Minimalism and Parenting Children With Special Needs

Hannah ergo 4yo(picture: She pretty much lived in the Ergo – it provided sensory input that she craved, and kept her from getting into things or running)
Having a toddler on the spectrum made me change our home to be efficient, minimal, and child proof in ways that most people never think of. Children with special needs often have sensory processing issues too, which means what looks a little messy to you looks like complete paralyzing chaos to them. Toning down the toys, clutter, and decorations can help children with special needs feel more at home in their own homes. They also often have impassivity issues typically reserved for the under-3-feet-tall set, well into the ages where physically they can reach more, climb more, and no longer nap!

When you’re maxed out parenting a child with challenges, it’s helpful to take a day or 5 and clear all the clutter to streamline your life. When we started GAPS I readily traded my sewing and knitting hobbies for new cooking and sourcing natural food hobbies.


It’s worth it to take a deep breath, realize that the craft store will always have more yarn, fabric, and scrapbooking material, and hold a yard sale or donate the majority of your supplies. Keeping a few basic tools like a sewing machine, rotary cutter and mat, scrapbooking scissors, etc, are small and easy enough to store in a box, but the fabric, paper, and other consumables will make your life much simpler if they’re not in multiple storage containers in the attic to get knocked over as you get the Christmas decorations.

For keeping up with the kids’ crafts, see this post by Nourishing Minimalism.


Going through your kitchen equipment and making a list of things that you want to replace with a better model (pots, pans, vegetable peeler, knives) and then tossing any duplicates as you replace them. I had ‘backups’ of plastic serving spoons and spatulas, serving platters, even my old nonstick pans that were never used, but made my dishes take twice as long to put away out of the dishwasher every morning. When you’re cooking a lot as a lot of us do who are doing special diets for our children, it might seem like more is better, but more items just get in the way more often and you will still reach for the same 10 kitchen tools over and over.


While my daughter was young and very easily overwhelmed with visual clutter, I kept toys in the living room and completely out of the bedroom. She had a blankie and a very minimally decorated bedroom with just the kids’ beds in it. Even the dressers stayed in my room (that doubled to make it super easy to put away all the laundry- all the dressers were in the master bedroom and that’s where we folded laundry).

When children are overwhelmed, or just when they’re having trouble sleeping or need some time to cool off, a bedroom without distractions (or anything to take off the wall) prevents the chaos from escalating.

A smaller house

Having less means you can get by with a smaller house, which is helpful when you need to keep an eye and an ear out for a child that gets into everything. If the kids share a room (mine do, even though they could have their own rooms now) there are many opportunities for practicing getting along.  The whole family is more encouraged to get outside too, which is recommended by both Dr. Natasha for fresh air, and every occupational and physical therapist I’ve talked to for building muscle tone, increasing body awareness, and limiting the distractions that are abundant inside.


Does this sound like something you’d enjoy? Check out these new books on how to get a clean and organized home in 30-90 days by my friend Rachel here!


Look for more posts this month on how and why to own less:

  • I’m not a Minimalist, I just Don’t Like STUFF
  • Special Needs Children and the Benefits of Owning Less STUFF
  • Doing more, owning less
  • Choosing ‘buy it once’
  • Appreciate habits
  • Why telling people about your goal may make you 30% less likely to achieve it
  • Teaching our children the value of not owning things
  • How to keep things off the floor when you have children

And more on children with special needs:


I’m Not a Minimalist, I Just Don’t Like Stuff

Minimalism - Health Home and Happiness Style

Why less stuff will give you more joy, and why you don’t need to completely subscribe to the minimalist philosophy to reap this joy

They say that struggles are what make a person interesting. I’m not sure about that, but I have received clarity in my life from many of the associated struggles.

Struggle has made me rock-solid sure that people are more important than things.

Every time.

Growing up I was the crafty child that saved the green transparent plastic scoop that came with my mom’s laundry detergent, every scrap from every art or craft project, and hundreds of mementos from trips, movies, and school activities were scrapbooked with care into my paper scrapbook, never to be looked at again.
Fast forward to my early 30s, and looking into my empty drawer in my nightstand, dresser with 5 colors of the same shirt, and the under-the-stairs-storage area that only has my vacuum, mop, dust wand, and broom in it, many people would assume I’m a minimalist.

What is a minimalist?

A minimalist is someone who intentionally owns less. They enjoy the sparse look, enjoy using one thing for multiple purposes, and identify themselves by what they don’t own, or how little they do own.

That’s not really me.

I enjoy reading minimalist blogs for ideas of how to make do with less, but it’s not something I happened on intentionally. Rather, my early years of struggle both by having a child with special needs and having significant financial issues when my children were little resulted in me learning that my life flows a lot more smoothly when I own less.

gg bridge

I also have money, time, and energy freed up to do things that make memories with the people I love – hiking, camping, visiting family, doing craft projects with the kids, and even blogging.

I also have learned to intentionally choose some things to purchase that aren’t minimal at all (I love cleaning gadgets, books, and outdoor equipment, and I take

But there are many more that I don’t own, or put off and make do without items for years until I can afford what I really want (furniture) or am in a place where we don’t plan to move again soon (in the case of holiday decorations).

By not placing a priority on stuff, and not caring about whether my neighbors have better or more stuff than me, I’ve freed up my life for living, not just maintaining.  And I enjoy my house a lot more too, since it’s much easier to keep clean and organized.


Does this sound like something you’d enjoy? Check out these new books on how to get a clean and organized home in 30-90 days by my friend Rachel here!


Look for more posts this month on how and why to own less:

  • Having a Child with Special Needs and Owning Less Stuff
  • Doing more, owning less
  • Choosing ‘buy it once’
  • Appreciate habits
  • Why telling people about your goal may make you 30% less likely to achieve it
  • Teaching our children the value of not owning things
  • How to keep things off the floor when you have children
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