Nearly 17 months into this parenting gig and I am here to tell you it is possible to keep being a minimalist with a kid. In the beginning I seriously struggled with the acceptance that we had to bring in more “clutter” into our home when I had spent the last few years trying to get it out! I think for the most part I have embraced the simple fact that now we have another human living in our home and so with that whole extra person comes the need for more stuff. It might feel like you have this overwhelming amount of stuff, but there are ways to keep the clutter down – and when I started writing this post, I realised these tips actually translate to anyone looking to start living a more minimalist lifestyle – not just for new moms!
Even if you don’t have a kid, you can still apply these practical tips to be on your way to minimalist living.
First, you need to accept that even as a minimalist, you still need stuff.
Sometimes we have to just accept where we are at – it’s not practical to throw out absolutely everything all in one go, trust me I have tried this way of bulk decluttering and all that you end up with is realising you threw something out that you might actually have use for down the line. So whilst you shouldn’t hoard things for the ‘we might use this later’ (looking at Rob when I type this) you can note things you haven’t used in forever and mark them mentally in a to-go pile without chucking it all out in the same moment you realise you have too much stuff. It’s the art of pausing, sitting with the feeling you want to purge and letting go when you are truly sure you no longer need it.
The same approach should be followed when you set up your home for a new baby. In the beginning you think that you need a lot of ‘what if’ stuff! Every parent will tell you how this one key piece of baby equipment was absolutely essential for them. But no matter what, no one is you and you won’t really know what works for you and your family until you are right in the thick of it. Trust me when I say that there will be loads of essential things you will impulse buy that you won’t ever end up fully using in the way you thought you would. I should probably write a follow up post on baby essentials for minimalists because we didn’t buy a whole heck of a lot and well look at that, we survived without all that extra clutter!
Equipment, Furniture, Big clunky (and pricey) stuff
Once you have accepted that in the beginning you will have a bit of clutter to manage, here’s another tip I can offer a new mom wanting to keep being a minimalist: you don’t need as much as you think you do. Write a list of all the baby must haves, and strip that back to essentials. There is always time to change your mind later and purchase that extra item once you realise you really need it. You can also follow these tips I have laid out below to help keep the clutter from piling up in your home. The fact is you will need somewhere for the baby to sleep, a way to transport the baby, clothe the baby, and feed the baby – all the rest is just frills.
Clothes: how to capsule wardrobe – the kid edition
Ok so my own capsule wardrobe was slightly expanded when my belly got to big, and then my body again after giving birth but after a settling in period, I managed to stick to my 30 clothing items for myself. It is impossible to keep the same minimal wardrobe for new born – but it does get easier the older they get! In the beginning you will need a few changes of clothes (insert poop emoji here) but a way to curb the clutter vibe in your day-day living space is to only put out the clothing in the size your baby is currently fits in and is wearing. This is just so that you are not looking at a huge wardrobe of clothes where half the outfits are in the next size up or for the next season. Try to keep what you see when you open up the drawer or shelf or cupboard as only the clothes your baby can where today, or right now. Another helpful tip for new moms is to organise and pack the rest of the outfits into separate bags for each size. Trust me it will be easier to manage and see what you do have, what you might need more of, and what your baby does actually ever wear. It also means that when your baby is ready to move to the next size; you simple pack up all the clothes you have out and can either store away to keep, donate, sell or even hand out to your friends or family having a new baby. A nice system of clearing out and decluttering as you go. I find we are able to actually get a lot more wear out of clothes because they are organised and I am able to see the outfits we wear a lot and the outfits she has hardly worn.
Toys – from baby to big kid
Toys and really the types of toys you bring into your home can really add to the clutter and FAST! We are really mindful and try to avoid plastic toys where we can – I went so far as to insist our family and friends not purchase us any toys (only books were allowed!). Although banning all plastic is really hard – one of Riley’s favourite toys is a giant ride on pink plastic car that my brother and SIL purchased her for her first birthday. I digress, my best tip to staying minimalist when it comes to toys for children is to simply outline your wishes to your family. We are not big on Birthday and Christmas gifts, we searched for a really special gift we wanted to gift our daughter and then shared those ideas with the family – a small, well thought out wishlist instead of an open free for all has really helped us curb the amount of stuff that seems to pile up when you start getting all these wonderful gifts from family and friends. Another great tip to keep toys to a minimum is to do a toy rotation. We have a small number of toys kept in a container upstairs in her room, and the rest of the toys are downstairs in the living room. This way we rotate the two sets every now and then so she plays with all the toys but all of them are not laid out in one go. What I have found is the age Riley is at now, she much prefers things you find around the house like car keys, cups, containers, a golf ball, a ziplock bag of clothes pegs , the remote for the TV – basically everything that is not an actual toy, so that helps us from feeling like we need to buy more toys when so much that is around her is entertaining at this age!
BONUS: Tips to limit the clutter in your home
Outlining the categories is all well and good but when it comes to actual tips to living minimally, I find these three tips absolutely essential in trying to limit the amount of clutter that comes into (and stays in) your home.
- Borrow/ swop & pay it forward
Thankful for that brief time before lockdowns and heavy restrictions where I was able to connect with other new moms and mom support groups at our local library. I met a bunch of lovely women, some of who had kids slightly older than Riley so we formed a little borrow swop amongst ourselves and this is great for kids clothes that is hardly worn before they are outgrown and into the next size! We had a nice rotation of me collecting the sizes that their children had outgrown, using them for a few months and then I would pass on to the next mom with a child younger than mine! It’s the reason Riley has a shoe obsession at the moment, because I was able to get a bunch of shoes in various sizes from various moms with the intention that I will either return them once we have finished using them or passing them on – and back out of our house! One of my closest and dearest friend here has two much older kids, she actually leant me the stroller we use, the car seat and a cot – plus a whole heap of blankets, sleeping bags, jackets and coats and gorgeous knitted jumpers her own mum knitted. This saved us a whole ton of money but equally I know that once we no longer need to make use of these items, they will all be returned.
- Charity Shops/ Free Cycle Facebook Groups
Kids’ stuff can get pricey – a good pair of shoes and a winter coat can sometimes cost the same price as adult sizes – and they only wear them for a season because by the next winter they will need a bigger size! Plus, if your kid is going to crèche, you need a set to leave at crèche – the costs and the stuff adds up… I have found some serious gems when it comes to baby stuff at our local charity shop. The hiking boots Riley currently wears are some fancy shmancy brand that retail for €50 brand new… I found them at the charity shop for €4! And the same goes for her winter coat! I like the idea of charity shops for buying essential items at a fraction of the price as we won’t use them for too long, and will either donate them back to be resold again or we will hand them down to the next little kid in our circle of friends. It might not be minimalist, but reducing buying brand new is a sustainable which is equally good to keep in mind.
Another great tip for kids and toys are free-cycle groups! I belong to my local freecycle group for my area and I have a good friend who is a lot more active on Facebook that I am, who tells me when something good is on offer. How freecycle groups works that people post items they no longer need, and you can simply arrange to collect those items – for free! I know of one friend who often finds such great toys on there, gives them a good scrub and even uses freecycle finds as gifts for Christmas – genuis idea! It goes back to that reduce, reuse, recycle – sustainably and more mindfully bring things into your home.
- Regular spring cleaning
Keeping on top of what you have, what you still need and what you might need is a great way to keep the actual things you own down to essentials only – writing a list and dreaming about what you really want is a great minimalist way of living. If I think I really need something I like to think about it a lot before I actually go out and buy it. Often if I stop thinking about it, or I think about it long enough to realise I don’t need something, I save money and keep the clutter down by not impulsively purchasing something only to find that the need for it has passed. Regularly passing items on to the next family in need, or sending items back to the original lender, or donating to a local charity shop is key to keeping things from accumulating and sitting unused in a clutter wardrobe. If you are not using it, it might be better used by someone else. I try to declutter and clear out cupboards every month or so, the minute I get that sense of dread opening the cupboard and seeing clutter is when I know the clutter has become too much. And because I spring clean and declutter regularly, I feel better mentally but also I am well aware of what I have and what I don’t need more of – so that stops me from buying recklessly.
What is one thing you struggle to let go of as a minimalist? For me, it is perfection – in the past I tried to be the perfect minimalist but the fact is I am realising more that minimalism isn’t a destination, I know that I won’t reach a point where if I own only X amount of things I will become a minimalist. Minimalism to me is really about scaling down on what you own, but it is not about living a life of sacrificing or limiting to a certain number of things you own.
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WITH REGARDS TO MINIMALIST LIVING? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS AND I WILL WRITE ABOUT THAT NEXT!
Not traveling much these days, just living simply,
p.s I write about expat living in Ireland, minimalism and slow travel (when we can travel!). I aim to post 1 – 2 times a month, so to be sure you don’t miss out on the new post you should sign up and get all the news straight in your inbox – Sign up now!
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