Minimalist Mom: Decluttering with a Big Family

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I’ve had this aversion to “stuff” for quite some time.  I feel trapped and unable to move forward when my house is filled with things.  In fact, the more there is in the house, the less I get done and the less productive I feel.

With every round of decluttering, I longed to be rid of all the items surrounding me and have a clear, mostly-empty house.  Every time I decluttered, I sent tons of bags to the recycle, the thrift store, and the trash.  How, then, did my house always still feel like it was swallowing me up and tapping all my energy?

There is a word that I was trying to work towards, I just didn’t know what it was called.  It’s called minimalism.  When I told my husband each time, “I just want everything gone,” I didn’t know that I was really telling him I was crying out for a minimalist lifestyle.

I’m a minimalist mom trying to strike a balance between big family functionality and a peaceful and productive house.  Is that even possible?

Is It Possible to Be a Minimalist With a Big Family?

Is it possible to be a minimalist when you have a large family?  With myself, my husband and four kids in the house, it seems someone is always bringing more items home.  As fast as we declutter, more junk shows up to be dealt with.

Then, add to the mix 2 babies and a toddler and all the large specialty gear that comes along with those ages.  Add loads and loads of laundry due to 3 kids without full potty training.  Toys, bottles, board games, trash, strollers, books, clothes to hand down, clothes to grow into, decorations for every holiday, craft supplies, homeschool supplies, still-packed boxes from a move 6 months ago, items which didn’t sell at the last garage sale…

Does this list sound familiar?  Are these things choking your house too?

While having young children does add a lot of stuff you must keep around until it’s outgrown (car seats, bouncy chairs, play gyms), you can still set reasonable limits and make sure you don’t duplicate gear or keep too much of one thing. 

As the household manager, it’s your responsibility to set limits for what can be in your house.  Just because there is room for more stuff, it doesn’t mean that empty area should be filled up.  This is often the hardest with kids, who seem to accumulate clutter like magnets.

How Do I Get My Kids to Declutter?

First of all, you’ll need to set limits for each person and space in your home.  It can be a simple limit for your teen, like all  makeup has to fit in one cosmetic organizer.  Or that your kids’ dress up clothes all have to fit in one dress up bin. 

Once you set these space requirements for possessions, it becomes your kids’ responsibility to declutter (with your teaching and guidance in the beginning).  They must make sure everything fits it its own space. 

If they want to get something new, they’ll have to get rid of something old to make room for it.  The kids will be deciding what stays and goes to stay inside their limits, so they can’t blame mom or dad for getting rid of all their “favorite stuff”! 

Start teaching kids to declutter at a young age and they’ll develop an attitude of appreciation for what they have, not a craving to accumulate more and more.  When they have to be responsible for making choices about items, they’ll be less likely to ask for new things every time you go to the store.

How Do I Streamline the Necessary Items for a Big Family?

While you can’t cut down to the absolute bare bones when you have a lot of kids, it is possible to streamline your house and its processes to free up your time and space. 

Laundry: Laundry is a huge space and time sink if you don’t set limits.  The old “1 outfit per day” rule is a great starter for those with tweens and teens. This means they need less clothing in their closet as well.

Assign each child a beach towel for their bath towel.  Have them hang their beach towel up to dry after their bath instead of going into the laundry every time.  This trick cuts down significantly on the loads of towels you’ll have to wash each week.  Plus, you just eliminated the need to own more than a handful of bath towels for your kids.  My family has 4 kids and we have only four bath towels in their bathroom.

Dishes:  Assign each child a special cup, sippy cup, or water bottle each day that they can have their drinks in.  It’s up to them to make sure their cup is rinsed after drinking from it so the same cup can be used for a whole day.  If each person in the house only has 1 drinking cup per day, your dishwasher’s loads won’t fill up as quickly. 

Plus, you won’t need to own stacks and stacks of kids’ cups if each person has only 2 (1 to use for a day, 1 to use for the next day when the first one is in the wash).

It is possible to have a minimalist outlook towards your possessions, even if you’re a mom with a big family.  Remember that just having more things doesn’t make people happier.  If you have 50 board games but the tall stacks make them so hard to get out that you always tell the kids no to game time, it’s time to trade in some things in favor of people.  Happy decluttering!

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