How to Make Minimalism Work for Your Family

"How to make minimalism work for your family" overlayed on a picture of a white table with small potted houseplants and wooden cutting board

Some people, like my husband, lean more naturally into minimalism. Me on the other hand? It was hard to let go of things once we started our minimalist journey. Seeing the “end goal” that owning fewer things would mean less to take care of and more time to focus on our family helped tremendously. But what if your family just doesn’t see it that way? What if they think you’re after their stuff-n-things and you’ll throw it all away!? Here are some practical tips to not only get your spouse on board with minimalism, but how to make minimalism work for your family.

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This is not an intervention

If you sit your family down intervention style and tell them they have too much stuff and it needs to go – they won’t listen. Their feelings will be hurt and they won’t like the idea for a very long time.

Trust me, I know. We attempted to get some family members to declutter but went about it all wrong. This intervention style tactic of getting your family on board with living with less is not the way to go.

Instead, start to bring up the topic of decluttering and owning less during regular ol’ family conversations at the dinner table. This could sound like: “I watched this lady on YouTube declutter the toy room with her kids and her kids loved it!” or “I was reading this fabulous blog (you’re talking about me here 🙂 ) and she had some really interest articles about saving money by buying less needless things!”.

The Internet has your back. If you want to have these conversations casually with your family, you can absolutely pull out your phone and show them that cool before and after video of a mom decluttering. Just don’t sit them down and tell them all their stuff has to go. Trust me.

Understand your own “why”

Do you know why you’re so drawn to this thing called minimalism?

If yes, great! You’ll be on your way to making minimalism work for your family.

If no, let’s chat.

Ask yourself these questions (and write down your answer!):

  1. Why am I so drawn to minimalism/living a life with less?
  2. Am I content with my life right now? Why or why not?
  3. What do I hope to gain from a clutter free home?
  4. What are my personal goals for the next year, two years?
  5. What are the goals for the family for the next year, two years?
  6. How do I picture my home without clutter?
  7. What vibe or feeling do I want my home to have (not style, think – calming, relaxing, energizing, etc.)?

Once you understand your own why behind decluttering and embracing a simpler life with less, you can help your family establish their own why’s. What does your family stand to gain from decluttering and embracing minimalism?

Explain your goals for the family and what minimalism actually is

Once you’ve established your own goals, explain them to your family. Also tell them what minimalism is and isn’t.

This could sound like:
“I’ve found this thing called minimalism. It is a process in which we find our favorite things and let go of the rest that gets in the way of our daily lives. You know, the stuff I’m always bugging you to pick up. When we have our favorite things and bring less stuff we don’t need into our home, we might have more of a budget for family trips, we will probably have more time to do things together and do things we love! All because we will be spending less time picking up, cleaning, and organizing the stuff in our home. It’s my goal for this family to spend more time doing fun, meaningful things together, not spend time doing chores together.”

Surely questions will arise at this point. Reassure them that minimalism and decluttering doesn’t mean that they will have nothing. The exact opposite! They will have everything they need – they’ll just be able to see it better. I bet no one will immediately sign up for this minimalism thing BUT it is just the first conversations that will help make minimalism work for your family.

Stop the flow of incoming items

Does little Timmy get a new car every time you go to the store? Do you have a bit of a Target addiction? Does your spouse like to buy new discs for their disc golf hobby like it’s their job (looking at you dear husband)? The influx of things into your home is absolutely part of the stuff problem you may have.

If you stop the flow of things coming into your home, you’ll immediately have less to clean up, deal with, or declutter. Bonus – you’ll save money! It’s a win-win.

Part of making minimalism work for your family is establishing habits that happen outside of the home. This means buying less.

Bonus read >>> Taking the Path of Least Resistance

No Spend Months

A quick and effective way to stop the flow of incoming things is to do a no-spend month. While it sounds dramatic and rash, it doesn’t have to be. You only purchase what you need for an entire month and make a list of your wants during the month.

So you’re out grocery shopping and you see a new cookbook you’d really love to have. Instead of making that impulse purchase, you write it down on your “wish list” to buy after your no spend month. Better yet, you take a picture of the cover and search for it at the library. You check it out and test out recipes you think your family would like. Maybe it turns out that cookbook wasn’t for you after all!

72 Hour List aka the Wish List

Another way to help reduce what comes into your home is with a 72 hour list. This is a “wish list” of sorts. You write down an item you’d like to buy that is a want not a need. You list the date, the item, and the price. Then you wait three days. If you still want the item and you have the budget to purchase it – go for it! More likely, however, you won’t even check your list again because you’ve completely forgotten about that item you wanted. Next time you check your list, you can cross out the item (don’t delete it!) and see how much money you saved.

But what about kids?

For kids, I like to take pictures of my kiddo with the item he really wants at the store. We take a quick picture and say “I know you really love this toy! But this isn’t something we planned on taking home today. This picture will help me remember you want it. We can send it to Santa for your Christmas list!”

My son gets so excited that I can “text a picture to Santa”. This can also work if your kids no longer believe in Santa or you don’t celebrate Christmas. Use the same beginning but instead use “This will help me remember that you want this toy! I’ll keep this picture safe so the next time we do gifts, I’ll remember it.”

Lead by example

It’s very unlikely that your family will make minimalism work on their own. They need YOU as their fearless leader!

Start by decluttering your things first. Let them see you and help you do it. If you’re decluttering your wardrobe for example, have your kids or spouse “vote” to keep or let go of things as you try them on. Once you’ve downsized your wardrobe, you can start to point out “Getting dressed this morning was so easy! Thanks for helping me pick my favorite things to wear.” or “I found exactly what I wanted to wear today because there is less mess in my closet.”

Another way to lead by example is when you’re out shopping. You could find something you really love but you leave it on the shelf. As you do it, let your family know that it was a hard decision for you but you’ll wait to see if you really want it and come back if you do!

Once your spouse and your kids see how and why you make decisions now that you’ve embraced a simpler life, they’ll want to make minimalism work for them, too.

Where to start >>>

Offer to help, but don’t push

Repeat after me: “I will not throw my family’s stuff in the trash.”

You can still make minimalism work for your family without rage-decluttering your home. Believe me when I say that there are some days early on that I wanted to rent a dumpster and throw it all away! But I’m so glad I didn’t.

Your family is likely not as eager to hop on this minimalism train as you are. Give them time and space. Gentle nudges will help them get started.

Offer to help clear out their closet of things that are damaged or don’t fit anymore. Or if the toy box is overflowing and they have a hard time picking up, suggest that they pass along (or sell if they’re a little older) some toys so that it is way easier to clean up and you don’t bug them as much.

Avoid negative phrases

I have realized that the phrase “get rid of” when I talk to my son has a negative connotation. Instead, I say things like:

  • Wow, this shirt is a little too small now! You’ve grown so big. Let’s take it out of your dresser so we can find what actually fits your big kid body.
  • It looks like this toy is hard to put back together. I know it gets frustrating when we can’t do it on our own. Let’s pass it on to another little boy/girl who would like the challenge.
  • Oh man, this toy/gadget/insert item here is broken. I’m not sure it can be fixed. Let’s let it go and find a new favorite toy to play with from your toy basket.
  • Are you having trouble picking up your toys? I’m so sorry! Let me help you find a way to make it easier. This means we may have to pass a few toys that aren’t our favorites to another little boy/girl.

Also avoid words like “this toy is old, let’s pass it on”. My son has taken “old” to mean we don’t need it anymore and he gets something “new” in it’s place. And that’s definitely not the point!

Cheer on every achievement

Lucky you! You get to be your family’s cheerleader as you make minimalism work for your family! (I know you’re probably their biggest fan already!)

Celebrate with lots of “woo hoo!” and “Doesn’t that feel great to let go of ___?!” and “Let’s make a plan to keep your space like this!”

With celebrating every milestone, like a clutter free closet or living space, hopefully comes a renewed sense of motivation – not only for you but your whole family. It’s a long journey to intentionally living with less and simplifying. Every family’s journey looks different and there might be setbacks along the way.

Bonus read >>> Owning Less is the Best Storage Solution


When setbacks occur, no matter how big or small (like inheriting a whole gaggle of stuff or your kid bringing a goody bag home), just remember how far you’ve come. You’ve strengthened your minimalist muscles for this!

Hopefully when a setback occurs, your whole family has already made the move towards minimalism. If not, that’s okay too. Here are a few tools to help you:

  • Accept that unexpected items will enter your home.
  • Be gracious to the person who gave you the item or brought the item into your home.
  • Find a place for it immediately.
  • If it doesn’t fit, something else has to go if you want to keep it.
  • Understand that if you received a gift, the gift has already done its job – literally being a gift – and is an extension of the feelings the giver has towards you. It’s okay to pass it on guilt free.

What you don’t want to happen is whatever enters your home unexpectedly sits in a corner, neglected, for days or weeks. Deal with items as they happen. This includes packaging from online orders, party favors, gifts, mail, school papers, and more.

Maintenance decluttering

The final tip for making minimalism work for your family is doing regular maintenance declutters.

Maintenance decluttering isn’t that big purge that you did at the beginning! This type of decluttering happens when you notice things becoming a little tight in their designated spaces or if a big event is coming up (think: birthday, Easter, Christmas, back to school, etc).

Decluttering before things get out of control or before a time you know more stuff will enter your home is key to keeping different seasons of life a little less stressful.

Use all the minimalist knowledge you have to keep your simplifying muscles strong and you’ll having minimalism working for your family!

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