Minimalism in Motherhood
Can those two words co-exist? I mean, really - the toys, the dishes, the laundry, the...everything. Legos underfoot. Stray Cheerios in every crevice of furniture. A sinkful of last night’s dirty plates. Oh, Mama, I know!
Five years ago I quit my job to stay home with my first born. The Mister and I made the decision to live the slow life - to be present with our family. The pay cut was painful, but there were so many positive byproducts of this decision: I had the time and energy to launch my photography business, I started a garden and learned how to cook, and most life-changing was minimalism.
We didn’t seek out the minimalist lifestyle. We stumbled into it because we had NO MONEY. When we started modifying our spending habits we found we had inadvertently become minimalists by how we spent our resources: namely our time and finances.
Because there was less money there was also less stuff, but we found it was liberating. At first the change was hard. I’m a natural spender; I love those Target endcaps something fierce, but...it started to dawn on me that those knick knacks I thought I couldn’t live without didn’t actually matter. They gave me a 5 minute high, and as soon as it was home, they only added to the volume of unnecessary belongings we already had, not to mention it was a tug-of-war with my wallet that needed to lose in light of new necessities, like diapers.
It was then that I realized: I don’t need what other people say I need to be happy. I can be content with less. Before I would waste so much time browsing the internet for the next must-have item to add to my wardrobe. We had relatively no money to buy new clothes every season like I was used to, and I learned that I could happily go shopping in the closet I already had to outfit myself for the next year without needing anything new. And not only that, I didn’t need three-quarters of what was in my closet!
For some of you, minimalism is a big scary word that conjures up images of bare walls and succulents, impossibly tiny homes and owning a mere 100 items. Stop! That does not need to be your minimalism!! And it certainly isn’t mine.
Minimalism is knowing the life you want and going after it. It’s about being able to pursue what you love. It’s being able to say goodbye to your schedule or belongings if they’re not helping you get there. It’s about freeing up your time and space and building a margin in your life. You own your things, not the reverse. For the moms out there, it gives you the freedom to live your life without being a slave to your chores and the trappings of a home. It gives you time to be a mama instead of a housekeeper.
Some people might walk through my home and say, “You are so not minimalists! You have art on the walls! And like, three hundred books! And you have toys!!”
Why yes, Observer, we do have those things. And unapologetically. But we have chosen to keep those because they add value to our lives.
I love creating a beautiful space. I love to read to my children and get lost in the pages of other worlds. My children love to build and play. So yes, we have stuff. But it’s a curated collection of stuff. We intentionally choose what lives in our homes. It requires thoughtfulness. Not just any book or toy comes to stay here - only the ones we really love are bequeathed precious real estate.
After asking what we really need, use and love, we were able to part with those things that didn’t contribute to the life we wanted. I tackled every room and cupboard in the home, but there were three areas I specifically targeted: the kitchen, my wardrobe, and the toys.
I’m a work-at-home-mama that cooked from scratch in a dutch oven every time. Why keep unused crock pots? Gone. After a month-long experiment of living without the microwave we moved it to the basement. Six months later? Gone. Trivial appliances and duplicate utensils? You guessed it, gone.
In the last few years I’ve removed over 75% of my wardrobe. I give myself permission to wear a capsule, or uniform - a handful of items that look great on me and are seasonally appropriate. Sweet freedom! To wake up every morning knowing exactly what I’m going to wear is truly liberating. This past winter I purchased three high-quality dresses that I can wear for just about any occasion, and their beauty and versatility (and machine-washability...holla!) make my life easy. This also means that I literally only have to wash about one dress a week. Can I get an “Amen!” for less laundry?! And you know what’s even better? By choosing three dresses I absolutely love, I don’t pine for anything else. I’m happy with less.
Even though our family and friends give thoughtful, imagination-driven gifts, we still encounter an influx of hand-me-downs and odds and ends that aren’t of interest to the kids or jive with our family philosophy. An overabundance of toys can quickly lead to white noise, over-stimulation, indecision, chaos and oddly enough...boredom. We give our kids some physical parameters and encourage them to choose which toys to keep and which to take to a thrift store to bless another family. It’s easier for children to play and imagine without the distraction of a million toys cluttering up their space.
With less things, we spend less time picking up, yelling at kids to pick up, and less time being frazzled/frustrated/overwhelmed by belongings. We had to ask ourselves some really hard questions and be honest with ourselves, but it’s paying off.
By reflecting on the life we wanted and making the hard decisions about what stays and what goes, we eliminated perpetual decisions and crafted the life we want now.
We love this minimalist life of ours. When we focused on what brought us value and joy, life became infinitely better. Now we tend a garden. We go for bike rides. I make bouquets with flowers from our yard. We cook from scratch. We eat ice cream with fresh strawberries on our porch swing. We brew kombucha. I spend less than one hour a week doing laundry. Our kids are happier with fewer toys. We enjoy each other and a slower way of life. And it's awesome.
For me, minimalism and motherhood go hand in hand, because without minimalism I would not get to experience the quality of motherhood I have now. When transitioning into this lifestyle I worried that we would be missing out on so much, but by living our minimalist life, we have actually maximized it. For us, we are living the best life.