“Life is a balance of holding on and letting go” – Keith Urban
In simple terms, the minimalist ideology is concentrated in living a simplistic and wholesome life. This lifestyle sheds the layers of consumerism, superficiality, and excess that society has developed to make us feel the more we have, the more secure we are in life. If we’re struggling daily to maintain appearances and worrying about what people will think based on what we own, this insecurity will be quickly picked up by our kids and the pattern will continue.
Depending on individual preferences, exemplifying minimalism has varying extremes.
As a family, we didn’t consciously take a step in the direction of minimalism. People appear really surprised at our sparsely furnished home and streamlined lifestyle. Having multiples of everything is very common, as is having complicated daily schedules. Before moving to Houston, we decided to donate everything we owned that wouldn’t fit into a U-Haul trailer. The conscious decision of letting go of so many tangible material things at once was a VERY cool experience. The kids said goodbye to the excess of clothes, shoes, toys, dishes, furniture – the works! We squeezed in the essentials and hit the road.
What are some practical ways to implement lifelong habits within a home to encourage our children to not be weighed down by material goods and instead, find joy and contentment in a more natural, stress-free way of life?
One stop shop. Have all the kids toys remain in one area. Sometimes, it’s even easier to have toys and games in the main area of your home and instead of spending hours and hours a week organizing and color coding blocks and figurines, throw them all in a giant storage ottoman once playtime is wrapped up. Even if playtime is all day – coordinate a massive dump of toys into a common storage area into the kids nightly routine. You’ll be relieved to know that there’s a greater chance of escaping a Ninjago Lego nunchuck lodged into the heel of your foot when locking up for the night. Plus, who’s coming to give you a check mark for a toy color coding job well done? Think about that novel you could have written instead.
TV Placement. Having a giant box in the middle of a main family area in the home can prove to be a huge distraction. A TV can also add to self consciousness in addition to pumping subliminal messages on the standards of beauty and materialism depicted on screen. Oftentimes, a TV will come with requirements of its own entertainment system (if it isn’t on the wall), remote controls, and additional electronic devices. This means more wires and equipment that adds a visual clutter, in addition to being hazardous for younger children. The ambiance of a room or home is completely realigned to focus on a means of entertainment and input versus conversation, productivity, and independent play. Find another place for the television or keep the use limited so that kids don’t feel conditioned to need this particular avenue of entertainment, especially as they get older and want to find ways to relax.
Weekly Discard. Encourage your kids to take inventory of what they used in the past week and itemize what they didn’t need at all (great weekend activity when you need to snooze the extra 5 minutes). Try to keep a box that is designated to collecting toys, books, personal items that are kid specific (puzzles, headbands, trinkets, etc) for charity and make it an event to take the family donation box to a local charity once a month. Not only will it create a feeling of fulfillment to your child’s life, but assuming you can facilitate this habit to continue, the cycle of goodness and community service will blossom!
Uniformity. Socks are the greatest exemplify agent of frustration every morning when the kids are getting ready for school and you’re running late for work. Finding matching socks is an almost surreal experience, especially in a family with more than one kid. Imagine 4 kids with multiple pairs of socks, each in different colors and sizes. Madness! Either the kids will become confident wearing mismatched socks (success!) or purchasing the same style and color for everyone will minimize the battle and increase a habit of efficiency. Spending less time on fruitless tasks just adds bonus time for kids to notice the brighter things in life – like how your baby brother is about to pop a cicada shell into his mouth or the fact that your sister just skipped her turn to clear the table and moseyed away. Make decision making easier on non issues in exchange for alleviated stress on a day to day basis.
Emotions VS Practicality. Letting go requires effort, whether you’re 6 or 60. Creating a sense of security in our children doesn’t mean we shouldn’t indulge in the material possessions in life that are beneficial or just plain fun. Realizing that daily patterns turn into lifelong habits can help us create a regular dialogue with our children about the confidence we have in ourselves is separate than the confidence we may feel when we are surrounded by our possessions. Curbing the need to buy in excess will allow our children to gain a sense of security in what already exists in their life versus always looking for something else to make them feel at ease.
Trying to raise minimalist kids is fun. Teaching them to feel great without needing to surrounded themselves with objects or visual clutter, through our organizational tactics or input of media, is a great endeavor. This task may not be consistently appealing, or even fully understood. The science of minimalist living is constantly evolving and is very individually rooted. Overall, we can rest assured that society would be well benefited to receive community members that realize the pleasure in giving to someone else, even if it means taking away from something they once had. If we begin with ourselves, our children will follow suit, and it may change the way we embrace life each day.
Want more tips on becoming a minimalist family? Check out Becoming Minimalist.