My partner and I have been chipping away at our belongings (and square footage) for a few years now. When our son joined our family, it became even more important to create a space where we could feel calm and clear-headed. Clutter creates stress creates more clutter. It's a dangerous cycle that I, myself, had been caught in my entire life, and making the decision to live with intention has given me the mental freedom that eluded me for so long. We now only buy items that we really need or that truly spark joy (a la Marie Kondo). Here are a few reasons why we've chosen this path:
- Minimalism enables us to live distraction-free. We've been able to stop piling random objects into our home and instead focus on what we truly want out of life: Connection, relationship, living in harmony with nature, living our purpose instead of working non-stop to support a lifestyle that does not bring us joy.
- We don't want to spend all of our time cleaning. Less things = Less things to pick up after our toddler throws them all over the place.
- We don't want to derive happiness from material objects, nor do we want to raise our son in this way. Birthdays and holidays are spent together, enjoying each other's company. Material gifts will never be the focal point and we tend to keep them to a minimum (if at all). Other gift ideas: a mini-vacation, a visit to a state or national park, and other "experiences".
- For financial reasons. Living minimally enables us to get by on one income, so that I can stay home and be with our son. I would honestly sell all of my belongings before giving this up -- it is too important. Most of our money goes toward rent, bills and buying high quality, locally-grown food.
- To support Elan's mental, emotional and physical development. Allen Schore discovered that the mother of the 11-17 month old toddler expresses a prohibition ("No!" or "Don't!") on the average of every nine minutes. This is as much our son's home as it is ours and we keep it "Elan-friendly" so that we don't have to constantly shut down his natural desire for exploration. In this way, all of our needs are met.
- "In human development, the early toddler stage is the fountainhead of cultural renewal. At stake is the activation and development of the child's sensory system and knowledge of the world, and the equally important building of his emotional-cognitive system's knowledge of what relationships with the world are like." This is a time when there needs to be more "yes" and less "no".
The Living Room
Not only is a safe space beneficial for your children, it will also keep you sane. Since Elan's birth, we've lived in 4 different homes. One of those was my mom's house, where we stayed for a month or two. E was one year old at the time and just starting to walk, so he was getting into everything. My mom's house is full of various decorations and things, and I had to constantly monitor his movements to make sure that he didn't break something. It was horrible. Now, back in our own space, I've been able to relax and give E more freedom. Win, win.
For more on how simple living can benefit your family, check out Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.
Also, on December 15,2016 --Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things becomes available on Netflix!