minimalism white privilege, minimalism for the upper class

Inside: Minimalism is life-changing, but there are downsides to minimalism, especially if you start from a place of less.

Minimalism is in. Marie Kondo has become a household name, and even Emily Gilmore jumped on the decluttering bandwagon!

Reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up two years ago changed my life for the better. Trust me, I’m a believer, right down to the way I fold my clothes.

I joined the ranks donating bag after bag of unworn clothes, unplayed with toys, and unread books. The clutter disappeared, I spend far less time now cleaning and reorganizing our belongings, and I can finally think straight (as straight as a mom with four little kids can, anyways).

I breathe easier. I have spare time.

But for the middle class, single income family, there is a downside, and no one likes to talk about it.

A Different Kind of Materialism

Proponents of minimalism argue that a clutter-free environment decreases stress and reduces time spent maintaining your belongings, and I wholeheartedly agree. If you are wavering over tossing an item, minimalism says, “Get rid of it! If you really need it, you can always buy a new one later.”

Except when you can’t.

You see, people who write about minimalism do so with two underlying assumptions:

1) You have discretionary income &

2) That income is being spent on lots of unnecessary stuff.

Joshua Becker in his book The More of Less states, “Once we let go of the things that don’t matter, we are free to pursue all the things that really do matter.”

Minimalism theoretically frees up money to make intentional purchases that align with our life purpose. We can also potentially save money to buy higher quality, longer lasting items.

Except when you can’t.

The Millenial Middle Class

The argument breaks down for many middle class millenials because money often isn’t really “freed up”.

For millenials, embracing minimalism simply halts overspending and stops the consumer debt cycle.

What millenials have in greater numbers than any other generation is this: student loan debt.

For example, when my husband and I got married, our debt combined to equal more than $90,000 together! The payments, even with one on a 20 year plan, totaled more than $700 per month.

The Downside to Minimalism: Is there a downside to minimalism? Can everyone really benefit from any walk of life or socioeconomic status?

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According to the Huffington Post, students graduating in the class of 2014 averaged $28,950 in student loan debt. Millenials don’t have much discretionary income at all, it turns out, and what they do have goes to necessities like a working vehicle, retirement, or paying down loans (source).

Our family personally still has around $25,000 in student debt to pay off (thank you, Boston University), and even with payments being lower on a 20-year plan, there’s not much left for fun things like new furniture, travel, or vacations.

We struggle to save, and would love to buy a house one day in order to lower the amount going to housing, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now. I am committed to being a stay at home, homeschooling mom, so the near future isn’t looking much different.

Related: 14 Things We Aren’t Buying to Make Ends Meet

“Is it useful? Is it beautiful?”

Here’s the dilemma: when you do not have discretionary income, decluttering actually increases your attachment to the belongings that remain.

When you are left only with items you truly love, accidents become far more costly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stop myself from saying to my kids, “We don’t have money to replace that!”

The three pairs of jeans hanging in my closet (and they’re not expensive ones)? That’s it. I don’t have a back-up stash in storage somewhere.

If they rip, or my three year old smears mud or bleeds on them, leaving a permanent stain, I either need to live with them or buy another pair. And when you have a big family there’s just not a lot of extra money to do that.

Related: How to Get Over $1,000 in Brand New Clothes for FREE

We try to teach our kids time and again that people are far more valuable than possessions. But if they accidentally break the only end table we have? It’s really tough to swallow the agonizing cry that wants to escape my lips, “But I really loved that!”

More on Minimalism on a Low Income:

An Invitation to Trust

So am I against minimalism? No. I wholeheartedly agree that we need less stuff in our homes, fewer activities on our calendars, and more time to spend with people and on our true purpose. In short, I don’t have an easy answer to this downside.

What I do know is that minimalism does accomplish one thing for those of us living on lower incomes: it exposes our fear.

And if our lives are filled with fear – fear of not having enough to pay the bills, never have money for retirement, not being able to replace that one thing that survived our decluttering – then we’ve got bigger problems than just the clutter and the excess stuff.

Minimalism strips away our self-protection, so we can hear a quiet invitation to trust – trust that God, the one who owns everything (Ps. 50:10-11) and promises to provide for us (Matt. 6:27-34) will take care of not just our present needs, but our future ones too.

But the next time you preach the amazing benefits minimalism to a friend, tone it down just a bit.

Be sensitive. See beyond your own circumstances.

Just because she is staying home with her kids doesn’t mean its a comfortable choice that makes sense on paper. She could be on a lonely faith journey – lonely because we don’t talk about incomes in our society; voicing your salary aloud is taboo. Her circumstances could be forcing her to trust that God will provide when something wears out or breaks. She could be making great sacrifices to live out her ideals.

She could be me.

Read Next: 8 Tips for Decluttering on a Low Income (from a mom who’s been there)

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131 Comments

  1. Having just returned to our bricks and mortar after 6 years of travel with just backpacks…I feel I’m drowning in clutter! We sold and got rid of so much, but the sheer volume of stuff that has come back down from our loft astounds me. We also have a massive excess of space. Cleaning and painting that space is a killer of my time along with sorting through piles of clothes for the one pair of jeans that I know fits that I’ll happily wear every day. We have a lot to get rid of still! Student debt – never had it. I was the generation that had the last of the full university grants, not a cent, zilch. I don’t want it for my ( homeschooled) kids.

  2. Thanks for your perspective. I come from a poor family and that by definition was a minimalist lifestyle. There was nothing to purgw because the money wasn’t there to buy anything unnecessary in the first place. Roof overhead, food on the table. I was lucky and got scholarship and paid my student loans in 10 years. The discussion needs to be around educational costs and wages. Just food for thought.

    1. Author

      Thanks for your thoughts Sharon!

  3. I think it is important to remember that minimalism comes in different forms, it isn’t “own the least amount possible”, it is just getting rid of the excess in your life. I think people run into problems when they try to live up to this “expected” version of minimalism. I also think many people have jumped on the minimalism bandwagon the past few years not truly understanding the deeper meaning behind it – those are the ones that traditionally make true, whole, minimalists look bad or crazy. I’ve been a minimalist for about ten years, long before this craze started and i’ve not been well off financially during the majority of that time, but it has worked out well for me. I also think you have to apply some common sense to minimalism – a single persons minimalism will not look the same as a family of four’s minimalism and if that isn’t understood, then I think those people will find problems with the lifestyle.

    1. Author

      These are great observations Aria. Thanks so much for taking the time to share! I agree. When I wrote this post originally, I was very early on in my minimalist journey, and the only minimalists I knew seemed to come from a place of being well-off financially. I was thankful later on to find more realistic minimalists, especially for families.

  4. I hear you in this article and we definitely need to be understanding to different circumstances. Shoving minimalism down people’s throats isn’t really a “mindful” approach now is it? My only argument or commentary is… thrift stores – hello? My husband and I have some discretionary income, but even still I don’t buy $100 pairs of jeans. I buy $10 pairs that still carry the same value. Granted the hunt takes a bit longer, but I enjoy it. Also, blood and mud come out of jeans – please don’t throw them away because they’re dirty. Let clothes soak in a hot washer for at least an hour – this works miracles on EVERYTHING!

    Other than that, great points to consider and here’s to our best year yet! Happy New year!

    1. Author

      Hi Telly! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂 I’ve definitely warmed up to thrift store shopping over the years. My biggest problems were finding a time and energy to shop with little kids AND finding decent thrift stores in my area. It’s so area specific – who is donating to the store? Quite honestly, when I donate items, they are in pretty good condition, but I’m not the one donating the major brand name, extremely good condition, rarely used stuff. I’m the one questioning whether anyone would want what I have to donate. As long as you can find good thrift stores with high quality items in your area, that’s awesome! I’ve finally found one I really love.

  5. I was all for minimalism and still am but the fear is real If you do not have money to spare. Another thing, I’m sick of wearing the same outfits over and over and over. They are excellent quality but you know. Going through pictures of family gatherings makes me cringe now. I keep seeing myself in the same outfit but in a dozen different places.

    1. Author

      Hey there Julie! I was recently listening to a minimalist podcast where the podcaster tried a very extreme capsule wardrobe for a year. She finally realized that it really stole her joy. She’s one of those people who love getting dressed every day and choosing outfits. It gives her joy and life. So she eventually expanded the limits of her capsule wardrobe. There is freedom to be YOU. 🙂

  6. I don’t know if you are still reading comments on this article, but I have been following The Minimalists since they first started, and found Joshua Becker and Leo Babauta not long after. Joshua Millburn is pretty open about the fact that he grew up in poor circumstances, and that is what pushed him to become an executive with an expensive lifestyle, only to realize that it didn’t make him any happier. His writing has changed a little now that he is married and has a kid. Ryan Nicodemus is the other half of The Minimalists, and I saw something where he discussed being a minimalist when your partner isn’t. Leo Babauta has 6 kids! A lot of his blog, Zen Habits, focuses much more on mindfulness these days, but if you dig through his archives there is a lot of info on minimalism when you have a lot of kids. His family also moved from Guam to the US, so they were pretty limited in what they could move.

    1. Author

      That’s really interesting to hear! I haven’t followed the Minimalists as much as I just couldn’t relate to their more extreme version of minimalism. I’ll have to do some reading. Thanks for sharing, Evie.

  7. We are a family of 3…my husband has brain cancer and our son has autism, down syndrome and kidney disease.. we have a very limited income as I take care of them and can not work outside home for that reason. We have sold most everything we have to make ends meet. We do not qualify for food stamps as our income is to high(if less than 1900 a month) can really be to high. We have our essentials..beds couch, table, chairs…etc. we live a forced minimalist life because the florida government says that if I did go to work and earn 200 month or more my son loses his ins. I have a college degree which I can not use so student loans are in deferment…we are not materialistic but we barely can keep food on table let alone afford anything more than we have that’s paid for…if we could buy anything newer…it would be a newer car so we can get back and fourth to doc appts an hour away….so I say if you can live the minimalist life comfortably…go for it…if you can live the an expensive lifestyle in comfort…please enjoy…everyone’s life is different..everyone’s circumstances are different…be thankful for what u have, help others in any way you can and be kind to all. Bless each and every one of you and thank God for the differance thist make us each unique…

  8. Yeah but this is why I either follow the minimalists rule of, if it can be replaced in 20 minutes for $20 or less, then you can just get rid of it or, I sell it and put away the money so I have a stash for anything that comes up that I do need. Side note though, I constantly ruthlessly declutter and have for most of my life and I have only ever missed like two items and it wasn’t a big deal. I replaced them fairly inexpensively and quickly and I’m still living. Not a big deal. But the time and stress all the decluttering has given me was still well worth it!!!!

  9. Thank you for this article! I also have 4 children and was a stay at home mom. I also had stacks of hand me downs and could not have made it without them. I am trying to pare down my belongings but I still have the old habit of “I might need that” Mostly because I really might need that! I have found as I get older that I don’t need as much but there were so many times that we did need what we had. Now my grown children pester me all the time to get rid of everything and I think that’s what a lot of people don’t get is that you really don’t have to get rid of everything. I hate the idea of just tossing stuff and then if you need it spend more money to buy it back. That’s foolish to me. One of the best books I’ve read on decluttering is “It’s Here Somewhere” by Alice Fulton and Pauline Hatch. It’s an old book with a copyright of 1986 but I did find it on Amazon. It’s a common sense approach to decluttering. The whole thing of asking if something brings me joy seems silly to me lol. It brought me joy or I wouldn’t have paid good money for it. This book has better criteria for judging your belongings. After this article I don’t feel as alone in the world or as odd so thank you!

    1. I agree totally. You say it Well! Now I’d like to read that book! Thankyou for the suggestion

  10. Yep, thanks for saying it. It is nice if you have the means to live this way, but we should not feel guilty if we do not. There is wisdom in storing certain items, and wisdom in letting go; another reason God commanded (not suggested) we do not compare ourselves to others. Let us remember not to judge others either.

  11. Thanks for your article. I sometimes go crazy decluttering because I want to keep up appearances that I’m a minimalist! Ha!
    I was recently out of state with my family and my daughter lost her water bottle. We were at my sister-in-law’s house and she opened a cupboard full of water bottles. She said most of them were free from little promotions or give aways from the community…you know…the crap I usually declutter first. She handed one to my daughter and it made me pause. I thought, “Wow, I couldn’t have done that! I think I have to throw away all excess. If I don’t need it, I get rid of it!” There’s something to be said about having a basement or an attic or a cupboard with some extras just in case. I’m definitely starting to reevaluate my need to declutter every last thing!
    I live in a very expensive area of the country. Most people around me have two incomes. I stay at home. I have six kids and I homeschool my youngest two. We just paid for a wedding for our oldest, not to mention helping her with college and being a missionary in a foreign country. Our son is currently a missionary in South America and another son soon to leave. I feel ya! I can’t always go out and buy another one of anything on a school teacher’s income…but I’ve been living like I can! Thanks for finally saying it. I feel like I can breathe a little.

  12. OMGosh, someone FINALLY said it!!! Not everyone is going to be in a position to “just buy another one” after getting rid of an extra item that may be useful down the road after your first one wears out. THANK YOU!!!

  13. As an unexpected single parent I kept a lot of stuff because life was always changing. One minute you didn’t need it, then you did. I kept it because I had it. Maybe I bought it, maybe it was given to me. I knew I could not afford to replace it, we took care of everything. Now that my kids are adults and on their own, I can be that minimalist. I donate to my kids, charity, to people like myself, I know it was appreciated. When giving away, I always said, take what you want/need and donate the balance. I now only keep what I love. I don’t bring new things in the house unless it is replacing something that is worn out. I’m not sure minimalism is about having nothing but only having what you really need.

  14. I want to congratulate you on saying what I’ve been thinking but did not have the words to say it as well as you did. Minimalism is a good concept and one I’m striving towards… but it takes a lot more thought when your husband has been retrenched and you’re finding ways of saving money and also needing to have a back up just in case something breaks. Thank you!

  15. I have read soooooooo much about minimalism and decluttering over the years. Hundreds of websites, dozens of books. You have a new, very accurate angle on this subject. Congratulations!

  16. A friend of mine once said, “You can either be frugal, or be minimalist.” And I thought that was closer to the truth than not.

  17. I am 71. My parents grew up during the Depression. A bit of hoarding comes naturally to me, but now…I’m able to say I have everything I need…and more. Now I want to reduce the lifetime of clutter so my children won’t have to dig through so much ‘stuff.’ And now, I am learning about Wabi-Sabi and all that implies. Little by little I am decluttering…it’s a slow process…but I can feel the peace as each area of my home is simplified, with only things that are necessary and/or are pleasing to my sense of decor. I’m able to pass along items to my children that I no longer need or use, but that are helpful to my grown kids and their families. I’m beginning to see the truth in Tao…the way…as well as Wabi-Sabi…Japanese boro and sashiko…as well as the knowledge that God is looking after us all and has our backs. So…having done the right things during my lifetime, I have a lovely home with no mortgage, a 7-year-old SUV with no car payment, a little money in investments for my future, and health insurance to cover my medical needs. It’s been a life of learning from mistakes and sharing my knowledge with others. Minimalism…as with most things…needs to be balanced with common sense, and that’s not something you learn in college. It comes from a life of making better choices and learning as we go. I’m still learning and loving every minute of it. Thanks for you article!

    1. Author

      Such great insights, Carol! Thank you for sharing, and I’m so glad the post spoke to you.

  18. Love this thanks. As I minimize fear is the number one thing I am finding behind it all and know your pain and held tells!

  19. Maybe you are already the minimalist that all the books are referring to. And you don’t need to declutter… you are already living with the basics. However, I can appreciate the internal struggle (cringe?) when you hear other people talk about how easily they can get rid of their stuff as if they had no value. I have 4 kids and I stay home with them. I am not sure if we are financially privileged… we just live below our means and don’t feel the pressure to do what our friends are doing. We paid our student loans before the kids were born and although I wanted to continue my studies, God closed the doors shut. We have worked really hard to pay all of our debt and we save for every major purchase. I thought your article was very enlightening! It opened my eyes that not every one has to minimalize. Thank you!

  20. Thank you! I really appreciate this article. I am a homeschooling Mum of 5 who has lived on ‘minustry’ incomes or had periods of no employment most of our marriage. God has always provided for us but many times that has been through storing an older childs clothes til the next one down can wear it or keeping those bits of leather someone passed on to us and having it right there when my son needed it for a project a few years later. I will always walk the typerope between ‘hoarding’ and wise management and go through seasons of purging but I often feel shamed for not ‘presuming’ on God’s provision letter by getting rid of what He has already provided in advance. All that to say.. I appreciate this perspective.

  21. Thank you for this post. My feeling is that minimalism answers the specific issues of the middle class hoarders and not quite hoarders. But because it has hit a cord with so many people in that spot and gained popularity it has also become a fashionable lifestyle and frankly, in that way its not as useful. For my dreams and passions in life a neutral nearly empty apartment with almost blank white walls would never make me happier. However, letting go of things I don’t like, don’t need and even if I could use them could use something else is a philosophy that will prevent me from becoming a hoarder the way the rest of my family is. As a near hoarder, its time to jump off that hoarding train before it reaches its destination. Each time I hear the minimalists say something like the 90/90 rule if you haven’t used it in 90 days and don’t imagine using it again in 90 days get rid of it as completely nonsensical–if you said that in June or July then you would be getting rid of all your family’s winter coats and boots and Christmas decorations. The prohibition against I might need it later should be changed to a prohibition against I might need it later but can’t conjure up a rational situation where I will. It is peak minimalism to save your older kids clothes for the younger, it is reaching exactly the goal of less consumerism–and the very influencers of this movement are completely missing that point. And the 20/20 rule depends upon having disposable income. If you don’t then it should be a $5 rule or something sensible for your tax bracket. In fact I would argue that folks who are in a lower household income (which is based on family size of course) should follow a totally different set of rules. For example, clothes that are a little too big or too small, the influencers argue that by the time you change weight those things will be out of fashion and you will want new things. If you are poor, fashion is not important and jeans are jeans and shirts are shirts, etc. I went ahead and kept some things that were too tight and when I did lose the weight a few months later I was very happy to wear them again, even if some of the items are over 10 years old. And I did not have to go buy new clothes or continue wearing ill fitting oversized things because I did save things I loved and might fit again. That was very important because I am saving for retirement, debt repayment, future plans etc. and it would have been a waste to replace perfectly good clothes I could need in the future.

    1. Author

      I totally agree, Sara. Sometimes frugality and minimalism do not mesh well. Lately, I try to think about the time it takes me to maintain something, especially since that time can be spent side hustling to increase our income. If keeping things is going to require my time to organize, clean, or maintain – or block me from finding the things I do need – then it is better to send them on to someone else. But if they are not taking any time and I know I will need them in a few months or a year (like kid’s clothes), it is totally worth keeping them.

  22. The thing is that it seems that you are struggling with poverty not with minimalism. I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that better off people should tone down their bragging but struggling with poverty is not the same as choosing to declutter your home.

    1. So agree! I have 7 kids and they were dressed well mostly on hand me downs. Kept skates, skateboards, bikes, books, knee pads, even shoes from one to the next. There is no way to make it but constantly throwing and buying. My adult kids want me to toss it all, we are or will use most of it. No need to not have stuff for me. I still have four kids home and myself, on a single income it is much less stressful to use what we have than to not have clothes, housewares, books, etc.

  23. I have seen many thrift store miracles come from trying to live within our means. I don’t even go very often, probably less than once a month, but sometimes I’ll feel like randomly going and find toy blocks that I was about to buy for $25 for $8 or the (brand new) over the toilet cupboard that our little brother who was about to get married just said he was going to need for $20 instead of $150. When we make the sacrifices to try and spend less than we make, God truly can provide in miraculous ways. Thanks for the reminder!

  24. So, $90k in student loans and you’re not putting it to any use or earning any return on that investment? Sounds to me like that’s the actual problem here, not decluttering. The days of stay at home moms and one income families is a thing of the past. Especiallyo when you’ve accumulated $90K in student loan debt.

    1. The problem is that we have to back track on things and one of those is exactly a time of “families” staying together & having 1 parent at home. We as a society as a whole have lost money, manners, thinking of others kindly, putting others before ourselves, and materialistic plastic crap. Our kids need to feel security, trust, love, and shelter. I’ve lived and witnessed the spectrum of life. I had a stay at home mom, she didn’t have a car or drive til I was 13. We lived a simple life. We lived like the 1950’s during the 1970’s. When Jordache Jean’s came out, I was told I was not the other kid’s and didn’t need what they had. And I never have. I have a Bachelor of Science in Education. I paid my loan myself. In the 80’s you could get almost any job without experience. Because of my degree I moved to the city, was a live in nanny, yup, back then nanny’s had to be well educated. Then, because of other nanny’s abusing children in their care… mothers woke up, quit their big paying jobs, stayed at home. 1990 economy crashed. My kids were born in the 90’s. We actually lived below our means but we were okay. I stayed at home, volunteered anywhere I could, mostly at my kids school. Then, in the early 2000’s, my wasband moved out, divorced me, but I paid for the divorce he wanted. I’ve had to downsize, downsize, downsize. Now I care for the elderly & disabled. We’re all headed that way in the end, we get old and need help. But before life’s over you have to minimalize. And the stuff was just stuff. Except for the family. The riches of family love and care is what counts. So no Tracy, getting a job, hiring a nanny, sending the kids to before school, after school, music camp, sports camp at every vacation, blah, blah, blah… running this race for what? People need to protest the stupid student loans! There are so many of them and banks are sucking the life out of an entire generation. In 2023 there will be more senior citizens than people age 18 and under. We need more kids! We need a parent to stay home. We need less plastic crap. We need a simpler life before our life is over.

      1. Author

        Thanks for sharing B! So much truth here.

  25. I loved this article. As I am on a journey to live simply, I felt my fears of poverty. Awesome, thank you!

  26. I really enjoy reading everyone’s thoughts. I’m a mother of four daughters whom are all married with children and whom are all working on simplifying also. What we have come to realize is everyone’s situation is different. Minimalism and/or simplifying is a wonderful thing. I’m personally not sure if anyone should be put down for how they do it because they are just telling their story. I personally learn from everyone’s story, and yet mine is even different then theirs. Your comments June are truly understood and yet I understand those that may not be what you can do. That’s what makes life interesting and a fun learning experience. Keep up the good work!

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing, Robin! You are so right: minimalism looks different for everyone. I love reading how different people do minimalism, too.

  27. You hit the nail on the head with the problem of how society sees this minimalism trend. It gets a bad rap for being something only the affluent can afford. Yea, sure easy to have one coat when it’s worth $1000 for instance. For me though minimalism actually helped me save money. It changed my thought process to realizing that I don’t need to add more unnecessary stuff to my house that I don’t need. I don’t need more jewelry just because it’s pretty or that cute decorative item at Target. You don’t have to just get rid of everything you have, but you learn the value of what you do have without adding more 🙂

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Laine! Eventually, we will see the savings, I think. I definitely agree that minimalism isn’t just for the affluent. Minimalism on a low income just has unique challenges!

  28. Thank you! I stayed home and raised our 5 daughters so I completely understand. Four are on their own now. My husband is self employed and sometimes (a lot) customers didn’t pay when the job was finished. Painful but had to have Faith! I work now for health insurance.

  29. I completely agree with so much of this! And I’ve heard the argument that minimalism is only for higher income families or individuals but I disagree.

    I love minimalism becuase for years when I told myself no to a purchase I said to myself, “No you can’t have that because you are poor. You can’t afford that.” Minimalism has changed my mindset and has changed my self talk to “No you don’t actually want to buy that because you’re a minimalist.”

    I still can’t afford the purchase but now I look at it as my choice. My choice is to stay home with my children instead of earn extra income which could go toward extra purchases. My choice is to give regularly to what I’m passionate about which means we won’t ever move up in home. My choice to wear the same dress to 5 weddings in a row because a new outfit would mean that I don’t have enough for basic groceries the next week.

    It is a challenge to find balance between “stuff is just stuff” and “respect what we have becuase it’s the only one we have.” BUT I slowly loosened my grip on stuff. Improvising for your needs when your one thing is ruined brings a whole new outlook one life.

    Minimalism did free up my income. Before minimalism I had debt and couldn’t pay my bills. I had a victim mentality. Now I have no debt and pay my bills on time. Every once in a while I get to splurge on a simple pleasure that I’ve fought to save for. Also, people LOVE giving gifts to my children becuase my children delight in things like new jammies and new socks. They appreciate needs being met. Some people look down on that way of living but I’m fine with it becuase I think our world could use more grateful spirits and less entitled brats.

    Well done mama, I think you’re on he right track!

    1. Author

      That is so good! I have had to remind myself many times recently of the choice factor: I am choosing to stay home with my babies (although I think sending them to daycare/school would pretty much cancel out anything I earned working outside the home). I am definitely learning to improvise, too! Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

    2. I can totally relate to wearing the same outfit 5 times in a row.

  30. Love it!! I’m also a homeschool mom and taking on this minimalism idea this year. I love it! Trusting God to provide is definitely something that is important to me. I love that I have more time because my house is becoming less and less to clean. I’m probably one of the strange ones though, I hope to live in an RV at some point and just enjoy the moment and not so much “stuff” ♥️

    1. Author

      oh man, an RV. I can’t even imagine! We are struggling to fit all 6 of us in our less than 1200 square foot home. I think we could be comfortable in a 1500-1600 square feet with the right furniture and things. It definitely takes the right storage items and furniture to make it work.

  31. Thank for for writing this article. I don’t see enough written about minimalism and class. It is a really important conversation! Nice work!

  32. What an amazing post! Thank you for sharing. I just started being a minimalist and struggle with the “just buy a new one” idea. I love hearing your perspective. I just found your blog on pintrest and am going to keep following! You are so real!

    1. Author

      Thanks Tamara! I’m glad you’re here!

  33. Agreed. The minimalist always come to me to borrow items. I can’t afford to get rid of things and then replace them when I need it. I kept some things in storage for 4 years when I moved out of a house. I lived in an apartment for a few years and friends said get rid of it, you haven’t used it in a year. Bad Advice. I moved into a new house and I did use my things. Saved me thousands of dollars. I don’t buy junk, I buy quality.

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing Sandra! yes! The tension between minimalism and frugal living…so difficult to navigate.

  34. I would love to become more minimalist in my possessions (our schedule is already quite stripped down), but I never will because of my husband. He borders on a hoarder. I realized about a year ago that the difference is that I was raised in a family that was middle to upper-middle class during my most formative years, while his family was always below the poverty line. Their home looks beautifully minimalist because it HAS to. There was and never will be money for extras. But everything has been lovingly cared for and beautifully preserved. My mother-in-law likes to tell the story of an acquaintance coming over year after year and marveling that they still had the same household goods and decor.

    On the other hand I grew up with regular clean outs for our stuff to go to Salvation Army. My parents give us more stuff than our family possibly needs. So our house seems to overflow, but my husband has a hard time giving it away because “what if we need it again.”

    Minimalism, as it’s often stated these days, is absolutely for the better off among us. A minimalism born of necessity looks and feels quite different.

    1. Author

      Thank you SO much for sharing this. Only when other people share their stories can we truly know how others perceive minimalism. This is so helpful, and I identify with you – my husband is a bit like yours, though maybe not as extreme. I have a few bins full of his stuff in our deep storage – books, clothes he may wear again, things that might be useful one day (sometimes, he’s right!). I just keep it out of our living space. Maybe this idea could help? Thanks again for taking the time to comment! It means a lot.

  35. Ooooooooh myyyyyyyyyyy goooooooooooooosh yaaaaaassssssssssss!!!!!!!!!! So well said – you finally put words to something I’ve struggled with but could never find the words for!!!!! I’m so glad I’m not the only one to struggle with this. Being a single income, homeschooling family on a minimal budget feels incredibly lonely, particularly when the income is about as minimal as it can be. ? it’s a hard balance of prayer and trust over self, wants, and comparison.

    1. Author

      I’m so glad it spoke to you, Kayla! The tension between frugality and minimalism is SO real for those of us living on lower incomes, and I think the decluttering process has to look different for those of us who aren’t sure what we will need in the future or if we will have the money to replace what we want to get rid of right now, but are afraid to. While decluttering has been SO helpful to me, it didn’t “free up” our budget like so many other minimalists claimed. The budget is still pretty tight over here, and minimalism has actually put in me a craving for more “quality” (i.e. expensive) things that yes, will last a long time and I would love, but that we honestly can’t afford right now. Hoping to write more on this topic soon! 🙂

  36. June, thanks so so much for this. I was slow to jump on that declutter/simplify train. I’ve spent the past 9 months methodically finding things to trash, donate or sell, and so far I have felt better and lighter, but I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to wonder where to draw the line, what to keep, and I’m asking myself what we can practically replace if we want to later and what we can’t. My husband and I also have a ton of school debt. I’m proud to be a millennial and I love so many of our generation’s values but I think some have more discretionary money than others, as you were pointing out. Thanks for the exhortation for us all to be mindful of such less-visible differences. Although we have similar values, there will be valid reasons that we live them out differently.

    1. Author

      You’re welcome Alicia! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  37. I think you overshot the point of minimalism. I don’t understand why people have to remodel house or shrink everything to get minimalist. It’s ends up as show off. Especially if you think that you had to buy it again. Quite an american way of be. Do it slowly unlike everything in nowaday life.Don’t rush it. Seriously takes a long time. I have a photo from my room 14 years ago, and was a world of stuff and I never found my keys. Now I find them easily. I still have big furniture, but what a hell, I need it, no way I’m buying other just to have it smaller! : )

    Was triggered by life issue. Managing the dispose cycle (whatever end it gives), especially with your partner can hurt. Even now I’m still output more than input. You have to do it slowly, and ignore the “style”. Why restyle home?

    Don’t throw everything away just because you have more than needed or it doesn’t fit the new “style”, I didn’t bought a single thing to replace other just because it is “minimalist”…. In fact most people I know are unaware of my choices. I just reuse things that I have as much as possible. You have a big table, big bed? Should I get rid of it. No, it’s already paid and you need it. I have 6 chairs in a table, should I use only 4? Don’t rush them to trash. Rethink for as much as you need to avoid situation that you describe. Years even

    I never had a situation that I needed the thing again …. You are uncertain just kep it on same place. Not days only, even more than a year sometimes … I still have some things to give away, problem is that I feel sorrow to throw them out, but I don’t use since ever, i just value them and are hard to dispose. If I can give them to family and they need it, that is highly rewarding, but is a rare event.

    Regarding student credits. Sorry for you from Europe. And even so education can be expensive. But comparing with States, quite abysmal : )

    1. Author

      Thank you so much for commenting! I love hearing different perspectives, especially cross-cultural ones. My experience with minimalism in America is that it is extreme and on a fast-track. You are encouraged to declutter your entire home in a short period of time (otherwise, you’ll make up excuses to hang onto things). Now, perhaps I’ve read the wrong books on minimalism and maybe its the extremism that I am starting to question. The definition of minimalism that I came across recently comes from the blog The Minimalists: “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important – so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” Do you agree with this definition? I love your approach and I think I’m coming around to a similar approach. Thanks again for sharing!

  38. I appreciate your blog but i would like to point out there is one thing called practical minimalism, which I personally follow. In this concept you just dont see your belongings as numbers but see them for their value. Like it is okay to have 4 pairs of same coloured jeans if you need it and you use it. But it is not okay to hoard 4 pair of jeans which does not fit you or is torn or stained. Let go of things which do not serve any purpose not just for decluttering. I hope this will help you overcome your fear of minimalism.

    1. Author

      Thanks so much for your comment! I appreciate you sharing the term “practical minimalism” – it’s so helpful because I think that minimalists vary widely in how they practice minimalism. I think I’m realizing that I’m not so much afraid of minimalism, but am starting to question it to a degree, especially with kids. The problem with kids is that things that may not serve a purpose right now may in the future, and one must always way the cost of keeping them for a short time versus having them in the future. I hope you continue to stop by to read my musings on minimalism!

  39. YES! I am so glad I found your blog! My husband and I have very few clothes as it is. Almost all from thrift stores. I actually prefer that, but it’s way too hard to find pants/shorts for me at thrift stores. I spent $50 on a new pair of each and almost threw up! I can’t imagine “investing” in a $200 pair of jeans. I hate spending money on myself. You are so right though, I get so attached to my stuff. If I have nicer clothes, that I wear maybe once or twice a year, I can’t just go out and buy them when I need them. I’d need a month or so to go to many different thrift stores to find something in my budget. Do that, or keep the 1 or 2 pieces I have? Very insightful. I now feel much less guilty about this! <3

    1. Author

      What’s funny is that I think when I referenced having a certain number of jeans, some readers assumed they are $200 type jeans. Definitely not! They are GAP jeans that I got for free with GAP rewards. If I had the patience and time for thrifting with four kids, I definitely would do it.

  40. People have already touched on this theme, but may I kindly ask you to consider whether or not you will allow or encourage your children to accrue student loan debt? My husband and I went to a state school that you have probably never heard of, but I graduated without debt and he paid his off years ago. Financially, we are doing very well. I will definitely encourage my kids to go to school we can afford without debt. I have no regrets about not going to a school with a reputation like Boston U.

    1. Author

      I definitely will not be encouraging my kids to accrue student debt. I could write a book on the subject, but I want them to have a clear purpose behind college – I need this specific degree in order to work in this specific field. Part of the reason I am homeschooling is to help them figure out what they want to do earlier in life. We are not pushing college as the only way to be successful, and we are strongly encouraging no student debt. I also believe that community college and a state school are great options. Unfortunately, even in my guidance counseling education, they encouraged us to push student loans because college is that important. It’s not and there are so many ways to get through without debt. It may take longer. It may not be the glorified 4-year college experience, but that experience is not worth the price you pay in debt. I regret my loans and will encourage my kids to pursue a different path. Thanks for asking and sharing your experience Mary Ann!

    2. I went to State Scool and have 50k+ in debt. Graduated in 2015. State School is expensive too. And my debt is just for Jr, Sr and Master year.

  41. I love your post. I felt you were talking to me lol.

  42. Love this! Thank you and keep trusting Jesus 🙂

  43. As a single income family of 12, I can sooo relate to this. Thanks for saying it out loud.

  44. Speaking as someone from the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, I love that you are staying home with your children and homeschooling. I laughed my way through a large part of that book (it was rather repetitive and she seemed kind of OCD), as I’m retired and living with my 88 year old Mom. So much STUFF between us. We are going through boxes daily of old photos (Who is THAT? I don’t know! Toss it!—on the other hand, I found a Christmas card for a family who owned small market we used to shop at and found one of the kids on Facebook and sent it to her). Mom’s seashell collection? I can’t toss it. She collected them on the beaches of Florida when she was ten. I donated more than 4000 children’s books to various teacher-friends, homeschoolers, and reading organizations. I still have a couple thousand. I wish I had the money I spent on them in my retirement account instead. Speaking of retirement accounts, Dave Ramsey suggests waiting until your debts (including school loans) are paid off to contribute to them. When I retired, I was bankrupt, had to sell my condo at a loss, but still had a Parent Plus loan for one kid, and my car to pay off. Using his plan, I paid off both (about $36,000) in six years on an income of $20,000. (having no rent for about half that time really helped). He’s right that getting rid of debt is really freeing. Then you start saving for retirement again and for that house! I don’t agree with everything I hear on his show, but those 7 Baby Steps have really worked for a lot of people, some with $300,000 in student debt (usually they have the doctor/lawyer income to go with that, though).

  45. LOVE this post! I’m also a stay at home, homeschooling mum of four (from New Zealand) & we don’t own our home…minimalism really resonates with me as I function much better when I’m surrounded by order and clear spaces and I also get a huge thrill out of emptying our home of unneeded and excess belongings. But as you’ve pointed out there is a downside. Your encouragement to trust in and look to God to provide for each day and the future is SO timely. Thank you x

    1. Author

      You’re welcome Jessabel! I definitely function better in clear spaces as well and with order, but I’m having to learn how to function in chaos as well. I’ve realized that no matter how much you declutter, having a big family just plain equals more stuff. Combine that with being home all day every day (as you know too!) just means more chaos than the average family. The war against clutter continues. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words!

  46. I have five boys from 18 to 8 years of age. I consider myself a stay at home mom, although I clean houses during the school day to supplement our family income. I am not very familiar with the minimalist movement. I do think we’ve been living it by necessity though!
    It’s not a bad place to be.
    I agree completely with the issues that you’ve brought up.

    I think a huge benefit from this type of lifestyle when lived by necessity is that gratitude you have toward God when you see Him time and again provide those things you need just when you need them. What a wonderful gift it is to know that He delights in giving me the things I need. That He enjoys taking care of me.

    Bless you and your family!

    1. Author

      Thank you Beke! It’s always a pleasure to hear from a mom further down the road than I am. I so appreciate you taking the time to share.

  47. I have never before commented on a blog post, but I’ve never before read one that made me feel so completely understood. I too have 4 kids and homeschool and its a huge financial sacrifice. I’ve read so many books on decluttering and minimalism and want to accomplish it so bad, but you’re so right about the fear factor! And honestly, I believe 90% of what we own are hand-me-downs (mostly from family), so it’s not like I can expect them to give me just what I need when I need it. I have Rubbermaid boxes of clothes for all of my kids for them to grow into, and I feel like it would be wasteful just to get rid of then and then end up having to buy all that stuff, but I’m so tired of storing boxes! The scripture really helped, it’s easy to forget sometimes in the daily struggle that He promises we don’t have to worry, He will provide what we need, even if it’s not always what we want, and that is enough. Thank you for this post

    1. Author

      Jennifer, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I am so glad that my words helped you feel understood. It’s comments like yours that keep me writing. For all the people who do not understand with my story or our life choices, I write for the handful like you that can completely relate and need to know that they’re not alone. We too have the bins of clothes and while I apply so much of minimalism to our homeschool, we still have books in storage that we rotate in and out. Keep doing what you’re doing, mama. All parenting is faith, and I, like you, believe the investment in our kids will far outweigh the sacrifice.

  48. I’m sorry, but you have three pair of jeans more than I. That IS a reserve. If they rip, repair them. If they get blood or mud in them, properly treat the stain and it will come out in the wash.

    1. Author

      Thanks for replying Kristy! I Am definitely thankful for the clothes I have and work hard to keep them in good condition. Sometimes with little ones, it’s hard to stop and treat a stain right away and unfortunately it’s too late by the time I get to it.

      Thanks for reminding me again to be thankful for what I do have. I truly mean it. Gratitude is something I need more of and you helped me see it again.

  49. Thank you for this!! Being a single Mom of two with no college degree, I can understand where you’re coming from, financially speaking. I have been Pinning Minimalist pins for weeks now with great interest, & this very realistic perspective is very helpful!

    1. Author

      Hi Marissa! Minimalism has been life-changing, for sure, but also complicated with kids. As with anything else, you need to find balance. I’m planning on writing more on minimalism soon and hope you stop by again.

  50. This is VERY well said. My parents and grandparents were definitely of the mindset: hang on to things because you can’t always replace them. When I moved abroad with my children, it forced us to downsize. Yes, we packed a 40′ shipping container, but with five kids and me, that still leaves a LOT that did not make it in. We had to lay aside the good, and the better, and bring only the very best. Even then, some things we miss that simply are not possible to replace (even if I had the money to do so) simply because they can’t be purchased here at any price.

    I’m totally in favor of a simplified lifestyle. But there is certainly wisdom to be had in planning for the future where you might need something and not be in a position to replace it. Your article is the only one I’ve ever read that acknowledged that possibility. Well said!

  51. “Just because she is staying home with her kids doesn’t mean it’s a comfortable choice that makes sense on paper.” Wow! This is the first time I’ve read something that really puts what a family with a stay at home mom goes through. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Author

      You’re welcome Denise! I’m glad it spoke to you.

  52. I think you are absolutely right – the only challenge we usually see addressed is the attachment we have to an item. But when you look deeper, there are so many reasons for those feelings of attachment, & the financial challenge of replacing an item that breaks is very real for many people.
    Also, most minimalism books seem to come from a point of view of having very few children, no children, or even from living alone. Those situations all create an entirely dynamic within a household.
    Families do accumulate lots of things, and many of them are part of the (non-excessive) lifestyle we want for our children. I, for example, want my children to ride their bikes and scooters, go swimming, play ball, and dig in the dirt. Storing those things makes me feel very not-minimal, which can even cause occasional feelings of guilt with all the current emphasis on minimalism. In reality, we are taking good strides toward living minimally. It is a constant battle to catch the stuff at the door before it takes up permanent residence, but that is part of having a family and part of this life I chose.
    On a side, I am surprised at how many people missed the point of your article, thinking you were complaining about your income 🙂 I have had similar thoughts, that so many books on minimalism preach as if those who live otherwise are unenlightened. In reality, I think we all need to find a level of stuff with which we are comfortable, and then focus on your closing points about trusting God to provide what we need. We can help each other get there by sharing experiences, but I wish people could stop being so critical of others.

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing Cydne! I agree – there are unique challenges to minimalism and families. With families, comes children with new, unique personalities (one of mine is sentimental) as well, complicating things even further. It feels like I am constantly decluttering. For me, the benefits outweigh the downsides. I do have far more time than I used to, and I use that time for homeschooling, spending more time with my kids, and blogging.

      I believe minimalism can be a good thing for people of any income level. The challenge is presenting it in the right way with that audience in mind. My hope was that this post could encourage other minimalists do just that.

      1. This is the first article of yours I have had the fortune to randomly come across. I just wanted to take a moment and commend you for the way you have handled yourself with grace and ease, coming from such a real authentic place, dealing with a topic that you obviously hit on the head can be very sensitive to some, and responding to people with information and nothing but politeness. You are a refreshing read and I bet a wonderful mother, lol and you know your stuff when it comes to quoting sources…right on for that one lol…I just had to say something after I read this entire reply feed. It was a great article and you have equally great commentators backing up a great conversation with respect and honesty! You have a new follower!!! Proud to be here! Way to promote yourself!! I give you nothing but props!!! Can’t wait to read more! Thanks!!

        1. Author

          Thank you Jennifer! I’m so glad you appreciated it and glad to have you here! 🙂

    2. “In reality, I think we all need to find a level of stuff with which we are comfortable”
      THIS is the balance point that we’re looking for. Well said!

  53. Pretty sure Joshua Becker was referring to time spent with people we care about, not “freeing up” ourselves financially to consume differently. Second, no minimalist ever said “toss it, you can buy another later if you need it.” Marie Kondo even quotes that if it’s a necessity, then it must stay because once it serves a purpose it sparks joy. As for millenials. I am one, and if my friends spent less time popping bottles, buying rompers and going to Sunday brunch every week, they’re debt wouldn’t weigh so heavily. It’s about being intentional and consciously making decisions that affect you positively in the long run, not immediate gratification. This article was written by an individual who is afraid of what minimalism can do for their business.

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts J.J.! Perhaps I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and other books and articles by minimalists incorrectly or maybe I was getting a message that was not directly stated. One big take-away for me was that if you are really debating about a specific item, one you don’t currently use but may need in the future, that you should get rid of it. If you really need it in the future, you can always purchase a new one.

      As to freeing yourselves up financially to consume differently, I believe Joshua Becker states just that in an article on Becoming Minimalist:
      “I will admit this benefit of minimalism came unexpected to me. For some reason, I didn’t combine owning fewer things and owning nicer things in my mind. But the truth is, they go hand-in-hand and are directly related. When we made a commitment to buy fewer things, we opened up our lives to the opportunity of owning nicer things.” This can definitely be an unexpected benefit for some, and I hope to get there one day.

      Minimalism is a good thing – a movement responding to a culture of consumerism and lack of intentionality – exactly what your comment mentions, spending money (and time) recklessly “popping bottles, buying rompers, and going to Sunday brunch every week.” I agree that it frees you to make intentional and conscious decisions for the long-haul. I know the benefits: it’s why I love minimalism. For me the benefits outweigh the downside. But the downside still exists for me, and many others apparently (see comments).

      I am simply addressing the reality that people of certain incomes – even when they stop buying random junk and clutter, and declutter the things they have, budget and reign in their spending – they still cannot afford to buy the higher quality item. They maybe cannot afford to replace something when it breaks. Yes, they are spending their time and money differently, which is a good thing. They are hopefully living more intentional lives. But minimalism doesn’t alleviate the stress of finances for many people.

      1. Hi! I felt compelled to this reply (again) because a couple of things struck me… this is meant to be an encouragement to you amongst the other commentators here (and hopefully to soften the less than tactful folks)

        1. Yes we should be aware that not everyone is in a privileged place to be able to declutter… but that’s not what most proponents of minimalism are getting at. Most are coming from a place of excess and therefore, encouraging an audience coming from excess. The audience so driven by consumerism (including myself) who needs answers and a clear path to leave that thinking behind and be happy with less. This is why I loved your connection to student loan debt because so many of us were taught that formal education is everything. The job market simply does not support that anymore, so investing more in education to get more money later is just not adding up.

        2. When we do find ourselves indebted to whatever it may be and unable to replace said valuable item, learning to cope with that loss is also a good thing. Another facet of learning to live with less is accepting what cannot be due to financial restraints and allowing ourselves to depend on God. In that waiting, or adjustment to a new lifestyle, there is so much more room for creativity! One of my favorite quotes is, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” This is what our grandparents and great-grandparents lived by, not wasting but utilizing and caring for what they had. My 97-year old grandmother talks about memories with her family, not all the things she never had.

        Basically, it’s not always easy to be minimalist, but when we’re between a rock and a hard place about something we think we need, necessity will always find a way.

        Continue to walk in love and grace, as you have shown with some of the public here today, keep moving forward in your mission to love God and your family! Again, so encouraged by you, June.

        1. Author

          Such great wisdom, Jenn. Thanks for sharing with everyone!

      2. I also specifically remember Marie Kondo (perhaps in her second book, Spark Joy), saying, “‘I might need it later’ is taboo.” I don’t have it in front of me, but that wording stuck with me. With multiple kids, sometimes I genuinely will need it later, like in two years, without fail!

        1. Author

          I know! I remember reading that Marie Kondo just had a baby and now she is able to relate a tiny bit more to parents trying to implement minimalism. It’s definitely something those of us on a budget with lots of kids can’t follow completely, especially if you plan on having more kids.

        2. Yes! I have three kids but we may have more. Our attic is full of boxes of outgrown clothes since we have both a boy and girls. I know that getting rid of them would free up a lot of space but I love that when my younger daughter goes up a size I just grab that box and we have plenty of clothes for her. It saves so much money and we do technically have space. Same with all the baby gear including newborn sized cloth diapers.

    2. One of the more popular minimalist bloggers, The Minimalists specifically have a 20/20 rule that is all about the ability and ease or replacing item later. The rule is most just in case items can be replaced with less than $20 or 20 minutes, so you should get rid of it.

      The author is talking about having roughly $60 in flexible money each month. Three in-case moments a month with four children is not that unreasonable. Which is why I personally try to add a third 20 to the equation. 20 months, which is just under two years. If you don’t have a reasonable explanation to use the item in that timeframe then get rid of it. This allows for some just-in-cases without letting everything become a just-in-case.

      1. Author

        Thanks for sharing that Rachel! I’ll have to look that up on their site. I haven’t been able to relate to their stories as much, but I know a lot of people love their work. 🙂

  54. Refreshingly honest.After 41 years of marriage I know we have things we should let go. But over the years when you are struggling to find cash for baseball cletes or band camp piano lessons…. to save and splurge on something that stands the test of time is difficult to do. Other see things…you see hard work. There is value in hard work.

  55. I could have written this word for word! I’m just starting my journey toward minimalism, and an finding it hard to part with things I don’t need often at all but can’t replace if I needed to.

    1. Author

      Hi Haleigh! It is definitely a challenge to decide what to get rid of. I’ve had both things happen: I hang onto things thinking I’ll need it and never do and getting rid of things I think of a use for later. Thankfully, the latter doesn’t happen often. It’s definitely a balance, made even more complicated when you have multiple people in a family to consider when you are decluttering.

  56. This is so true! I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that, yes I could possibly need this in the future but am currently not using it and it is taking up space that I desperately need, so I get rid of it and then a year later I either find another way to live without it or trust God to provide exactly what we NEED. We’ve thought that we were finished having kids twice now and I keep getting rid of my baby clothes and baby gear and maternity clothes and here I am with not much for my next little bundle on the way. But so far I can still fit in my regular clothes and I have a few Onsies from my last baby that I saved (even though they were a different gender lol). And so far I think the only absolute need that I’ll have to purchase is a car seat.

    Thank you talking about this issue! I have had these same fears and thoughts when trying to minimize. But we shouldn’t fear, we should trust the Lord to provide!

    1. Author

      You’re welcome, Mandy! What an encouraging testimony about getting rid of things only to have what you need come to you when you need it. Thanks for sharing!

  57. This is the first article I have read that truly balances the struggle I have with minimalism. I have found minimalism to be very freeing but incredibly challenging as well, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. Thank you for articulating and validating the exact struggles I have experienced and you are completely right as to why we experience them. I appreciate your insight and be encouraged that you do not need to measure your success based on somebody else’s standard of minimalism. Minimalism is keeping exactly what you need and love for the reasons you personally have, including excess you need, but not the excess you don’t.

  58. Sorry, but how silly is writing an article to complain about your financial situation because: student loans! 4 kids! You just HAVE to be a stay at home mom instead of adding some income to your cash-strapped family! Why did you get an expensive loan-funded education just so you could pop out 4 kids and stay at home and complain about money?

    And all of this culminates to a quote from Scripture about how God is going to take care of your future needs…….so what exactly is the point of this article? Are you worried about money or is God going to take care of your problems for you? Or are you sad because you really loved that end table? Again sorry, I came across this article from elsewhere on the web, and I just don’t even understand what you’re getting at.

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lauren! I’ve chosen to be a stay at home mom because I believe that is the best choice for my kids and my family as a whole. If I was to go to work at this point, all my extra income would go to childcare and to other costs associated with working (commuting, extra eating out because of lack of time to meal plan, etc). I do recognize that it is a choice, and one that others cannot afford or do not choose to make. I was trying to express the perspective that while minimalism is helpful in so many ways for people of all walks of life, it is often pursued and recommended by people of financial privilege, people who can afford to get rid of their stuff. Some people can’t and because I have benefitted from minimalism so much, I want others who recommend it to be sensitive to the circumstances of those who might benefit if it is presented in the right way. I hope that helps? Again, I appreciate you taking the time to share you thoughts!

      1. I totally get where this comes from and just had a similar conversation with my SIl on this exact issue today. We are bith stay at home moms. By choice and circumstance. For me to work would mean all my income going to day care, sitters, etc as well as the worry of trusting who my children are with, have we spent enough time together? You know.. mom worries. So when my oldest came into this world we decided it was best for me to stay home, even though one income was not simple to live off of. While we have always had our bills paid in time, a grocery budget for plenty of food and whatnot, extra money for fun outings or clothes, snacks, whatever was not necessary was hard to come by. We went without cable, cell phones, new cars. And even then, when i couldnt lose that pregnancy weight and my jeans didn’t fit so well, it was frustrating because i couldn’t afford to get new ones..and if i did i was lucky if i got one, on a Target clearance rack for ten bucks, as it was still, at times, a financial strain. Times are not so hard now. My husband works a much better job and with both kids in school i finally found a job that allows me to work while they are gone but be home when they are off (get on in your county schools, folks! Lunch lady isnt glorious but the schedule is fantastic for what i need ?). I am trying to declutter my house now and i still have my super frugal mindset which makes it so hard. IE: i gained a healthy amount of weight over the winter and while it is not a bad thing since i was underweight, i am struggling so hard to get rid of my old summer clothes which do nnot it fit anymore. The “what if i drop 10 lbs suddenly, because its happened before, and i regret this and yet again need a new wardrobe?!” struggle is so real. It sounds sosilly even to me, but for years i kept all my clothing, big and small, because i could not afford to buy a whole new seasonal wardrobe every time my body changed on me. I dont know, i could ramble on and on more.. but this is a real issue for me. And others. It is nice to see people outside my circle understand it though.

  59. THANK YOU! So much of what you wrote has been the heart struggle I face constantly!! This truly encouraged my heart to take a breath and say it`s okay to find the balance in it all. Our family of 5 are global workers across from the American seas. There is so much I love about this minimal movement, and yet for the exact things you wrote about, how do I teach my kids that people will always out win things; especially when we have had multiple oversea moves starting from scratch again with a box for each person of their precious “treasures”. Also working in full-time global work and balancing being present as a mom, there is such a need to not just declutter my things but the events that an rule us at times. This article was a good reminder to make the time for things that truly matter, and so adding in a spontaneous family gathering is just as okay as trying to keep a clear schedule. Balance… finding balance in it all. Thanks again!!!

    1. Author

      You’re welcome, Jen! My husband and I considered being global workers at one point and may again in the future – I bet it is critical to be detached to stuff when you can only take so much with you from place to place. I’m so glad it encouraged you!

  60. There have always been those who have greater or lesser discretionary income than you. Minimalism is about focusing on what’s most important, and to me that means freedom. Minimalism is an ongoing journey. Has nothing to do with how much, or little money, or how many bills.

    1. Author

      Thanks for your thoughts Valerie! I agree with you to a point, but I know others, like myself, who wrestle with the concept of privilege in minimalism. There is freedom to be had (I’ve experienced it myself!), but there is also uncertainty. If I throw this thing away because it’s not beautiful or useful – I realize this is only one method used to declutter – will I be able to afford another one if things change and I truly do need it in the future? And I would also argue, as I did in the post, that for some people it can actually bring the opposite – a hidden type of bondage. The things we keep can unfortunately become tied to our hearts even more tightly than before.

  61. I agree with all of this. You hit the nail right on the head. Thank you.

    1. Author

      You’re welcome, Charlotte! Thanks for reading.

  62. So so true! I’m in this boat and really appreciate this post!

    1. Author

      You’re welcome Theresa! Thanks for letting me know it helped you.

  63. Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts that I’ve also had but haven’t often articulated. I am, philosophically, absolutely in agreement with minimalism, but yes, I think a lot of minimalist authors are writing from a place of “I had a giant house and a bunch of stuff and I got rid of it and now I’m happier. Hooray!” If you think about it, it is a very privileged sort of philosophy, because plenty of people don’t have a choice about whether to have one spatula. They are lucky to have one spatula!

    Another downside that I’ve thought about often is that minimalist authors often (ironically) make statements that are kind of consumerist and wasteful. “Don’t let those baby clothes take up space in your house – get rid of them and buy new ones if you have another baby!” In theory, someone else could get use out of your baby clothes, but chances are good that if you donate them to Goodwill, they might not sell and will end up in the garbage anyway. I know not everyone comes to minimalism from a concern about the environment (I didn’t), but promoting wastefulness also doesn’t sit well with me.

    You’re so right that it’s about balance. I hang onto things that I know I will use, but I’ve learned to let go of things I *thought* I would repurpose into something else or use for another kid but probably am not ever going to 🙂 Keeping things out of a concern for being wasteful is like eating the rest of your kid’s cake that you really don’t need, just to keep it from going in the garbage – it’s not doing anyone any good sitting in your house (or on your waistline).

    1. Author

      Love your last thought! I totally do eat the rest of my kid’s food out of a desire not to waste food. While I tend not to overeat, it usually means that I am living off their leftovers instead of having a proper meal myself.

      It is definitely challenging to know when to hold on to things and when to send them on their way to a better home. Sometimes, I think I am just frustrated by stuff that we actually do need, and I just need to accept as part of having a big family. I can’t control everything, and I won’t always be picking up everyone else’s stuff. It’s only a season (a long one).

  64. Thanks for sharing this, June. It is good to be reminded that every person’s financial situation is not the same, so the way a particular philosophy works out doesn’t always look the same.

    1. Author

      Thanks Audrey! I definitely have found more good than bad in minimalism, but I realized as I was discussing this topic with someone else that it is yet another extreme response, reacting to the materialism that has dominated our culture. The pendulum swings back and forth to each extreme, but really balance is what is needed.

  65. Sounds like your generation is having to learn again what my grandparents had to learn and thus tried to teach us: “stewaŕship: taking good care of those few things you do have; and respecting the things others have and so caring for them respectfulky as well. Mainly because they had to work very hard to get the things they do have. Some of those folks, even in our boomer generation had student loans they had to work for 10+ years to pay off too. Millenials are nYou ot the only ones that have ever been foolish enough to go into extreme debt for education or other worldly trappings. What matters is that you work together with your husband to get through such a tough thing, teach your children to care well for the things they are fortunate enough to have, and rely on the grace of God to persevere. Therein creating a win- win all around. Living and learning.

    1. Author

      Thanks for your comment, mom! I think the biggest issue I see with our generation is that the majority of us bought the cultural lie that you MUST take out loans for college. You NEED college at any cost. They even told me during my masters in guidance counseling that we needed to convince low income students to get loans because they needed college at any cost. I just don’t think that’s true. Debt free is the way to go. Love ya!

      1. Yes, debt free college experience is exactly what I was thinking reading this. But I see, and have experienced, the pressure to complete college as if it were the answer to our identity. Thank you for addressing this issue of student loan debt vs. the minimalist lifestyle. You’re right, having nothing does expose our fears as much as having everything can expose one’s self-sufficiency. What’s resonated with me over the years is that I don’t need _______ to be happy, whether it’s money, stuff, a degree or a title. Just me, my family, and Jesus. Keep chipping away at those loans and trust the Lord with the rest. You are so encouraging!

        1. Author

          Thanks for commenting, Jenn. I completely agree about the pressure to complete college, both for identity and to “get a good job”. College degrees used to be essential, or at least, that was the message our whole generation received. In fact, during my guidance counseling education, they told us we needed to encourage low income students to take out student loans (they are reluctant to do so) because college degrees will benefit them so much. Thankfully, the message is changing. I definitely no longer see college as essential, and my kids will not be getting student loans (at least not co-signed by me!).

          I love your closing message. We will keep doing just that! Thanks again for the encouragement.

      2. I find this interesting for sure! Thanks for posting. Breaking through the stigma of not going to college was hard. at school, I was always told that college was everything and if you didn’t go, you’d be ruining your life. I choose a skilled trade instead and I have an amazing small business which is still costly and super challenging but I’m not building it on mounds of school debt. I’m interested in minimalist lifestyle so your post caught my eye. Thanks for this insight.

      3. College is not for everyone.Nor does everyone have what it takes to obtain one.If you are able, and academically intelligant you should do what you are gifted to do..College should be afforable and not a business to make money..But if someone wants to go, that should be there choice regardless of their economic status.

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