A Guide to Minimal Living with Kids

March 18, 2019 5 min read

By: Olivia Youngs

It’s a common assumption that having children automatically makes life more complex and cluttered. It’s impossible, we assume, to lead a simple, slower lifestyle once there’s a kiddo or two in tow and, although this is certainly true to some extent, having children and embracing a minimal, “less but better” lifestyle aren’t mutually exclusive.

In my case, parenthood was the catalyst that drove me to search for slowness and intentional living. Not only was I, as a young new mother, craving to find my own identity in the mess of motherhood, I was overwhelmed by the articles, doctors, and well-meaning friends and family giving me list upon list of things I “needed” to own to be a good mom. So, I cut out everything that didn’t seem necessary to raise my daughters in a way that aligned with the lifestyle I pictured my family leading. We slowed down, we lived with fewer toys, clothes, and belongings, and ultimately, we were happier.

Minimal living (or whatever phrase you choose to use) isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach to life. Instead, it’s a fluid mindset change that looks different for every individual and family. We’ve found our slow living stride and I hope that these tips give you inspiration for finding your own.

In this post, we’ll dive into ways my family has successfully kept life simple in terms of our possessions and lifestyle with more than one child on board. Like most things in life, living minimally isn’t always easy, especially in a world that values consumption and excess. But luckily for parents craving a slower paced life for themselves and their children, it’s completely possible.

Here are a few starting points for minimal living with kids that we’ve found useful and think you just might too.

1. Adapt your mindset first

Oddly enough, living minimally with kids begins with something completely unrelated to your children. As parents, we set the tone for our household, so naturally, a shift to minimal living begins with you.

Before you can declutter your kid’s toys, simplify their wardrobes, or downsize your kitchen cabinets, you’ve got to adopt a “minimal mindset” before the lifestyle will stick. Although it seems simple, changing your mindset from a “conventional” one to one that craves simplicity and less can be trickier than you expect.

Don’t get caught up in the comparison game, be it perfectly curated social media feeds or the lives of other moms who seem to have it all. Instead, make a list of why you’re deciding to embrace minimalism and keep it in a place you can see it, so that when a desire for more, guilt for saying no to something, or the comparison game creeps in, you’re prepared to face it.

Once your head is in the right space, it will be much more effective to make a simpler lifestyle stick.

2. Make a list of your essentials

Once you’ve committed internally, you can start looking externally, to your belongings and schedule, to make sure it aligns with simplicity. It can be overwhelming to start with excess and whittle it down to the necessities, but with the help of a list, you can see on paper what you value most and what you truly want to own, both for yourself and your kids.

Make a list of things you can’t parent well without and things your kids love most. This list can include things you already own and “wishlist” items you don’t yet have. Seeing it on paper will help you avoid the temptation to buy things that aren’t on the list and have a visual representation of where you want you and your kid’s lifestyle to be.

3. Embrace capsule wardrobes for everyone

Kids go through a lot of clothes. Parents know that better than anyone. But we also know that kids don’t need as many clothes as we’re often told they do. We love this article from Raising Simple, that happens to highlight Jackalo, if you’re looking for a helpful starting point.

4. Rotate through favorite toys and donate the rest

One area that can seem hard to downsize is the number of toys your kids own. If your kids get bored of their toys easily or they seem to always want more, consider donating the ones they never play with anymore and keeping their favorites on a rotation. “Hiding” a few toys at a time and bringing them out every few months will refresh your child’s excitement for each toy and make it feel like they’re getting something brand new each time.

5. Rely on experiences over things

Restructure your thinking to value experiences over things, especially when it comes to your kids. For birthdays, holidays, or parent/child dates, think of outings you can all do together, instead of gifts you can give. You’ll create more memories together and eliminate the clutter of lots of gifts. Things like annual zoo, museum, or recreation center passes, gift cards to their favorite restaurant, or a simple day at the beach will form lifelong memories for all of you.

6. Make sure everything has a place

When it comes to organization, even a few toys out of place can make your house feel like a tornado just struck. It seems overly simple, but you can avoid this problem by ensuring that everything has a place (and that it goes back there when your kids are done wearing/playing/using the item). Organization can be as simple as a few storage baskets on a shelf or a dresser dedicated to housing your children’s coloring supplies. This will keep everything out of sight, but still within reach.

7. Set expectations with extended family members...and then don't stress

One of the most stressful parts of adopting a more minimal lifestyle is dealing with family members who may not see the same value in owning less. The first step to keeping the peace is simply accepting that it’s ok and that some people express their love in the form of gift giving (even if it seems like pointless clutter to you).

The next step is to set clear expectations through a conversation (sometimes multiple conversations) with your loved ones. Tell them that you’re trying to embrace simplicity and teach your children the value of owning less and experiencing more. They may not understand, but they should respect where you’re coming from.

8. Get out of the house often

Regardless of the size of your house or the amount you own, it can be easy for you and your kids to get stir crazy. Although this tip has nothing to do with what you own, prioritizing time outdoors and in spaces that aren’t your home will make your house seem like an oasis you get to return to, instead of a limitation.

Do you consider yourself a minimal parent? How do you prioritize living simply with your children?