When it comes to life changes, there is nothing else that quite compares with having a child. The overwhelming responsibility of a life in your care, the love you haven’t felt before, and the mounds and mounds of stuff.
Or at least the mounds and mounds of stuff that every book and parenting magazine and baby superstore tells you that you have to have to keep this little one growing and thriving.
As it turns out, for hundreds of years, parents have managed to raise their little ones without the many ridiculous items that marketers try to convince us we cannot live without. Children have also managed to grow up healthy and smart and creative without a plethora of toys at their disposal.
We are truly living in a time like no other in history with the excessive amount of items so easily obtained. We all want the best for our children and to give them the very best opportunity and childhood. So, what exactly does that look like for us in this unprecedented time?
Minimalism with Kids
Just because these things are so readily available doesn’t mean they are the best choices for our kids. In light of this, many turn to a simpler way of life and they are doing so with their kids in mind.
When my first was born, we lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment and she quickly seemed to have more stuff than we did. It didn’t stop at the gadgets designated for infancy.
Next came all the developmental toys aimed at toddlers. But as we turned to minimalism, we began to consider how this would look for our children.
As I began first with my own possessions, I realized there are three important steps to show my kids why we choose minimalism and how they can choose this type of lifestyle for themselves.
1. Show them how to live well.
Most definitions of living a minimalist lifestyle involve living intentionally. Lead by example and help them see that a fulfilling life does not require an abundance of material possessions.
I first culled my own items and then common ones before I began in their rooms. As we started to experience more freedom and peace within our home and in how we spent our time, we began to have more time together.
Even though some of our memories involve travel and special events, many of our most memorable times were made right at home. We are also being much more intentional by having family game nights and other little traditions.
Additionally, it’s important for us to live a fulfilling life outside our home. This could be through our jobs, living an active lifestyle, giving to others, and pursuing other interests and hobbies. These are things that don’t involve the kids, but can be used as examples that joy can be found in other pursuits.
2. Talk to them about living simply.
One thing we have always tried to do is talk to our kids about things going on in our lives and family. By being upfront with them in age appropriate ways, we hope to help them navigate life.
Depending on their age, this also allows for discussions about deeper issues as to why we make certain changes in our home. It can be as simple as saying, “I have decided that I want to spend less time cleaning up so I’m going to get rid of some things to help with that.”
You may also begin some new rules or habits in your home which include the kids. Be sure to talk with them before hand to set some expectations with what you are doing, so they understand what’s going on and don’t get confused.
3. Help them minimize their possessions.
I’m an advocate of including children in the process of decluttering. This gives them a firsthand view into the what’s and why’s of the things that are going on, and allows them to feel like they are playing a part.
I want my kids to have a healthy view of their stuff, not be subjected to any arbitrary rigid rules and views of material items. I want them to know that our possessions should enhance our lives, not hinder them.
A few months ago I asked my oldest to clean her room. I checked in on her a little later and she hadn’t made much progress and was upset. When I asked her what was going on, she said, “I have too much stuff. I’m so overwhelmed and I don’t know what to do with it. I just want to get rid of it all!”
Then tears rolled down her face. We talked and hugged and came up with a plan and on her own she has discarded at least three boxes of items.
I know I’m not the perfect parent–as I’ve had plenty of breakdowns about their toys–but I share this as an illustration to show the progress we are making and how we feel we are headed in the right direction.
Teaching Kids About Minimalism
As with most good things, the road of leading by example is sometimes difficult. This involves having conversations that may not produce any fruit for months or years, but including your kids in the removal process, is worth it.
To us, it’s the wisest path for us to take when teaching our kids the benefits of becoming minimalists and having a heathy view of the stuff we own.