Early in our marriage, Austin and I agreed to live a life of materialistic minimalism. This basically amounted to verbalizing a mindset that was already a part of our lives. Neither of us like ‘stuff.’ I particularly do not like ‘stuff’ that turns cleaning into a complex task. Currently we have a few photos on our walls, one decor item on our piano, and one additional piece of wall art. Nearly everything else in our house is there primarily for functional purposes.
Our minimalist approach to our physical house is also reflected in our organizational structure of schedules, budgets, and email archiving systems. We strive for straightforward simplicity whenever we can. I love simplicity for the efficiency of it. Efficiency is my love language. If you can do something more efficiently for me, you can save me time. And saving me time definitely fills up my love tank. Time is my most precious resource.
We currently live in a modest city rowhome of approximately 1400 square feet. Our house has three bedrooms; one for the two girls, one for the four boys, and the smallest room for us. We have no office, thus our bedroom doubles as our work area. Our yard is small, and we have no garage. It is likely we will eventually move into a larger home, or at least, one with more bedrooms. At present, though, our house suits us just fine.
Our limit on space is intentional for several reasons:
1. The less space we have, the less stuff we can keep. This forces us into minimalism and organization. Only the most useful, most loved items stay around. Everything else eventually finds its way to a new home.
2. The less space we have, the less debt we have. Austin and I don’t want to be overburdened by a mortgage. We would rather use that money for travel and higher education.
3. Less space means less maintenance, which leaves more time and money for other activities we would rather be doing.
Given our limited space, Christmas gifts generally create stress for both of us. The primary question, of course, is where should we store all the new things? We receive a large number of toys from grandparents and our adopted kids’ birth families. These gifts inevitably get trimmed down; when I see an item I think is of less interest to the kids, I confiscate it for donation. Or, I’ll have the kids choose a few things to give away. The nieces and nephews tend to be frequent recipients of our abundance.
I encourage people giving to our family to focus on clothing, shoes, and gift cards. We get a lot of books as gifts, so I’ll go through and pick out our old, least read books and donate them, replacing them with new books.
Austin and I personally like to give the gift of a unique experience. Last year we took the kids on a short trip for a few days and spent family time at a large children’s museum. The prior year we went all the way to Mexico for an international Christmas experience.
This year we decided to go the traditional gift route, but focused on the skills and interests we see developing within each of our children. The girls will begin gymnastics lessons this winter. One of the boys will begin violin lessons. Another received new soccer shoes for his current soccer lessons. Our eldest, with his keen interest in culinary, was given a mandolin slicer for his Christmas gift.
Though we added very little to our house in physical items this year, we are beginning three new weekly lessons. This will certainly make our family schedule less minimalistic. The jury is out on how many activities and extracurriculars our schedule can withstand without us feeling off-balance. While we want each child to have an opportunity to pursue his or her talents, we also need the atmosphere of our household to remain relaxed. The last thing I want is us frenetically running from one place to another all week long.
Minimalism is all about proactively putting things into your life that bring you fulfillment, and removing everything else. We continue to find our balance as a large family. Minimalism is possible, even with six kids.