Written by Rachel Jonat
When my son was 10 months old I decided to take a cue from the minimalist movement I kept hearing about and donate, sell or recycle half of our possessions. Sounds extreme but I was sick of the clutter and cleaning the clutter and maintaining the clutter. I’d held out hope for a long time that a miracle organizing system or a piece of furniture from IKEA would whip my home in to shape. But I finally realized I didn’t need more containers or pretty baskets, I just needed less of everything.
The process wasn’t easy or quick. After two months of sorting and purging I could see the back wall of my closet and a lot of empty shelves. It felt great. My home was easier to clean and there were no more ‘I’ll deal with that later’ drawers full of random items.
The best benefit to embracing minimalism has been clarity about what we prioritize as a family. At the top of the list is time together and our health. When I donated 80% of my wardrobe I had acute regret about mindless shopping and buying things I ended up never wearing much. Thousands of dollars in goods left our home and these were items we had spent weeks and months of our life working to pay for.
If time together as a family and my health were my top priorities why I had bought, and thus worked for, a lot of stuff we never used? Why had I spent long hours at an office working for things when my real priority was eating well, exercise and more good conversation and laughter with my husband and son?
As you might guess it’s pretty easy now for me to say no to an afternoon of shopping with friends or turn a blind eye to sales.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I am fighting a losing battle. That my son will want lots of toys and television (we have one but don’t have cable) and video games as he gets older and we will cave. I’m told that my belief that the best thing I can give my son is my time will only last until he can say, Toys ’R’ Us. Then I’ll be hopping on the bandwagon of plastic toys galore.
Despite the pessimists I remain a believer. My husband and I have reduced our bills and paid off a lot of debt in the last year. We originally believed I would have to go back to work after having my son but with our new minimalist lifestyle we’re managing on just my husband’s salary. I’m getting to spend a lot of time with my son in these sweet early years. I’m grateful. If we can make more time in our life surely we can parent our son to lead an experience, rather than consumer, driven life.
I also have a secret weapon: my older brother. One of the main reasons I remain convinced that we will be able to raise our son in a home that is content with less, is that my brother has already done it. My two nephews and one niece don’t watch television and when Christmas rolls around they are often hard pressed to think of something they want. These children ice skate, swim, read, build snowmen and make home movies as a family. They go for hikes. They’re engaged and attached with their parents, not television or an overstuffed toy box.
My son also reminds me daily that it’s not about the stuff. We do have toys in our home but most don’t hold his attention for long. He prefers following me around our home, watching me as I cook or simple games like peek-a-boo. I hope the love of peek-a-boo turns into a love of laughter and the curiosity in the kitchen turns into a fascination with where our food comes from. If there is one thing I desperately want my son to grow up knowing, it’s that life is not about things, it’s about people.
Rachel Jonat is a minimalist and
AP mama living the car-free life in Vancouver, Canada. After donating
and selling half of her belongings she's found more room and time in
her life for herself and her family. She blogs about minimalist living
with kids at The Minimalist Mom.