Originally Posted by FreeRangeMama
Anyone else striving for minimalism with a bigger family? It seems like most have two or less children on the simple living thread! We have 4 kids and I find that to be a whole different ballgame.
Just wondering if anyone wanted to start a Big Family Simple Living thread? Or maybe I am the only one crazy enough to think this idea can work
We are pretty minimalist compared to most people we know, especially when it comes to kids' stuff. Over time I really worked hard to figure out which toys get played with and which things can be let go of. I was stunned to see our toy collection shrink so much once I started doing this.
From the start, all of our toys are common to the family. No personal ownership of toys, with this exception: Each kid has a storage box - we just switched to smallish
underbed boxes - where they can put things they want to keep, permanently or temporarily, for "theirs." Even birthday presents become common property after a day unless they are put in the box. The stuff can't overflow the box. But the boxes can't be used for hoarding things or preventing someone else's turn. If someone is in the middle of a turn with something you think should be in your box, they get to finish their turn before you start yours. This has worked well for us. It has fostered cooperation and sharing, and no need to duplicate toys, except to the extent that four might want to be playing together with something.
Of course, when the age split was such that some toys were unsafe for littles, they had to be in the big kids' boxes or specially stored by me, but we don't have a lot of that sort of thing. For awhile we had one of those four-sided Supergates and the chokable toys lived in there. As an alternative to caging the baby...we caged the unsafe toys.
As far as other household stuff goes, I got a tip here that I love: Each kid has one unique mug or cup that hangs in the kitchen. All day long they use the same cup. We mostly drink water, but if we have something else to drink they just rinse it out and hang it up. No pileup of dirty cups in the sink, no confusion over whose cup is whose, no constant all-day cup washing. Some people do this with plates, too.
My boys didn't have their own room until they were 7 and 8. The girls are still in our room. The bedrooms are for sleeping and clothes storage, and the boys have a few things in their room, but not much. I think the key there is matching storage plans to stuff, and not letting stuff overflow storage.
I think the best advice I can offer is to think things through carefully based on how they are actually used, keep just the minimum to meet the need, and make your space and stuff fit what you actually do with it. Everything else is extra and can be eliminated. And also build routines around keeping things tidy and easy to clean up.
For example, I used to think it was important to have lots of different kinds of toys (aghhh!) and keep them sorted into separate baskets (double aaaaghhh!) One of my kids' favorite "toys" is a collection of Playmobil and other little guys and things that they like to make "setups" with. It's all jumbled in one big drawer, out of sight. There was a time when I wanted the Playmobil in one basket, horses in another, etc. That was crazymaking. They get used all together, and they are much easier to clean up fast if stored that way. We periodically sort through the jumble and make a discard pile of the things that are broken or unloved/unused. Sometimes I do it myself, sometimes with kids.
From the time my kids were little, we have played a game called "Keep or Toss?" where I help them speed through sorting a pile of stuff... I think starting when they are young and making it fun has helped them not resist it. But none of mine are born hoarders, which is a great blessing (I know some kids who are.)
When the living room is a mess and no one wants to help clean up, it's a clue to me that we have too much stuff/toys (and I voice this as often as necessary, LOL). On a couple of occasions, I put EVERYTHING in the garage (like a holding tank), minus ONE toy or category of toys chosen by each child. Over the next few weeks, a few critical things got brought back into play, but not much. It became clear what was used/wanted and what wasn't, and I felt fine getting rid of the stuff that wasn't. Starting from nothing and adding things back in worked way better than facing the kids with the mountain of stuff and asking them to subtract. I guess that is not specific to large families, but I do think the resistance factor is compounded with multiple kids. I think in most cases I realized that *I* was attached to having certain toys, not my kids, and my kids were fine with downsizing them.
Also I limit clothes - I sort through handmedowns and do a seasonal change of clothes twice a year, fall and spring. And I will tell them, pick six shirts from this pile of shirts that fits you... The numbers vary based on what is needed and what is manageable.
I think I also already posted about my sock baskets. We do plain white cotton socks - Hanes even color-codes the logo on the toe based on size, which is brilliant, and it's why I buy their socks. I used to color-code them with a marker before they offered that. Each sock size has a basket. Right now I have three baskets - two kids wear the middle size. In the past I had two baskets, big and little. We just toss the clean socks in the right basket. We also have special wool socks for winter that are color-coded as well...smalls are red, mediums are blue, etc. DH and I also have distinctive socks, all one kind for each of us. We never have trouble finding pairs and we never have to discard unmatched socks.
I don't fold certain types of laundry - washcloths get jumbled in a basket or a drawer (white cloths for kitchen, colored for bathroom). Kids clothes never get folded, just dropped into drawers. All four kids have the same small set of drawers - bottom drawer is pants/shorts, next one up is shirts, next one up is jammies, top is underwear/tights. So any kid can put any other kid's laundry away.
I am a big fan of having basic systems to keep things simple. I have color-coded bins in the laundry room for darks, lights, delicates, linens, and "yuckies" (was diapers but now is things like family cloth). My kids know the system and can sort dirty laundry into the proper bins. One binful is about one load in my big washer, so when a bin gets full, a wash has to be done. The bins also have wash instructions written right on them. My 11yo does all the regular laundry and has since he was 8 (I do the delicates and yuckies).
Sorry this post is so long, but I have so many ideas. I posted about my spot system here before, too, for laundry. I can't take credit for it, but it is brilliant. Oldest kid's clothes get one Sharpie spot on the tag, second kid's get two, third kid's get three, etc. When you hand something down, add a spot. My kids could sort and put away laundry at age three with this system (and DH, too, LOL).
Also, it really helps us to have trash and recycling containers in every area where those things are generated - kitchen, bathroom, office, boys' room, craft/homeschooling area, laundry room. Stuff is more likely to get tossed promptly (instead of left lying around) if there is an appropriate receptacle. Of course, food only gets eaten in the kitchen or dining room, at a table...or so the rule goes. After years of that rule they still can't follow it 100%, but we try.
And it helps us to have a shoes-off house...helps keep the floor clean - shoe shelf and boot basket in the entryway, basket of slippers right there as well, and the sock baskets are also in the entryway (because that is where they are used).
Anyway, sorry if this is a bit disjointed, but I wanted to contribute! Maybe I will think of other things to add, or maybe I will learn new things from all of you.