When a baby is on the way, there’s often an intense need to nest and prepare for their arrival. Cleaning, arranging, and accumulating. Making sure the stuff baby needs to survive and thrive are at the ready. When I learned that my friend, Amanda, was expecting her third, I was curious to know how she was approaching nesting this time around, after all nesting is most often an instinct and not an intellectual decision. Other people I know have no less prepared and accumulated stuff for their third than for their first. But, Amanda is a minimalist. I wondered curiously whether her minimalism was affecting how she felt about preparing for baby this time around. We chatted, and I learned a lot more than just about her baby prep, I learned that Amanda’s story of coming to minimalism was a lot like my own. For me, there is no lofty intellectual or artistic story to tell. I didn’t aspire to a particular home decor aesthetic. It was a completely practical decision. Faced with never ending tidying, exhaustion from work and mothering, I made the decision that our home needed to have way, way less stuff if I was going to save my sanity. Some people are comfortable in clutter and disarray, I’m not one of them.
Amanda is a stay-at-home mother and a photographer. I asked her to share her story of finding minimalism and how it is now part of her everyday life. I think you will find her answers refreshing and engaging. She speaks in a very honest and practical way, with beautiful snippets of revelation here and there. I absolutely love how Amanda so clearly sees that minimalism doesn’t stop with your living space, it permeates how you live and how you make decisions. Minimalism changes how you think about your schedule, your grocery shopping, your texting, everything.
I hope you are inspired by Amanda’s story.
Let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?
I’m 28 years old. I’m the oldest of four preacher’s kids. Born, bred and breeding in the desert of Southern California. I was 20 when I married my best friend, who turned me from a preacher’s kid to a preacher’s wife. Together we have two daughters and one on the way!
What are you passionate about? How do you like to spend your time?
Although I would not describe my transition to motherhood as smooth, I am passionate about my little ones and relishing in the beautiful and short years that they will be with me. My photography business has the ability to keep me busy, but I love being able to set my own schedule and create more space if that’s what I need. It’s also been a wonderful creative outlet for me during the chaos that accompanies these years with young ones all around.
How many children do you have and what are they like?
My firstborn, Jaryn Rose, is 5 going on 15. She’s articulate and sassy, with a sensitive side that craves down time and quiet. Raynen, my soon-to-be middle child, is a little ball of fire and attitude. She is stubborn and hilarious and fearlessly daring. She has speech apraxia and sensory processing disorder which plunged us into the world of therapy and special needs, but everyday she makes me more the mama I want to be.
Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?
“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo. But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either” – Donald Miller: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
“We never fully realize how strong the grip of consumerism is on our lives until we try to remove it.” – Joshua Becker
This could not have been more true for me. I thought I was naturally minimalistic. I don’t hold onto every scrap of paper my kids scribble on and I regularly clean out my closet and donate old clothing. But saying no to new and unnecessary things required another kind of determination. Saying no to the patterns of first world consumerism meant taking a hard look at what I owned, what brought me joy, and what story I wanted to write.
What is your story? What drew you to minimalism or what motivated you to become a minimalist?
I used to joke that laziness is what made me become a minimalist but in reality it was exhaustion. Pure exhaustion. All day: cleaning up and putting away and organizing and stepping on toys. Constantly telling my kids to pick up after themselves. And still, it seemed, at the end of every day my husband would get home from work and the house would be a disaster. A trail of tutus and blocks and coloring pages and books, down the hallway and invading every room. All day: trying to keep the kids entertained. Coming up with new activities and reminding them of all the stuff they had to play with, just to be told how “bored” they were. It was maddening. How could they have so much and be so discontent? How could they have bins and closets and drawers of toys that “encourage imaginative play” and never use their imagination? At first, I thought maybe they weren’t old enough or maybe imagination was something that had to be taught. But as I slowly removed the excess, I realized imagination isn’t learned and has no age requirement, but it is easily smothered. Their imaginations were buried beneath a layer of unnecessary excess.
I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you?
When I started this journey, I believed minimalism was purely about the usefulness of what I kept in my home. If I used it on a regular basis, it could stay but I needed to stop storing things that I didn’t use all the time. I also wanted to be intentional and thoughtful about the quantity of each thing I was keeping. Now, I’ve learned to part with things that, yes, I could use, but not often enough to keep in my house. I’ve also found items that have more than one purpose so I can eliminate the need for multiples. I found this useful with kitchen items. Yes. I purged my kitchen. Who needs 15 mixing bowls anyways?
One of the things I didn’t expect was how it would change my view of “bargain shopping”. I used to love to find a deal. Get something cheap. Find it for a low price and buy 4. Now I have less qualms about buying something quality that will last longer, accomplish more, and allow me to have just 1. I’ve applied this to my clothes shopping as well. I’m not my kids, I don’t need new sizes every 6 months. And I know what I like. I found that I wore the same outfits often and kept lots of clothing that never made it out the door with me because I would go back to my favorite pieces. One rule I put in place for a while to help me purge my closet was that if I put it on while getting ready and took it off to change into something else, I would purge that piece of clothing. If I wasn’t going to wear it in the moment it actually made it off the hanger and onto my body, I was never going to wear it. Bye, bye.
Minimalism also means living out from under the weight of obligation. There was so much I kept because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. This mainly applied to gifts. If it isn’t useful or beautiful to me, I had to let it go. And just because I loved something once, doesn’t mean I have to keep it forever.
Lastly, minimalism has affected my time and how I fill my schedule. The same way I’ve learned to say no to overfilling my home, I’ve learned to say no to overfilling my schedule. The same way I’ve created empty spaces in every room and drawer and closet, I’ve created empty spaces in my days and weeks and months. And the same way owning less has given me the freedom to enjoy more, doing less has given me the freedom to say yes to the ones that matter most to me.
Minimalism is not just a one time event. A yearly purge. Or the same as spring cleaning. Minimalism is intentionally choosing to live with less. To live with room. To live for experiences instead of things. To have time and space for events and items that bring me joy.
“Minimalism isn’t deprivation, it’s liberation.” – Joshua Becker
Are there any books, websites or other resources that have inspired your minimalism?
www.becomingminimalist.com is an amazing website that got me started. The founder, Joshua Becker, also wrote a book called Clutterfree with Kids and it really helped me take things to the next level. It doesn’t just explain the “how” behind decluttering and the minimalist lifestyle, but includes the “why”, which I think is so important for maintenance and any long term change.
In what ways/areas do you struggle with maintaining your minimalist goals/values? What is your weakness?
My greatest struggle is clothing. As someone who has struggled with weight issues for years, I battle the desire to keep old sizes and buy new sizes and then save the sizes I’m no longer wearing. I also think I purchased clothes because I believed if I had something new it would make me feel better about my body but that never turned out to be true. In fact, I always ended up wearing my tried and true favorites from brands I really loved and in that way, minimalism has been a perfect fit for my wardrobe. But it’s still been hard to say no when I see something I like or think would be flattering. The part that’s made it easier is thinking about the amount of clothes I’ve donated since starting this journey. I remember specifically a few items that still had the tags on them! If that doesn’t make you pause long and hard before a purchase I don’t know what will!
You have a third child on the way. Has minimalism influenced how you are preparing for your newest addition?
Almost two years of intentionally pursuing this lifestyle, preparing for another wee one has shown me what a huge change has really been made. Obviously with the first baby, it’s hard to know what you’ll actually need. You have to just go with what everyone is telling you. And giving you. So of course, I have experience on my side this time around. But even so, there’s plenty of “things” that I could use or buy or hope for. I could buy lots of clothes and register for multiples of everything. Instead, I narrowed down my wish list to actual needs (a place to sleep, something to wear, and blanket to keep warm) and then I choose to only bring a certain number of these items into my home. I don’t need 30 newborn outfits. Or 12 swaddling blankets. I bring in smaller amounts of the necessities and say no to the rest. It’s so freeing not to feel a pull toward all the things. I don’t feel weighed down and burdened while waiting to bring a new life into the world. Instead I can focus on the beauty of what my body is doing- the rest that I need to stay healthy- and remind myself I already have everything I need to welcome another little one earthside.
Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?
For the most part my husband has been totally on board. I know this isn’t the case for lots of couples, so I’m grateful. I think his biggest concern early on, watching trunk loads of home goods being donated, was that I was giving it all away to eventually replace it. It took time, but eventually I was able to prove that was not the case. He learned my motives and my determination and has been fully supportive ever since.
My older daughter also showed some resistance when we first began. Suddenly, toys she hadn’t played with in months were her greatest treasures. But when I showed her the pile of clothes I was giving away and decorations and jewelry, she warmed up to the idea knowing I wasn’t only purging her things. Since then, it’s just constant conversation about why we live this way. Making sure they understand the “why” behind the lifestyle and inviting them to be a part of it.
Have you had any positive or negative experiences with friends or family related to minimalism?
Both sets of grandparents currently live within a 15 mile radius of us, and there are so many reasons this makes us lucky. But it was also part of the reason our girls had an overabundance of… well… everything. And in the beginning their responses varied from disappointed confusion, to totally ignoring what we asked and buying lots of gifts anyways.
One of the things that helped was making suggestions of what to give the girls as gifts instead. I appreciate their generosity and their desire to spoil their grandbabies, so I didn’t want to rob them of that entirely. Encouraging ice cream dates, and train rides, and Disneyland tickets and taking them to ride the carousel — making them realize there’s still ways to give them something special without it being wrapped in a bag and bow, helped them get on board. I think it also got easier for them when they saw the reactions to the “experience” type gifts versus the toy aisle type gifts. Not only were the girls more excited and engaged, they remembered it and talked about it at every family get together for months afterwards. It wasn’t just another doll collecting dust under the bed.
In what ways has minimalism improved your life?
I don’t spend as much money. I don’t spend as much time cleaning. And cleaning. And cleaning. I have more free time. More: yes time. More: play time. I don’t see bigger houses and feel envy and desire. In fact, sometimes I feel downright grateful that I found minimalism before I slaved my way into a home that would really serve as a giant storage unit. A place to put all the things that I’ve accumulated and have no use for. It’s improved my life because I’m lighter, freer, more content, and more available. That’s the kind of wife and mother and friend I want to be.
What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?
Start somewhere. Anywhere. Start small.
Don’t tackle the sentimental stuff first. Don’t let your first project be the entire garage. Start with the countertops. Start with a drawer. Start with the easy stuff. Clothes with holes and stains. Toys that are broken. Then go another layer deeper.
Go through your entire closet. Donate the shoes you don’t wear. How many winter jackets do you need? What’s shoved on those shelves that you can’t even reach? Is it time to let it go?
Watch yourself feel lighter. The decisions will get easier. Repeat the process as many times as necessary.
Lastly, find a resource. Bloggers that inspire you. Books that give direction. There are so many resources available. And there are so many ways to pursue minimalism.
Readers: if you are a minimalist or know someone who is that may be great for an interview on my blog, please be in touch with me by email at email@example.com or via direct message on Instagram.
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