It happened in 2015 when I decided I was going to leave the Midwest suburbs for the big city life in New York City. I looked around my room and decided that I was going to sell as much of my stuff as I could. On one hand, I did this because I needed the money to help with moving expenses. But it was also because I was moving to a much smaller room in my sister’s New York apartment and knew I couldn’t keep everything I had.
Within a few weeks, I had sold more than 50 percent of my belongings, and honestly, it felt amazing.
After letting a lot of my stuff go, I started to feel as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was no longer tripping over things, searching for my favorite black leggings in a sea of other black leggings, and buying things that I didn’t really need. I had more room, literally, to breathe and live with ease. I had become a minimalist, and I loved it.
After letting a lot of my stuff go, I started to feel as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Over the years, I’d read books like The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo or watched documentaries like Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things by The Minimalists. I really embraced minimalism in several areas of my life, such as my relationship with money, how I decorated my home, and my approach to gifting for the holidays. I moved forward with an intentional mindset and made sure that everything I did, bought, or gifted had a purpose and meaning behind it. And if at any point I found that I was no longer interested in an item, habit, or routine, it was time to let it go and create space for something better.
When I found out I was pregnant, one of the jokes I consistently got was how all of my minimalist ways were going to go out the door once my son Oliver arrived. I had heard the stories about how your home can be completely overtaken by toys, books, clothes, and everything else once you start having kids, and I knew I didn’t want that. It wasn’t so much that I cared about if the toys matched the design aesthetic of my home because honestly, that didn’t bother me at all. What was really at the core of me wanting to continue my minimalist lifestyle even after having Oliver was, again, wanting to make sure that everything that was in my home was used, enjoyed, and had a purpose.
For me, it was less about how many kids things were in the home as it was about how many of those things we are using on a regular basis. If you have an Instagram-worthy stack of children’s books and your child really enjoys reading most of them, bravo. Or if your child has a ball playing with fire trucks, dolls, or Legos, then it may be a good idea to have more of those toys than the average parent.
What was really at the core of me wanting to continue my minimalist lifestyle even after having Oliver was, again, wanting to make sure that everything that was in my home was used, enjoyed, and had a purpose.
Minimalism also extends beyond just things; it goes into habits and routines too. When I first started living a minimalist life before I had Oliver, I changed a few things about my days that really made a positive impact on my life. I revamped my morning and evening routines to make them simpler and more enjoyable. I put more intention and thought behind the gifts I gave people and made sure it was things they actually wanted or would use. And I started taking a hard look at how much time I was spending on mindless activities like scrolling through social media or on Buzzfeed when I really wanted to read books and write more.
Now that I have a family, some of these routines have obviously shifted, but the intention is still there.
For example, I wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends, because I hate rushing, and I really enjoy having a cup of coffee before the chaos begins. You might be asking, Laura, what does a cup of coffee have to do with living a minimalist lifestyle? To which I’ll say, everything. There are so many things I could do in the morning that would bring me way less joy than a good and warm cup of coffee. But I’m intentionally choosing to get out of bed at 6am rather than sitting on Instagram looking at other people’s cups of coffee, buying something I don’t need on Amazon, or checking emails that can wait.
For me, minimalism is about recognizing what things in your life you enjoy and cutting out everything else that isn’t that.
The great thing about minimalism (and all of parenthood, really) is that you get to decide what your level of “enough” is because it will likely look different for each family. If you’re wanting to simplify your life and move forward with a bit more intention, here are a few things to consider.
What are your biggest pain points right now?
The best place to start when it comes to making a change is to consider what is no longer working for you. In what areas would you like to have more joy, patience, excitement, fun, quiet, or adventure? When do you often feel stressed, annoyed, unappreciated, stretched too thin, or upset? Take inventory of the times or moments where these feelings come up and see where there is room to make some changes.
Adopt a less-is-more mindset
Sure, you can absolutely toss out, donate, or sell a lot of your items, but the “less is more” mindset is well, more than that. What do you wish was simpler in your life? Do you wish meal time with the family was easier? Do you want your mornings or evenings to run more smoothly? Are you tired of wondering what you or your kids will wear each and every day?
I’ve found that coming up with a meal plan rather than taking requests each night makes mealtimes much simpler for me. I talked to my husband about his strengths in terms of handling mornings or evenings so that I’m not tasked with doing both. While I’m happy to help where needed, doing too much all the time makes me feel overwhelmed. And when it comes to my clothes, I’m starting to build up my wardrobe with neutral staple pieces that look and feel great so I can stop the guessing games with my outfits.
These small changes have made great positive shifts in my daily life.
Create boundaries and get others on board
Before I was married and a mother, I only had to consider what needed to change in my own life when I was shifting to a minimalist lifestyle. Now, there are other people that I need to keep in mind when changes are being made. I learned early on that just because I want or don’t want to do something doesn’t mean that everyone else feels the same. And that’s OK. But what’s helped me as I continue learning how to do this with kids and a husband is to create boundaries around what is non-negotiable for me. Maybe your non-negotiable is to do an audit of toys and books every three to six months to make sure you’re only housing what’s being used. Or maybe it’s to teach the kids to not get up before 7am (or have a partner step in if they do) so that you can enjoy a bit of your morning for self-care.
Creating boundaries is just a way to set some expectations for everyone involved so that they all know and understand how things should be done. It would also be a good idea to talk about their boundaries as well. What does your partner need for them to feel more ease and less stress? If your child is old enough to speak, ask them the same question: what makes them happy and excited to greet the day?
There is a lot more that could go into living a minimalist lifestyle that I haven’t touched on here. And I welcome you to read as little or as much about all of that as you’d like! But just remember, no matter how chaotic your life may seem today, know that big changes happen with little actions in every moment.