The Minimalist Mama’s Must-Haves

Full disclosure: There’s more to this than the title let on.

Let’s face it: parenthood is hard.  It’s hard if you’re a stay-at-home mom, and it’s hard (harder?) if you’re a working mom.  It’s hard if you’re a stay-at-home dad. It’s hard if you have one kid, and it’s hard if you have six.  Which is why I was glad I was already a minimalist when I got pregnant with my daughter because I knew that minimalism makes mom life easier.  But even as a self-proclaimed minimalist, knowing what I would need and what I wouldn’t need as a would-be mom felt a little daunting.  I knew I would have this little girl on the road and living tiny, so I needed to keep the baby registry pretty spartan.  And I’m SO glad I did!  I’ve added a few items over the last few months, and I’ve gotten rid of plenty!

I’ve heard it over and over again: minimalism can be a sanity saver when it comes to raising kids.  The less you have to deal with, the more time you have to spend with your kiddos or alone taking a breather for yourself (coffee is best served hot and in silence).

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For this post, I teamed up with a couple of other minimalist mamas who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since college.  It’s been so cool to watch their journeys on social media since we left school as they became moms and then minimalists!

Janie Baran is the author of the blog Simple Not Plain, a really great resource if you’re just getting started on your minimalist journey and you need a place to start.  Her post on a minimalist capsule wardrobe is what helped me pare down my closet when I first got started and I have found it an extremely helpful guide ever since.  She has four children and they live with she and her husband in Colorado.

Jen Landers runs a really cool business in Columbia, SC called Purposely Simple, helping people go through their house and decluttering one room at a time.  You definitely need to check out her before and after photos!  She is the mama of two boys.

I asked Janie and Jen a little about their minimalist journeys, especially as it regards being a mom.

What are some items you thought you needed when you first became a mom that you ended up getting rid of?

Jen: “Basinet, we used it for a week and realized that we could just be using our pack and play. All the things to get our child to sleep, swaddles and pacifiers…both of our babies were tummy sleepers and never took a pacifier. The first time that we went to register for baby gifts, my husband and I were blown away by the “necessity” of everything and the urgency to buy the best. We had conversations very early on how we would like to go against the grain in the mindset of kids ruling the home.”

Janie: “Lots of baby clothes…many of them were “cute” but not comfortable for the baby either. Obvious one: lots of toys. It seems babies are quite happy and interested in playing with/exploring pretty much any regular household item! We had way more blankets, sheets, and towels than we realistically needed. We had multiple baby carriers. Why? I have no idea. Any of those baby items that the baby only uses for a very short stage like a bumbo, swing, bouncer, walker…those take up SO much floor space and are used so little. We had one child that the swing REALLY helped and we were able to borrow one for a couple months from a friend.”

As for me, we used a swing that was given to us for about four months before our daughter just wasn’t into it anymore and we passed it on to another mom who’s expecting her first baby.  In the end we probably could have done without it, but for a little while it served as a second pair of hands to hold baby so my husband and I could eat dinner!  I have way more swaddles/blankets than we need and people LOVE to give those as gifts!  Our daughter has several blankets that complete strangers MADE for her, so I won’t be donating those to a thrift store any time soon!  We try to keep toys to a minimum (although it seems like an awful lot in an RV!) and friends and family now know to give alternative gifts (like diapers.  As much as I would LOVE to use cloth diapers, it’s not feasible in an RV with no washer/dryer).

What are some items you still ended up keeping or using every day?

Jen: “We are phasing out of the baby phase but we constantly used our pack and play (when we would travel and go to peoples homes), sound machines. One toy that we have had the longest is our wooden train track and books…all the books.”

Janie: “Minimalist wardrobes for our babies/kids. It makes it easier for me and it makes it easier for the older kids who like to dress themselves as well.

ONE comfortable and versatile baby carrier…make sure you find one that can comfortably carry a newborn but also grow with baby into toddlerhood (and still be comfortable),

Our cloth diapers and cloth wet wipes. So many simple to use options out there and saves literally thousands of dollars if you’re having multiple kids.

A favorite blanket, stuffed animal/baby doll, and quality kids books. A baby item I got with my fourth and WISH I had with all of them is a couple large muslin blankets! I found them to be so versatile! I used them to swaddle baby, I used them as a nursing cover, burp cloth, blanket to lay baby on, to put over car seat, etc. That one item would have saved me buying all those other things! Just a general thought: buy anything that can be used for multiple babies (gear, bibs, etc) in gender neutral colors so you don’t have to have two of everything if you have both girls and boys.”

So far I’d say with our daughter we haven’t skimped on books.  I had a really small selection and for my own sanity we got more from my parent’s house from when I was a kid.  I could only handle the same Frog and Toad are Friends stories without losing my marbles!  Getting more meant I don’t have to read the same three books over and over again!  We also skipped all the big, noisy baby gyms, bouncers, etc and just went with the baby play mat from IKEA.  It’s been used so much and made tummy time interesting rather than a horrible chore.  The Pack n Play my brother and sister-in-law gave us has been used SO much!  We got a mini-crib mattress to fit and that makes it a lot more comfortable. My ring sling from Sakura Bloom has been a lifesaver and I use it almost every single day.  Whoever you are who sent me the green one, thank you!

If you’re expecting and you want to stay minimalist, just know you will have so many people tell you that you “have to have” certain items that you may never need.  I had so many people tell me I needed items that ended up getting and never using or my daughter hated.  To this day I’ve never used a breastfeeding pillow because it was completely unnecessary.

How has minimalism helped your life as a mom?

Janie: “Minimalism has helped my life as a mom in more ways than I can count! I was honestly an exhausted mess living in a messy home and stressed out of my mind before I started down the minimalist journey. Minimalism has helped me by getting rid of the things that were taking up my time but that weren’t important so that I have more time to do the things that are (Like spend quality time with my kids!). Also, life with babies/kids is amazing, fun, and beautiful but can also be crazy with the constant noise and activity. Having a decluttered home grounds me in many ways and keeps me sane. I’m able to function better as a mother and as a person without the constant bombardment of clutter to my senses. It also helps me stay on top of things like chores and meals and laundry because everything we do is simple and we do it with less.”

Jen: “This is always my favorite question to answer. Minimalism saved my motherhood. I was stressed out as a stay at home mom with house work, entertaining my child and just life in general and I think that most of it was due to the fact that my home didn’t feel like a place that I could come to and relax. I was always doing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning up clutter. When we found out that we were pregnant with our second baby I knew that something had to change. I started by getting rid of our TV and then toys and then cleaned out my kitchen so I would have less mess in daily life. With less to do inside we found ourselves out side more and exploring more and spending time creating play. Minimalism is a part of our life not because we don’t want possessions but because we want space in our home conversation and laughter to echo through the halls.”

As for me, I’m still in the thick of it!  But I’d say having a calm space is definitely reflected in my personal well-being.  If my space is cluttered and cramped, I feel so much more stressed out (one reason I’m looking forward to our RV renovation being finished!).  If my space feels simple and clean, I feel like I can tackle my day with my baby (even if I barely slept the night before!).  Also, even with having a baby I still only do laundry once a week!

A huge thanks to Janie and Jen for contributing to today’s post!  If you live in Columbia, SC be sure to check out Purposely Simple if you need a boost in getting your space simplified!

Moms (or stay at home dads – this counts for you, too!): what is one way in which having less might make your lives easier?  Let me know in the comments!

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