Here's What Happened When I Became a Minimalist Mom

Minimalism is about focusing less on stuff and more on things you value like shared experiences and time with your family. Here's what happened when Mighty Mommy gave minimalism a try, and five ways your family can benefit, too.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #617
The Quick And Dirty

Living a minimalist lifestyle goes far beyond reducing clutter. It pushes you to be more intentional about eliminating anything from your life that distracts you from what matters to you the most. It shifts the focus from material belongings to more valuable things like shared family experiences, togetherness, and peace of mind.

Parents will try anything to find that magic, trendy solution that works. During the 25-plus years that I've been a mom, I've experienced a handful of parenting trends. I dabbled with various parenting styles and learned that helicopter, free-range, and snow-plow parenting weren't for me. Next, I enjoyed the eco-friendly movement and then embraced mindful parenting. And I now have a whole new appreciation for homeschooling parents. (Uh, thanks, 2020. You're provided some real "learning experiences.")

As the mom of eight, I've been open to experimenting with anything that might benefit my family. I think I've found something that clicks—a minimalist approach.

Don't be frightened by this concept of focusing on the essentials!

Don't be frightened by this concept of focusing on the essentials! There are many ways you can approach minimalism so that it works for your family. Here are five ways minimalism can take you from overwhelmed to peaceful and save you money at the same time.

What is a minimalist lifestyle?

When I first heard the term "minimalist," I shook my head and said, "No way!" I imagined my large family sleeping on the floor, giving up cell phones and the Internet, and painting our rooms stark white.

Wow, was I ever wrong! 

After more investigation, I found hundreds of websites, YouTube channels, articles, and podcasts that promote minimalism. My favorite definition of minimalism comes from Joshua Becker, founder of BecomingMinimalist.com.

At its core, being a minimalist means intentionally promoting the things we most value and removing everything that distracts us from it.

It is a life that forces intentionality upon us. As a result, it causes improvements in almost all aspects of your life.

Joshua Becker

With that, I was on board. I believed my family could benefit from intentionally living with only the things we really needed and eliminating any clutter that might distract us from what matters most.

What can minimalism do for your family?

The minimalist approach might just be the right one for your family, too. So, let's take a closer look at what minimalism looks like in action.

Having less stuff allows more time to enjoy your family

Raising eight kids means not only caring for them but managing all their stuff, too. Through the years, the baby paraphernalia, clothing, toys, backpacks, puzzles and games, sports equipment, yard gear, and everything in between seemed to multiply while we slept! 

As a stay-at-home mom then, I also had my share of stuff, from scrapbooking kits to sewing supplies to subscriptions to about 15 different magazines. I even went all-out and decorated for the seasons. It was ... a lot. The shuffling I did with storage bins was nonstop and left me feeling drained and frazzled. Today, I shudder to think about it. 

I've easily gained 20 hours of extra time each week by departing with extra meaningless items.

In 7 Ways Clutter Is Ruining Your Life, I mentioned a UCLA study that showed a spike in cortisol levels for mothers who are continually surrounded by clutter in their homes. But when they were away from their cluttered environment, their stress levels dropped.

I’m not surprised, because I remember how that felt.

When I began my journey to live a minimalist lifestyle, I spent several months decluttering and purging our home. I let go of anything that didn't bring joy and value to my family's everyday wellbeing, and I've never looked back.

I've easily gained 20 hours of extra time each week by departing with extra meaningless items. Even my kids agree—less is more when it comes to living a better quality of life.

Everything finally has a place

"A place for everything; everything in its place." That's a popular idiom often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. It was my mantra throughout my shift to a more minimalist household, and it still is today. One thing I was guilty of for most of my parenting years was having several "catch-all" drawers and closets where I could stash (OK, I mean shove!) anything that didn't have a home.

Having fewer things means it's easier to designate a proper place for the items we do use daily.

That is no longer a problem because having fewer things means it's easier to designate a proper place for the items we do use daily. Now I don't search endlessly for AA batteries, TV remotes, and my car keys! And my kids have a designated place for all their needs—homework items, sports equipment, and easy access to their own items in the laundry room.

No more blowing your budget

My struggle with infertility has taught me to not take motherhood for granted. Raising a large family has been incredible in so many ways, yet it's no surprise that it's also been costly. You can't put a price tag on your child, but all parents know—raising kids ain't cheap!

It wasn't the size of our family that blew the budget, it was the overspending I did each month because I was shopping for things we didn't need.

No matter how hard I tried, I never seemed to stick with our family's budget. I chalked it up to having eight kids. But I now humbly admit that it wasn't the size of our family that blew the budget, it was the overspending I did each month because I was shopping for things we didn't need.

As we began living with less stuff to manage, my priorities shifted immensely. I had more space to organize my cupboards, and I could see what I had and what we needed. Impulse purchases soon waned. Within a few months, I had money left over at the end of each pay period equaling extra mortgage payments! Today, this is the norm for my family, not the exception. 

Check out this fantastic video by minimalist guru Joshua Becker, 8 Ways Minimalism Saves Money. It sums up the financial savings beautifully. (Pun intended!)

You'll value experiences over things

Even before I embraced a more minimalistic way of living, my ex-husband and I gifted our kid's with experiences alongside their more materialistic requests. Trips to amusement parks, weekends away in the mountains, or an evening out at the movies and their favorite pizza place always brought a huge smile to their faces. It also guaranteed that we, as a family, would have time together away from the daily grind.

Research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than possessions. One of the life-changing benefits of owning less is the shift in mindset that comes along with it. My emphasis is now on the importance of spending more time with my family. I'm hoping this will result in memories we can share for the rest of our lives. 

Research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than possessions.

Another huge benefit to offering your family an experience versus a material item is less clutter. Most of the things we buy end up becoming burdens to us. (Ask my attic!) They need to be maintained and stored. Experiences, on the other hand, live in our minds and hearts.

They also result in better connections with our family members. When you're touring a fun museum together, you connect and communicate. There are photo ops and video moments. Even when you're all tired and cranky, you're in this together and creating memories.

Family excursions also result in greater mindfulness. Sciencemag.org reports that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Living in the moment results in a happier life. This boils down to appreciating what's happening in the here and now. When you truly get your mind wrapped around this concept, it’s freeing and takes away the pressure to worry about the past or future.

Your family gains more quality time and peace of mind

By eliminating over 50% of our family's things—my kids were, for the most part, onboard!—we gained something even more valuable: peace of mind. 

Within a few short weeks of living with less clutter to maintain, I noticed a more carefree attitude amongst all of us. Our stress levels diminished, and we all wanted to hang out together in our open, airy environment.

This was just the beginning. Here are some of the other benefits that have unfolded since we scaled back and embraced minimalism.

  • We have more random game nights ... that the kids actually request!
  • Everyone is reading more.
  • We cook and eat more family meals together.
  • The mad scramble before school and work has gotten a lot less frantic.
  • We're planning more family outings.
  • Doing laundry and tidying up takes less time.

And those immediate benefits create a snowball effect! Because we have less chaos and clutter, we have more time. That means we make more phone calls to loved ones, we spend more time with our pets, we're volunteering more, and we're even getting more sleep and waking rested.

And the best thing about a minimalist family lifestyle is that we don't miss all that stuff! We reaped all the benefits without sacrificing a thing.

If you're not convinced minimalism is right for you and your family, you can try it on for size. Start with one area and purge everything you can live without. I cleared everything off the counters in our bathrooms and organized under the sinks and in the linen closet. Once you get started, you'll gain momentum and you can continue room by room.

Give minimalism a try! You’ve got nothing to lose except too much stuff, and a huge benefit to gain—time to focus on the things that really matter to you and your family.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.