Minimalism + Kids | bringing back imaginative play.
So by now many of you have decided that you’d LOVE to live a minimalist lifestyle, but there’s one catch… you have kids.
As we began our minimal journey in January of 2016 – I started paying closer attention to what we would consume as a family, and what items sat in corners untouched for weeks. I was always the Mom who wanted my kids to have baby dolls (and EVERYTHING that comes with), dress up clothes, a vast array of art supplies, all my childhood books plus books they picked from store shelves, the cutest rooms on the planet which involved all sorts of decorations (some useless, some practical), AND a stunning wardrobe.
Just typing out that last sentence, which was a mile long, indicates how may things I wanted… ugh.
So I attempted to create the “best” learning environment for my children by purchasing the latest and greatest toys, books, games, etc. What I didn’t realize, was by purchasing a plastic doll house (one use only) I was actually restricting their problem solving capabilities, and creative abilities!
For example, instead of purchasing the plastic dollhouse -consider using building blocks your children may already have (ours are Magna-Tiles, used for everything), or pillows, blankets, baskets, drawers, or cardboard… allowing your kiddo to express their own creativity, and foster their imaginations with the items already on hand.
It took my heart a while to be able to let go of this façade, or maybe dream I’ve always had for my children – and take the route less traveled by. Not only is it saving our family money on a daily basis, but our children have learned to entertain themselves with simple objects instead of having a room cluttered by single-use toys.
When we decided to pair down, I would lay out all their stuffed animals – and ask them to choose only ONE. I would explain that we would donate all their other loved toys, or animals to children who didn’t have any. That they would get to share their loot with kids who were less fortunate than we are.
During this process (much to my surprise) I found them actually parting with beloved items, just because they wanted to help or give to another child. If this isn’t what life’s all about I don’t know what is. As a Mom. I can’t think of a better way to teach them empathy and compassion, than to give them a choice to donate their very own toys to some other little girl. Seeing them embrace in the act of giving filled my soul more than I can express.
HOW WE HANDLE BIRTHDAY PARTIES + HOLIDAYS.
“Yeah, that all sounds great – But what about birthdays + holidays where family members are in control of the giving?!”
Our family has found that by including a small statement into the birthday invitations, and having multiple small chats with family members about our Minimalism goal – that we’ve actually gained items we need (and can consume) vs a closet full of stuff.
Here is the wording I’ve used on all three birthday invitations this year: “We respectfully ask for “Experience” type gifts only. For Example: a gift card to the movies, play date at your place coupon, ice cream certificate, Stumptown Art Studio gift card, etc.”
When I put that on Bella’s school party invitation, I even had parents come up to me and comment on the great idea of experience type of gifts (since most children already have more than enough).
On the smaller girls invitations, I stated the above plus “If you insist on bringing an actual item: *Lily could really use some size 5/6 diapers, wipes, soy formula, or unsweetened almond milk.” By stating exactly what our needs were, it helped financially and was a thousand times more appreciated by our family than more things we really didn’t need. Don’t be afraid to share your needs with family + friends… ours have been more than understanding, and supportive of our requests.
Once again – so thankful for our tribe.
Also, on the note of birthday parties: don’t feel the need to get caught up in the pinterest competition. I’ve been there, trying to do it alllll and show your kid how much you love them by creating the BEST party on the face of the Earth. It left me feeling exhausted, financially drained from purchasing ALL the decorations, and ALL the food… and most of all, I STILL felt slightly inadequate. Like I was rushing around making sure everything was perfect and didn’t even get to ENJOY celebrating with my child. Yes, the photographs were good… but to be honest you guys… It broke my heart.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. There is NOTHING wrong with going all out on birthday parties. My Mom used to throw us over the top birthday parties as a kid – and they were SO much fun… but then I’d want more. Or bigger. Or this with this and this. And then I got spoiled. All credit given, my mother was always crafty – and really loved going big on holidays. Maybe that’s where I get it from, because I had that as a child too.
I don’t want to get so caught up in party planning, and execution (and selfish desires) – that I don’t actually ENJOY the moment, which I was frequently doing. I’ve found that by simplifying how we do parties as a family has made MY experience more enjoyable, and I can spend more RELAXED time with friends + family.
The number one issue I find with Minimalism and my kids clothing is where we live. In Montana, we have all FOUR seasons – each distinct in its own arena. We get weather between -20 degrees F to 93 degrees F… which means your children need to be properly dressed al ALL times.
Our goal for 2016 with clothing has been to first, rid the clothing that hasn’t been worn in a long time. Secondly, ridding duplicates and trying to narrow down categories to 1 useful item. Like 1 favorite sweatshirt, or 1 beautiful dress. We aren’t there yet, but I hope to be by next year. It’s hard to part with your clothes, because what if you need them later…
As you’ll see in the following photographs, my kids don’t have just 1 of anything – because kids are kids and change outfits a couple times a day. Having less makes me *attempt* to keep up on laundry (because Bella will literally have no undies if I don’t)… but there’s less laundry too! My kids will wear pajamas more than once before washing – and unless the item is dirty, we don’t wash it. Call me gross, or whatever… but that’s how we do it here. 🙂
Upon making this post, and literally lining up all of their clothes on the floor – I found myself purging again, and was able to donate another TWO garbage bags full of things to the thrift store. My kids don’t need 12 long sleeve shirts, and neither do I.
When we DO find that one of the children need a new item – we purchase from an ethical/sustainable company, or organic clothing… and we only purchase ONE. Investing and being a responsible consumer from here on out is the key to making this “project” into a lifestyle. Another option would be to visit your local thrift store, and find what you need there. Recycling + not purchasing new equally, if not more so, helps the environment.
Anyways! I hope this post will help you all find a starting place to attain your minimalism goals while involving your kiddos in the process too. This journey creates many teachable moments, so be sure to include + explain the reasoning to your children.
LILY’S CURRENT, ENTIRE WARDROBE (minus a winter jacket)
- 2 pairs of pajamas
- 2 dresses
- 3 romper outfits
- 1 sweat suit
- 2 jackets (sweatshirts)
- 1 swimming suit
- 1 pair of overalls
- 5 pairs of pants + leggings
- 5 shirts + onesies
- 5 pairs of socks
… and this is how it all fits into her armoire. You’ll notice in the very bottom drawer I’ve stashed diapers, wipes, and clothing she will grow into by January.
ISABELLE’S CURRENT, ENTIRE WARDROBE (minus a winter jacket)
Speaking of multi-use items. Our children DONT have “dress up clothes”… they have Pajama’s that are princess themed, are comfortable, and double as princess dresses when they desire to play Castle.
- 1 swimming suit
- 7 pairs of undies
- 5 pairs of socks
- 5 dresses
- 4 pairs of tights
- 4 pairs of leggings
- 4 pairs jeans
- 5 shirts
- 2 jean jackets
- 4 pairs pajamas
- 1 pair sweat pants
- 2 sweatshirts
- 1 tank top
… and here’s how it all fits in her closet + Rubbermaid organizers.
ISLA’S CURRENT, ENTIRE WARDROBE (minus a winter coat)
- 1 swim suit
- 5 pairs undies
- 5 pairs socks
- 1 tank top
- 1 pair tights
- 3 pairs of jeans
- 3 leggings
- 4 shirts
- 3 sweatshirts + overshirts
- 1 pair overalls
- 5 pair pajamas
- 5 dresses
- 2 sweaters
- 1 romper
…. and how it fits into her dresser. Notice the middle drawer is empty, and in the bottom are clothes that are 5-6Y which will fit her in the spring. In the top drawer (first photo) we also have their one case of DVD’s, nose Frida, and baby monitors.
ALSO, on the subject of movies. The DVD + Blu-ray cases can take up A TON of room. Consider putting all the discs in a small CD case instead, and recycling the hard plastic ones.
The very bottom photo is the donation pile after going through all of their clothes again. Feels SO good to part with extra.
THE TOYS | location: bedroom.
The first photo is a hard plastic doll house, but it’s one I grew up with, folds up small – and is a classic. It holds sentimental meaning for me, and the kids love knowing “Mommy played with this when she was a little girl too!”
The stuffed toys pictured above. They have two small dolls, two small animal beanie babies, two small bears, and two bigger play animals. Starting to look like Noah’s Ark over here with everything coming in twos, but one for each child. They have no other dolls besides these stuffed “groovy girl” dolls. All items go in this fair trade basket I purchased from Amazon.
The above house pillows I purchased from one of my favorite makers, Amanda Rydell of Be Crafty. She now sells kits at Joann’s for a make your own house pillow too! SO AWESOME.
The multi-use dollhouse acts as a bookshelf, and a play area all in one. Below is the breakdown: Random doll clothing + two necklace, Dr. Seuss books, our Magna Tile collection, small doll furniture, books, Bella’s chapter books next to her bedside stand.
And Lily’s small toys.
Now this next item doesn’t fit on the bookshelf, and is one big exception to all of my above stated rules… THE ICECREAM TRUCK.
This is the girls *new* inside toy… the only new toy we’ve purchased all year. We all agreed that after sacrificing many, MANY of their old toys at the garage sale, and watching them walk away into new hands… they deserved a new joint toy. But ONLY 1.
To my dismay it came with a TON of small pieces, (that I occasionally find all over the house), but oh my word have they played with it a TON. They build a store front out of magna tiles & pretend to serve each other. They come up with new concoctions – and play pretend for hours. Thankfully it’s large, but not overly – and all pieces fold up, fitting nicely into the truck (vs. some other set ups where you have to find your own box to store parts, and isn’t easily moved).
THE TOYS | location: Living Room.
So here you really won’t find much. There’s some books to entertain Isla + Lily, baby toys, a small rattle that Ryan had when we was a babe, and a few other small (easily picked up) toys. These are here to help while I’m cooking dinner, cleaning up, or having to work in the kitchen on social media / web stuff.
THE TOYS | location: Mom’s Studio.
So my children USED TO HAVE stacks on stacks of art stuff. Here’s a sneak into what my craft/education room/studio used to look like… circa 2013.
Oh wait. There’s more.
Um yeah… that used to be my studio. and yes. that’s an adult beverage to help with encouragement. Two suburban loads, and years later… it looks like this.
So here is the kids craft dresser. Yes… that’s it – and it works PERFECTLY.
Inside, the top drawer belongs to Mom. The kids know this, and get in trouble if they play with items in here. Mainly just gift packaging, and my favorite little artsy things.
The second drawer down belongs to them. Games, flash cards, small craft projects, and markers belong in here.
The third and final drawer belongs to both of us. On the left are all of my homeschool + art’s books.. and on the right is clearly kids paper, paints, pipe cleaners & felt.
In the cupboard are their only coloring + activity books, a cassette audio book collection (from when I was a kid that includes all the Disney classics), and a few smaller friendship bracelet bins.
Underneath the dresser are small itemized bins, that include Mama’s acrylic + oil paints, random craft stuff, and sharpies/glue. Stuff I REALLY don’t want them to get in to.. 🙂
and yes… I really need to clean my floors. hah!
Okay, so here’s the small basket of “toys” in here + bristle blocks – for when I need to sew and the children aren’t interested in art items.
Lastly, these are the only GAMES we have in the entire house. As a family, these are our favorites (or childhood classics) – so even though we had others, these few were continually our “go to”… and finally I parted with the rest. Ry and I also have a few adult 1000 piece puzzles (not pictured) that we like to do in the winter time once the kids go to bed 🙂
… And by now I’m sure you’re tired of seeing photographs of literally every item my children own. Thanks for sticking through till the end, and although we maybe still look like we have a lot of “stuff”… it’s a fraction of what we had before. Always a process, always on a journey. Keep peeling back layers friends, and may you find joy in having less… xoxo – Chelsi
Such a great post! I definitely want to cut down on my kids clothes more than I already have. Their only 2 years old so I am constantly having to chuck things out that no longer fit them. To spread everything out gives you a much clearer picture of what they have and what they don’t need. As a single parent I have never been able to buy the kids all the toys they needed or wanted but I definitely see the benefit of them using their imagination, and as their twins they have each other to keep company. Love your blog and I look forward to exploring more of it 🙂
Great post. We have cut down so much because we desire for our babies to love and be thankful for what they have instead of taking it for granted; something we noticed when we constantly bought them a bunch of toys