A Tour of Our Minimalist Toddler-Friendly Home
My partner and I have been chipping away at our belongings (and square footage) for a few years now. When our son joined our family, it became even more important to create a space where we could feel calm and clear-headed. Clutter creates stress creates more clutter. It's a dangerous cycle that I, myself, had been caught in my entire life, and making the decision to live with intention has given me the mental freedom that eluded me for so long. We now only buy items that we really need or that truly spark joy (a la Marie Kondo). Here are a few reasons why we've chosen this path:
Minimalism enables us to live distraction-free. We've been able to stop piling random objects into our home and instead focus on what we truly want out of life: Connection, relationship, living in harmony with nature, living our purpose instead of working non-stop to support a lifestyle that does not bring us joy.
We don't want to spend all of our time cleaning. Less things = Less things to pick up after our toddler throws them all over the place.
We don't want to derive happiness from material objects, nor do we want to raise our son in this way. Birthdays and holidays are spent together, enjoying each other's company. Material gifts will never be the focal point and we tend to keep them to a minimum (if at all). Other gift ideas: a mini-vacation, a visit to a state or national park, and other "experiences".
For financial reasons. Living minimally enables us to get by on one income, so that I can stay home and be with our son. I would honestly sell all of my belongings before giving this up -- it is too important. Most of our money goes toward rent, bills and buying high quality, locally-grown food.
To support Elan's mental, emotional and physical development. Allen Schore discovered that the mother of the 11-17 month old toddler expresses a prohibition ("No!" or "Don't!") on the average of every nine minutes. This is as much our son's home as it is ours and we keep it "Elan-friendly" so that we don't have to constantly shut down his natural desire for exploration. In this way, all of our needs are met.
"In human development, the early toddler stage is the fountainhead of cultural renewal. At stake is the activation and development of the child's sensory system and knowledge of the world, and the equally important building of his emotional-cognitive system's knowledge of what relationships with the world are like." This is a time when there needs to be more "yes" and less "no".
The Living Room
We have a floor couch for the time being because we're in a 6-month lease and didn't want the hassle of buying and moving a couch. It is wonderful! Elan can roll on and off as he pleases, and it makes for a very comfortable guest bed. Oh, and we covered it with a twin duvet cover for easy washing. (Pillows by my lovely friend Helga at Brunna.co!)
Where our TV would've gone, we hung our "Tree of Life" print. There's a basket on the shelf with Elan's books, and we keep our adult books to the left of that. All of Elan's "toys" belong in the basket on the floor. They're mostly random odds and ends -- Blocks, coasters, spoons, rocks, wool dryer balls. It's nice to be able to just toss everything in a basket when cleaning. We also keep his potty in the living room for using throughout the day.
Our Family Bed! We recently upgraded to a king mattress and we keep it on the floor for safety reasons. Elan sleeps in the middle of us and I nurse him 2-4 times throughout the night (more if he's teething or going through a developmental transition). We each get pretty good rest and I am so grateful for the closeness that we share every night.
Elan loves to cook with me. We gave him his own little cabinet where he can bring "ingredients" to stir in the pots. Sometimes a sock, or a shoe, or anything he wants to cook up that day! This is his primary "toy" collection and I just grab pots as I need them.
Our kitchen table is very bare these days because Elan recently learned how to climb on top of it. We let him do this because we really have no reason to say no and he is too young to understand. It isn't life or death and he enjoys using his body to climb to higher spots. Sometimes he'll stand in a chair by the counter while I wash dishes.
Not only is a safe space beneficial for your children, it will also keep you sane. Since Elan's birth, we've lived in 4 different homes. One of those was my mom's house, where we stayed for a month or two. E was one year old at the time and just starting to walk, so he was getting into everything. My mom's house is full of various decorations and things, and I had to constantly monitor his movements to make sure that he didn't break something. It was horrible. Now, back in our own space, I've been able to relax and give E more freedom. Win, win.
For more on how simple living can benefit your family, check out Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.