My big moment hit while watching news footage of Hurricane Harvey – yes, back in 2017.
I don’t know what it was about it, but as I watched families sift through their damaged belongings, I was overwhelmed as I started to wonder: If my home was damaged in that way, which items would I actually miss…and which items really hadn’t mattered much to me after all?
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This is when it began…a journey to minimize our stuff. It was never my intention to take this to the extreme but to find a lifestyle of real-life family minimalism that would free us up to enjoy more quality family time together. Some people would say that a shift like this needs to happen in a weekend…or maybe within a month’s time…and while I do believe there is power in working quickly, it has been a much longer process for me. I have wanted to be a good steward of the items I part with, and I have actually really enjoyed the process of finding new homes for those things!
Can you believe it? I even let go of our beloved water table – It was time.
I began selling all kinds of different items, donating things, and asking friends what they could use. While I’ve somewhat enjoyed parts of this process, I’ve like even more the mental space I’ve cleared up by minimizing the stuff that was taking up physical space in some areas of our home.
I have found great real-life family minimalism inspiration from Joshua Becker as well as the Minimal Mom! Some of the minimalist books I’ve read and some of the YouTube Minimalists I’ve come across…well, let’s just say, there are some crazies out there, but Josh and Dawn (I like to think I’m on a first name basis with these encouragers of mine. ha!) – the way they describe family minimalism feels doable…and makes sense to me. They maybe wouldn’t be on board with my now years-long process that is still a process, but I’m learning that real-life minimalism requires a long-term commitment to decluttering and simplifying as needed. Count me in! Though they maybe would have urged me to move a bit quicker at times, they both seem to encourage families to find what works for them, and I have definitely doing that!
If you had walked in my house before I started this process, you probably wouldn’t have thought it was all that bad. I’ve always enjoyed purging and organizing, but 2017 was the year I realized that we officially had too much. It was too much to manage and be able to have the time and space we wanted to have as a family, so I started taking some measures that some might feel were drastic and others might think weren’t drastic enough.
Again, I’m going to share with you what my version of minimalism – how it looks for me right now in this stage of life with a growing family. Will I continue to discover ways to simplify? Absolutely. With family life, I feel there will always be some part of this that will continue to require adjustment, but here some of the steps I’ve taken over the past few years – steps toward a life with less excess and more space to live the family life I want to have.
Goodbye Junk Drawer!
Yes, I said goodbye to my junk drawer – literally and figuratively. While I would’ve told you before that I had a place for everything in my home, when I really started paying attention, that wasn’t exactly true. If all of my belongings had a home, why was there a junk drawer in the kitchen? Why was there a catch-all basket in my laundry room? Why was there a landing zone near my stairs that was always home to a pile? I realized it was time to say goodbye to this mentality, and then I literally cleared out that drawer, the basket, and the landing area, finding either homes for the items that were there or saying goodbye to them. This new way of thinking addressed most of the problem areas in our house.
My kitchen was the room that needed the most help!
Again, you maybe wouldn’t have thought it was all that bad, but I wish I could have gone back to when I was a new bride and begged myself not to register for all the things I thought needed to go on a wedding registry. When I started taking a serious look at the inventory in my kitchen, the number of drinking glasses was probably what was most shocking to me, and then the plethora of unnecessary gadgets was beyond silly.
I emptied the cabinets – all of them – and only put back the items we use. The other items were passed on to someone I knew would enjoy them or sold. Would you believe that I now have one cabinet and two large drawers in my kitchen that are completely empty? Yep. There was a time I might have thought such a thing was weird, but at this point, I’m finding myself craving even more empty space.
In fact, since I snapped this picture, my kitchen counters have even less on them – feels so good!
Peek inside my cabinets. On the left you’ll see one of the cabinets I access everyday! The two bottom shelves hold our everyday dishes, and the top shelves hold a handful of specialty/holiday pieces that I use either for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or when we host guests (which we do quite often, actually). Notice I didn’t say they are items I might use. They are dishes I most definitely use. Those were the only ones that were allowed to stay!
On the right you’ll see my holiday bins. These shoebox-size bins hold small kitchen-related holiday items such as cupcake liners, cookie cutters, treat bags, napkins, etc. for holidays and celebrations that are special to us.
These bins may be too much for the version of minimalism you have found, but for me, they work. There is one bin for each holiday, and until I use up an item in a particular bin, I’m not allowed to buy additional versions of that item for a particular holiday. These kinds of things are contained in a specific place where I’m able to easily find them when it’s time, and there are space perimeters that limit my being able to add any additional stuff I might come across and be tempted to buy. This system saves me time. I’m never looking for where those cute Valentine’s Day cupcake liners are hiding. I know exactly where they are. This set-up also saves me money – I see what I have and am reminded I don’t need to purchase any additional holiday items right now.
One cabinet in my kitchen is dedicated to the sensory resources we use in our homeschooling:
- fine motor tools
- shaving cream
- Silly Putty
- dot markers
- stamp pads
This is not a storage space for crafts supplies we only use every once in awhile. (Around here, we don’t do many crafts, so we don’t have much along those lines to store.) The things in this cabinets are resources we consistently use in our homeschooling. I need them to be easily accessible – and organized! I have used small IKEA storage bins to sort our supplies, and they fit perfectly in this cabinet.
Again, depending on your version of minimalism, these snapshots may be giving you hives, but this is what works for us and our homeschooling lifestyle right now. As with the holiday bins, this keeps things organized and limited to a specific amount of space. I rarely buy new things to add to these bins, because I have what I need, and there is not additional space for more.
A Capsule Wardrobe?
I’m not sure I could technically say my closet is home to a capsule wardrobe, but I will say this. I now have approximately 25% of the clothes I used to own! Honestly, 20% might be a more accurate description. How did I downsize my closet so drastically? I started by taking everything out of my closet – yes, just like I did with the kitchen. Then I looked at each item and asked myself:
If I had the chance to buy this item again, would I?
In other words, if I were browsing a thrift store…walking through a store…or shopping on-line, would this item catch my eye, and would I purchase it?
Not…Will I maybe wear this someday? or Should I hold on to this “just in case”? or I probably shouldn’t get rid of this because so-and-so bought it for me. But…Do I love this piece enough that I would spend money on it all over again? As you can imagine, for most items, my answer was no.
I used this same strategy I purged my kids’ closets.
It wasn’t quite as bad in their rooms as their closets are purged as they grow, but it was still helpful in pairing down their things.
Simplifying the Toys
I have always made an effort to keep my kiddos’ toys to a minimum. I have always rotated the toys. All of that was going on around here, but it still wasn’t enough. I had to get tough as nails – taking things to a whole new level.
There were simply too many toys.
My kids were overwhelmed with the cleanup, and I always ended up frustrated. So we purged and purged and purged, and then when we were done, we purged again.
What did we do with the toys?
- gave some away
- returned several to the grandparents’ house (Grandma got you this loud, flashing toy, so we’re going to play with it at her house. ha! I highly recommend this option.)
- sold lots of others
Some of my decluttering friends are able to tackle a project like this and do it in one big massive overall. For me, these kinds of things typically require multiple rounds!
If you would like to see some of my tips for Toy Organization, you can find those here, all made easier by heavily reducing the number of toys that need organized.
Reducing Our Number of Homeschooling Resources
When we built our home, we made the open landing space upstairs a dedicated homeschooling space. However, as our family continued to grow, it was no longer working. Throughout the day, I needed more regular access to the downstairs areas of the house. It was time for a change!
To the dining room we go! I had always said I didn’t want our homeschooling space to be the first thing people see when they walk into our house, but this dining room area at the front of the house (near the kitchen) was the room that made the most sense for us.
The challenge I gave myself?
First, I thought about the three main areas of focus we have established for our homeschooling:
- a love of books
- a passion for music
- a heart for global needs – a missions-minded perspective
Then, I gave myself two rules:
Rule #1: The items I moved to the dining room had to fit within these three main categories.
Rule #2: Except for the items on the wall and the books on the shelves, I could only bring items into the room as we were actually using them. No maybe items were allowed into the room.
You guessed it! We still do a great deal of our learning together in the kitchen. So if you don’t have a dedicated homeschooling room in your home, know that it’s truly not a necessity. Remember, you’re not just doing school at home, you are homeschooling – your entire home is your classroom.
I do have a homeschool storage closet where I hold seasonal or specialty-themed books, educational games that are used to reinforce various concepts, etc.
As a former classroom teacher, I came into this homeschooling life with a lot! Some of the resources from days gone by have proven to be valuable while other items have turned out to be a better fit for large classroom use.
Yes, I have sold some of my things, but it has also been fun to share my excess with other teachers as well as donate needed items to the therapists my daughter works with each week. Not sure where to part with your educational resources? Ask a teacher! Reach out to a therapy clinic! I bet you will be able to find a good home for the items you’re ready to release.
Yes, there are still books and games on the shelves with smaller resources organized in bins, but it has all been greatly simplified, making it easier to enjoy what we do have!
If you are a homeschooler, it will be important for you to find your own comfort level in this area. You may still feel that I have too much or you may wonder why I parted with so many things, but again, this is all about finding a version of minimalism that works for your family…your real life.
Why minimalism for our family?
For our family:
- We would rather spend our money on experiences – not things.
- Quality family time together is way more fun than staying tied up with unnecessary chores.
We have discovered that less is more, and something tells me this journey toward minimizing has just begun for us.
Changes I’ve Felt
- The days of going shopping just for fun are in the past. I’m not saying I’ll never enjoying another shopping trip with friends, but those cravings to go check out the Target Dollar Spot or go buy new holiday décor at Home Goods and Hobby Lobby – they’re gone. The future process of purging isn’t worth it to me. While I’ve enjoyed pieces of this minimizing process, it’s a lot of work!
- I spend less time dealing with STUFF – which frees up the time I need to tackle must-dos that used to trigger overwhelm: laundry, cooking, kitchen-cleanup, bathroom wipe-downs, etc. I have more energy and mental space to tackle these real-life chores each day – making sure they’re wrapped up each evening so I’m not facing yesterday’s mess tomorrow. My kitchen is where I see the biggest difference in this area. In fact, waking up to an empty sink and an overall clean kitchen has been one my favorite results of minimizing.
- My kids’ chores are more manageable for them. With less stuff, it is much easier for them to keep their bedrooms and play areas neat and tidy. We tidy after lunch and before bedtime, and it goes quickly. Highly recommend!
Questions I Will Continue to ask Myself
- Would I buy it again? Yes, the question I asked myself as I purged my clothes closet is actually the question I ask myself anytime I’m decluttering in any area.
- Am I going to soon be dealing with purging this item?
- Does this item add to my life or take something away from it?
- Do I already own something that accomplishes the same purpose?
- If I were packing for a month-long trip, is this item important enough to my day-to-day that it would need to be packed? Why or Why Not?
For specific help with your problem areas, I highly recommend:
- Joshua Becker – The More of Less is probably my favorite book of his, but they’re all good!
- The Minimal Mom – Her YouTube videos have been such a huge help to me in tackling my specific problem areas.