If you are a parent, you know how overwhelming pregnancy and parenthood can be. Not only is your life completely changed with the addition of a little one, but the addition of things can actually be very triggering for some. From the day a pregnancy is announced, mothers (well, parents) are seemingly inundated with gifts. With the rise in popularity of baby showers, gift registries, and themed birthday parties, the stuff parents accumulate in just a few short years can get overwhelming very quickly. Being an intentional, health-conscious, eco-friendly minimalist myself, I had to learn to set boundaries with my family and friends.
Minimalism means different things to different people. For some, minimalism is a necessity to help calm the feelings of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. For others, minimalism is important as it reduces consumerism and helps to keep a low carbon footprint. And some (like us!) practice minimalism for both reasons. Many people think that by being minimalist you are sacrificing, but the lifestyle in itself can actually be very fulfilling. Minimalism honors yourself and time with family versus a focus on material objects. And one person’s “minimalism” can mean something very different from the next.
If you are new to minimalism or simply want to reduce the amount of clutter (ie: anxiety) in your household, this post is for you. As with any lifestyle change, be sure to work in steps; don’t try to do it all at once. Once you begin this practice, you will start to be more conscientious of what you bring into your home, thus preventing the clutter from building up in the first place.
This can often be a touchy subject, especially if you are new to minimalism or are dealing with family/friends who are not minimalists. As a parent, you will have to learn how to set boundaries, not only for yourself but for your children.
If you are having a traditional party with gifts (baby shower, birthday, etc.), creating a registry often helps reduce the number of unneeded items. And, if you do happen to receive extras, return and/or exchange them for something either you or baby do need. Chances are, the gifter would feel better knowing that you will actually be able to use their gift! Do not worry about hurting feelings (this might happen anyway); if someone respected you as a parent, they would honor your wishes.
Another way to reduce stuff is to request experiences versus gifts:
- Baby shower: request a mani/pedi, spa day, prenatal massage, date night for the mama + daddy to be, or special sonography.
- Birthdays, Christmas, etc: host a no-gift party, or request funds for college, annual passes to a museum (or another local attraction they love), or ask your nearby family members to take your kiddo out for an experience themselves
When milestone events are coming up, take the opportunity to educate your friends and family on minimalism. Minimalism is a life choice and has a wide spectrum. You are not depriving your children by not having an entire room filled with toys. If something does not fit or meet your minimalist standards, do not feel obligated to accept or keep it. Be kind, but be firm. Again, this is your child and your household that you are responsible for. You should not be burdened with another toy that will only be played with for a few days. We also stopped giving expensive store-bought greeting cards. Instead, our kids take part in creating a piece of art we can all sign as a family.
If you are years into parenthood, you may have found yourself already drowning in clutter. Here are a few simple tips we live by to ensure we do not accumulate too many things.
This is one of the big ones next to toys! It is so hard to control yourself when you are pumped with hormones walking past the baby section of Target. I get it. And while yes, they are sooo cute, you do not need a ton of clothing and accessories for your baby. Kids grow really fast and before you know it, they are in the next size and half the clothes you had for them are still sitting in the closet with tags on. And while there is not a magic formula on how many clothes you will need, you can try and base it off your current clothing and laundry situation. How many shirts do you go through in one week? Pants? Socks? How often are you doing laundry?
Once your child gets older, you can start prepping for each season by creating a “capsule wardrobe”. By doing this, you can invest in high-quality basics (jeans, shorts, tees, button-ups, dresses, shoes) and rotate them to create different looks. If you use a high-quality natural laundry soap to wash (gentle cycle or by hand) and line-dry, the clothes will last longer. (PRO TIP: Don’t use softeners as they tend to clog up the fibers and don’t allow the clothes to get as clean).
Once your child grows out of the clothing and accessories, hang on to essentials for the next baby (if it is already in your plans), or pass on to a friend/family member. If you have some of the higher-quality brands, you can join some Buy/Sell/Trade groups on Facebook or local mom’s groups. You can even sell last season’s clothes and use that money to buy the next season’s capsule. And don’t forget to buy second-hand whenever possible.
Toys. Ah, toys! Like clothing and accessories, they can be so cute. But also like clothes, your kid will grow out of them fast. Imagination is the best “toy” your child can have. How many posts have you seen where kids are playing with the BOX the toy came in rather than the toy itself? Remember, you are not depriving your child by not having a massive room filled with toys. In fact, countless studies have shown that children actually flourish with less. Less means more to leave to the imagination, more time for independence, and more time for play instead of cleaning up.
As a family, we elect to have low, or no, screen time. We do not own a television, so the boys typically can earn an hour or two with the iPad each weekend. Instead of all that TV time, they are outside as much as possible. Doctors recommend three hours a day. Plus, the more time they are outside playing (versus sitting inside watching TV), the more energy they burn, which usually wears them out in preparation for bedtime.
If you are wanting to have a few toys on hand, going for eco-friendly, sustainable, educational (Montessori-style) toys is best. They are the best way to naturally stimulate and develop your child, while still allowing them to use their imagination to the fullest. Some of our favorites include:
- Building Blocks
- Art Supplies
Here is a link to some previous gift guides we have curated that have some of our faves as well.
If you feel you are inundated with toys, take a day to sit down and sort through everything. Donate toys to a local children's shelter or check with your daycare to see if they accept gently used toys. Donate books to a local library or doctor's office. Once you've narrowed it down, you can also rotate toys out so your kids don't get sick of them so easily.
We also encourage our boys to be involved while meal-prepping, cooking, cleaning, and other aspects of our daily/weekly chores. Try including your children in some age-appropriate chores; it will pay off eventually!
We love books! But instead of storing (and neglecting) dozens of books on a shelf, we go to the library once a week and get 20-30 books for the boys. This is a great way for them to still experience new books without having to purchase and keep all of them. Occasionally we have found one that we really really love, and we will buy it to add to our collection (each of our boys has about 10 books) and we rotate them out as they outgrow them.
Once your child hits school-age you will be alarmed at the amount of beautiful art coming your way. It may hurt to toss it all, so the makers of Artkive have found a way to keep your child’s art forever - without all the clutter! There are a couple of ways to do it, but essentially you are sent a box that you fill with artwork and send back to them where they will professionally photograph and return to you as a hardcover book. Or you can upload pictures of your child’s art yourself. Considering the sentimental value that comes with these treasured pieces of art, we feel the price is unbeatable! And, even better, use our special link here to get $20 off your first order.
It’s a pretty common myth that you cannot be minimalist, or it’s hard being a minimalist, with kids. And while it can be challenging if you are just starting this journey, the time saved and family memories you create are well worth it. For more tips and tricks, follow us on our Instagram stories, and be sure to share your journey with us by commenting below.