One of the most common questions we get on our blog and in our Facebook community is how to live minimally when you have children. Yes, this could be a tough one if you already have kids when you begin your minimalist journey. If you haven’t had kids yet, it’s a bit easier to implement living simply. We’ll talk about both starting first with how to start living minimally with kids and a family.
Things were so much simpler 40 or so years ago – kids played outside with what they had. Most families were a one income household and essentials came first when it was time to purchase anything. Toys were given at birthdays and during the holidays ALONG WITH essentials such as clothes and shoes. As I am in my 50’s, it was fairly easy for me to slip back into a minimalist lifestyle but I didn’t do it until after my daughters were both in their 20’s. My daughters had so much “stuff” it was all over the place when they were growing up. Much of it had to do with my guilt of being a working parent and we often would shop as recreation. If I were to do it all over, I would have adhered more to how I was raised and kept toy purchases to special occasions.
Easy for me to say right? If you already have kids you know how challenging it is in today’s world to keep the “wants” to a minimum. Everything is on BLAST all the time starting with commercials not only on TV but popping up on all the “safe” kid sites on the internet. It’s no wonder the kids rooms looks like the aisles at Toys R Us. Drive anywhere and you are sure to see hundreds of stores and yes the kids will want something in one of those stores. So where do you begin? Just like when YOU started on your journey, you begin where you are. (If you would like to test drive a minimalist lifestyle with your family – take our 10 for 10 Minimalist Living Challenge: Healthy Family Lifestyle)
If your kids are very young, you probably will not have to do too much as they are already living in your minimal environment. Our kids are little sponges – they absorb not only what we say but what we DO. If your kids are older, however, or this is a new lifestyle for you, the discussion could be sticky but that’s okay. Start with explaining why you live minimally and simply. The many reasons we living minimally range from concern for our planet to not wanting to waste resources to ethical treatment of animals to a desire to be debt free – and every single one of these reasons is important. Starting there, the first thing to do is to sit down and explain to your children – if they are of the age that they can understand – why you have chosen to live minimally and simple. They may already have picked on our how your family lives simply and sitting down to have a discussion will help them to better understand the why’s.
Now that the kids sort of understand the reasons for your lifestyle, help them to get on board – BUT do it at their pace not yours. If you tell your kids they have to get rid of half the things in their bedrooms, you are going to have a mini war on your hands. Take it as simple as you did yourself by starting drawer by drawer, closet by closet and corner by corner and work your way through the room at their comfort level – not yours. Each of us is unique including our children and we all will have different responses to the minimalism process – and that’s okay.
As you are working through the rooms, it’s the perfect time to talk about why we don’t buy things we don’t need. These topics might make it easier for you to start the discussion with your kids:
- We are not identified by our stuff.
- Some kids are not as lucky as they are.
- How much the kids that will receive your child’s donations will appreciate them.
- How it’s important that we live on less than what our income is.
- That we think about purchases before we go out and buy impulsively.
- How much room we have without all the clutter.
- We control our “stuff” – the stuff doesn’t control us.
Our kids see more than we often give them credit for. Be patient with them especially if they haven’t lived minimally for most of their lives. It is a challenge for all of us to think about what to keep and what not to keep. Guide them lovingly at their pace and one day you will hear “I’d like to donate my toy to some kid that needs it.” Be proud – be very proud.
For tips on how to begin your decluttering journey, you can Start Here, or snag a copy of the 30 Day Challenge (our Minimalism and Decluttering eBook).