Christmas in our Minimalist Household

Child with Christmas tree

It's that time of the year again!

We love Christmas with all it’s giving and receiving. While Christmas in our minimalist household has certainly decreased the quantity, it’s improved the quality and intentionality with which we give gifts.

My kids have embraced the minimalist lifestyle that we are  adopting, and all the lasting joy it brings. So I’m not at all worried that they’ll be disappointed this year.

Last year though, was a different story. I was very nervous.

The First Christmas in our Minimalist Household

2018 was our first holiday season as self-declared minimalists. As Christmas approached, my worry increased. Would my newly minimalist kids feel that they had missed out?

My confidence in our decision didn’t waver as I knew it was the right thing to do, but I so did not want to be met with disappointed faces on Christmas morning. I was particularly concerned as we would be spending Christmas with family. My brothers families spent a lot on presents for their children. Luckily, we had been sharing with the family about what we had been doing over the past ten months. The family had been quite supportive but didn’t take it on themselves.  We were very pleased to see how very thoughtful their gift giving was to our children.

After Christmas we reflected on how our Christmas as a minimalist household went. The kids were happy with it and so were we.

For as long as I can remember the day after Christmas was exhausting. I would spend the whole day in a house strewn with paper and tons of gifts, many that the kids had opened and flung. Trying to tidy up and find homes for all their newly received treasures was near on impossible. It certainly took the edge off the Christmas joy.

When I had exhausted all my storage options, I moved what was left into the spare room. There sat an unopened pile of toys for me to distribute to my kids throughout the year. You know, when they were bored with current toys and needed something “new” to play with.

That first year as minimalists was thankfully, completely different.  Everything had a place. No piles, no storing, no shoving and most importantly, no stressing. And a clean and tidy home the day after Christmas!

Some things to consider for next Cristmas

1. Purchase with Purpose

Don’t just buy stuff for the sake of buying stuff. If you are at a loss for what to give this year, choose gift cards, consumables or give to a charity on their behalf  (I’m particularly fond of this charity).

Below are a few articles filled with ideas to help you give more intentionally this year.

100 Minimalist Holiday Gift Ideas

20 Experience Gift Ideas for Grandparents to Give This Christmas

Best Gifts For Minimalist Moms

Best Gifts For Minimalist Dads

Is There Such a Thing as a “Minimalist” Toy

2. Choose Experiences Over Things

Gifting experiences allows us to curb the clutter, cut back on the excess and raise our kids to value adventure and time together over possessions.

3. Give Yourself Permission to Let Go of Traditions

I used to feel like it was my job to make sure traditions were executed perfectly, down to every last detail. It was exhausting and unsustainable. Loosening my grip on traditions has helped me pick up a giant cup of grace and enjoy each season for what it is, not what it’s supposed to be. 

Have Yourself an Intentional Christmas

3 Tips for Dealing With Toxic People During the Holidays

A New Tradition of Less

Make this year the start of a new Christmas tradition. A tradition of less. Not for the sake of owning less, but for the chance to let how you spend your days deeply align with what matters most to you. I am really thrilled with how Christmas in our minimalist household was received by our family, and how relaxed we all felt.

I don’t look back on my many not so minimalist Christmases with shame or regret. Not at all. It was a necessary part of my story, and led me to where I am now.

Kids and Minimalism – does it work?

Kids and Minimalism, it can work

For most people, kids and minimalism usually don’t go together. Once kids come along the amount of ‘stuff’ that enters the house is extraordinary. Often stress levels rise also as new demands are placed on parents.

It is possible to live a minimalist lifestyle once you have a family, but the conversation should be shared with the children. The following may guide you through the process of adopting or continuing your minimalist journey with a family.

Model minimalism

Adopting, or continuing a minimalist lifestyle with a family requires all concerned to be part of the decision making process. Change yourself first, and be a living example that there’s a different way, that could be interesting and better. Talk to them about the change so they know why you’re doing it. Discuss what made you consider it and  what steps you’re taking. Be open about discussing whether it’s hard or not, and how you feel about these changes. In seeing my change, they see a different possibility. So for example I might start decluttering my closet and drawers, or scanning all my paperwork so I can go digital. (I use the Doxie portable scanner, and I love it. I keep it on my kitchen bench, and scan all mail that comes in, and then throw the mail in the shredder. Good-bye paper clutter!). Click the image below for more info.

I may even clean out the garden shed. This is a great thing for them to see, but at the same time I’m letting them be themselves with no expectations that they’ll join me.

Minimalism is a current buzz word – but what is it, and how do you become one? Probably the most important question I had is why would you want to become one?

As mentioned in our About page, we were happily married with everything – great kids, lovely house in a great area, good jobs, and enough money to do most things we wanted. Trouble was we weren’t that happy. We were in a downward spiral of stress, caused by a house full of clutter that had accumulated over the years, overwhelming demands on our time, and juggling financial interests. Our biggest concern was time. We’d wake in the morning and our first thoughts would be ‘what do we have to do today?’ We wanted to get to a situation where we could wake and think ‘what would we like to do today?’

I started reading about Minimalism, and the more I read the more I realised that the concept of ‘less is more’ is just what I was looking for, and needed to be applied to all aspects of our lives. I found that there is a lot of information on this subject, but it is widely spread amongst blog posts, web sites and news articles. This website aims to provide one source of information on all aspects of minimalism.

Minimalism is an ongoing conversation

Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of all your stuff and living with barely anything. In a family with children, minimalism is really a conversation about what’s important. What’s necessary. Why we own things and do things. A lot of times, a family never really has this conversation — it’s all just implied in the way we live. But minimalism is about bringing this out in the open and talking about it. The result of the discussion will be very different for each family.  Some will keep doing what they’ve been doing, because they like that best, but others will decide to try various changes. There’s no single right way. The important thing is to start the conversation, and to keep it going basically for the rest of your lives. With kids and minimalism, you may find there are some surprises along the way. They may not adopt minimalism when they are young, but change their minds as they grow older.
I found this article ‘I love you enough to not give you everything you want’ articulated minimalist views beautifully.

 

Time together is important

Make time and enjoy the simple pleasures

Start doing fewer things with the kids that costs a lot of money, and instead focus on playing outside together, playing games together inside, cooking together. In this way you are able to reinforce the joy of simple pleasures and time spent together, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy life.

See setbacks as learning opportunities

 If you start decluttering as a family, you’ll be really happy with the changes … but sometimes there are setbacks. Your daughter might all of a sudden want the latest  new games because she saw some cool videos online. You might all of a sudden have a bunch of stuff given to you by family members. These can be seen as setbacks and can be frustrating … or you can use them as ways to learn. Knowing how to deal with these kinds of issues, is part of reality. You have to learn to deal with them, or you’ll struggle.

Change traditions in a positive way

 There are lots of things we do simply because it’s the way we’ve always done that. But these traditions can be challenged — why do we need to buy so many Christmas gifts? It’s tough to change traditions though, because people are loathe to let go of what they’re used to. So present the change in tradition as an opportunity to do something awesome. In the case of Christmas gifts, we were going to save the money we would have spent on useless things they didn’t need … and use it for really fun experiences. We’ve gone to water parks or taken family holidays, as our holiday gift to the kids, instead of buying toys. The kids might miss the toys, but they love the experiences.

Christmas lights

When you start making any kind of big changes, other family members (aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, friends etc.) might question what you’re doing. This is because you’re doing something outside the norm, and not everyone agrees with that. Many people will comment that kids and minimalism just doesn’t work. However, this is a great opportunity to talk to these family members about what you’re doing, educate them, widen the conversation from your immediate family to your wider family. And again, you’re setting an example for these people, and showing them there’s a different way — sometimes they even get inspired to make changes themselves!

Use better ways to replace stuff

 Lots of times we think we can’t go without things, but if you get creative, it turns out you don’t really need them. For example, we got rid of photo albums by digitizing photos and using them as screensavers — instead of never opening a dusty photo album, we see the great photos on our computer every day! I digitize all papers, including artwork and school papers (when they were going to school) and little notes from them to me. Simply reducing the ‘paper overload’ has made a huge difference for me. Instead of flicking through great wads of paper searching for that elusive document that I know I had somewhere, I can find it easily once it’s digitised.

Kids and minimalism can work - Celebrate each small step forward!

The most important thing isn’t the changes you make — if you focus on the outcomes, you’ll get frustrated, because you don’t completely control your family members. You might influence and inspire them, but you can’t force change, you can’t force opinions to be different. Instead, you can be present each step along the way, learn from each step, enjoy that step, and be the mindful example of change for your family.

The Minimalist Mindset

A minimalsit mindset

Minimalism is more than decluttering and simplifying alone. Those are important parts of the minimalist journey, but truly embracing minimalism involves shifting the way you think. Once you are able to do that you will adopt a minimalist mindset.

Minimalism is about committing to owning less, rather than decluttering more often. It is about changing your view of what you own and why you own it. This minimalist mindset shift happens gradually and subtly, in small ways. One day you look around and realize your relationship with “stuff” has changed. You have a different viewpoint. Your journey towards and through minimalism has changed your mindset, you now have the minimalist mindset shift.

It’s about owning less, not decluttering more

Changing your mindset can often be the biggest hurdle towards minimalism for many of us. We declutter and purge our homes and are excited to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle. But then a few months later we’ve acquired a heap of new stuff to take the place of the old. So we declutter and purge, and the cycle continues. Without changing the way we think about “stuff” and adopting a minimalist mindset, it’s difficult to make a big shift to minimalism.

Of course, even people who fully embrace minimalism need to purge and declutter occasionally. Stuff accumulates, priorities change, seasons of life change and we no longer need things we used to. But once you have fully embraced the idea of minimalism, the way you think changes. You think differently about what you have in your home and how you spend your time. Your priorities are now what you value and love.

Value experiences over physical things

Once you’ve committed to living with less, you begin looking for ways to spend your time. You are no longer spending time and energy searching for what you can buy next. You’d rather spend your time and money doing something to create memories, not add clutter to your life. Experiences, activities and adventures become more important than acquiring more things.

Stop – do you really need it?

As you embrace minimalism, you become more intentional about what you bring into your space. You stop buying things just to satisfy your need for something new.

Instead, you only buy things you have carefully thought about and decided will add value to your life. You start buying less and being more intentional about what you do buy.

Your spending habits in general change after the minimalist mindset shift. You prioritize spending money on activities and experiences rather than buying more “stuff”.

You stop seeing shopping as a hobby or a past time and begin to look for new hobbies or past times. With your new mindset, you look for those that add value to your life. You make purchases that make you happy and aren’t focused on consumerism or acquiring more.

Become a fierce and intentional gatekeeper about what you allow into your home and your life

You have done the hard work decluttering, purging and minimizing your home. The last thing you want to do is fill it right back up with stuff. You know how much work it was to get rid of your excess stuff. That is excellent motivation to stop unnecessary items from coming into your home again in the first place.

You begin to pay more attention to what “stuff” is entering your home and take on the role of a gatekeeper. Stopping unnecessary, unwanted or unneeded items from coming into your home in the first place is your priority. Instead of letting them come into your home, being forced to deal with them and ultimately decluttering them later, your focus shifts. You are able to be more careful and intentional about what you let in your space in the first place.

Focus on owning less rather than decluttering more

After the minimalist mindset shift, you stop the cycle of decluttering, then buying more, then decluttering again. Again, after all the time and effort you put into decluttering your home, you don’t want to end up right back where you started.

After the minimalist mindset shift, you realize that owning less is much easier and more beneficial than decluttering more often. Your focus changes and you actually WANT to own less because of the extra value and time it brings to your life.

Make your time meaningful

Minimalism is not just about your “stuff”. It goes beyond physical items and changes the way you spend your time as well.

You begin saying no to commitments that don’t align with what you value. As well as saying no to commitments that take too much time away from what you DO value. You recognize that your time is your most valuable resource and become more intentional with how you spend it.

The minimalist mindset shift changes what you allow to take up both your space and your time. You become more intentional with both.

Realize happiness does not come from “things”

After you embrace the minimalist mindset, you no longer feel like you always need more. You no longer tie your happiness to what you own, thinking if once you get the latest and greatest “thing” you’ll feel happy. You stop believing you’ll be happy as soon as you make your next purchase.

Your happiness and self-worth are no longer dependent on what you own. You realize the things you own are here to serve you, either by being useful or bringing you joy. What you own does not define you as a person or determine your happiness or your worth.

Stop trying to keep up with the neighbours

As you embrace the minimalist mindset, you let go of the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses”. You become content with what you have. What you own does not define you as a person. You make the intentional choice to only keep what you use and love.

You feel content with your belongings, knowing they bring value to your life rather than burdening you. With that, you no longer compare what you own to what other people own, because it doesn’t matter. Your belongings do not define your life or your worth. You are content with less because owning less makes your life better. Comparison based on what people own becomes pointless.

Don’t let fear or a scarcity mindset rule what stays in your home

You stop keeping things “just in case” or because you might need it someday. You realize how rarely those “just in case” times actually happen. On the odd occasion you do find yourself without something you could use, you know there are many different potential solutions.

Rather than hanging on to a whole bunch of stuff just in case, you look for alternatives for the thing you need. Maybe you have another item you can use in its place. Or perhaps you could borrow the item from a friend. Sometimes you can actually do without the item altogether and realize you didn’t need it after all. Sometimes if you can find no other alternative, you may have to buy something you previously got rid of.

But those times really are rare. The space and freedom you gain from getting rid of so much unnecessary clutter is definitely worth it. If you have to potentially re-buy the odd item you’ve thrown out, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind and freedom.

Realize organizing is not the answer

I think a lot of us are guilty of thinking we need to organize when really we just have too much stuff, to begin with!

As the minimalist mindset shift happens you begin to see that organizing will never give you the freedom and peace you are looking for. The stuff is all still there and will eventually make it’s way out of your organized system and cause the same stress in your life. The only way to really fix the problem is to get rid of anything you don’t use or love. Only then will you free up both time and space in your home and your life.

The shift to a Minimalist Mindset takes time!

Remember that embracing minimalism is a process, these shifts to a minimalist mindset don’t happen overnight. Most of us have spent most of our lives being told more is better and being bombarded with consumerism. It takes time and effort to shift the way we think. And some of these shifts will come more easily for you than others. But over time, the more you embrace minimalism as a lifestyle, the more your mindset shifts to embrace a minimalist mindset.