When I first learned about minimalism in 2018 I fell in love with the concept. I am a person that often feels overwhelmed by clutter. Running a household, pregnant and with two children I found myself stuck inside cleaning. ALOT. If our home wasn't clean I was stressed and prone to anxiety attacks. When we decided to go low waste it added many more stressors. We started cloth diapering, switched out paper towels for cloth cleaning wipes, and I started cooking from scratch more often. All of these required more time cleaning. I was always organizing but after awhile it just wasn't making sense. How many times would I need to reorganize a space before it became more manageable? I realized that I simply had too much stuff. I wasn't "hoarding" per-say, but we were accumulating and holding on to more than we really needed. It was time to purge! We purged more than we thought because we ended up downsizing to an apartment. Then when we bought our home I looked around and things had accumulated again quickly in our first year. In this year I also learned the term "Eco-Minimalism" and I knew it was time to refocus on letting go. Eco-Minimalism is essentially a lifestyle that uses minimalism to assist us in making better daily choices for the environment and I am here for it. Do you have to be a minimalist to be eco friendly? Not necessarily. Are all minimalists living eco-friendly lives? No. However the two go hand in hand.
Here are 4 benefits to Eco-Minimalism.
1) Reduce Waste - When we bring less inside our house, less gets thrown away. But there is also unseen waste that comes with consumerism. Is that shirt made with plastic materials? How long will that keyboard cover last? How many miles did those shoes travel to get delivered to your door? Before buying, ask yourself "Do I really need this?" "What is the lifespan of this item?" "Where will this item go at the end of its life?" "What is this item made from?" "Can I get this secondhand?"
2) Less Clutter - If we really take the time to evaluate our things we probably have a lot more than we use regularly. Organization is great but if you find yourself needing to organize over and over again maybe you just have too many items. Think of everything you own as inventory that needs to be managed. Are you spending too much time and energy managing your home? Having less inventory can help make things easier and less stressful.
3) Improved Mental Health - For years I battled with anxiety attacks and depression. I still battle with my mental health but it isn't anywhere near as bad as it used to be. Having less things to manage opened up space and time for me to take care of myself. Have a clear and clutter free space helped manage daily anxiety. Clutter can be overstimulating. I don't have control over my kids being kids. They still make frequent messes and leave a trail of toys around the house. The difference is, now I don't add to their mess with my own and their mess is easier and more manageable.
4) Improved Efficiency - There was a time that I felt like we spent way too much time indoors because I was working so hard to keep our home clean. Spending hours outside meant I would come home with tired and hungry kiddos and a messy home. That was overstimulating and easily lead to anxiety attacks. At first I thought that I just needed to spend more time cleaning. Now that we let go of so many things, each room takes me about 10-15min to clean. It's a much better use of my time and I can spend more time focused on being outside and doing things that bring me joy.
While this may sound lovely (and it is!) it doesn't happen overnight and it's something that needs to continuously be worked upon especially with a busy family.
Here are some tips for getting started if you have a family with kids.
1) Lead by example. When I first started purging I wanted my husband Eric to jump on board and get rid of half of what we had in our home. I quickly realized that it's okay for him to not want to do it my way. Don't manage your family members items, manage your own. They will see the benefits by seeing the changes in you.
2) Talk to your kids. You may be surprised at how much they understand if you explain it to them. Our kids feel anxiety and get overstimulated as well. They want to do fun activities and be outside too. We have a 7yo, 3yo and 1yo. The motto in our home is We are a family so we work as a team to keep the house clean. It's simple enough and they each have their part to play in cleaning up after themselves including the 1yo. They know where everything goes and they know that we let go of toys 2-3times a year as needed.
3) Let the kids lead. Sounds crazy right? It works though. When its time to purge toys I will put everything in a pile and pick up each one and ask the kids whether they want to keep it, donate it or chuck it. If it's in good condition it will be donated if not it goes to the trash. The first few times I explained that we are blessed to be in a position to bless another child who wants a bit of joy. The first few times were hard but they got the hang of it after awhile and now they know the routine and are happy to bless other families.
4) Extremes are not necessary. Whenever I start something I tend to go hard, all or nothing. That is not the right mindset to have with lifestyle changes. We are minimalist in the sense that we don't hold on to an over abundance of things. It doesn't mean that we keep nothing. We have art on the walls, the kids have a good bit of toys, and we all have our own collections of things we love. There is nothing wrong with that. We just don't keep more inventory then we have the room and energy for. Keep the things you love and do what works for your family.