Being a Minimalist when you have kids isn’t really all that hard, or at least I should say when you have “a” kid because I just have one so I can only speak from my own experience. But I’m pretty sure the same principles are going to apply no matter how many offspring you’ve produced.
R has passed the 6-month mark and so I’ve had a little time to figure out our family’s Minimalist style, which almost goes without saying will be different for everyone. The thing about Minimalism is that it's truly across the board with no clear parameters, so while one person owns only what can fit into a backpack, another person has an apartment full of things but has still downsized enormously.
I fall somewhere in between the “spark joy” philosophy and pure functionality. Not everything a human needs is going to spark joy (toilet paper? diapers??), and a lot of things that spark joy don’t do anything functionally. While these two things are opposites, together they create a really good framework when figuring out what goes, what stays, and what comes in.
But when it comes to curating things for R other than clothing, I also use an idea that is attributed to Magda Gerber, and that is when choosing “play objects”, to ask who is doing the thinking, the toy or the child? This question is almost magical in its simplicity and wisdom. Couple this with quality, spark joy and functionality, and it’s a complete system.
I’ll get down to the details. I’m not going into clothing here because that has a lot to do with personal taste and what season it is, and there is already so much online about that topic anyhow. Instead, I'm going to focus on all of the "stuff" that a baby requires, or at least what I've found my baby requires.
All the play-objects:
Teether necklace I wear
Keys teether (stays in the car)
Plastic hedgehog teether/rattle (she’s obsessed with this guy)
Chunky wooden blocks
2 small crocheted baskets
Tiny wooden wagon
2 wooden thread spools
2 mini bread tins
Empty box of wipes and a few silk handkerchiefs stuffed inside
2 jars with colored beads inside
Wooden book holder
Wooden box with a latch
Homemade wooden baby gym
A lot of these things just make special appearances, but for the most part stay behind the scenes in a toy library (That’s what Kim John Payne calls it in Simplicity Parenting). The objects R interacts with on a daily basis are few: her monkey, Sophie the giraffe, the key teether when she’s in the car, a few of her books, the hedgehog dude, her blocks, and the bigger glass jar with colored beads inside, but never all of these things at once. I like her to have one thing at a time, maybe two at the most so that she can really explore and go deep.
Observation is a big part of all this because I never want her to get bored out of her mind or super frustrated. A little of both is fine and even necessary for her development, but I don’t want it to cross a line. So I watch her and when it gets to a certain point I’ll switch things out or take her outside for a break or cuddle her for a nap. She’s actually on the verge of crawling, so she already has so much learning and stimulation happening already that I don’t think she needs much more stress.
Another reason that I believe minimal is best for babies is because they really need to be playing with and exploring themselves instead, and having a bunch of objects around just distracts from that. Because of this, I'm not of the mindset that babies need a whole lot of extras.
There's so much that can seem like a necessity as a new mom, but very few things actually are. Even items like strollers, cribs, playpens, and baby bouncers, can (and should) be passed over. Babies do much better when the middle men are cut out, and they can snuggle right up to their parents.
All the extras beyond playthings:
Plastic dish tub (the most amazing hack for a safe and fun baby bathtub)
Oogiebear (booger remover)
Hooded bath towel
Handmade quilt from R’s aunt
Handmade crochet blanket from R’s gran
Small quilt we keep in the car
Bedside sleeper that Chris made that fits a crib mattress
2 carriers: an Ergo and a Baby Bjorn
We’re also about to build a short shelf to store some of R’s play objects on, and I’ve been meaning to buy a long mirror to set up near the floor that she can watch herself in. And I just scored a cute, chunky Pottery Barn step stool at a thrift store for .99 cents (!!!!) that I’ll put out for her when she starts pulling herself up more.
And that’s that for now, but keep in mind this is for a baby around 6 months old, because what we have now will look a little differently around a year. Because of this, I’m going to do a post every six months with an update of what our version of Minimalism with a baby looks like.
(If you want more direction on how to do Minimalism with a family, check out the awesome book Minimalism for Families by Zoe Kim)
I’m really interested in what you would add or subtract to this list. Let me know in the comments what minimalism with a baby looks like for you :)