Minimalism With a Family: The Good, Bad & Ugly

minimalism with a family

We have all heard that minimalism is only for single guys, right? Living a simple, uncluttered life might be easier with less stuff and fewer people under one roof, but when minimalism becomes a state of mind it can work for anyone – even families.

According to these Spare Foot Statistics, the self storage industry had a whopping $38 billion in revenue in 2018. And that’s just in the United States (we are surely not the only hoarders in the world). That’s a lot of money just to store some things we probably forgot we even had and will likely never use again.

But we don’t want all that in our homes, right?

Enter the Family

Going from a single person, to a married person, to a family with with kids can bring your clutter factor to scary proportions. Add in a couple pets and it is the perfect storm for chaos and disorder. But minimalism with a family is definitely possible.

Although clutter affects some individuals more than others, it is fair to say it disrupts productivity for everyone. Children are especially prone to the pitfalls of clutter since they are learning the habits they will carry into adulthood. It is important to model good organizational behavior for your children, but it can also help you live a less complicated life in the present.

Let’s assume you have decluttered your home. (If not, start with Marie Kondo’s book.) How do you keep it that way? Here are some practical ways to keep your home sweet home peaceful and tidy.

One Thing In, One Thing Out

This should be a way of life for all minimalist enthusiasts. Every time you bring a new pair of shoes into your home, an old pair goes out. Same goes for any other item in your house. This is one of the easiest ways to keep clutter down.  Since you know something has to leave your house for something new to come in, you will begin bargaining with yourself each time you consider a new purchase.  Sometimes just taking that moment to consider which item to throw out will be enough to talk you out of a new item.

Give Every Item a Home

Items that do not have a home can never be put away. Simple, right?

Yet, so many items end up in the “plop spot”. Every home has a plop spot. It is where everyone drops everything the minute they come through the door. It can easily become a jumble of shoes, backpacks, lunchboxes, sports equipment and dog leashes. Spend a weekend organizing items that don’t have a designated spot. This includes the items mentioned above. Amazon and IKEA are good places to look for organization items and Pinterest is always teeming with ideas.

If you do not have enough room for all of your stuff to be put away, either you still have too much stuff or you need better organization. Be honest with yourself about this and take appropriate measures.

Don’t Let Papers Pile Up

This is one of my worst categories. It seems I am always so busy in the afternoons when the mail and school papers come home that I often make a stack to look through later. The problem is that stack keeps growing everyday and so the task of going through it keeps growing as well.

I have helped myself to a certain degree by purchasing a file crate that I keep by the front door. (I bought a pretty one so it looks nice with my decor.) I also keep a trash can close so I can sort mail as soon as it comes through the door. I use the file crate to file away some things immediately, like bills that will automatically be paid online. I also designated one file for receipts called “possible returns”. Any receipt that has an item I am not sure about yet goes into that file. Or anything that has a limited warranty. I clean it out at the end of each year when I do my taxes and go through everything.

Any papers that need action of some kind are placed on top of the file crate. They are in my way each day when I file new papers, so that keeps them constantly on my mind until I follow through with them.

Assign Chores

One person cannot keep a house tidy when multiple people live there. One of the best lessons you can teach your children is a good work ethic. This begins in the home. All the people who live in your home make up a team and each team member should do his or her part. It can take time to train both your children and your partner to do this on a daily basis, but once the training is over you will all benefit for years to come.

Besides learning to clean up behind themselves as they go through their day, they should each have designated chores that are done daily and/or weekly. I always tell my children that chores build character, and I completely believe that.

Make It a Habit

All of the above steps only work if you implement them consistently. According to John Assaraf (who I follow and greatly admire) it can take at least 90 days to form a new habit. This can increase greatly according to which habit you are trying to establish, of course. However, your goal should be to make these steps habits, and thereby put them on autopilot.

When you have done that, you have developed new lifestyle!

Good luck!