Do you feel frustrated at the end of the day by how little you accomplished, or by how you managed your time? Are you constantly shuffling the same stuff from one room to the other, or overwhelmed by mountains of laundry or toys that constantly need cleaning up or sorted through?
Do you feel like you’re always caught up in the busyness of the here and now and can’t slow down enough to focus on the WHY behind the what? Are you too busy to prioritize what really matters to you or to be intentional with your family? Do you feel frazzled and distracted?
The solution: simplicity.
I started to revisit the topic of #minimalism after I rearranged my living room furniture. One night after my second baby was born, I was determined to get rid of a bunch of the toys and clutter in our main living area, and in doing so I also got rid of our coffee table and book shelf. Suddenly there was so much SPACE! It felt like our whole house took a collective breath and by removing some unnecessary STUFF, we had room to just be. Getting rid of our coffee table was the catalyst for some major decluttering, but more importantly, it was about beginning our journey towards simplicity as a family.
Let me say first that #simpleliving for our family doesn’t look like only owning 3 items of clothing each, never having any clutter, or being unplugged or tech free. What it is about is having less STUFF so there’s space for more of what matters to us; it’s about spending our time and resources in a way that reflects our true priorities; and most importantly it’s about teaching my children (and in the meantime learning myself) that life isn’t about acquiring stuff or status. I want my children to focus on what really matters – our core family values. But in order for them to do that I have to know what my core values are myself. So let’s start there, and then talk about some practical steps for minimalism and simplicity for families:
Defining Your Core Values
We all want to live in line with our most important values, whether we set aside time to think about this or not. But without defining our core values it can be even easier to live inauthentically, with the busyness of life taking over and culture determining how we spend our time or what we focus on in our families. Determining your core values doesn’t have to be overcomplicated. Start with how you want to feel in your life, at the end of a regular day. Make a list. Do you like going to bed feeling like your day was GO GO GO? Or do you feel more content and at peace within yourself when you’ve had time to be mindful, to breathe deeply, to sit on the floor and play with your children, to spend time outside? Or work backwards – how do you NOT want to feel? Think about specific areas or times of day/the week that are the most stressful: scheduling, finances, domestic tasks, “witching hour”, the morning routine, trying to get out the door. Then pinpoint what makes those things stressful and how you can simplify them. Are you taking on too much in general? Do you have trouble single tasking? Do you need a better way to keep track of everyone’s schedules, or to organize your daily tasks? Another way to pinpoint what your core values are is to think about how you want your children to remember their childhood. What memories do you want them to have? What feelings do you want them to have when they become parents and reflect back on their upbringing Is travel important to you or is it more important that they have a sense of rootedness and a home base? Do you have certain beliefs, spiritual or political, that you want to impress onto them? These things don’t happen in a vacuum; clutter, busyness, and lack of intentionality can keep us from spending time and investing energy into the things we say and think are the most important to us. (See the links at the end of this post for more resources on determining your core values and why it’s important.)
HAVING LESS STUFF – why it matters
Is the point of simplifying or minimalism to just own nothing? Nope. Minimalism “is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom”. That sounds amazing! Similarly, essentialism isn’t about owning or doing less, but about owning and doing what is essential to you. So neither are really about having less (less then someone else) but really about pairing down on stuff and busyness so that there is space for what is important to you. And that will look different for everyone, and leaves space for different seasons (like life with small children!). The real value and emphasis behind minimalism, essentialism, and simple living is making space in your life to focus more on what matters!
So here are some practical steps towards simplifying your home and your life, in order to live more in line with your core values:
- Stop receiving free STUFF. You know how it is – you see this “great deal” or someone offers you their handmedowns for free and you MUST have it. Not because you need it, but because FOMO and we’ve all been taught that acquiring more for less is a good quality to have. But – and say it with me – IT’S NOT A GREAT DEAL IF YOU DON’T NEED IT. I recently sold A TON of stuff online (almost all of which was free stuff I had acquired from other people and never used because I DIDN’T NEED IT) and let me say that selling the stuff you collect that you don’t actually need is a huge time suck and not. worth. it. So next time you buy ANYTHING, think of the time it would take to clean it, maintain it, or resell it. Is it still worth it? Also, implement this great habit for buying less and buying more mindfully.*
- Declutter your online space. Unfollow people that are selling things. If you’re constantly scrolling through social media accounts of shops and boutiques, you’re going to want to BUYBUYBUY. And even if it isn’t an account that sells something, slow down online and ask yourself if seeing the photos of your friends friends’ cousins is worth your time. Think back to your core values and how the way you spend your time is what truly defines what is most important to you.
- Revamp how you give and receive gifts. Christmas is right around the corner, so this has been the perfect time for my family to totally change how we view gift giving. For all the ‘white elephant’ (re: junky) Christmas gifts we are required to give/receive, we are only bringing consumable gifts. Because who needs ANOTHER weird desk ornament or kitchen gadget that will sit in a drawer until the next gift exchange? I’d much rather be given or give a bottle of wine, a box of cookies, or a puzzle. Something that can be used up or passed on.
- Stuff and status/De-owning. This is perhaps the most philosophical and difficult part of simplifying – our attachment to our stuff. And it’s ok, we all have it. It wasn’t two days after getting rid of our coffee table that my husband and I were talking about replacing it with a poof or an ottoman. WHY???? Because stuff makes us feel secure, and stuff = status in our culture. Would people think we were weird for not owning a coffee table? Maybe they would think we were poor? The room sure felt awfully empty now…(the whole point of rearranging and decluttering that space). We faced these same questions when we de-owned our TV. What would people think? Who doesn’t own a tv?? (side note: this makes turning down sales people who call to upset tv packages and service bundling SO easy – “uhh, what do you mean you don’t OWN a tv???”). You may not think you feel pressured to keep up with the Jones’, but consumerism and comparison are the air we breathe and we can all work on our attachment to things in some capacity.
- Make space and practice contentment. Life happens in the margins. The real magic of motherhood and the moments that matter in our day to day lives happen when we s l o w d o w n. You can’t schedule joy or true family togetherness. These things happen when we aren’t racing from one event to the next, when we aren’t so busy cleaning and organizing and buybuybuying, when we have time to just B E. We need to make space for this. But first, we have to face our discontentment. So much of our busyness and clutter has to do with not wanting to face uncomfortable feelings, chasing the next best thing, or having the picture perfect life, home, or family. Even taking a two week break from spending this November showed me how much I rely on buying STUFF to make me feel happy or to avoid facings feelings of anxiety or uncertainty. Lean into those feelings and find a mantra or a gratitude practice that helps you feel content and allows you to slow down so you don’t need to buy more or do more. My mantra is: I have everything that I need. And that’s the truth.
Doing and having less isn’t about missing out, isn’t about lack, isn’t about scarcity – it’s about creating space for the good, rich, meaningful parts of life to happen.
It’s that simple.
- For more on ‘de-owning’, check out the Slow Home podcast.
- For more on slow living and parenting, check out the Slow Home podcast.
- For more on how to buy less and buy more mindfully, check out The Optimal Living Daily podcast.
- For more on how to define your core values and why it matters, check out The Purposeful Home Podcast.
- For more on why simplicity is always the answer, check out the Purposeful Home Podcast.
- For practical tips on how to simplify how you clean your house, check out Healthy Habits Happy Moms radio.