Newsflash: so are toddlers.
I’m fairly certain that any human that I have to feed, clothe, and house is going to be costly.
Of course, there are ways to scale back these costs, and I think embracing a more minimal or essential perspective is key.
I am not a minimalist by any stretch. Not in the pure sense. Not in the podcast sense. Not even in the most generous sense.
But prior to growing our family, we really did start to embrace the idea of decluttering. I’m fairly certain it will be a lifelong journey, especially now that we have a small human who is a Stuff Magnet.
Even though I wouldn’t peg myself as an expert, I will say that raising a baby (fine, I guess I have to acknowledge that he’s a toddler now that he’s a year and a half old) while we are on this journey has been eye opening.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit that sometimes we still seem to spend time in a swirl of blocks or a sea of books. But I do honestly thing that my
baby toddler is helping me understand minimalism more.
1. The need for more is complicated.
Basically, any time anyone says anything about babies and kids being expensive, there are two responses:
“I see your daycare expense, and I’ll raise you a college tuition statement.”
“They’re only as expensive as you let them be.”
As with virtually everything in life–and certainly everything in personal finance–I’m a big believer in both. Both camps are right. And they’re right at the same time.
Since I can’t solve the early childhood or post-secondary education crises, I choose to focus more on the second one (but I’ll never not acknowledge the first is far more problematic!).
But what isn’t talked about often enough is just how hard it is to learn to embrace “enough”. My son has enough clothes. He has a great set of hand-me-downs that are peppered with a few fun new outfits that were gifts (he officially owns more Calvin Klein than I do now). Plus, we added a few things that he needed–snow boots, sneakers, a few more pairs of pants.
Still, it doesn’t feel like very much. He has probably two weeks worth of clothes, excluding major spills or accidents. It’s definitely enough, but I feel pangs when I tuck away his tiny laundry.
I want the best for my son. So does my husband. While I’m sure some of this can be chalked up to advertising (though I can’t recall the last commercial I watched) and mommy groups (though I’m not in any), I also feel like parenting comes with this innate feeling of wanting more for your child.
More laughs, more fun, more words, more adventures, more clothes, more toys. I want him to be comfortable. I want him to be challenged. I want him to have his needs met, and quite frankly, his desires, too.
Thankfully, I realize now that these feelings come from me, not from him. He is happy and cozy and full of laughter. He doesn’t need a brimming closet, and he certainly doesn’t need any more shoes.
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2. Clutter is the enemy of creativity.
Clutter gives me anxiety. I’ve never been able to leave things strewn about. Instead, I’ve always carefully concealed my clutter.
When I tell people in real life that I’m working on decluttering, they often ask if I’m planning to move into a box or a tent. “What do you have to get rid of? Your house?”
But just because I am able to tuck most of it away, doesn’t mean it’s not still there.
While I’ve long understand that clutter makes me anxious, it took having a toddler to realize how totally and effectively clutter stifles creativity.
The more stuff my son is surrounded with, the less he plays. Instead, he will flit from thing to thing, not spending more than a handful of seconds on anything. Or he just wades through it all like Godzilla moving through Tokyo, puzzle pieces and Duplo blocks be damned.
In addition to being able to play more thoughtfully and creatively with his actual toys when he has space and smaller selections, I’m also struck by his ingenuity. And I think I would notice far less of it if I shopped the way I used to.
Rather than run out and buy the Melissa & Doug version of
a cleaning kit everything (they make literally everything now), I try to notice what he chooses to play with instead and see if that’s appropriate. He adores our Swiffer and loves to dry the floor with our kitchen towels (I honestly have The Best Baby Ever), so now he has his own cleaning towel and we just let him go to town with the Swiffer itself. Could I have bought toddler-sized toys? Sure. Did I need to? Not at all.
Shoe boxes, shipping containers, empty oatmeal canisters. They’re the perfect toys, and they’re perfectly recyclable. I’m trying to let him play with the toys he has and safely explore the other parts of our home without adding anything else to the mix. And I must say. I love the results.
(I feel like this truth is co-signed by Liz at Chief Mom Officer and her “Not a Box” adventures.)
3. It’s about time.
The days are long and the years are short. Even when I’m up to my eyeballs in tears and tantrums, skipped naps and delayed bedtimes, I can’t help but feel that there is never enough time.
It’s universal. Even if you’re not a parent, I think you can understand that feeling. We want more time to do what we love, and we want more time to spend with who we love.
For me, that has been the constant motivator to keep going. I am at the point where I have to really dig deep to decide if we continue down this decluttering path. I’m done tossing expired coupons. I’ve used up lotions from long ago. Now I’m facing off with things of sentimental nature. And two fabulous vintage Gucci bags that I still can’t bring myself to either use or sell.
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I think I would let myself off the hook entirely if I didn’t know one simple truth: The more clutter we combat, the more time I have with my son.
It’s not about less stuff. It’s about more time.
Final Thoughts on Toddlers and Minimalism
While my son has just enough clothes, he definitely has an abundance of books. We don’t have minimalism totally figured out, but we are starting to appreciate it more and get a sense of what our family can learn from it. By focusing on enjoying what we have without worrying about adding more to the mix, we’re seeing more splashes of creativity and more glimmers of time in our home.
And our spending? Well, that is lower too.
Now, if only there was a way to origami-fold down childcare costs and college tuition.
So Tell Me…How do you deal with stuff and your family?