If I lived alone, I could have a very simple life. There would be no clutter or mess, I would probably only leave the house once a week (hey, I’m an introvert), and it would be easy to only do things that I found fulfilling.
But with 5 kiddos and a husband (not to mention a dog, a cat and 2 fish)—all of whom I treasure—”simple” looks a little different, and I’m learning to consider my people and their wants and preferences first rather than just making decisions all by myself.
That means, for example, finding the girls room to “hoard” their treasures and letting my husband make his own decisions about his stuff.
I’m a fan of setting boundaries for the girls—like limiting the stuffed animals to the ones that fit in a specific toy box—but I don’t want to be so rigid that they end up clinging to “stuff” after they’ve moved out.
Similarly, my husband is his own person and decluttering is certainly not a moral issue, so I encourage and help him declutter, but I don’t do it without his permission or expect him to always do things my way. In our marriage, we have a simple rule (based on love and mutual respect): “He who cares the most, does it.” Since laundry strewn about the bedroom doesn’t matter as much to my husband, I am the one who collects the laundry and either puts it back in the wardrobe or takes it to the laundry room. Since fingerprints on the cabinets don’t really bother me, he’s the one who wipes those down. Since the baby currently naps in our bed, neither of us really cares whether the bed gets made between naps, so nobody does it.
A couple of months it struck me just how different simple living looks now compared to 4-5 years ago. There are more of us, and the girls are older. We have school stuff, art stuff, fashion and beauty accessories—things that just weren’t on our radar a few years ago. And the simple fact is that what would be considered minimalist for a single person looks a bit like hoarding when multiplied by 7! But my girls are old enough now that I’m not comfortable making unilateral decisions about their stuff without considering their thoughts first.
Simplifying has become a little more complicated, a dance between making my own decisions and encouraging/guiding my kids as they make theirs, while stepping back and letting them spend their money on a toy I know they’ll only play with for 5 minutes or making space for the things that are important to them even when they don’t meet my criteria for things that are worth having.
On the other hand, it also involves encouraging them to choose group gifts and experiences over more toys and simplifying the areas of the house that are mine to make decisions about so that we can still maintain some level of simplicity.
This often feels like an uphill battle, but as I shared in the podcast with Andrea, the other day our oldest gave her little sister a craft that she’d been saving and decided she wasn’t ever going to use. I really felt in that moment like they are listening and the lessons are getting through, even though that’s not always evident on the surface.
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
- What exceptions have you had to make to the way you’d prefer to simplify in order to let the members of your family make their own decisions?
- What areas are you holding onto so tightly that your attempts to simplify are actually causing more stress for everyone?