Lessons in Minimalism

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We have been living in minimalism for the last three weeks. Besides the items that are currently in storage at my parents’ and brother’s house, everything we own is all that we can fit in our car.

What minimalism with kids looks like

For our family of four, minimalism with kids looks like two hiking bags filled with our clothes, shoes, and travel supplies. Minimalism for us also consists of a carry-on sized backpack for each family member that we fill with our own personal items: stuffies, books, and toys for the kids; and laptops, notebooks, and travel docs for the grown-ups.

Since we’re spending the first portion of our trip road-tripping and camping around the United States, we’re also bringing along two large plastic bins filled with camping gear, a tent, sleeping pads, blankets, walking sticks and four camping chairs. These items will be dropped off at my mother in law’s house before we sell our car and fly to Mexico.

It’s an odd feeling to know that we have so few possessions compared to most families. Yet, in a way, we still feel like we have way too much. There is so much more we can do in living a life of minimalism!

Two small kids backpacks for traveling in minimalism
Carry-on backpacks for the kids (June 2018)

Starting out with too much stuff

This journey towards a more minimalist lifestyle has been four years in the making. And it hasn’t always been easy.

Like many families, we accumulated things over the years. Not out of consumerism, but purely out of happenstance. We bought things for our ourselves and our kids. Our home collected papers and books. We stocked up on supplies that we may need for future use. And we got too busy to really take the time and assess our possessions.

Even though we weren’t hoarders by any stretch of the imagination, in the back of my mind I always felt like we had too much stuff. And we were certainly a long way away from living a life of minimalism.

When the idea of an around the world trip was first implanted in our brains back in 2014, we knew that one of the biggest undertakings would be getting rid of all our stuff.

And thus began the journey towards minimalism.

Our journey towards minimalism

At the time, we were living in a three bedroom house. I had grand schemes of selling our things on eBay, and making money for our trip. But after a year and a half of cataloguing items, taking pictures of the items, posting them online, monitoring the bids, and making trips to the post office to ship items, I realized the futility of it all. It was like a full-time job! And in the end, I only made about $1,000 and still had a garage full of things we needed to get rid off.

In late 2016, we bought a house, and I decided to hold on to our stuff a bit longer into 2017, when we could donate it to charity and get a tax write off. It was a challenge finding space in our new house, as it was smaller than our previous one by about 600 square feet. The move forced me to be more intentional about what items I wanted to fill our house with, but even after donating $3,000 worth of items to charity, we still felt like we were living in a full house.

The 15′ Uhaul with our belongings (June 2018)

Committing to being a minimalist family

By the time 2018 rolled around, we realized that time was ticking. We had committed to ourselves to move out by the end of June. Now we were on a race towards minimalism. We kicked our purging into high gear, getting our kids involved in the discarding process, and making multiple trips a month to thrift stores to donate our things.

By the end of June, we ended up donating an additional $5,000 worth of stuff. My husband also sold $800 worth of furniture in our last month in the house. On the day that we moved out, we closed the door to an empty house, and drove off with a 15 foot U-haul full of our possessions. A life of minimalism with kids was now within our sights!

Lessons in minimalism

The biggest lesson in all of this is that minimalism won’t come unless you’re willing to commit to it. We can say to ourselves, yes, we’ll make an effort to reduce our things, but there will always be an excuse not to make it happen. We need XYZ item, there’s not enough time to declutter, this was a gift from great-aunt Sue and we don’t want to make her feel bad.

Once we had our departure date set, it became much easier to set those excuses aside. Instead, we would ask ourselves, is this something that we really want to come back to in three years?

The road to minimalism isn’t always easy, but it certainly is achievable. Even if you’re not going on a three year around the world trip like us, there are things that you can do to get your family towards living a more minimalist type of lifestyle.

An SUV with a cargo box for traveling in minimalism
Our car, packed with our things for travel

Keep the things that bring you joy

One of the books that really helped me commit to minimalism was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. Her main premise is to only keep items that spark joy. Discard everything else. In this way, you are filling your life with things that make you feel happy.

While the KonMari method, as Marie Kondo likes to refer to her philosophy, isn’t always practical in a family setting (who really has time to go through every single item in their house and ask themselves, does this bring me joy?) it really did help in directing our family’s priorities in what items we would keep.

Even now, as we are moving from place to place, we ask ourselves, is this thing that we’re lugging around meaningful enough to us to be carried through nineteen or more countries?

A backpack against a boulder for traveling in minimalism
My carry-on backpack for traveling (June 2018)

Practical minimalism

For families aspiring to become minimalist families, it doesn’t hurt to practice a bit of practical minimalism. Do an honest accounting of the things in your life that you are keeping. What are you bringing in to your house, and what will you discard in exchange?

Families don’t have to drastically discard every item they own in the name of minimalism, but they can start being mindful of what is being consumed. Be aware of the things you acquire. In the end, it’s the mindfulness that will make all the difference.

Do you have a method that has helped you achieve a life of minimalism with kids? Share it with me in the comments!

Lessons in minimalism, achieving minimalism with kids

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2 Responses

  1. My husband loves Marie Kondo’s book and I keep avoiding finishing it. I love the idea of minimalism and wish I could incorporate it more into my lifestyle but I also love finding and collecting things so I’m working on doing that less and buying fewer things. Your adventures inspire me!

    1. It’s a hard balance of keeping the things that you need versus the things that you want. But if the finding and collecting things brings you joy, then I think Marie Kondo would say it’s okay to keep them. 🙂

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I'm a travel-loving mom of three from Seattle. Join our adventures as we explore the Pacific Northwest and the world!

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