Decluttering vs. Minimalism

I recently read an article on another blog about living out of a duffel bag and a backpack for a month to see what it would be like.  The author learned that although doable for himself as an individual, it would be nearly impossible for a family as the items required for family life do not all fit in a few bags.  Families need homes with kitchens and gather spaces, entertainment centers and sleeping quarters, as well as books, toys, and games.  Minimalism and children are a difficult combination.

That being said, families can live well and happily without filling every room in their home with stuff.  The key is to find a balance between clutter and minimalism.  Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject.

  • Making a happy home is about intention and balance.  Be intentional about what you bring into your home and how much time you spend managing stuff.
  • For example, if you have a family of five with 14 loads of laundry after two weeks, you have a lot of clothes in your house.  If dressing your kids well is something you love, great. Enjoy doing laundry.  If not, consider reducing the clothing inventory.  It’s more fun to spend time with the kids rather than washing their clothes.
  • Toys that inspire imaginative play, problem solving, or creativity are worth keeping.  Large plastic monstrosities are not.
  • Teach your kids to be selective about saving papers.  Help them create a portfolio of their best work.
  • Once the designated toy storage area is filled, institute a something in, something out policy.
  • Make purchases based on your actual life, not the life you wish you had.  If you never entertain, you don’t need fancy serving dishes.  Maybe for the entertaining you do, all you need is paper plates.
  • Decide what hobbies are important and make space for them.  Make it easy to engage in the activities you enjoy.
  • Keep up with the latest gaming and entertainment technology only if that is the hobby you wish to invest in.  It will likely be the only one you’ll have money for.
  • Try before you buy.  Rent or borrow sports equipment to see if it’s something you will do often before you buy and have stuff sitting in your garage unused.
  • Invest in experiences as a family.  Go to ball games, concerts, plays, or water parks.  Visit the city, the mountains, or the ocean. Kids will remember the time you spent with more than the stuff you bought.
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De-cluttering 101

 

One of the most effective ways to make your home feel larger, newer, and cleaner is to remove excess items.  Often we collect things over time and don’t realize how much we have until there is no more room for anything new.  Here are some tips to get started on your journey to a clutter-free home.

  1. Start small.  Don’t try to tackle too much at once and get overwhelmed.  The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  The same principle applies to de-cluttering.  Start with one category (clothes, books, movies, craft supplies, etc.) and allow yourself enough time to sort that one group of items.
  2. Keep what’s used and appreciated, toss what’s broken or guilt-inducing.  Do not keep something because it was a gift or belonged to another family member.  Memories can be held separate from objects.
  3. Don’t hold on to objects that make you feel bad like clothes that no longer fit, home decor that is no longer in style, or towels that are frayed or smelly.  Make room for things that make you happy.
  4. Don’t feel like you need to keep aspirational items, things that represent the person you aspire to be, rather than who you actually are. For example, I purchased a yoga mat and instructional guide, thinking I might take up yoga.  I didn’t.  I bought a food processor thinking I might make bread.  I haven’t.  I bought craft supplies to make cards and scrapbooks.  I did, but not so much now.  It is okay to let go of past goals if they aren’t present goals.  You don’t need stuff reminding you of what you used to want to do.
  5. Enlist the help of a brutally honest friend with a minimalist streak.  I am that friend for a lot of people.  They will give you the courage to let go of things you feel like you should keep but really shouldn’t.
  6. Consider how you can share what you have and borrow what you don’t.  We all have things that we keep because we use them seasonally or sporadically, like the 6 foot ladder to get on the roof or the air compressor to blow out the sprinkler system.  If you don’t have something, rather than buying it, consider borrowing from a friend.  Then return the favor when your neighbor is in need.  This way you can build a friendship rather than a storage unit.