Learning to Be a Minimalist...

Updated on March 17, 2015
R.S. asks from Chicago, IL
15 answers

Hi there,

We moved overseas a few years ago when our daughter was just over a year old. Fast forward four years, and we now have three kids. Where we live now certainly has plenty of whatever we need, materially, but it's not the US....there just isn't as much choice, things are often more expensive and of lesser quality. While there are some bigger chains like IKEA and Ace, there are no stores like TJ Maxx, Target, Michael's, or Trader Joe's...but much, much smaller versions. On the one hand, this has been extremely frustrating for me. That is, having to adjust to a life that is overall less materialistic, learning to buy new items and not the things I had been so used to in the US, whether it's a specific brand of food or clothing, or toiletries. On the other hand, it has been a real eye opener in terms of prioritising wants vs needs, learning to value what we do have, that less is more...and not exposing my kids to as much consumerism. Having said all that, I have been finding myself doing an awful lot of online shopping to compensate for what I perceive I am lacking. When family and friends visit, I go crazy ordering from Old Navy, Amazon, etc, and the truth is, we don't need any of it. Much of what I am describing (missing certain stores, etc) is simply part of the normal, natural process of acculturation, but I guess I would just appreciate hearing from other moms of little ones who live in the US ....just how much do you shop in general...for clothes and toys for your kids, or other things...maybe I am not missing out as much as I think...

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answers from Washington DC on

clothing and toys for my kids when they were small were 'minimal' because we flat didn't have money. i never had the option to go crazy at old navy or amazon (or their archaic equivalents).
i guess it just doesn't compute for me.

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answers from Phoenix on

I just posted a question about this. I literally woke up a few weeks ago and was sick of everything. I went from almost 600 friends on facebook to 200. I have taken out everything from my kitchen cupboards and got rid of all the duplicates and everything I don't use. I have already downsized my sons room and will do my daughters starting tomorrow while she's on break. I have gotten rid of a 50 gallon huge bin of "clutter" that I just went around the first floor and got rid of all my knick knacks that don't really mean anything to me. Then I will still have the 3 car garage I'm going to do before the hell hot summer gets here and then finish the rest of the house while it's hot outside and Im stuck inside.

I'm also changing my attitude on so many things. When I go shopping now and find something, I ask myself if I really love it, will use it and know that I will get rid of something else if I take it home. I am not only "living simply" but I have always been a "frugal shopper" and buy everything on sale. But now I'm learning that just because it's a GREAT deal does NOT mean I have to have it. My kids now are understanding this too. I want them to APPRECIATE everything we have and not just have everything handed over to them. I also don't feel like I have to keep up with the Jones'. Although I have a 6 bedroom house, it's nothing fancy, we have 2 cars that are more than 10 years old but they run well and get us where we are going. I have changed my focus on what is REALLY important in my life and that is God, my family and friends. Those are the things I am focusing on. This doesn't really answer your question probably but just want to encourage you. If you are on pintrest, search "living simply" and "minimalist living" and see all the things that come up. Living this way really does make such a positive difference. Good luck.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I don't like "stuff" so I don't shop much. I can't stand clutter, either. I guess I am a minimalist of sorts. My boys have always had what they needed, and never complained about wanting more, but they did seem to have less stuff than their friends.

Now that they are older, 11 and 17, they are also minimalistic. They have enough clothes each season to get through a week without washing, but not much more than that. They each like to clean out their rooms periodically to donate unused things to charity, and neither of them has much (other than my youngest son's legos). Closets aren't crowded, and rooms are neat and not full of stuff.

As for me, I do like clothes, but don't have the money to overindulge. I don't buy much else. I don't want things on tables or too much furniture in rooms. My husband likes it that way, too.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Not so much a minimalist, but I dislike wastefulness. I once stocked up on deals at Old Navy only to find there were tops at end of season that never got worn ... that to me is wasteful. So we buy less, but what we actually want/need, and I wash it often. Even summer camp - I send less than a week's worth of clothes because they wear the same thing over and over again ... as do I.

Even when I worked, I had mix and match outfits. I like nice things, get on sale, but they go out of style so quickly, I'd rather make do with less, and update only when I need to.

We also do not have the cash. If we do, it goes in a fund for a trip.

Food is another place we've cut back on ... I dislike throwing food out that's gone bad. So I came up with a menu plan for the week more or less and make sure I use up what we have (like produce, etc.).

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Where are you? When I lived in Europe (it was in the 90s) there were consignment shops and local places to purchase and trade things.

I've been working on my shopping habits. If you are buying to fill some "need" to make you happy? See a doctor for depression. If you are buying because you NEED something? Then buy what you need.

Use ebay - it's worldwide. Get rid of the stuff you aren't using.


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answers from San Francisco on

It's not good for your kids to have too much stuff. So I don't think you have to worry about that. My kids had an average amount of toys, not as many clothes. I bought clothes for them about twice a year as they needed them. Now that I'm out of the "nesting" phase of life since my kids are all out of the house, I couldn't care less about possessions.

Less is definitely more in terms of possessions. You don't say where you live, but I would think you would have learned to appreciate the personal development that comes from living abroad by now. It's definitely good for the education of your children to experience other cultures.

If Ikea, TJ Maxx and Target are what you're longing for, you're not missing much. Now Trader Joe's, on the other hand...life would be hard without Trader Joe's. ;)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

I think you are homesick. If buying western things from western websites is not ruining you financially, than what's the harm in it?

Will you be in Israel indefinitely?

I don't think you're "missing out" as much as looking for familiar things for comfort. I see nothing wrong with that.

Give yourself a break, okay?


3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I happen to think of shopping as a chore, not a pastime. We have one boy, he is 4. He isn't particularly greedy/ materialistic. He's got about 20 t shirts, 10 long sleeved t shirts, 10 shorts, 10 pants/ jeans/ fleece, 5 vests, 5 sweaters, 2 puffy coats, 15 underpants, 20+ pairs of socks. 7 pairs of jammies. 4 swim trunks.

He's got a scooter, a bike, had a trike, a bucket swing, a swing. He's got ice skates, two helmets. a bunch of cars, legos, wood blocks, a kindle, loads of books stuffies, and some fireman stuff. For all the toys he's got (and it is more than many, but not as much as some), he is more excited about building a spaceship out of a cardboard box, wearing a cape and pretending to be a superhero, or washing veg and baking.

These numbers work well for us as our wash cycle tends to be every 10 days or so.

You will work out what is important to have, how you wish to spend your money, and what most reminds you of home.

F. B.

When I was abroad, what I was after was entenman's chocolate covered donuts. Not sure if that is just a NY product, or available throughout the states. It was a taste of home that I was after.

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answers from Washington DC on

We don't shop often. We shop when we need to. Going to buy something just because it sounds fun isn't an option for us. The kids get clothes when they need them (on occasion because we find something cute) and shoes are the same way. Toys are generally for holidays and birthdays, but occasionally they can use their own savings to buy themselves something.

There are certain things I couldn't do without though. We lived overseas for 3 years growing up and I remember coming back to the states mainly because of carrots! They were illegal in Bermuda so they weren't sold and we were unable to bring them in ourselves. Also Burger King was a huge treat...they only had McDonald's and KFC on the island.

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answers from Norfolk on

Some people eat for comfort - when ever they are upset they tend to graze.
It sounds like instead of eating for comfort - you shop.
The act of acquisition gives you a temporary good feeling - but at least you acknowledge that you don't actually NEED the stuff.
When you feel the urge to buy something you don't need try going for a walk and really thinking about it.
When our son was young I went into a kind of buying frenzy.
It took awhile to get over it but now I only buy something when I need it - and I rarely need anything.
Usually it's only when something breaks and I need to replace it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

I'm not sure where you're living but I have to say when I spend time in "the country" I miss just seeing lots of shops. So I wonder if that's part of it. I rarely buy anything at these shops... It's just seeing them that I enjoy. It's like eye candy I guess. Maybe you're experiencing that? Otherwise, I don't shop much bc I don't have time. Working, kids and socializing have replaced leisurely shopping. So much of what I do is online too. And I pretty much buy what we really need. It's not financially driven but I dislike clutter and wasting money and don't want to spoil our kids. So they get new clothes when they really need them. Same for me. When I'm wearing the same few pants to work all the time I get new ones. When the sweaters I'm wearing to work start to look really worn I get new ones online. My kids do have a lot of American Girl doll stuff. That's an indulgence but they love them. You can get that online though. We shop in person for their shoes... So I don't think you're missing a lot but I really can see mentally needing that space to kind of be filled. When I get back to a town with a cute downtown and lots of stores and restaurants, I feel a sense of relief.

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answers from Seattle on

I never shop. I mean, I buy a few things when I have to, but overall I never go shopping. First off, we don't need anything, and secondly I have very little time to shop. I think I have been clothes shopping maybe once this year and once last. I probably go ever 6 months to get a few things. When the kids start outgrowing things I find a deal online and stock up for the next 6 months. I used to LOVE shopping when I was a teenager. It's funny how things change.

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answers from San Antonio on

Generally speaking I despise clutter and shopping. We have nice things, but I have definitely developed a sense of quality vs quantity over the years. Partially because when I was younger my family was extremely poor. My mom learned early on to invest in two pairs of high quality jeans that would last one or two winters, rather than 5 pairs that would fray or have tears after a month. This lesson has served me well. I also am a person who hates to spend money on myself. I would much rather spend money on my children or an experience or adventure than on shoes for me.

With all this said, my husband and I do probably buy more for our kids than they really need. I will be honest, my husband calls my daughter my personal Barbie doll, but, in my defense, girls clothes are soooooo cute!

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answers from Williamsport on

I barely shop. But we have way too much stuff. Somehow between hand-me-downs and gifts, the kids always have too many clothes. I am always trying to purge. I sometimes splurge to buy myself expensive items, but only if I need the item to fill a wardrobe gap. Part of justification for price has to be timelessness and quality so I can buy LESS in general. I often use ebay to get pricier stuff at affordable prices and to avoid consuming newly manufactured items. I recently bought a pair of $500 over the knee Frye boots for $135 and the style is sold every year since 2010 and will be classic for years to come and I will wear them frequently as they have flat soles. I have one dresser and one tiny closet both half full for all of my clothes.

Our house is too full of stuff because it's a big old house and I'm a single mom and got overwhelmed with so many gift boxes coming in mail every holiday and birthday for three kids while living here for 9 years...my ex and I never fully got rid of things from old separate apartments and stuffed them into basement and an outside room. I'm in the middle of a Japanese decluttering book to remove all the excess from my life.

I actually MISS living overseas a long time ago where everyone had less and shopping was a thing only done when necessary. I HATE our ENORMOUS grocery stores with ten trillion brands of every item. And all the unhealthy groceries here. And I never shop for pleasure at the stores you list because shopping makes me feel guilty. Once I step inside a brightly lit huge box store full of newly manufactured cheap clothes from third world countries.....I literally get a stomach ache.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Since having three kids, I don't much go out to shop. I love amazon.com and buy things when I realize I need them. When I shop isles I buy things I didn't even know I needed. So for me, on-line shopping has really helped me stick to needs. I can see where you could use it to buy more than you needed though. It will be good for your kids. I get that shopping fix though. I think we all have some of that in us.

1 mom found this helpful
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