in Europe with my sister. I didn't need to own the dress to own the memory. It's gone now and you know? I don't miss it.

I Embraced The Library. 
You know what I don't need to own? Books. I used to think I did. That every book that sounded good or helpful or interesting was something that I wanted to sit on my shelf. But I read books once. Maybe twice. I also live a block and a half from a library where I can borrow all the books I want for practically free (my husband is likely laughing at this statement and I'll be getting a text shortly about my excessive late fees. Ahem.). As a homeschool Mama, there are some books that I want to own. Literature that I want all of my children to read, for example. Treasure Island and Peter Pan and Aesops Fables - those things can stay, because I've got 6 people who need to read them. But some parenting book that I read two chapters of 5 years ago?  Doesn't need to be collecting dust in my life.

I Got Friendly With Craig's List. 
I realized quickly that I had no space to store baby gear that no one was using. A baby uses a bouncer for maybe 3 months, tops. An exersaucer, potentially less time than that. 3 months of use for 2 years of storage seemed a bit backwards. I sold my baby gear on craigs list in between babies and set aside the money to buy it back when I needed it.

These were just the jumping off point, the places that seemed to attract the most clutter in my life. Just tackling these areas has made a huge difference. In working on it a little bit each day, I'm getting closer and closer to the intentional life I've always wanted.

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  1. You know I love this blog post. Yes! People keep asking me if we are moving because we have gotten rid of so much stuff. I love it :)

  2. Really great practical ideas for just about all of us.

  3. We only have two, almost 3 kids, but our place is 1,000 sq ft so I can say amen to all of these things. It's very freeing to let "things" go.

  4. Thanks for this post! It is definitely one of my goals to live with minimal "stuff" and I love your specific, practical advice! Redundant kitchen appliances is one of my biggest pet peeves. ;)

  5. Thank you so much for this! I have been debating on what to do with all the baby gear and clothes that I have been storing for 2 years since my last son was born. I never thought of just saving the money for the next baby - genius! =)

  6. Our family of six lives in a 940 square foot house (and we love it), but my husband and I have definitely become aspiring minimalists. We've decluttered a lot and our house feels so much more peacefu!

  7. We are a family of 5 in just under 1200 too. we do have a useable basement space - and that is a big life saver. both for storage and a play space for the kids. This year has been all about purging. No longer do I want to collect more "stuff".
    It takes up so much space, and never really fills up the gaps in your life. know what I mean?

  8. Great Post! We are in the process of "minimizing" right now! It is such a freeing feeling!

  9. We have 5 kids and 2 adults in 1400 sq ft. with a cellar type icky basement. I have done all your steps - except the book thing. Although I keep thinning out my books too:-) I though am overwhelmed with how much junk we still have. I just get paralyzed with it!

  10. This is a great post! I'm the oddball here. Big house 2900sf, no small children, but I have acquired over the years of raising and homeschooling 8 kids and caring for my parents for 9.5 years way too much stuff. I found this post on FB right under a tiny house post! God is speaking to me. Get rid of the stuff!

  11. I'm always "behind" in reading your posts, and somehow they're always right on time for me :) We're getting ready to make our 5th move in as many years, and we're praying that we are finished before our 5th little one is born. Moving sure has a way to make you realize exactly how much stuff you have, and how much work it is to keep it up. This post was a great encouragement for me, letting me know that I'm not alone in thinking that saving everything just isn't worth it sometimes!

  12. I am so with you on the library thing! I used to buy books all the time and now I have a lot of books that I can read and re-read at my leisure, but I haven't really bought anything new in years. I did buy two used books the other day, which was the first time I bought any sort of book in probably 3 or 4 years! And I got them so cheap that when I finish reading them and giving them away (or donating to the library sale -- why not go full circle with my library love?), I won't feel bad at all for spending the money on something temporary. Like you, there are 'staples' that I want to keep on the family shelves even after my son leaves the nest but most anything else I have can be shared with someone else's shelves.

  13. "Clutter is clutter, but yarn is yarn."
    Truth. :-)


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