The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

Parental Purging: Less is More Living for Families

minimalist mama shoestring christine koh

As an eco-gal, design proponent of clean and simple lines, and mom trying to teach her daughter that things don’t grow on trees, I obsess over “less is more” living. Any parent knows that streamlining can be particularly challenging when you have kids, and although we only have one child, she is a prolific artist (read: piles of “masterpieces”), has really generous friends and relatives (read: hand-me-downs and gifts galore), and receives lots of sample products to test for her mom’s work.

If you’re similarly eager to purge clutter, consider these strategies:

If you have items of good value (i.e., worthy of the hassle of dealing with emails and scheduling individual appointments), I’m all about reselling. I even have a special jar where I deposit the funds, which then feel like free money when it’s time to buy something else. While ebay and Craigslist are common options, I’m really happy to offer and use Hand Me Downs through my blog, Boston Mamas. essentially functions like Craigslist, but with a much prettier interface and a much more focused approach, listing only items for parents and kids.

If you don’t have the patience to list items individually but want to resell clothing and toys in bulk, try consignment. In the Boston area, there are several stores that consign maternity and kids clothing, toys, and gear, or try searching online for consignment shops near you. The other bonus of consignment shops is that when you drop off your wares you’ll have a whole array of bargains handy to help re-outfit your fast-growing child.

In my opinion, yard sales mean work, but if you are willing to make signs, post online, haul your goods outside, and sit outside, by all means, go for it! My philosophy on yard sales is to do whatever it takes up front to cut down on what needs to be hauled back inside at the end. So, make your prices enticing, have a range of items to increase your draw, and be willing to haggle. I also recommend making it a fun, family activity by enjoying snacks outside and engaging your child in the sale. Let kids help arrange items, operate their toy cash register, or decorate the driveway with sidewalk chalk. Another way to get more bang for your buck is to coordinate a street-wide yard sale with neighbors.

Another great option for purging materials is through online swap meets, which I previously covered for Shoestring. I’ve used several times, in particular. The nice thing about these services is that you can set up your “want” and “have” lists, and the swapping or bartering site creates the swap for you through matches. Sometimes these are more complex three-way trades based on their search algorithms, creating matches that wouldn’t be possible with one-to-one reselling or swapping. (Well, at least without a whole lot of hassle.)

Thanks to my generous and organized sister-in-law, we’ve gotten tons of hand-me-down clothing for my daughter, and we try to pay it forward by recycling with other parent friends now on their second and third children. Our friends have been especially grateful to take on more pricey used items, such as high-quality snowsuits and boots. And, to be perfectly honest, we’re not sure whether or not we’ll have another child, so it makes us happy knowing the items are actually getting used and our friends are saving money versus sitting in our basement “just in case.”

In cases where we simply want to give away excess items (of both the grownup and child variety), we donate to clothing drop boxes and recently discovered the wonderful option of donating books to our local library. The library sells these donations in their shop, and the proceeds benefit the library and its services, which we frequent and frequently use.

One final area that warrants mention is art projects. Our daughter creates an immense amount of artwork and one of my favorite, heartstring-tugging ways to purge some of that material is to gift it to relatives (e.g., assemble a book of drawings and paintings) or repurpose it (e.g., use artwork as the backdrop for invitations or greeting cards).

It can be challenging to motivate to purge, but, once you start clearing out your corners and closets, you’ll no doubt feel immense peace of mind. And after all of that hard work, I’d say you deserve to use a bit of the cash from your money jar for a pair of pretty shoes for yourself. Secondhand, of course.

Story and image Copyright 2009, Shoestring LLC & Christine Koh /