minimalist family guest - Alison

Today's guest is one of my serious mom crushes and minimalist heroes, Alison from 600 Sq Ft and a Baby.  She has two kids in 600 square feet (!!) and you can follow her here.

Alison's lovely family, minus baby Mae who came later :)

1. What does minimalism mean for your family? 

For us, minimalism has been a gradual journey that I hope we always continue. Initially our efforts to have less things stemmed from not having enough space. Our choice to live small dictated a more minimalist lifestyle.  But by living small for so long we have realized that "things" don't really make us happy. In fact too many "things" can be overwhelming and cause stress. Having less things is actually quite freeing. And though I used to shy away from the term minimalist, it is hard to deny that we lean that way and benefit from a more minimalist lifestyle.

And if you knew me in my twenties you would find this quite funny because my favourite thing to do would be to spend an entire day shopping!  I looooved shopping, finding a deal or hunting down that perfect item. I still love the thrill of a good chase but I've realized the shopping high wears off and you are just left with "stuff".  Now I find much more joy in the one perfect pair of boots I wear everyday.  Or the t-shirt that fits just right and can withstand so many washes that I wear it at least once a week.  There's also the joy in simplicity. Choosing my daily clothes from a handful of items because as a mom I hardly have time to shower let alone try on three outfits.

It's funny... the things we hold onto because we think we need it or might use it one day, or loved it once upon a time. Because we purge/edit our house about once a month we have become acutely aware of the things we bring into our home that quickly leave. We have realized how wasteful we can be and it is a great deterrent to fast, thoughtless consumerism. We have very much adopted a "quality over quantity policy" for most of our belongings ( though this concept is always a work in progress!).  Sometimes we can't buy quality the moment we want to, so often we will wait and do without until we can afford the right quality item. 

Before we buy anything (except groceries) we ask ourselves...

Do I really need this?
Do I have something like it already?
Could I wait and do without it for awhile?
Is it beautiful and useful?
Could I borrow or rent it instead?

In return for this more thoughtful way of consuming goods we have gained so much.  We are able to stay in our small space and have a walkable city lifestyle. We get outside a lot and experience our city.  I find we are also more connected with our community as we are often out in it rather than just staying in our home.  I've also started realizing that living small and more minimally is more environmentally sustainable but that is for a whole other conversation.

2. How has minimalism influenced your family's culture (i.e. how you parent)?

Theo is 3.5 years old and Mae is almost 7 months so we are still carving out our parenting style and adapting to two kids.  With Theo we talk a lot about what toys he plays with and which ones he doesn't.  We often ask him if there are any toys he hasn't been using that he would like to give to another boy or girl. When we donate toys or things, we walk there together.

We also spend more time doing activities with him like going for a walk or to the park.  And we try not to reward him with toys or presents and instead reward him with activities or time together. For example, if he's been behaving well we will go for a bike ride, or play with the soccer ball at the park, or go to the Aquarium rather than buy him a new toy. It's too early to tell but we hope that we will instill in him the value of having experiences and relationships over things.

The act of borrowing and lending has become very integral to our minimalist family.  Due to our limited space and our intention to live more minimally, we lend out many of our baby/kid things to friends.  This unexpectedly has come back around, where friends lend us their items when we need them. We are loving this idea of sharing kids items among friends as most of our city dwelling friends lack space as well. Moreover it feels so wasteful to use some baby gear and toys for such a short period of time. For us, the more wear, use and love a key baby/toddler item can get, the better.  Because some of Theo's toys or Mae's items are borrowed we spend time explaining to Theo about sharing and treating others' things carefully and respectfully.

4. What's the hardest part about living minimally for your family? 

It's so easy to compare yourself or your family to other families and I am not immune to feeling guilty at times about our minimalist choices.  If we visit friends who have a big playroom with tons of toys or a big backyard with a bouncy castle and sandbox etc. I will sometimes worry that in some way we are depriving our kids.

5. What's the easiest/best part about your minimalist lifestyle?

The best part is all the adventures we have been on as a family of 3 and hope to go on as a family of four.  By focusing less on buying things, we are able to save up for weekend trips away and bigger trips abroad. 


  1. Loving this series so far Em!
    I was raised so far from a minimalist lifestyle, my parents have a big house full of antiques and collections, and to me, it is too much! Andrew and I strive for a simple, more minimalist lifestyle. It's fun to read and see how other families do it.

  2. Love the idea of rewarding with activities instead of things!