Finding simple… when you have kids.

I am going to start this post with a bit of raw honesty. I am a hypocrite.

The last few days have been, well, interesting. Instead of skiing away New Year’s, sledding in the new snow, or celebrating with friends, we’ve been inside the house for three days straight.

The flu has been passing through the kids, and as usual I’ve taken my extra time indoors to address our household.

And so yesterday I found myself in a most disconcerting situation. Sitting cross-legged in the kid’s room staring at piles of toys and clothing and thinking, “we are what is wrong with America.

Every week we champion the importance of the outdoors and being good stewards of our world and our belongings, yet we sit in heaps of stuff all hoarded away like an angry dragon. I like posts from the Conservation Alliance and do my duty to tag our outdoor photos with #protectourwinters yet I have fallen into the trap to buying, using, and disposing of goods at will without thought to the long range effects of my consumptive habits. Most date nights, Chris and I dream about living in a tiny house, yet we’d need five of them just to house our stuff!

And so, in that way I am a hypocrite.

Living simple

We have to start living simply before we can live simple.

I am also a hypocrite because days ago I shared my “word for 2015′, claiming I never set resolutions, and yet here I am… setting a New Year’s resolution. A few of them in fact.

Making Realistic Changes

I never knew how much stuff is involved in being a parent until I was one. Kids have some magical vortex around them that sucks crap into the house, into the closets, and under the beds! I am not kidding! No matter how simple we want to live, I feel like the tide of my three kids is always dragging us out to the proverbial sea.

And so I want to be purposeful and set realistic goals for our family this year:

1. Buy used when possible. Why do we think we need new THINGS? Patagonia has an awesome campaign going called Worn Wear, championing the use of used clothing. They have also written many articles on the waste associated with the production of clothing and outdoor gear.

And while I cannot stop my kids from needing bigger jackets, better shoes, winter boots, and longer pants, I can stop them from needing new ones. There is a hole host of amazing outdoor gear and clothing found at local consignment stores, thrift stores, and swaps.

I can choose to repair that backpack instead of replacing it. I can toss a little duck tape on that organizer instead of purchasing a new one. When I go to Outdoor Retailer and see next season’s newest outdoor products, I can choose to be thankful for what I have and decide it is enough. I don’t need new. Happiness isn’t found there.

All the clothing, minus the shoes, were purchased "used", brands such as Patagonia, Columbia and REI.

All the clothing, minus the shoes, were purchased used, brands such as Patagonia, Columbia and REI.

2. Just say “no” to toys. Do I sound like Scrooge? After literally tossing an entire trash bag of toys (many purchased this last year) into the giveaway pile, I have lost any fond feeling I had for the toy aisle.

Toys we keep or purchase will fall into these categories:

1. Something to build with (Legos, blocks).

2. Something to create with (crafts).

3. Something to make-believe with (Dress up clothes).

4. Something to help you learn (books).

3. Let it go. We will choose to pass on our extras to someone who can use them, instead of harbor them for “just in case” moments. The obvious exception to this is hand-me-downs amongst our kids.

I am hoping, with a little bit of intentionality, to live more simply, want less, and need less. To live as though we really believe that stuff  won’t make us happier.

want less, rejoice more

16 comments on “Finding simple… when you have kids.
  1. Amen! It is hard to fight the consumer forces! Our daughter is two and i have said that for future Christmases (we didn’t do gifts this year) as she gets older (and a sibling!) i would love to make it all about homemade gifts and experiences rather than possessions…same for birthdays. My Canadian friends look at me like I am crazy but…I’m just scared of the vortex!! Good luck!

  2. I think this hypocrisy is common though out the outdoors industry. “Get outside and spend your time living instead of shopping! And here’s the gear to buy to get you there!!” or “Our public lands are for everybody! But you really should be rich enough to have the right stuff to enjoy them in the way we deem *proper*.” But it’s so hard to avoid the draw of buying more and more. Three years ago I went mountain biking and I laughed at how many bikers spent 20 minutes standing in the road turning on all of their tracking and recording devices before they could ride. The next year I got a GoPro for Christmas and MapMyRide for my phone and an instagram account, and suddenly, I was that person too! How did that happen??

  3. Alyssa, this is a fantastic post. Will and I talk about our footprint a lot and have gradually made steps to reduce it: we don’t use paper towels or napkins and use rags instead; we recycle and compost 90% of our waste; we use a dribble of water to wash dishes when needed, etc. But it’s never enough. Hypocritically, we’re looking at purchasing some land and building a second home in the near future, and we are both hoping to construct it so that it’s entirely off the grid. I guess awareness is the first step, right?

  4. We live in an airstream… Two 4 year olds, a husband with oodles of climbing and cycling gear, a dog, and myself. Downsizing from a 1500 sq ft house to a 30 foot airstream was insane, and beyond liberating. And yet, we still have too much “stuff”. I stalk facebook pages that have quality used kids clothes, and we don’t buy toys new.

  5. Well said Alyssa, We just spent the day cleaning out the spare bedroom, it was very cleansing and gratifying to take it all to Goodwill for someone else to use.
    Buying gently used items also saves a lot on the pocket book.

  6. You are so right. There is an AMAZING second-hand store in our area that I have dedicated my clothing budget, my kids clothing budget and my kids (limited) toy budget. We have saved so much money and haven’t fallen victim to the impulse buys that I would at Target or a similar store.

    We had done such a good job of getting rid of excess and clutter, and then Christmas happened. Oh my goodness are my children blessed. I’ve been bestowed the honor of having to sort through more stuff to get rid of. It is a real blessing, but such a distraction. We spend a lot of time in our motorhome on the road and I always kind of dread the return home. The mess. The clutter. The chores all made by having too much stuff.

    You are not alone!

  7. I am going to make my husband read this! We do buy mostly used stuff, but have multiples of everything. How many Chariots and bikes does a family of 4 need?!?! And don’t even get me started on toys. Last year, we told the relatives “no toys” and requested zoo passes, shoes, and outdoor clothing for the kids’ Christmas gifts. If any one doesn’t know what to get, they give us cash for the kids’ education fund. It’s a gift my girls will appreciate when they’re in University, I’m sure! And our present to ourselves this year was season’s passes to 2 local ski hills… kinda greedy but better than stuff cluttering up the house!

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