Ever get the urge to take all of your belongings, throw them into a fire pit and walk away? I mean seriously, doesn’t it ever feel like your things are starting to close in on you? Then you start having kids and suddenly the number of things you acquire spirals out of control. It’s INSANE. “Little” Johnny grew out of the 3-6 month size before you had the time to take the tags off, he abandon a toy you dropped your savings on because the diaper box was way cooler, and what was once your beautiful hutch, is now full of toys, books and whatever other odds and ends fit in the drawers. Suddenly you look around and realize you have enough things to open up a few consignment shops.
And who has the time to even take on simplifying. What time? I mean seriously, where does it go? You’ve got work (maybe), errands, gym, social nights (hopefully), playdates with other moms in the area, and kid activities (music time, soccer, dance etc.). Then the weekend hits and suddenly you find yourself whipping out the calendar because literally EVERY summer weekend is booked with something – wedding, baby shower, family in town, girls weekend, BBQ. So much for lounging.
If you’re like a lot of moms out there, the challenge of decluttering your life is a major one. For inspiration, we called in an expert in the field to give us a look into what life is like as a true minimalist. Mom and author of The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life, Francine Jay, better known as “Miss Minimalist”, seriously knows how to bring down the clutter. The coolest part – she’s not just some super type A clean freak preaching to an audience of opposites. She’s been in our shoes. She gets where we are all coming from. And as a mama herself, she too is faced with similar lifestyle choices. Let’s take a look at how she acts on them.
Alright, fill us in. What exactly is a minimalist?
A minimalist is someone who eliminates the excess from her life—be it unused items, unnecessary purchases, or unfulfilling tasks. Everyone I know complains that they don’t have enough space in their homes, or time in their schedules. When you have fewer possessions, you have more space. When you have fewer commitments, you have more time. A minimalist makes room for what matters most.
When did you first become a minimalist?
I first became a minimalist about fifteen years ago, after a long-distance move. I couldn’t believe how much unnecessary stuff my husband and I had dragged across the country! After that, I slowly decluttered, year after year; when we moved overseas in 2009, all my possessions fit into one bag. We’re back in the US now, with a home and a toddler, but still strive to keep our stuff as streamlined as possible.
Is your husband also a minimalist?
Yes, my husband is a minimalist as well. Between the two of us, our house stays pretty uncluttered—one of us is always getting rid of something! I’m very fortunate to have a spouse who’s on the same page with regards to possessions.
How does the lifestyle of a child who is brought up in a minimalist environment differ from a child living in a more commercial environment?
I’m a big believer that an uncluttered environment leads to an uncluttered mind—so I think having a carefully edited selection of playthings gives my daughter a chance to explore her creativity. It’s easier for a child to focus when there aren’t a million things vying for their attention.
What happens when a minimalist child is eventually exposed to a non minimalist environment?
I don’t know yet—but when I took my daughter on a quick run to Target the other day, she declared, “There’s too much stuff in here.” That’s my girl! Fortunately, she’ll be attending a Montessori preschool next year, which is known for its less-is-more, uncluttered aesthetic—so it’ll be awhile before she has regular exposure to a non-minimalist environment.
Talk to me about your child’s room. Not much to it I hear…
My daughter has a Montessori-style floor bed, a long low shelf that doubles as a bench, and a long (horizontal) mirror on one wall. We wanted to leave plenty of room for her to run around, and dance and twirl in front of her mirror (her favorite activity)!
How do you respond when your daughter says she wants something?
Last week was the first time she asked me for a material item—Lego Duplos. First I asked her why she wanted them (“to build towers”), and then I told her I’d give it some thought and talk to her father. We did end up buying them for her, simply because I think they’re an important developmental toy. For future requests, I plan to do something similar: ask for the reason she wants it, then impose a bit of a waiting period (to make sure it’s not just a whim). We don’t have a TV and generally stay out of stores (she saw the Legos in a book), so I’m hoping the requests won’t come too fast and furious.
You wrote a pretty amazing book, The Joy of Less, that generated a great deal of buzz. Please tells us about it!
The Joy of Less is a celebration of minimalist living – it’s part philosophy, part pep talk, and an arsenal of practical techniques for purging the clutter from our lives. In it, I outline the STREAMLINE method (ten sure-fire steps to a decluttered home), and guide readers on a room-by-room minimalist makeover. I also talk about how we can trim our to-do lists and reclaim our time. And finally, I discuss the far-reaching benefits of living lightly on the Earth – because I love the fact that saving space in our closets goes hand in hand with saving the plan
What advice would you give to another mother who is interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?
It can be hard to do major decluttering with little ones underfoot, so start slowly—get rid of one thing a day. It takes just a few minutes, and in a month, you’ll have 30 fewer items. At the same time, be vigilant about what enters your home—think of clutter as an uninvited guest, and show it the door before it settles in! These two simple approaches to stuff—increasing the outflow and decreasing the inflow—will put you on the path to a minimalist lifestyle.
To learn more about Francine, visit her blog, www.missminimalist.com. And if you want to really get inspired about her super zen lifestlye, snag her book The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life on Amazon.
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