Slow Living FAQ No. 1 || Minimalism With Kids?
Welcome to the first segment in our Slow Living FAQ series. In this series, I hope to address common road blocks, questions, or concerns that arise when someone pursues a slow, conscious lifestyle. Have a question to submit or a post you'd like to contribute? Email me or comment below!
Living simply in a culture that values all things "fast" and complex is difficult in itself. You've got to combat advertisements constantly throwing "more" at you, explain to family members why you don't want new gifts every year, and intentionally choose what you do and don't allow into your life.
Despite the challenges, most would say slowing down is so worth it. However, minimalism is difficult enough when you're only in charge of yourself, but what about when you add kids into the mix?
One of the most common questions I am asked is how I'm able to pursue a simple lifestyle with two kids in tow. I'll be honest, most of the time, life with two toddlers feels far from simple, but the tools I've gained via slow living have been invaluable for being the best mama I can be. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that kids need minimalism just as much as adults do. In this post, I'll *hopefully* dive into the most common challenges I (and most parents) face and how minimalism helps combat them AND share lots of cute photos of my girls and I from when they were way too little. Because why not?
Challenge 1: ALL THE STUFF YOU "NEED"
It's no secret that having a child (or two) naturally increases the amount of stuff you need in your home. If you look at most "what to buy when you're expecting" lists, an aspiring minimalist is bound to quit right then and there. I fell prey to the same thing when I had Evie, my now three year old.
You need a crib, and crib sheets, and a changing table, and lots and lots of burp cloths, and approximately 28347 white onesies, and don't forget about the blankets and you'll definitely need a diaper genie and doorway swing right?
It's enough to drive a mama crazy.
The thing is, that if you take most "must-have lists" and cut them in half, or even quarter them, you'll still have enough. I always suggest making a list of the essentials for your newborn (maybe up to 6 months or so) and fill in the rest as you need it. Start with things like a car seat, bassinet or crib, a sling, clothes — the bare necessities — and fill in the gaps as you go.
It's easier to buy something else than it is to sort through a mountain of baby things you never actually used. The same holds true for older kids too — I'm realizing with my toddlers that the fewer toys (and we've downsized considerably since these photos ;) the better the environment for imagination and play.
Challenge 2: Finding Time To Slow Down
Parenthood is a rollercoaster — emotionally, physically, mentally. No matter the age of your kiddos, truly making slow living a priority is so hard. Although somedays just can't be "slow" (between school, soccer practice, violin lessons, and homework you're booked no matter what you do,) you can learn to "schedule" in slow time and pick and choose what is really important.
Granted, my girls aren't really at the age where they need to balance activities (it's all I can do to schedule a play date once a week). But, I have learned the power of scheduled downtime. If you don't naturally gravitate towards an open schedule, practice saying no to things. Put limits on the amount of activities your kids can do.
Challenge 3: Self Care
During the first two years of my life as a mom, self-care was non-existent. I barely took time to shower, much less make time for my own passions or dreams. However, after I started blogging at SL&Co. consistently and realized that I had a passion outside of my role as "mom," I slowly realized that caring for me was caring for my family too.
Whether you're in the newborn phase or have teenagers in your house, every mom has the tendency to neglect herself. However, part of slow living is listening to your own body and making your health a priority. Take it slow — a glass of wine and a bath one night a week — if you have to. Self-care and motherhood shouldn't be mutually exclusive, especially for the minimalist.
Challenge 4: Embracing the "Mess"
I'll always remember my mom telling me about the pressure she felt to constantly keep her house spotless, even with three kids running around. The pressure wasn't from anyone or anything in particular, but rather a self-imposed notion that her self-worth was somehow intwined with the state of her bookshelves and the vacuum lines in her carpet.
After having my own home and my own kids, I've fallen into that same trap a time or two. I think as a minimalist, it's even more tempting to have the "Instagram ready" house that everyone envies.
In reality, motherhood is messy. Life is rarely clean, especially with kids. Part of living slowly is embracing that yes, sometimes your house will get messy. Sometimes you won't do the dishes. Sometimes you just need to embrace the moment and be without picking up the same toy for the 743 time.
Minimalism has helped us downsize, which naturally, has cut our clutter drastically and made it easier to keep our house clean, but even then, learning to embrace the occasional mess is healthy.
Challenge 5: (Politely) Telling Family Members to not Buy (more) Toys for Your Kids.
And the holy grail of minimalism with kids: learning how to navigate family dynamics and politely say no, my kids don't need more toys for their birthday.
Maybe this hasn't been an issue for you, but for the vast majority of people I've talked to (hence the frequently asked question bit...) not knowing how to broach the subject of gifts with their loved ones is a real struggle.
Here's what I've learned: for some people, giving things is their love language. There will be times when you'll need to be flexible and just say thank you, much like you're teaching your child to do.
But other times you'll have the opportunity to ask for no more gifts, please. When you write up your "gift lists" each year (which I highly suggest if you have gift-giving family members) be very specific. Ask for practical things your kids actually need, or ask for experiences instead of physical gifts.
Eventually, your family members will learn that you value less over more, but until then, be patient and gracefully make your wishes known when it's appropriate.
Lastly, I want to point out that simple living does not look the same for every family. Life is messy and not always as simple as we'd wish, but the beauty of living intentionally and slowly is that, bit by bit, you'll be equipped with the tools to handle life with kids and minimalism.
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