"Are your children Minimalists?"
"Are your children Minimalists?" is a question I get asked surprisingly often.
The simple answer to this question is, no my children are not minimalists, they are children. We've yet to see which of the lessons and values we are teaching them will take root and which they will run as far from as they can. However, we are already seeing 3 very different responses to our minimalist lifestyle from each of our 3 children. It's been fascinating to watch, and I personally think the process of simplifying our lives and stepping away from consumerism has been nothing but beneficial for them.
We have a 9 year old daughter who parts with material possessions with ease, understands giving to those less fortunate is a worthwhile endeavor, and thinks through each purchase she make. She would probably be happy to call herself a minimalist, as long as she can have all of the teddies.
Our 7 year old son is the total opposite. A budding hoarder, parting with "stuff" seems to genuinely pain him, and he'll negotiate at every clear out to ensure if he is parting with something, he is gaining financially. (Yes i sometimes "buy" their toys off them, more of that in a minute). He would definitely not call himself a minimalist but seems intrigued by the idea and asks a lot of questions.
Our 3 year old is blissfully unaware of the whole thing. He is still at the age where I can clear out his toys without him ever knowing. I'm hoping since we've been minimalists pretty much since he was a baby he will have a healthier balance, and his imagination has definitely not suffered one bit from his smaller than average selection of toys.
So what does Minimalism look like with kids? Here are a few of the things we do in our house that I have found work well. I'll point you to some of the amazing resources I've used over the years to help with this at the end.
Stop buying them stuff.
Controversial I know, but it's the biggest and arguably most important step. No amount of "de-cluttering" will ever make a bit of difference if you are bringing in new stuff all the time. The first step for us was those tiny, seemingly insignificant purchases at the supermarket. You want to get round the shops as quickly and painlessly as possible but you have 3 children with you who know exactly how loudly to complain to break you. That tiny £1 toy seems a small price to pay for an easy, peaceful life doesn't it? But it all adds up and its 99.9% of the time cheap junk no one needs, and even though the cost seems negligible to you, that is irrelevant to your child, they asked for something; they received something. I realised I was unconsciously spoiling my children, and it needed to stop. I sat them down one day and explained to them I would no longer buy them anything in the shops. If they saw something they wanted they had 2 choices, save up their pocket money and buy it themselves or add it to their wish list for friends and family to buy them on birthdays and Christmas.
Did it work you ask? It actually did. We can now walk around shops and supermarkets tantrum free. That's right, no one so much as thinks to complain. If they want something, they know what they need to do.
Which leads us on quite nicely to pocket money. We realised if we were going to stop buying them stuff they would need a little bit of autonomy. It has worked quite well in our house, and you find out very quickly what your children actually want. Once they know how much something costs and it's their hard earned cash they have to part with, more often than not they decide they don't actually want it. Households vary with how much pocket money to give, but in this house the children get £1 on a Friday if they tidy their rooms and they can earn a bit extra by hoovering their rooms, or parting with toys/books etc.
My daughter will often come to me and say "I don't play with this anymore, can we give it to charity." I am still awaiting the day my 7 year old says these words. In the beginning I would often hold toy sales to encourage him to part with things, and offer 10p for a plastic figure, or 50p for a book, maybe even £1 for something really big. They have worked well in our house, and you soon discover what your children don't actually like anymore but are just holding onto when they will easily part with it for pennies. My son has cottoned onto this however, hence my earlier comment about ensuring he gains financially. He hasn't yet said "can we give this to charity" but does occasionally say "I don't really play with this anymore, how much will you give me for it?" He's savvy, I'll give him that.
One for One
A great minimalist principle, one in; one out. We implemented this recently when I felt like the children's rooms were getting a bit too full again. Now if they buy something with their pocket money they have to part with something too. It was met with some resistance and we often have to push this one a bit harder but none of them are tidy enough for me to think they have space for more stuff! We haven't yet brought this in on birthdays or Christmas as that seems a tad unfair, instead we opt for a bit of a clear out in anticipation of these events.
Meanwhile we continue our journey with minimalism in plain sight of our children. They watch us deliberate over purchases; not based on desire but necessity. They watch us part with possessions and give things away with ease. I can only hope that down the road they will see that the world holds so much more joy and wonder than can be found in a store, and they will be able to live fuller, freer lives because of that.
If you want to know more about Minimalism and children I can not recommend "Becoming Minimalist" enough. Their website is full of helpful articles and resources and Joshua Becker's book "Clutterfree with Kids" helped me no end.
If you want inspiration over on Instagram go and follow "My Tiny Tribe" doing Minimalism with 4 young girls and sharing lots of great tips and advice.
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