Living with less and 5 Kids? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
The mounds of forgotten toys, used clothing, unread books and assorted papers felt like they were choking the life out of me. Everywhere I turned, there was more stuff to sell or get rid of.
For our large family, the journey towards living with less began by getting rid of about 95% of what we owned, or really, what owned us. The mental shift of realizing that our stuff controlled much of our lives pushed us into a much simpler life.
If you'd asked me only 1 year ago what it meant to live with less, I would have imagined an impoverished family, eating sandwiches or beanie weanies out of a can for every meal, each child having one pair of dirty, smelly worn out shoes…and being miserable.
But when we'd finished our final yard sale with only a half dozen of "not too big" boxes left to donate, a huge burden seemed to be lifted from my husband's and my backs. A burden that seemed to stand in the way of our dreams of living in another country. That burden was our "living with more" lifestyle.
So how are we living with less AND doing it all with five children? We prioritize what is most important and are content with what little we DO have.
I'm very thankful that, in spite of the huge life transition, we really don't feel like we live with less most of the time. We have a roof over our heads, great internet, our computers and enough clothes and shoes to wear that I'm not washing clothes every day. Well, I do end up washing something every day, but no one's running around naked. :o)
Here are some changes we've made:
-we don't have a smart phone…just a cheap, pre-paid cell phone for local calls.
-we have a small fridge, so we buy groceries (especially milk) more often.
-we eat less processed foods and cook a LOT from scratch.
-we wash dishes by hand, even though we have a dish washer, because dishwasher soap is $8 a box!
-I usually cook just enough for one meal. Leftovers are usually only gallo pinto, a Costa Rican rice and beans dish.
-we have an uncomfortable couch, but don't feel the need to buy a comfy one.
-we rent our home, so maintenance is not up to us.
-we walk almost everywhere and don't have to worry about how much gas is today.
-we don't drown in a flood of papers because we haven't gotten mail in almost a month, except for one package.
-there's hardly any toys to clean up because we don't have very many…less than 3 per child.
-I make cookies and cakes without my KitchenAid Mixer and have them turn out just as delicious as before…and burn calories in the process!
I think two of the biggest fears some people have about "living with less" is that they'll be looked at as poor and that they won't be happy.
Frankly, we don't care what others think about us. Not to be mean, but there's freedom in knowing we only have God to answer to and we're confident He wanted us to do this. And compared to much of the world, we live like very wealthy people.
As for not being happy with less, we really don't have less. We're finding we have MORE! We spend more time exercising by walking, more time being together for fun stuff, more healthy habits, more appreciation for the amazing world we live in.
Living with less seems to be more of a mindset, but one that we found almost impossible to have where we were in Florida. It's hard to strive for a simpler life when you don't force yourself into it…at least that's our experience.
Jesus lived with very little…no permanent home, probably one outfit and pair of sandals. He told the story of the rich man who wouldn't give up his worldy possessions to follow him. (And contrary to popular teachings, we think we'd be considered equal to the "rich man" and know how HARD it is to focus on what REALLY matters when surrounded by stuff!)
Many people even look at missionaries who live with very little through pity-colored glasses. But what we need to realize is that a lot of times when we're called to serve God, He only requires us…not our stuff. There's a freedom to letting go of your belongings and living with just the basics. And the basics are usually quite a bit less than we thought!
Here are some other families who are living with less and their views on this topic:
Have you tried living with less stuff? What was the biggest hurdle you faced when trying to get to that point?