Let’s face it: life is busy and complicated. We live in a consumer-based, commercial world that readily awaits our next purchase. While we have all of the convenience of smart phones and quick meals, all of the entertainment of toys and television and more stuff than most of us know what to do with, many of us feel too busy, tired, and pulled in too many directions to enjoy much of any of it. While I think it’s perfectly okay to have things that you enjoy, often times in our society this concept is carried outrageously far.
It seems as though minimalist trends are on the rise; perhaps because so many get sick of the hustle and bustle of life, or they simply realize that their priorities are not as they want them to be. While some take the minimalist approach the distance, embracing the religious aspects of yoga and Zen, it doesn’t necessarily have to include those things. Nor does it have to follow any one set of rules. Ultimately, embracing your inner minimalist comes down to you, your family, and the priorities that you share.
There are so many benefits from minimizing, and each will affect individuals and households in different ways. Minimizing your buying not only allows you to focus on gratefulness for what you do have, but it opens a door to extra savings that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Reducing the amount of possessions you already have is also a great way to reduce clutter and make decisions on what’s important to you and why.
This process can lead to a plethora of family discussions on creating a family mission statement, establishing the how and the why of everything your family does on both an individual and familial unit level. It also allows for establishing family time, knowing when to say no, and making the very most of your time. What’s not to love about that?
How To Minimize
There is no right or wrong way to minimize. Each person, family, and household has its own set of values, priorities, and goals, which can make minimizing feel like an overwhelming task if you’re unsure of where to start.
My family recently set out on minimizing in our lives. While I found the concept intriguing, I was also very overwhelmed with the prospect. I found that the very best place to start was sitting down with my family and discussing with the kids (ages six and four) the difference between special, sentimental possessions and items that were just “stuff.” We also took the time to discuss the differences between wants and needs, and how we can help others who don’t have as much as we do.
With everyone in the household on the same page about minimizing and/or reducing the amount of possessions you own, it makes it so much easier to begin! Here are some great ways to get started, making it a family effort.
Reduce The Amount Of “Stuff”
This process doesn’t have to be drudgery. In fact, you can make it a fun game amongst your family or even a group of friends. For instance, I joined in with some of my friends for a “500 Challenge,” eliminating 500 items from our homes by Christmas. It sounds scary, but I found it completely liberating. We have so much less clutter, and having others with the same goals keeps you focused and motivated to follow through.
This can be a great opportunity to donate items to homeless shelters, Salvation Army, women and children’s shelters or, with Christmas just around the corner, toy and coat drives for kids. We have collected boxes of items to donate as a family, and I love the lesson it teaches my children. It’s a wonderful way to involve them in serving others and refocusing on the priorities that we have as a family.
With the elimination of the stuff that’s been cluttering your home and your time, you’re free to spend more time as a family and to try new activities together that you may not have otherwise considered. To put it simply: simplify!
Reducing TV/Movie Time
Now, I know that some minimalist advocates go as far as eliminating television, cable, satellite, and media from their homes altogether. This is another matter that differs from family to family and is dependent upon individual goals and priorities. However, if your family, like mine, decides to keep the TV, game systems, and movies, it’s a fantastic idea to reduce the amount of time you spend on these forms of entertainment.
I understand how easy it can be to veg in front of the TV after a hard day of work or letting the kids watch movies while you try to get some housework or laundry done. Been there and done that! However, by minimizing the amount of time that your family defers to this type of entertainment, you can not only increase the amount of family time that you have together (actually interacting without attention focused on the screen), but you can add so much variety to the things that you do individually and as a family.
This in and of itself can be a big adjustment to those who are used to lots of TV and gaming time. Have lots of activities planned, including books, board games, family walks, or trips to the park. I was surprised at how many new things we found to do once we eliminated most of our TV-watching time!
Reducing Unnecessary Commitments
Another huge factor in the busyness of life is over-committing time and resources. This happens so easily and is a constant struggle, especially if you have children in school and after school sports or activities. There are literally hundreds of different ways to say yes to doing this and agreeing to help with that. Don’t say no to everything, by any means, but with your family’s priorities in the forefront of your mind, know when to say no, when you’re at your commitment threshold, and when to step away from something that distracts you or your family from your outlined priorities.
Minimizing can be a big step, but channeling your inner minimalist will ultimately bring you and your family freedom and a sense of purpose. In the end, the amount of things in your home will never matter if you don’t have that unified focus. Just take it step at a time, and be sure to communicate with one another about ideas to help reach your end goals and priorities together.