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Can you be a mom and a minimalist?
Tips on how to cut back on the stuff taking over our homes and lives. - photo by Erin Stewart
Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in stuff.

Laundry. Clothes. Shoes. Books. And of course, the toys. Oh, the toys. The toys that seem to multiply during the night. The toys that creep from their bins and closets and somehow end up all over the house and under my feet. The toys that follow us home in Happy Meals, party-favor bags and prize boxes. The toys are taking over.

I spend half my life picking up the stuff, organizing the stuff, taking care of the stuff.


So recently, I have been reading up on the art of being a minimalist. I am far from being an actual minimalist who owns only exactly what they need for day-to-day living but at this point, Id be happy just not to feel like Im spending my life taking care of my things.

So I am attacking the stuff, much like one mother I recently read about in a Today article titled "Meet the 'minimalist mom' who gave away (almost) all her kids' toys" did in her home. She pared down her childrens toys to one toy bin. One. Thats it. And every few months, she has her kids go through the bin and get rid of anything they are not actively playing with at that point in time.

Im not down to one bin (and probably never will be), but Im trying. So far, heres how Ive tackled the stuff takeover in our home:

1. Adopt the "one will do" philosophy: For some reason, I often feel like my kids need 10 of something just in case one gets lost or broken. This means instead of one set of gloves, we have five (which really means we have 10 single gloves that are all scattered around the house so my kids wear mismatched gloves. Hey, at least they match their mismatched socks). So Ive been going through our stuff and paring down to two of each thing a regular and a backup. I dont need five black skirts, no matter how hard I try to convince my husband that they are slightly different for slightly different occasions.

2. Dont let other people burden you: During a decluttering session, I often explain to my husband that so-and-so gave this to us as a gift. Without fail, he always responds, Dont let their gift be a burden. Hes right. People dont want to burden our lives with stuff we dont actually need and have to find space to store. Toss it, along with the guilt.

3. Make a giveaway box: Since putting a dedicated giveaway box in our garage, I have already taken four loads to the thrift store. Thats four loads of stuff we werent even using and was just taking up space and time in our lives. My kids are catching the vision, too, and even held a garage sale last weekend with the toys they dont actually use anymore.

4. Consider space constraints: You know when you go to open a drawer and you cant get it open because it is so jammed with stuff that it wont budge? Well, its not the drawers fault. Its yours. The drawer is too full. So Im deciding what to keep and what to toss, using the natural space constraints as my guide. If only 10 stuffed animals will fit in the toy bin, then all the rest have to go. This also makes sense to my children because it doesnt feel arbitrary, but a natural result of how much space we have. And no, having to sit on the lid of anything to force it to close doesnt count.

5. Stop buying: This one seems kind of obvious, but its the hardest rule to follow. The only real way to stop the influx of stuff into my home is to cut off the pipeline. Dont buy items just because they are on sale. Buy what you need, in the quantity you actually need it, when you need it. Dont be a slave to sales, the hassle of returns or the wasted time in checkout lines.

I have a long way to go to truly free myself of the time I give to stuff, but I have to admit that Im sort of addicted to the feeling of purging. I spend less time sorting and organizing and more time enjoying our home. I spend less time barking orders to clean up and more time being with my children.

The freedom of owning less is addicting because once I clear away all the stuff, I can see the things that really matter.