Parenting and Minimizing: Do’s and Don’ts

When I was nearing the very end of my pregnancy with Mac, I went through a pretty intense nesting phase in which I wanted to GET RID OF ALL OF THE THINGS. I didn’t, however, since it’s kind of difficult to climb out of the attic at 9+ months pregnant. I do miss the large chunks of time in which I was intensely focused on cleaning and organizing. Time is hard to squeeze out of the day with a 7 month old. And, as Mac grows and becomes more active, these chunks of time will become even shorter. So, here are my do’s and don’ts of trying to tackle your clutter with kids:

  • DON’T make excuses.
    • Being a parent is a hard, 24/7 job. It’s even harder if you have crap everywhere. But there will always be a million excuses as to why you can’t possibly tackle the problem, and having kids is not one of them (Okay, it totally is, but it doesn’t HAVE to be). “I’m too busy! I have too many activities to drive my kids to! I have to spend all my time cleaning!” etc etc. Stop it. We’ll figure it out together.
  • DO give yourself a break!
    • Being a parent is hard! It’s amazing how quickly a day goes by before you realize you accomplished nothing but get out of bed and have a cup of coffee. (Go you! Small victories!)
    • There are no “minimalism awards.” If your ultimate goal is to be able to spend more time with your kids and less time organizing your crap, remember that. Every hour that you spend downsizing will reward you with hours of free time in the future. Stay focused on your goals.
  • DON’T bite off more than you can chew.
    • A 30 minute baby power nap is not enough time to go through your bursting catch-all crap closet. TRUST ME. You know your kids. If they can sit through a 30-minute episode of Spongegbob, you have 30 minutes to tackle something. If they can only handle 10? Plan accordingly. No point pulling all your crap out, only to have to shove it all back in again.
  • DO break big projects into small chunks.
    •  Use the 20/10 cleaning tip. You’d be surprised what you can accomplish in 20 minutes.
    • Take a closet one section or shelf at a time. Only pull out the contents of one shelf, make decisions about each item (toss, donate, sell).
    • Make sure that anything that leaves the closet ends up in its permanent most useful location! If you cannot find a home for it, does it belong in your house at all?
  • DON’T give up.
    • If you want more for your life and freedom from your stuff, you have to put the work into getting rid of it. You got yourself into this mess, but you can get yourself out. Nobody is hopeless.
  • DO make a plan.
    • Having kids means you might have to take things at a slower pace. Even if you only get through one box a day, that’s one less box you have to move. One less box weighing you down. One less box you’re spending time stressing out about.
    • Schedule time for minimizing each day. Even if it’s only 30 minutes, make time. Even 5-10 minutes here and there will help. (Examples, clean out the medicine cabinet while the kids are in the bath. Tackle a kitchen drawer while you’re making coffee. Toss clothing while you’re doing laundry. etc)
    • Enlist help. Can your spouse hang out with the kids while you finish a 45/15? Can your kids spend the day at grandma’s so you can finally tackle the garage? Can your kids spend the day at grandma’s while your spouse helps you tackle the garage?
    • Write your de-cluttering goals in big, bold letters on a piece of paper and hang it up somewhere you’re likely to see it (the fridge, the bathroom, your bedroom mirror, etc). “I will spend more time enjoying my kids” “I will be free from clutter” “I will not give up” “I am not my stuff”.


I realize that every situation is different. Despite my strong desire to throw out all of my things and start over, becoming a mom has made me more sentimental about my things, which I didn’t think was even possible. The most important thing is to focus on your goals, and make a plan that’s unique to your life. And remember, you own your stuff, it doesn’t own you!


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