Kids and Minimalism – does it work?

For most people, kids and minimalism usually don’t go together. Once kids come along the amount of ‘stuff’ that enters the house is extraordinary. Often stress levels rise also as new demands are placed on parents.

It is possible to live a minimalist lifestyle once you have a family, but the conversation should be shared with the children. The following may guide you through the process of adopting or continuing your minimalist journey with a family.

Model minimalism

Adopting, or continuing a minimalist lifestyle with a family requires all concerned to be part of the decision making process. Change yourself first, and be a living example that there’s a different way, that could be interesting and better. Talk to them about the change so they know why you’re doing it. Discuss what made you consider it and  what steps you’re taking. Be open about discussing whether it’s hard or not, and how you feel about these changes. In seeing my change, they see a different possibility. So for example I might start decluttering my closet and drawers, or scanning all my paperwork so I can go digital. (I use the Doxie portable scanner, and I love it. I keep it on my kitchen bench, and scan all mail that comes in, and then throw the mail in the shredder. Good-bye paper clutter!). Click the image below for more info.

I may even clean out the garden shed. This is a great thing for them to see, but at the same time I’m letting them be themselves with no expectations that they’ll join me.

Minimalism is a current buzz word – but what is it, and how do you become one? Probably the most important question I had is why would you want to become one?

As mentioned in our About page, we were happily married with everything – great kids, lovely house in a great area, good jobs, and enough money to do most things we wanted. Trouble was we weren’t that happy. We were in a downward spiral of stress, caused by a house full of clutter that had accumulated over the years, overwhelming demands on our time, and juggling financial interests. Our biggest concern was time. We’d wake in the morning and our first thoughts would be ‘what do we have to do today?’ We wanted to get to a situation where we could wake and think ‘what would we like to do today?’

I started reading about Minimalism, and the more I read the more I realised that the concept of ‘less is more’ is just what I was looking for, and needed to be applied to all aspects of our lives. I found that there is a lot of information on this subject, but it is widely spread amongst blog posts, web sites and news articles. This website aims to provide one source of information on all aspects of minimalism.

Minimalism is an ongoing conversation

Minimalism isn’t about getting rid of all your stuff and living with barely anything. In a family with children, minimalism is really a conversation about what’s important. What’s necessary. Why we own things and do things. A lot of times, a family never really has this conversation — it’s all just implied in the way we live. But minimalism is about bringing this out in the open and talking about it. The result of the discussion will be very different for each family.  Some will keep doing what they’ve been doing, because they like that best, but others will decide to try various changes. There’s no single right way. The important thing is to start the conversation, and to keep it going basically for the rest of your lives. With kids and minimalism, you may find there are some surprises along the way. They may not adopt minimalism when they are young, but change their minds as they grow older.
I found this article ‘I love you enough to not give you everything you want’ articulated minimalist views beautifully.


Time together is important

Make time and enjoy the simple pleasures

Start doing fewer things with the kids that costs a lot of money, and instead focus on playing outside together, playing games together inside, cooking together. In this way you are able to reinforce the joy of simple pleasures and time spent together, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy life.

See setbacks as learning opportunities

 If you start decluttering as a family, you’ll be really happy with the changes … but sometimes there are setbacks. Your daughter might all of a sudden want the latest  new games because she saw some cool videos online. You might all of a sudden have a bunch of stuff given to you by family members. These can be seen as setbacks and can be frustrating … or you can use them as ways to learn. Knowing how to deal with these kinds of issues, is part of reality. You have to learn to deal with them, or you’ll struggle.

Change traditions in a positive way

 There are lots of things we do simply because it’s the way we’ve always done that. But these traditions can be challenged — why do we need to buy so many Christmas gifts? It’s tough to change traditions though, because people are loathe to let go of what they’re used to. So present the change in tradition as an opportunity to do something awesome. In the case of Christmas gifts, we were going to save the money we would have spent on useless things they didn’t need … and use it for really fun experiences. We’ve gone to water parks or taken family holidays, as our holiday gift to the kids, instead of buying toys. The kids might miss the toys, but they love the experiences.

Christmas lights

When you start making any kind of big changes, other family members (aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, friends etc.) might question what you’re doing. This is because you’re doing something outside the norm, and not everyone agrees with that. Many people will comment that kids and minimalism just doesn’t work. However, this is a great opportunity to talk to these family members about what you’re doing, educate them, widen the conversation from your immediate family to your wider family. And again, you’re setting an example for these people, and showing them there’s a different way — sometimes they even get inspired to make changes themselves!

Use better ways to replace stuff

 Lots of times we think we can’t go without things, but if you get creative, it turns out you don’t really need them. For example, we got rid of photo albums by digitizing photos and using them as screensavers — instead of never opening a dusty photo album, we see the great photos on our computer every day! I digitize all papers, including artwork and school papers (when they were going to school) and little notes from them to me. Simply reducing the ‘paper overload’ has made a huge difference for me. Instead of flicking through great wads of paper searching for that elusive document that I know I had somewhere, I can find it easily once it’s digitised.

Kids and minimalism can work - Celebrate each small step forward!

The most important thing isn’t the changes you make — if you focus on the outcomes, you’ll get frustrated, because you don’t completely control your family members. You might influence and inspire them, but you can’t force change, you can’t force opinions to be different. Instead, you can be present each step along the way, learn from each step, enjoy that step, and be the mindful example of change for your family.