I have a friend named Rachel who has a minimalist blog. Before meeting Rachel, I didn’t know that there was a minimalist movement going on. I had spent all my free time researching the healing power of food, not minimalism. (Although, I must admit that the GAPS diet is the ultimate in simplifying food) However, I have always been about simplifying my life, especially as our family grew.
Not just a good idea
A couple of years ago my family of 9 (we only had seven children at that time) lived in a 750 sf home. Minimizing wasn’t just a good idea. It was essential. I had read once that a person must be very deliberate when he/she allows extra items into ones home. Apparently, as soon as you let something in, your brain automatically attaches value to it. So, if it isn’t truly of value to you, keep it out of your house. Otherwise, getting rid of it after it has crossed the threshold of your home will be much more emotionally difficult. This made a lot of sense. And it was indeed true for me. Consequently, I have been pretty diligent (ruthless) about evaluating the usefulness of hand- me-downs. I do love hand-me-downs, i.e. especially clothes. If it weren’t for the generosity of my friends, my children would look like ragamuffins. That being said, I am pretty strict about what is allowed to stay. If it isn’t immediately useful, it goes to the second hand store. I resist the temptation to store it for later in case we might need it. I just can’t possibly manage all the clothing that would entail. I have faith that God will provide for our clothing needs in the future, so I don’t have to stock up in the mean time.
The De-clutter challenge
Another way we have tried to keep things simple is by embarking on Rachel’s de-clutter challenge. This was a great way to get my kids involved in de-cluttering. For them, it was fun to mark boxes off the de-clutter chart as they tossed their old things into the give away bin. I told our kids that as soon as all the chart boxes were filled, we could plan an ice-skating outing. In three weeks my kids had completed the 2000 item declutter challenge!! So we planned our outing and hung up another chart!
When I first met Rachel, we talked about our minimalist approach to activities for our kids. I think Rachel was one of the few people I met who didn’t apologize for not having her kids in a plethora of sports and activities. I too do not routinely put my kids in activities. I have so many children, that even if they were each in just one activity, I would not have time to enjoy life. I would simply be running around being a chauffeur for them. So, I made a conscious decision to avoid getting sucked into the activity hype. But, through the years, I have felt a lot of pressure from other mom’s over this decision. These moms aren’t intending to pressure me. But just by them having their kids in multiple activities, I would feel like I was not doing my job well if I too don’t have my kids in various sports, clubs, etc. It’s mommy peer pressure. 🙂 It was so great to talk with Rachel who not only didn’t apologize for her lack of running around, she too purposefully chose this to help keep herself and her family sane.
Trading clutter for video time
Recently, I gave my kids a new incentive. I told them that for every bag of clutter they were willing to donate (either to the trash bin or to a second hand store), I would give them 1/2 hour of video game time. Since video game time is pretty scarce around here, it was a powerful motivator!
Oh how I love a clutter free home. But it can be tricky with thirteen people living in one house. But it is absolutely do-able. How does one do it you say? Well let me tell you. I don’t allow my children to have toys. Just kidding. Sort of. My kids have toys, but not a lot. At any given time they have one basketful of toys in the living room. It’s not a huge basket. And if there is a time when even that basket makes me feel like it’s too messy, well then that basket takes a little time out in my bedroom closet (It’s sitting there right now). I’ll usually let it come out in 7 to 10 days. I just don’t have the time and mental energy to nag kids to pick up toys. Every 5 or 6 weeks I will switch out the toys in the toy basket. We have a stash of toys in a locked room downstairs. This helps the boredom factor.
We are so very blessed to have to deal with such clutter. We live in a time and place where our problem is having too much, not too little. But, as it turns out, too much can become overwhelming and can quickly steal our peace of mind. Clutter doesn’t have to take over your home or your family life. All it takes is a focused effort in prioritizing and de-cluttering.