Moving (& Simplifying) with Kids: Learning to be a minimalist.

Moving and Simplifying with kids 2

I wrote back in January about how we simplified in order to go from 900 square feet to 2 bedrooms. I was loving the mantra: Less is less. I could breathe because most of our things were in storage, and what we had kept out had purpose and a place to live.

But over the course of the last 6 months, the less that we had grew – and I was growing frustrated with the increase. There were more toys, more notebooks, more bags full of treasures, and more clothes (meaning more laundry).

And if this season of all things temporary has taught me anything it is that I cannot go back to life as usual. This point in time for me personally, and for my family will be a monument to living with intention.

In order to live with renewed intention, and to battle the increase – I needed permission to change. For me, it came in the form of a key.

Moving and Simplifying with kids 1

So, I made a mind map for moving. What needs to be done and in what order. I asked myself this question:

Just to live and be responsible – what do I need?

I came up with this list:

  1. Clothes
  2. Places to sleep
  3. Food and tools for cooking
  4. Towels, toothbrushes, and other bathroom items
  5. Writing and homeschooling supplies
  6. Furniture 

After breaking our needs into these major categories, I then created steps for transitioning the category from one home to the next while simplifying, minimizing, and organizing.

Joshua Becker makes a great point about why minimalism is an on-going, regular challenge – stuff is always coming into the house. Taking things out must be an engaged and intentional process or it won’t be done, we’ll be cluttered and a slave to our stuff. (See the recommendations below for links to the articles and podcast.)

Simplifying our Clothes

I like Becker’s Practical Guide to Owning Fewer Clothes, especially the “embrace the idea of one.” For my kids, while we transition, I asked them to pick out 2 outfits for each category of activity: 2 pajamas, 2 play clothes, and 2 dress clothes. We set these clothes aside and packed the rest of their closet and dressers into suitcases.

This means not only will we be able to empty their room faster and with less mess from laundry, but it cuts down on the amount of time it takes them to dress themselves in the morning because they already know their choices.

Simplifying Sleep

Our current bedtime routine is quite cluttered with extra requests, toys on the nightstands, books we are reading and not reading, extra blankets and pillows, and stuffed animals. We have allowed it to get to this point all out of good intentions to give our kids the things they want, but the clutter has created more clamor than calm.

Again, a rule of 2 is going into place while we transition and possibly afterward to keep things continually simple.

2 stuffed animals, 2 books on the nightstand, 2 items on the bed (1 pillow and 1 blanket), and 2 minutes of tidying before climbing into bed. There’s something about the kids’ room having a completely cleared floor that makes everyone breathe easier.

Simplifying Food

Summer is a glorious time to move because eating outside is enjoyable and stress relieving – most importantly with a toddler – no crumbs to sweep. Salads for dinner are acceptable, grilling leaves the oven and stovetop clean, and nothing makes me feel better than a belly full from the garden.

To simplify our transition and not succumb to drive-thru-every-night, I have to meal plan and shop accordingly. The only thing I need is 1 sharp knife, 1 cutting board, 1 bowl, 1 platter for grilled foods (raw meats get delivered on this platter then a good hot wash before putting meat back on it to serve), and enough plates and glasses for each person to have 1.

Simplifying the Bathroom

This is similar to packing for a long trip. I take a small hang up organizer (like this one and a caddy like this one is useful for items that are regularly wet) and after I use each item, I put it in the bag. This leaves behind all the extras that I don’t use on a daily basis – those get boxed up and labeled. The hanging bag stays out and gets used wherever we go.

Towels can be limited to one/person per size. These will have to be washed every other day or so after air drying in between uses.

Simplifying Supplies for Learning

We own a lot of books. I’ve lived a year without 80% of my books and I’m OK. It was terribly distressing when I had to box them up and store them, but I knew if I truly needed a title – I could put it on hold at the library. Books are everywhere. We are so blessed to have such quick access to them everywhere we go. I have the Kindle app on my phone – “1-click” and I own a new ebook.

Deciding how many books will not get boxed up then is the hardest decision. I can’t keep out all the books I “want” to read. So I limit myself to only the ones I read daily. Same goes for the kids. For us, books are such a dearly loved part of our everyday life that they get packed up after all the other categories I’ve listed. Clothes? They just don’t hold a candle to books.

After books, I will keep out a pencil box and notebook for each of us. The rest of the arts and crafts supplies, lesson plans, office supplies, etc. will get boxed up.

Simplifying Furniture

Since we have been living on 80% of what we own, there isn’t much for us to simplify with furniture for this move. But looking to the new home, I want to be intentional to not continue to own any item that we don’t love or use.

We have lived a little over a year in 2 bedrooms, with the bulk of our belongings in storage. It would defeat the purpose of our goal to own less, live on less, and maintain less if we just set up house in a rush. Once a couch is moved in it is harder to move it back out. That is why we will be emptying our storage unit into our garage and evaluating everything before it becomes a part of our new home.

Moving and simplifying with kids 3

In this process, I am grateful for these opportunities that life hands me to learn and to teach my kids what it means to live free. To enjoy the little things in life, but not be burdened by them. To receive something new with joy, and to let go with grace.

Learning to simplify doesn’t mean that we view all things as bad and attempt to eliminate as much stuff as we can, rather we evaluate our priorities and then surround ourselves with just what we need in order to be filled with strength and purpose for each new day.

Recommendations for further learning

For more encouragement from The Home Learner, click here.

Affiliate links are used in this post and set apart by underlining. For more explanation see the Disclosure Policy.

8 thoughts on “Moving (& Simplifying) with Kids: Learning to be a minimalist.

  1. I like how you simplified the list to simplify. 🙂 I feel like I am in a constant state of de-cluttering. We’re pretty good for the most part, I’m not challenged with a small space. My challenge is that the kids are learning about money, so they have some freedom to make choices on what they would like to buy with their money, and that’s the stuff that starts to clutter. Great post, and very encouraging! And… a super super pleasure meeting you last night! Blessings to you


    • Chellie,
      Kids and money is such a huge challenge! As we pack up and purge the stuff, I am amazed at how much we have accumulated in such a short time. New stuff always throws me for a little minimalist loop because it’s important to me to give everything a “home,” but how do you find a home for every little knick-knack.

      Let me know if you figure out a method to solve this! 🙂

      I so enjoyed meeting you too! I’m savoring “Art From My Table” too.


  2. I love this post, Kara. Thank you for sharing. Darren and I committed to this process over a year ago and we’re finding that it is an ongoing challenge to keep the stuff from staying in the house. 🙂 AND it’s a process that takes time (I’d like to get a lot more out of the house). It’s amazing how kids make it even more complicated. I enjoyed your practical tips and your links. I had seen a few of them, but not all of them. Great idea to use your move as a catalyst for the change.


    • I’m glad the post helped encourage you to keep going in the same direction, Susanne. My journey with simplifying started a year and a half ago, but this time around I guess I was surprised by how unsimple life gets when I’m not doing weekly or on-going decluttering.

      I must have believed that I had done enough work – spending weeks and months on the project – felt like I had completed the job. Au contraire.

      This time around, I’m so grateful for the examples and methods of others who have added another layer of action and inspiration to the growing understanding I have of what it means to live intentionally within my life’s purpose.

      Do you have any links or resources you’d add to the list? I’d love to check them out!


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