How I Minimize as a Family of Six

It is safe to say there are a lot of voices out there when it comes to minimalism. They're all out there just trying to find out what works for them personally and I'm no different. Maybe you're here looking for a secret answer to help make #AllTheThings go away like I have many times. 

I've read or mostly read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing  by Mari Kondo and I honestly did enjoy the read, but I felt like half the book was enough for me to get the gist of what it was all about and enough to give me the inspiration to start digging in to minimalism. 
If you've never read it I would definitely recommend it, I will more than likely finish it soon as it is still on my nightstand stack of books and the ideals in it have stuck with me more so than many others I've researched. 

It's safe to say my Pinterest is teaming with inspiration for what I want my life to look like, what minimalism looks like to me, and it powers me on. If you don't follow me on Pinterest you totally should. 

The beginning of my journey isn't unique, it's pretty standard, I woke up and realized we had way too much stuff and I was emotionally and mentally suffering because of it. My motherhood was suffering because of it and I felt trapped and guilt ridden for allowing it to get to that point. Because it was mostly me, let's me honest. I bought the kids the toys, I love projects, I was the unorganized one that didn't know if we owned something so bought it and realized we already had it, I'm the keeper of the home so I did this to myself. 

Maybe your story was a little different, but ended in the same results. 

In my family the traditional Kon Mari way of decluttering, by category, definitely did not work. We have 6 people living under this roof and as such the amount of things we own is quite a lot more than a single person or a couple. Also, we home-school so my children are pretty much always around making it that much harder to downsize quickly. I can't get out #AllTheThings, go through them all, then put them all away in a single day either. And if I make a giant pile on the floor my children will be right in the middle of it. Just not conducive to a "getting things done" kind of day. 

Click on the image above to download the PDF.

One thing I've learned is that, for me at least, minimizing has a million decisions and it will mentally exhaust you to make all of them. Even sitting there holding each possession, that doesn't make it effortless. You have to sit there and ask yourself if it sparks joy, or if it even has a purpose in your life and that burns steam. 

After 2 years I can safely say we have at least halved our possessions, yet we could easily cut them in half again and maybe even cut that half in half. The more I go in and out of our house the fresher my eyes become and I see my rooms with a new perspective. I've taken it as a challenge to try to streamline our living spaces as much as possible. So, here enters tip #1: 

I looked at the bedrooms, for example, and asked myself What purpose does/should a bedroom have? And I came to the conclusion that a bedroom is for sleeping in. It's for getting dressed. So, ideally the bedroom should have only things that go along with those purposes. So, I took out all the toys. I took out all furniture that didn't suit those purposes. And I was left with beds, clothes, and a small bookshelf with books for each room because sometimes a book in bed is just what you need. 

I asked myself that same question for each room. The more you pin down the purpose for the space the easier it is to define it with items that you will keep in it. 

What purpose does/should a bathroom have? Obviously using the toilet, showering, & brushing teeth. So, nothing else should go in a bathroom except the items you need to finish those tasks. You would think this was common sense, but when you start you will be surprised at what random things you find in these spaces that maybe migrated unwittingly and just never was given a correct home after that. I know I can say that right now there is a gallon of paint under my husband's sink in the cabinet, because I never technically finished painting our bathroom and that's the color for that room. 

Just because you're wanting to minimize or downsize doesn't mean you have to suddenly get rid of every knick knack or decor item you own. However, you should ask yourself if they still bring you the same joy they used to when you first bought them. You would be surprised how many times you think you do and then you start to really look at an item and find you really don't have any attachment to it anymore. I've done it many times. 

I thought I loved something and maybe I still do, in theory, but I have decided that I'd rather not have it taking up the space it is. I value the cleanliness more than the aesthetic value of the item, especially if it's just decor that is something I bought because it's pretty. 

Don't question it too hard, you'll know if you're ready to let something go or not. You can push yourself to, but you might regret it. Then again, I've never regretted getting rid of a single item out of thousands. 

As much as I love Pinterest worthy photographs I am not using my desire to downsize as an excuse to buy something else to put in those empty spots. You shouldn't either. You don't need to go out to buy baskets, or labels, or whatever else they have in those trendy posts about organizing your closets, or cabinets, etc. As much as I love that look of organization, the less you own the less than owns you. The less you own, the less you need to organize. Wait to invest in things to hold your things until you at least get through your initial purge and feel like you're done because I bet when you are done you will have empty containers (or stacks of them) to use for that exact purpose. 

I myself gave away at least a dozen large totes, many small baskets, and even clothes baskets when I was done with my first go round. Now that I'm on my 3rd or 4th I am still emptying containers and finding I want them less and less. All they are is an excuse to fill them! I love a good wicker basket, but do you know what I love more than a beautiful wicker basket? An empty wicker basket. But there is no such thing unless it's still sitting on a shelf in the store. Because inevitably you will buy a basket and feel the need to fill it up.  Ever been to a store and they hand you a basket or bag to make your shopping more "convenient"? News flash, it's because expensive research shows if they can get a basket or bag in your hand you will FILL IT without even meaning to! 

Plus, I find baskets and totes hide our dirty little secrets, stuff we don't want to deal with, stuff we don't want to put away, stuff that maybe doesn't have a home. Deal with them. If you don't want it out in the open put it in a cabinet, find it a home or throw it away. 

I know we all want to build Rome in a day, but that's just a great way to start, get burned out, and never finish. This is about longevity, not speed so to speak. For those of us with larger houses and especially those of us who deal with a house full of people that never leave we require a marathon vs a sprint to the finish. 

We are playing the game by different rules. Maybe you don't even have kids, but your mess is larger than most, or you deal with anxiety/depression etc and you're finding it hard to even start the first step. Take a deep breath and follow these easy baby steps: 

  1. Get a small basket (something you already own, a box, etc), make sure it's small enough to fit in your lap.
  2. Get a trash bag & a give away bag.
  3.  Pick a spot to concentrate your efforts in.
  4. Gather up enough items to fill your basket.
  5. Take your basket full to a neutral spot in the house where you can concentrate on your task.
  6. Go through the basket one item at a time and put things away, throw them away, or put them in the give away bag and then move on to the next.
  7. Repeat this process as many times as you want to in a day until you clear the area you're working on.
  8. Check it off your list.
I have started using that old saying How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You will be amazed at just how fast you get through a room even when you're taking it one small basket at a time. When you give your mind the space to process it will work faster and with less burn out than going into a room full force.

Pick the category, whatever it is, that is the easiest to get through, the least emotionally attached. For me that was my kitchen and bathroom. To me those areas are just logical areas, they're filled with tools for a specific task so it really wasn't difficult for me to get through them quickly. It was simply a matter of asking the right questions: Do I use this? Do I need this? Do I have more than one? Is it expired? Is this even it's home? And go to town. 

But deal with things that are yours to purge. My husband and I have pretty much decided that I am given the free range to purge the entire house except for the few areas that hold his possessions, those are his to decide. Other than that I get to be the decider for everything else. Wherever your areas are, deal with those alone. 

I didn't even pressure my husband into downsizing at all. I just went about my business downsizing and he began to see how much nicer the areas looked after I'd gone through them and they were bare bones. They were attractive. You see, we all love clean open spaces, we're drawn to them because that's where our minds work more freely. So, after about 2 or 3 months of me consistently making progress he went in and downsized all of his stuff without a word from me. 

Don't try to talk your spouse into it, leave them alone, just do your thing as best you can without bothering theirs. I guarantee that respecting their person and their space works way better than berating them like a broken record. I save that for things like trash sitting on the counter less than a foot away from the trash can. 

Also, from a kid who's mother often got rid of my stuff without my consent and without my knowledge, know your child and let them be involved if they're older than 5 and care about their things. Pushing them too much could definitely cause an unhealthy relationship with things and might have the opposite effect on them in the long run than what you're hoping for. They're people, so respect that. My 10 year old and my 7 year old have mostly been involved in the process. Originally I pushed way too much and feel like I stepped on their toes far too many times and I regret it. Although I don't regret the outcome in their bedrooms. My 7 year old prefers an empty room. I tried not to influence their decisions too much. I would allow them to go through their things and let me know if something was keep or give away. If they wanted to give away that very expensive toy they just got a couple months ago, I gritted my teeth and put it in the bag. I swallowed the desire to put my expectations on them to keep it because it cost a lot and was basically new. Don't burden them with those thoughts. 

I'm sure this won't be the last post I write with tips and tricks on minimalism, but it is a great start and I hope you find them useful to help you with starting the process or even continuing the process!

Feel free to ask me any questions you'd like answered on any other ways we get through downsizing a room in this household in the comments below, or through my contact page. I'm always happy to help someone else out!

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