If you’re like my husband, you’ll think that being minimalist involves living in an empty house with bare walls and rooms. It’s all doom and gloom — devoid of personality, modern conveniences, or any sense of fun. He also thinks minimalism is impossible to achieve with children. But lately, I’ve been trying to explain to him what minimalist living really means, so that he can stop freaking out every time I go on another KonMari bender. 😉
Because yes, you CAN be a minimalist with children and still own a lot of stuff.
Minimalism seems to be a dirty word in this day and age of fat-cat advertising and mass consumerism. It’s not cool to declutter or live with less. In fact, there’s a certain stigma attached to it — if you’re not surrounding yourself with material possessions and constantly splashing the cash, you must be poor.
That is, if you measure success in terms of money.
Me? I’m looking for a different kind of rich life — one that’s full of happiness and memories and laughter and love. Full of calm and contentedness. I want to cherish things, not be chained to them. I want my home to be a sanctuary, not a pigsty. And that’s what the KonMari Method is helping me achieve.
So what does minimalism really mean?
- Minimalist living means surrounding yourself only with things you love.
It’s as simple as that. If you don’t love empty rooms, don’t live in them. If you truly love your TV and your overflowing bookcase and your growing collection of china dolls, keep them. The minimalist bar will be set at different heights for different homes.
I guess the word itself can be confusing, because it suggests having a “minimal” amount of stuff. But the “minimal” here refers to the removal of all the “extra”, the unnecessary, the unloved. It doesn’t mean you need to go off the grid and move to a tiny cabin in the woods, living off the land and foregoing comfortable furniture. (Unless you really want to, of course.)
It means creating a life of abundance, but in a much more meaningful way than just having “stuff”. It’s about surrounding yourself with riches, in the real sense of the word, and removing the fool’s gold. And yes, sometimes those riches will be in the form of physical possessions. As long as they’re things that truly bring you joy and happiness, you’re good to go.
Because yes, you can live a minimalist lifestyle while still owning lots of stuff.
There’s also a misconception that being minimalist means spending less money. It’s true that it sometimes does, but minimalists are often more likely to make big investments in things that bring them happiness. They’ll pay much more for comfort and quality. They splash out on experiences and life’s little luxuries.
They invest in themselves. In their own happiness and wellbeing, not in the next quick fix. They’re curators of life — they can see and appreciate everything that’s out there, but they choose only the best for themselves.
When I was younger, I splashed out a large amount of cash on a beautiful winter coat. At the time, my mother couldn’t understand why I’d spend so much on one item when I could just pick up a cheap one for about 10% of the price. But a decade later, I’m still wearing and loving that coat, and it’s cost me less in the long term than if I’d bought several “disposable” coats through the years.
Looking back, it was probably my very first “minimalist” purchase, even though the price tag certain wasn’t minimal. 😉
But that’s what minimalist living really is — replacing ten mediocre things with one that will make you the most happy.
Can you lead a minimalist lifestyle with children?
It’s not only entirely possible, I believe it’s preferable. Children come with a lot of “stuff”, there’s no doubt about it. Their toys and trinkets and utensils and clothing can take over your home in a heartbeat. A lot of it will be necessary, but most of it will not.
Again, it’s not about getting rid of everything — it’s about making more space for the things that make life with kids easier, and for the things your children truly love, and then eliminating anything that detracts from that.
I read a beautiful story recently that illustrates my point perfectly. (If only I could remember where I saw it!) It was about a little boy and his favourite toy car. When his grandmother saw how much he cherished it and that he brought it with him wherever he went, she bought him a multi-pack of little cars so that he’d have even more of the thing he loved to play with. Except the result was that the boy not only didn’t play with the new cars, but also stopped playing with the original one. When asked why, he replied, “I can’t love all of them.”
Sometimes we think that, if something makes us happy, then more of it will make us even happier. In reality, all the “excess” does is distract us from the things that truly have our heart.
Think about it — we often have several items of similar clothing, but we reach for the same ones over and over again. All the others do is take up space.
Similarly, children play with the same toys over and over again. And even if you feel that they play with everything, chances are the rest of the stuff has more of a “novelty” value for them. It’s more of an “oh, look at all these other things” reaction than a conscious decision to choose only the best.
Children will naturally gravitate towards more “stuff”, not because they’re hoarders, but because they’re inquisitive. All these things bring new opportunities for learning and creativity and imagination. But they’ll get just as much of a thrill from being outside and experiencing new things in nature, or from library books, as they will in a room packed to the rafters.
So at what point can you consider yourself a minimalist?
Well, as I said above, the bar will be set at different levels for different lives. To discover the minimum amount you need to be happy, ask how each thing or experience makes you FEEL. How does it contribute to your life? Would getting rid of it inconvenience you in a big way, or make you unhappy? Could it be replaced by something even better? Could one thing do the same job as several?
Remember that an item’s value is proportional to how happy it makes you, not to its price tag.
In short, surround yourself only with things you truly love, and let the rest go. If it’s not contributing to your happiness, it’s clutter.
Minimalist living means being curator of your own life. Ignore the tag, and decide what’s truly priceless to you.
Want to learn more about minimalism? Read my post, 'An Introduction to the KonMari Method', or download my free guide of recommended resources for all things minimalism:
Do you have any great resources on minimalism? Let me know in the comments so I can check them out!