As a minimalist I get a lot of questions. The leading question I get asked the most is, how do you become a minimalist with kids? While this seems completely unachievable. Minimalism, I believe, actually helps my kids to thrive. While this lifestyle change has taken some time, and we have had to discuss on multiple occasions, why we are doing this. The truth is, my kids are happier than they were when surrounded by toys.
When kids have fewer toys they learn to be creative with what they have. I was a kid in the 90’s and while those were some of my best years, I will tell you that my parents were not the type to just buy us any new toy we wanted. We learned boundaries and we also learned how to enjoy what we had. As a parent now, I am able to use what I learned as a kid and put it into practice with my own kids. So to make things simple I am going to list the top 5 reasons to go minimalist with your kids.
- LESS FIGHTING– Yes you heard that right. My kids fight less over silly things like toys because they simply have no choice but to share. They are learning that they either play together or they won’t get to play at all. Don’t believe me? Take away some of your kids toys and see for yourself. Give them 30 days to only play with a few items and see what happens.
- BETTER CARE– When they have fewer toys to take care of, they learn to take better care of what they do have. It is easier to care for something when it’s one of the few items you have.
- LESS CLEANUP TIME– My kids always struggled to put things back in the orderly fashion I had like it to be. Now with fewer items, clean up is a breeze! They know where to put their toys and it isn’t in an overflowing bin where they will have to dig to find it tomorrow.
- MORE CREATIVITY– My kids are becoming more creative in their play. They are using their legos and super hero’s together to make games and adventures. They are being imaginative with what they have!
- PROBLEM SOLVING– Now that we have fewer toys in our home, the toys they do have are the ones they want to play with the most. When something isn’t working they take care to try and solve the problem. They are not overwhelmed by the problem. They also don’t have an easy out, where they can toss this problem aside and move onto another toy. Instead they have the time and energy to take a moment to solve the problem at hand.
While I still at times have to remind my children why we are choosing to not buy the newest toy on the market, those conversations are becoming fewer. There are some days that are easier than others. Over the weekend, after doing another sweep through the basement, and ridding ourselves of toys that didn’t serve us any longer, my kids found themselves outside, riding bikes with the neighbors. It didn’t take long for old habits to set in, and for my kids to get the “wants.” The neighbors just got new electric scooters and my kids were having a ball taking turns riding. Each pass they made by me they would say something to the effect of, “Aren’t these cool mom! I want one!” I would nod my head and smile or wave.
As the end of the day drew nearer, my kids helped clean up all the toys and we headed back inside for dinner. As I sat listening to them tell their dad all about the fun they had, I waited for an opportunity to speak. I simply said, “It was a really fun day, aren’t you glad the neighbors let you have a turn on those scooters? Even though we don’t own any here, you were able to share the neighbors, just like we share our basketball hoop with them.” Adding that little bit of knowledge that the neighbors don’t have a basketball hoop, opened my kids eyes to see that we don’t all need to own the same items. We can share what we have and still have fun.
Contrary to popular belief, my kids are not suffering from a lack of toys. They still have several toys that they love. What I think I love most about them not having so much is that they have learned to be giving with what they have. They share more with friends and especially neighbors. They don’t feel like they are missing out because they don’t own their own electric scooters. They are just thankful they get a turn.
If you want to try it out, ask your kids to pick their top 5 favorite toys and then box up the rest and put them somewhere that isn’t accessible to them. Give it a month and see the change for yourself. I don’t know for certain that when my children are grown that they will choose to live as minimalists, but I hope they see the benefits and will take what they know and put it into action.
So what about teenagers? I currently do not have any teenagers, but do know of friends with teenagers that are minimalists. They will tell you that minimalism is certainly achievable even with teenagers. I think with teens we do need to give some grace at times. While we want to teach them certain clothes, shoes, or cars won’t make them a better person, we have to understand that things like those may be important to them. So how do we maintain minimalism while still giving our teens the most important things? The answer is to allow them to decide what is most important.
Let them consider why they want those Nike’s that EVERYONE has. (side note, not everyone has them, insert giant motherly eye roll) Ask them why they are so important? If after discussing, they still want the Nike’s then go ahead and get them for their next birthday, or gift giving occasion. Just because we don’t need them, doesn’t mean your teen’s feelings are less important. Sometimes the persons feelings are more important than just completely stopping the incoming items. However, they may surprise you and after answering the tough questions, decide they don’t need them just because everyone else has them.
So give yourself and your teen some grace and take each item at face value. Ask tough questions and allow them to decide. Don’t be so caught up in the idea of minimalism, that you don’t see the people around you and their feelings.
Now go ahead and tackle that play room and see what a difference it makes!