I started simplifying my life when my daughter was 12. Our family lived in a big house with a yard, garage, attic and storage shed in the backyard. All the space was filled with stuff. Our home and closets weren't the only full spaces. Our calendars and brains were full, too—overloaded actually. We didn't have enough time for each other. Even when we were together, we seemed to be preoccupied with other "stuff."
After I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006, I realized I had created a very full, busy, stressful life and decided to make a change. I wanted to feel well and have time for what mattered most to me.
I slowly began to make space and time by getting rid of things that I didn't use or need. As a working wife and mom, I knew the big changes I wanted to make were going to take some time. Slow and steady was my approach as I jumped gently into minimalism.
Some minimalists have successfully turned their lives around and decided to live out of a backpack in the blink of an eye, but most of us (especially moms) need a more gentle transition. If you have a spouse, children, pets, or all three (like I did), be patient. Respect the fact that it took you many years to get where you are today, and it may take time to get somewhere new.
Here are realistic ways you can incorporate minimalism into your life as a mom.
1. Prioritize your mental and physical health.
Make your health and wellness the top priority. Eat simply, prioritize sleep and move every day. It will feel selfish at first, but know that you can better serve the people around you when you start with you.
2. Own less for more space, love and connection.
Our homes are not containers for stuff, but rather a place for love and connection. By removing the excess stuff from our homes we make more physical space and create less distraction to allow us to really live the way we want to live. Start removing items that you don't really need and focus on holding onto things that bring your family joy.
3. Dress with less for more time, money and clarity.
If you've ever looked in your closet and thought "I have nothing to wear" while staring at hundreds of choices, I can promise you relief from dressing with less. Thanks to minimalist fashion challenge Project 333, I spend less time and money shopping and experience less decision fatigue choosing from a small capsule collection. You can reduce a significant amount of stress in your life simply by reducing the number of items in your closet. If you haven't worn it in the last year, let it go.
4. Owe less for more freedom.
Dump your debt. Having no monthly payments will free you up to do things that matter. It may lead to making different decisions about work or provide more time to spend with your family. Consult with a financial advisor to help if you're unsure where to begin.
5. Do less for more productivity and creativity.
I accomplish more and do better work by doing less of it. You know how it feels to try to get something done when you are burnt out from trying to do it all. Your work suffers. Your health suffers. Your people suffer. There will always be more to do. Choose less and do it well. Only add what's most important to your calendar.
6. Worry less for more peace and sleep.
Worry keeps us up at night and weighs us down. Worry encourages fear and makes us tired, cranky and scared. Worry is a trap. Simplicity helps you stop that cycle.. I used to worry about making ends meet, then I started working on fewer ends. With less around, there was less to worry. Be discerning about what you choose to surround yourself with. Hold on to what matters. Let go of the rest.
7. Say yes less for more time to do things you love with people you love.
We've all said yes, when we wanted to say no. Whether we say it out of guilt, for fear of missing out, or out of habit, it's important to note that saying yes, when your heart says no is a disservice not only to you, but to everyone you say yes to. If your heart says no, it will fight the yes all the way through. You won't be excited to contribute. You won't give your best, and you may end up resenting the commitment or the person who asked you to commit. If you don't have time for what matters, stop doing things that don't.
8. Connect less to your devices for more connection with who yourself and loved ones.
If you want real connection and honest answers, check your heart more than you check your phone. Start by sitting quietly for a few minutes with your hands on your heart, and your eyes closed. Listen. Your heart knows who you are—now you just need a little time to know your heart.
9. Less drama results in more ease and equanimity.
Choose to under-react when possible. Take a few (hundred) deep breaths or go on a long walk. Whatever you need to ensure you don't let the drama in. Just because everything is crazy around you doesn't mean everything has to be crazy within you.
10. Remember what matters.
I remember times when I gave my phone more attention than I gave my daughter, or said, "one sec" and took much longer. When everything is important, nothing really is because you're always distracted or thinking about what's next. Always consider what matters most to you and act accordingly.
11. Create a version of minimalism that works best for you and your family.
There is a big difference between less and nothing and it's up to you to determine what's best for you. If you love to bake, you may have more baking items than someone who loves to ski or hike. Take stock of what adds value to your unique family situation. And don't feel guilty for keeping those items.
As you incorporate minimalism into your life as a mom, you won't just be changing your wellbeing, but your whole family's. Living with less has helped me to restore my health, engage in work I truly care about and show all the way up for the people I love.
Living with less can lead to so much more.