Moving Toward Minimalism in Parenting

In preparing for the birth of my little one, I purchased two things: a changing table at a thrift store ($20) and a car seat/stroller from a family member ($50). That’s it. Everything else was given to me in the form of hand-me-downs, shower gifts, or gift cards that I used for whatever I didn’t get. Did I get everything I wanted? No. But I had everything I really needed. I know that because even though there were several things I didn’t get from my registry, I can’t even remember what those things were anymore. The only things we’ve had to buy is diapers (starting at around 3 or 4 months) and childproof cabinet locks (at around 9 months).

I made a decision to be careful about what I buy, because it’s sooo easy to overspend on your kid. Everything’s so cute! And my kid is so cute! All of this stuff is obviously made for him! And that’s why I don’t go into the baby clothes section. Ever.

E V E R .

I eagerly accept hand-me-downs from Bennett’s older cousin, and grandparents often can’t resist giving him the occasional outfit. This is great. He has everything he needs. Sometimes, I have to do laundry a little more often than I would if I just went out and bought a few more outfits for convenience, but I must remind myself that he’ll just grow out of those clothes in a month. I’d have to buy a bunch more to replace them, and then a bunch more, and then a bunch more… I think I’ll just do a load of laundry instead!

And recently, my boy needed a haircut. Now, I don’t know about you, but just about everyone I know takes their kid to the salon. It’s a whole big deal, with some sort of dinosaur or car they get to sit in; with cartoons, superhero capes, and suckers; and with a professional hairstylist who can make your kid look Abercrombie in 7 minutes flat. It’s pretty cool, really, and the kids do end up looking pretty swag! I love it! But for some reason, these fancy haircutting people ask for money. So I decided to do it myself.

It was a whole big deal, with a high chair, about seven graham crackers, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and a new mom who’d never given a scissor cut in her life, much less to an infant. And I made my kid look like a military recruit in 45 minutes flat. And I think he’s awfully cute. ūüėČ

I’m no pro at this minimalist mom thing, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m learning. I really don’t have a lot of advice here, except to make “don’t buy it” a general rule. I put things in my cart at Walmart all the time and then put them back.

Like the green umbrella stroller with Mike Wazowski on it. It was cute. It was only $20. I would love to have a lightweight stroller instead of the monstrosity I do have. But the bottom line: I have a stroller. It is huge, but it works. It holds my baby and my bag, and it rolls. End of story.

I already talked about clothes, so let’s talk toys. I don’t buy those, either. I bought him three gifts for Christmas, and only one was a toy. (The other two were books and flashcards.) After seeing how much loot he got from family, I got to thinking that I didn’t need to get him anything at all! A baby just doesn’t really need a room full of toys. (What is mine playing with right now? The kitchen rug, a skillet, and some plastic containers.) If he has a grandma (or three of them, in our case), he will have plenty of toys.

Babies need so much less than all the websites and the commercials and the stores say they need. The people behind this are not concerned with teaching your child to have treasures in heaven (shocker!), but rather with making money by taking advantage of new parents who want the best for their children. That’s it. The irony is that by falling for their advertising, we’re doing exactly the opposite of what’s best for our children. The more we buy, the more we encourage materialism in our kids and welcome idolatry into their lives. While minimalism itself is not the answer to this problem — because anything can become an idol, even this — for me, minimalism is a step away from the clutter crowding my heart, and so then it is easier to see Jesus.

That is why I’m drawn to minimalism.

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Moving Toward Minimalism in Holidays

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The Reliques and us!

The best birthday present I ever got was last year. My ‚ô•awesomely‚ô•wonderful‚ô•husband‚ô• organized a surprise benefit concert for me, featuring¬†Heath Aldridge and The Reliques. The money raised went to one of my very favorite charities, Voice of the Martyrs. I was so surprised and so delighted that I cried! I had never, ever had such an awesome birthday. I was SO happy to NOT receive presents, and to instead know that something truly useful and meaningful was being done with my friends’ and family members’ money. It was the best celebration ever.

(Side note: If you ever want to give me a present for my birthday or Christmas, you can never, ever go wrong by donating to VOM or to Take Root. In my name or not, I don’t care. I will be more excited about a gift like this than about really any other present you can think of — really!)

I struggle with holidays for many reasons, but gift-giving is one of the biggest. While I do want to celebrate and to see the people I love smiling and happy, I feel unsettled by trying to accomplish this with¬†stuff. The whole ordeal — especially at Christmas — is just becoming increasingly contrary to my interest in shedding some of the earthly treasures I’ve stored up for myself:

‚ÄúDo not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.¬†But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;¬†for¬†where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
-Jesus, in Matthew 6:19-21

How does it then make sense to suspend that belief during holidays? Giving more stuff to people who (like me) already have so much stuff that there are boxes of stuff in their attics and in closets and maybe even in storage facilities… are these treasures in heaven? Where are our hearts? We have SO MUCH STUFF. We don’t need more stuff.

So is the answer to stop giving gifts? I doubt it. Gift-giving is Biblical. The wise men brought gifts to young King Jesus. God gives us gifts. Christians are called to give generously to God, to each other, and to the needy. My issue is not gift-giving in itself, but that American gift-giving is a little bit out of hand. And so, I’ve been really thinking about it. For years. While I typically still default to something material and not necessarily needed, because that’s what I know and because I often run out of time, I’ve been trying to slowly change.

100_2755For Mother’s Day, I made face, foot, and body scrubs. It took a little time and a couple of errands to get the supplies and ingredients, but I had fun with this project! It was fairly inexpensive to do, but more meaningful (I think) than many other gifts I could have simply bought.

For Father’s Day for my husband, I took him — just us! — on a canoe trip. I gave an experience, a memory, a great date doing something active and outdoors. I know my husband loves that kind of thing, and I know we don’t do enough of it, especially since the baby came. So I surprised him. He loved it! It was so much better than a tie.

canoeangela canoejustin

For my son’s upcoming birthdays, (yes, plural on purpose!), I’m working on a perpetual gift. I have a scrapbook in which I will, every year, add a personal birthday letter from me. I’ll also include on the page some pictures from the year. He’ll have that to look forward to every birthday — even though I know that for several of them later on, he will act like he’s too cool to care! It will be such a great keepsake in years to come, and he will have a tangible expression of my love even after I am gone.

For Christmas, oh man. I don’t know yet. Any ideas? ūüėČ

While embracing the spirit of giving, I want to also learn how to give meaningful gifts. I’m working on it, and I’m open to suggestions!

Moving Toward Minimalism in My Jewelry Box

I have way too much stuff. We all do. I’ve been asking these questions of myself in recent weeks:

Why do I have a jewelry box full of jewelry I haven’t seen in years?
Why is half of my closet full of clothes I never wear? 
Why do I still have boxes full of stuff from when we moved here two years ago, and even some boxes from when I moved out on my own over a decade ago? 
Why am I holding on to so much stuff that I never look at or use? 

Recently, I wrote about how I have been dreaming of minimalism after reading books and blogs and the Bible. In choosing to actually believe God on His view of earthly possessions and materialism, I began really evaluating what I have been keeping and why.

About a year ago, I did a serious purging of stuff that I no longer value, such as childhood collections, out-of-style clothes, et cetera. It felt great. We had a garage sale and turned a bunch of stuff that was needlessly crowding our home into capital that could be wisely invested. While I did get rid of a ton of stuff, I am recognizing a flaw in my approach to purging last time. All I asked myself was whether or not I¬†liked¬†or¬†wanted each item I evaluated. This is a good place to start, but it’s incomplete.

Look back at my questions italicized above. My first one refers to my jewelry box. I didn’t get rid of¬†any jewelry in my first purge. I¬†like everything in my jewelry box; it’s all so pretty! So naturally, I didn’t even open it when I was looking for stuff to get rid of. Now, my jewelry box is where I have started.

I’m not even finished yet, but I have already identified¬†55¬†items to sell. Fifty-five!!!¬†My questions to myself through this process have been:

  1. Do I wear this? If yes, keep it.
  2. If I don’t wear it, do I treasure it as an heirloom or for sentimental reasons? If yes, keep it.
  3. If I don’t wear it or treasure it, is there any compelling reason to keep it?

Generally, if I make it to question #3, the answer is no. There are lots of pretty items I’m getting rid of that I really like. There are pieces that I just might wear with one certain outfit for one yet unforeseen occasion in some future decade, but that’s not reason enough to keep it. I will still have plenty of versatile pieces left that are more than adequate for this purpose, and each of them will be pieces I really love and that really mean something to me.

And I mean really. Who¬†needs jewelry anyway? Even if I had nothing but a wedding ring, it really wouldn’t matter at all. This was an easy and encouraging place to start moving toward minimalism!

Think about your home. If you were to embark on this journey, where do you think you would start?

Dreaming of Minimalism

I’m getting a little sick of it. All of it. All of this¬†stuff.¬†

I read one time that starving people in other countries find it utterly unfathomable that Americans pay millions of dollars to lose weight. (By contrast, it is pretty astounding.) Similarly, I’ve paid particular attention recently to commercials promising to help overwhelmed people organize their clutter. So instead of turning all of this excess stuff into capital, or donating it to someone who needs it, or simply trashing the trash, how many Americans spend yet more money to help them cling to stuff they don’t need? I’m sure the millions of impoverished people of the world would also be dumbstruck to see some of our houses.

My discontentment started either with the misuse and abuse of Christmas, or with the reading of David Platt’s Radical. I can’t remember which was first, but it doesn’t matter. Either way, I’m here now, and I’m so saddened by the constant over-spending that surrounds me. Of course, I will not list the things that I find frivolous, because I’ll inevitably step on some toes that I love. And of course, you could easily point out things that I spend money on that you find frivolous, but that’s kind of my point. I’m just developing an awareness of my own excess.

So, I’m¬†dreaming of minimalism. I’m reading minimalist blogs and mentally assessing my stuff and my spending and my gift-giving and gift-receiving, and I’m wondering about the¬†why of every little thing. This is not a new concept, so I’m not really sure why I’m reading about how other people are living minimalist lives instead of simply reading the Bible, believing it, and obeying it. Two of the most straight-forward verses on this topic are:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ~Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21 (emphasis added)

For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. ~Paul in 1 Timothy 6:7-9 (emphasis added)

There are others, but I don’t need them. This is an issue of whether I believe that Jesus meant what He said, and whether I believe that I will be held accountable for obedience to what He said. The simple fact is that He did mean it, and that I will be held accountable, but am I living like I believe it?

More soon.