In the years that I have been keeping this blog, I have written very little about parenting; I suppose I was focused on the recipes and also felt that I wasn’t qualified to tell anyone how to raise their kids. Yet, I find I have people asking me how I manage so well as a single mother of six. Life is extraordinarily chaotic, and with the addition of children to the family, the chaos only grows. I remember a time a few years back when I felt overwhelmed as a mother, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to keep up with all of the duties expected of me. I knew there had to be some kinds of life hack but had no idea where to find it and had accepted the fact that life with kids was just in general messy all the time.
Somehow by some magical force, I stumbled upon the simplest solution to deal with the chaos and felt rather silly that I hadn’t thought of it sooner or on my own. So I’m a huge documentary buff and am always interested in topics like climate change, human rights issues, ethical treatment of animals, and happiness in general. The documentary The Minimalists came up in my recommendations on Netflix, and I figured why not try something different… cue life change. From the beginning, I was fascinated with the idea of living with less, the simplicity of it, the money-saving side effects of the lifestyle change.
Early the next morning I woke up and got down to business, you know those major cleaning jobs where you have to make a massive mess in order to sort everything out? Well, that was my life for the next two weeks… I’m sure my ex-husband thought I’d completely lost it. As the week wore on, I managed to donate about 95% of what we owned and no longer used to charity. In total it was 48 large boxes and bags! I remember vividly the day the truck came to pick everything up; I remember the tension in my chest as I watched all of my “stuff” go. I had to fight hard to resist the urge to run outside and take it all back. I’m not going to lie, that feeling of loss stayed with me for a few days, and I was almost sad until I realized I couldn’t name even ten things I’d donated. Clearly, all of that stuff didn’t mean that much to me after all.
So here is where this applies to the kids; initially, I didn’t touch the kid’s things. I felt it wasn’t up to me to decide to donate their belongings, but after a few weeks in my decluttered home, I realized how much happier I’d become. I wasn’t wasting time on cleaning, there was no clutter to stress me out, I felt free, and I wanted that for my children too.
I’m sure every parent out there has heard the dreaded “I’m bored” said in a whiney voice, and I’m also sure you looked at your child scratching your head as you said, “You have a ton of toys, what do you mean you’re bored!?” Here’s what I discovered, kids are just as overwhelmed by clutter as adults are, the more toys they have, the less they will play with. So I sat down with the kids and helped them go through their rooms, they each kept ten stuffies (out of the hundreds they had), and we carefully chose to keep the toys they loved and used the most. I had expected a battle, but they surprised me and were more than willing to part with their toys, knowing another child would get to enjoy them.
Here are a few facts that help explain this a little better:
- If a toy is in a place the child cannot directly access or see, they won’t play with it.
- Toy boxes are great in theory, but most of the toys are never played with as they are living at the bottom of the box.
- If one toy in a collection is broken, children will often stop playing with the entire set.
- Clutter kills imagination.
- More toys equals more boredom; more choices leads to overwhelm and shut down.
Just a few points worth thinking about, I do believe its extremely important to include your children in the minimizing process, what may seem like junk to you could be very special to them. I think it is important is to keep all of the donated toys for a month in the garage before donating just in case your child starts asking for a specific toy that is special that they had forgotten about. In our case, we only pulled one toy out of the donation boxes during the month we waited; the kids haven’t asked about the toys since.
Here is what we kept:
2. Imagination encouraging items like dress-up clothes, dollhouses, lego, car mat and cars.
3. Special Stuffies
4.Active items like skipping ropes, bikes, skates
A few great rules:
1. Keep toys where they can be seen
2. If it’s broken and can’t be fixed, it goes
3. Let the kids help with the decluttering
4. If it has to be stuffed in a closet, ask yourself if you really need it.
5. Remember: If it’s out of sight it is out of mind and won’t be played with
6. Make sure everything has it’s place
In the months after decluttering, I noticed a massive change in my children; nobody was bored anymore. They played with everything they had (because it was in a place where they could see it). The bedroom stayed clean!!! A decluttered bedroom is extremely easy for children to keep clean on their own as everything as its place. The kid’s interests shifted quite quickly to playing more outdoors, arts and crafts, imaginative play, and reading their books. The kids started playing together more as well, and their bond as siblings has grown in the most beautiful way.
This alone has been one of the best parenting decisions I have ever made; it has given us freedom. There is no fighting over the cleaning of bedrooms, I am no longer exhausted trying to keep up with the cleaning and now have time to spend with the kids. Plus I have saved SO much money embracing minimalism and am no longer chasing the latest trend. I am so glad I did this before I became a single mother, I’m not sure I’d have managed if I hadn’t!
I’m not going to lie and tell you this was a quick and easy process, it usually takes people longer than I did to declutter (I have a touch of OCD, so that worked in my favour haha). Baby steps are still progress, start in one room and remember that: Your home is not a storage locker.
I’d love to hear about your adventures in minimalism in the comments!