Raising Minimalist Kids
Less toys! What I once thought was unattainable was now within my grasp. In an effort to encourage and motivate my kiddos for when their newly minimalist Momma came knocking, I proudly paraded them around my donation and trash piles. As they looked on, I stared at them, eagerly anticipating the same cheers as if we had announced an upcoming family vacation. However, it played out a little differently than that. They quickly began to white knuckle all of their belongings. I had started to terrify them rather than motivate them.
The process of getting our kids on board took a little while. Every child is so different. Some kids jump right in and some remain skeptical. I truly believe that simplifying life, whether you’re all in or just making subtle course changes, will benefit our kids as much as us. It’s important to be patient with them and find what works for your family.
Here are a few strategies that benefited our family and actually motivated our kids to get on board…most days.
This was huge for both me and my kids. My oldest was having a really difficult time with the thought of having to part with any of his precious toys. He’s the kid who even wants to keep the price tag from a new shirt because it has a picture of a Storm Trooper on it…sigh. I kept trying to explain to him how this was going to benefit him in the long run. He remained very apprehensive. We kept talking in circles. He just didn’t want to do it.
Then it hit me. This was MY fault. I raised him this way. I allowed it to be acceptable to keep things like shoe boxes we decorated 6 months ago, birthday party favors or Happy Meal toys (that’s right, we sometimes go to McDonald’s, deal with it). These things are fine to bring home, but I was the one that allowed them to stay.
So he listened as I changed the direction of the conversation with, “I…am…so…sorry! This is my fault…” I proceeded to take responsibility for having taught him that it was okay to keep EVERYTHING. I had done it myself. I had been wrong all along. I explained how these things are fun, but they take up too much room, physically and emotionally. Less toys equal less cleaning! They listened as I talked about how this”stuff” has ushered chaos into our home and removed what is really important. It began a conversation about what IS important.
In that moment I saw some trust in his eyes. He started to get it and the burden was off of him. It was like the weight of being the keeper of his things was lifted.
This part was fun! My kids really only play with a handful of things. We had SO much more than what they played with. Together, we selected a handful of the toys to sell with a plan that whatever money we made we would use toward a family fun day. The idea of a day at Zap Zone or a water park was just what they needed to begin the purge!
Every time I sold something I would clip the money to the garage door for them to assess our progress. They earned quite a bit! Paul and I picked up the rest of the tab and we headed out to Splash Village last weekend. It was such a wonderful time. The kids were proud of what they had accomplished. On the way there, we asked them if they could recall any of the that toys we had sold or donated. THEY COULD NOT THINK OF A SINGLE ONE!!
Choose your battles wisely. Not everything needs to be purged right now. Prioritize what needs to go now and what will go naturally. For example, my daughter has 12 pairs of shoes. She loves them all. She’s a shoe girl. Rather then making her choose between her sparkly red shoes or her sparkly silver shoes, I will simply give it a month. Her feet will grow and the season will change. Then I can donate most of them and save a couple for her little sister. The biggest change I can make is going into the next season. I will simply purchase only the shoes that she really needs.
I would rather put my energy into negotiating the stuffed animals being held hostage or the 27 headbands she has piled up.
Emphasize the WHY. I’m not just getting rid of stuff to be mean. It’s not simply because I am sick of looking at junk all over the place (although, oh my word, the view is much nicer on this side of the crazy). It’s not a punishment.
Raising minimalist kids takes a shift in our family mission. A change of our worldview. It’s deciding our lives will be filled with intention, joy, peace, generosity and purpose. I refuse to waste the precious time I have on chaos inducing clutter.
The things that solidify our purpose and bring us joy are there, but hidden behind the clutter. After going through all of my son’s clothes and getting rid of what he rarely wore, I found his lost ninja T-shirt. He loved that shirt and he got it back. That same week, I cleared out about 75% of our children’s books. We donated them to their school.
Buried in all of those books we found our joke book. We had so much fun with that book before it was lost. We got it back! Getting another chance to have the things that were lost, helped to emphasize the why. Every time he wears that shirt or we tell jokes from the joke book I subtly say, “Good thing we got rid of all that stuff we never used so that we could find this [insert item] that you love so much.”
They need to be involved in many purging decisions, but sometimes we’ve gotta use our mad skills to alter course. “Sneaky” looks different depending on which of my kids you are talking about. For Raegan, it’s the way I word things. She makes great headway when I present her with options like, “How about we give away this one and keep this one?” I did the same thing to Jameson when he got home from school. I created a massive pile of all of the stuffed animals I knew he loved and pulled out 4 that had been lost under the bed for months. He was on to me and counter offered. We settled on one.
I have since developed some stealthy ninja skills. Occasionally, I stand over their beds while they sleep and snag a few unsnuggled stuffed animals. They are none the wiser and I sleep peacefully knowing I’m slowly but surely making a dent in the crazy.
Life goes on without all 4 Ninja Turtle figurines. Life goes on without 12 different pairs of shoes. What an amazing thing to recognize at such a young age!! Life goes on with or without our possessions. Matthew 6:21, “Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I love that we have the opportunity to redefine what treasure looks like to them.