Can One Be a Minimalist with a Large Family?

My husband and I both have the same views of minimalism (thankfully!), but that doesn’t mean the kids do. I’ve been working for many years to declutter and reduce the amount of possessions we have in the house. The kids enjoy a clean house and clean room, so they have always been willing to let things go and bless someone else with our over abundance. The next step towards minimalism was a bit different.

We listened to a couple challenging sermons (Read about our Christian Faith and Minimalism here) and the older boys were totally on board. A couple years later, I was accused (by one of our sweet teenagers) of making the kids follow my own personal convictions (minimalism was included in that) but last week when I was writing 7 reasons to live a minimalistic lifestyle, each of the older kids gave a positive example of why minimalism is so great. They came up with 4 of those reasons!!

My 5 year old daughter, on the other hand, enjoys her stuff. She has the smallest room too! Each time we try to clean her room she wants to keep all her little crafty papers, etc. As she gets older, she is more willing to get rid of things and mark it on our 2013 in 2013 chart, but last month she kept asking where her sparkly pink belt went… (oh, the one I got rid of when you were 2 because you never wore it and I kept finding in various places in the house? I have no idea…)
One time I got so frustrated with the amount of stuffed animals in her bed (thanks grandma) that I went in her room while she was occupied, packed the animals into a garbage bag and hauled them downstairs into the dungeon basement. She didn’t notice for 2 months. Then she started looking for certain animals and dolls. 4 months after that was her birthday and her brothers asked “Naomi, what do you want for your birthday?”
Her answer: “All I want is my stuffed animals back because I don’t know where they went and I miss them so much and I haven’t seen them for YEARS!” (Sniff-sniff sob-sob) 

And my confession:
On her birthday, while she was occupied, I stole away to the dungeon basement, nabbed the garbage bag full of stuffed animals, hauled them back upstairs and reluctantly dumped them on her toddler sized bed.
Best. Birthday. Ever.
Truthfully, our house doesn’t feel minimalist. We have 7 people in 1100 square feet. Each room has stuff required to live. Each person has stuff they need and a few things they want. It doesn’t take much to make 1100 square feet feel full. But, we don’t have a lot of excess and that is confirmed every time I clean the house.Each family member has a different personality and different comfort level of decor and possessions  But we all desire the calmness that a limited amount of stuff brings. As the kids see the changes we have made, they enjoy it and now, if life seems chaotic, they help to clean the house, because they appreciate living in order and peace.And you can save money by “re-gifting” the kids own toys! (No, I didn’t just give her the toys back for her birthday- we celebrated and made it special like we normally do!)

Click here to read how to talk to your family about living minimally.


About the author, Rachel

Hi there! I’m the Joyful Space Specialist. it’s my desire help others create a joyful space of their own and enjoy their time spent at home.


  1. Shannalee Mallon on 01/31/2013 at 6:58 PM

    I find this fascinating, honestly. My husband and I are, like you, agreed on the principles of living with less and enjoying what we have, but I wonder sometimes what it will be like in the future if the Lord blesses us with children. So interesting to hear your story!

  2. nicolette {momnivores dilemma} on 02/01/2013 at 5:13 AM

    We are in 1100 square feet with 2 bedrooms, {family of 4} and are squished…I’ve given over 20 bags to charity in the past 6 months. The only “clutter” I have left, in truth, is my massive library {which I decreased by 1,000 last year}.

    I’d love to see more of your journey…


    • Colleen on 02/17/2013 at 12:39 AM

      Nicolette, we, too are in 1100 square feet with 2 bedrooms. Me, my husband, and a grown son. It does take a good deal of consistency to keep the areas clutter free. I, too, have a LOVE of books. I usually have at least three that I have started, and with the exception of my son’s room. I have books in every room! 😉

  3. asimplelifetoo on 06/16/2013 at 5:43 AM

    We happily have five in 1100 square feet, but I confess that I am not sure how I would feel with two more. We don’t have much stuff, but there is a lot of homemade artistic creations covering the walls and fridge!

    We are simple, but happy!

  4. Roxanne on 09/10/2015 at 12:11 PM

    We are 10 in 1100sq.ft. 3bedroom 1 bath. ?we are incredibly cramped even after decluttering multiple times. Not sure theres hope at this point unless we get a bit more space. Maybe an extra bathroom too!

  5. Elizabeth Watson on 06/17/2017 at 2:15 AM

    I have 10 children , 3 Grandchildren, and my husband and I living in the same home. What does minimalism look like for our brood? Please advise.❤ thanks,

  6. Jason McFadden on 10/09/2017 at 8:58 PM

    Wow! I’ve been reading your site a lot. We have 5 sons, so 7 people total in 1184 sq ft! 3 bedrooms but only using 2 as such. One bathroom. It is challenging. And cluttered. We home-school, so there’s all that stuff too – books, crafts, supplies…
    I sometimes brainstorm how I can consolidate dressers and cubbies to reduce used floor space. We currently have a triple-bunk and a double-bunk t-boned in one bedroom for all 5 boys with all their toys. It’s a mess. We tried to minimize stuffed animals, but oh my, there’s still easily 30-40 of them left. We recently counted how many movies we own on disc and we’re surprised by the high number.

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