5 Important First Steps When Implementing Minimalism With Kids

Inside: Implementing minimalism with kids in your home may seem like an impossible task, but it doesn’t have to. Here you’ll find practical strategies to help your kids embrace a life of less.

Fewer toys! What I once thought was impossible was now within my grasp.

I was on a mission to declutter my home and toys were next on my list. In an effort to encourage and motivate my kiddos for when their now minimalist Momma eventually came knocking for their stuff, I proudly paraded them around my own donation and trash piles.

However, it went a little differently than I expected.

I stared at them, eagerly anticipating the same cheers as if we had announced an upcoming family vacation. Instead, they had a look of horror and quickly began to white knuckle all of their possessions. My kids were far from motivated.

While raising minimalist kids isn’t an easy task, it’s a necessary one.

Getting our kids on board took some time and each one has responded differently.  Simplifying our schedules and ditching our excess has benefited our kids just as much, if not more than us. It’s a lifestyle I’m so grateful to have been introduced to. 

Here are the five important first steps to take when transitioning toward a life of less.

Raising Minimalist kids


1. Apologize

Don’t miss this one. It was a significant factor in implementing change for both me and my kids.

My oldest, who was 7 at the time, was having a really difficult time with the thought of having to part with any of his possessions. He’s the kind of kid who begs to keep the price tag off of a new shirt because it has a picture of a Storm Trooper on it…sigh.

While I kept trying to explain to him how this was going to benefit him in the long run, he remained very apprehensive.

We talked in circles. He just didn’t want to let go of anything.

Then it hit me. This was my fault!

I raised him this way. It was me who had created an environment where it was acceptable to keep things like shoe boxes we decorated six months ago, birthday party favors and 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 who allowed them to stay.

So he listened. skeptically, as I changed the direction of the conversation.

“I…am…so…sorry,” I said, “This is my fault…” 

I proceeded to take responsibility for having taught him it was okay to keep everything. I explained how I had been modeling the wrong kind of behavior when it came to managing possessions. My mission was to create a more peaceful home, spend more time playing with him and build a life full of more adventure. Too much stuff gets in the way of what we truly value. He listened as I shared how it was I who had allowed this “stuff” to usher chaos into our home and hide what’s really important.

Wouldn’t you know it, he melted right in front of me. My apology allowed him to lower his guard and trust his Momma had his back. He started to get it.

It was as if the weight of being the keeper of his things was on my shoulders and instead of his. 

2. Incentivize 

This part was fun for all of us! My kids really only play with a handful of toys, but we owned a bazillion!

Raising Minimalist Kids

Together, we selected a handful of like new toys to sell with a plan to use whatever money we earned toward a family fun day. I sold them individually on our local Facebook rummage sale site.

The possibility of an afternoon of laser tag or a day at a water park was exactly the motivation they needed to begin the big purge!

Every time something sold, we would add the money to magnetic clip on our garage door. This way they could see the progress everyday! They loved to watch it grow. Every item sold, meant we were one step closer to our adventure!

We ended up using that money toward an overnight trip to Zhender’s Splash Village in Frankenmuth, Michigan. We had such a wonderful time. It was even sweeter because my kiddos took owner ship of that trip. They were so proud of what they had accomplished.

On the way home, we asked them if it was worth it. The answer was a resounding yes! None of them could recall a single toy we had sold or donated. 

raising minimalist kids

3. Prioritize

Choose your battles wisely. I know, I know. You’re on a mission and you’re ready to see some serious progress. But remember, not everything needs to be purged right now.

Prioritize what needs to go immediately and hold off on what will go naturally.

For example, my 5 year old daughter had twelve pairs of shoes. She loved them all. She’s a shoe girl. Rather than make her choose between her sparkly red shoes or her sparkly silver shoes, I simply gave it a month. Her feet grew and the season changed. I donated most of them and saved just a couple for her little sister.

The biggest change we can make is how we accumulate in the next season. Changing the way we purchase going forward will have the greatest impact. 

raising minimalist kids

I would rather put energy into negotiating the stuffed animals being held hostage or the twenty-seven headbands she has crammed in her drawer.

4. Emphasize

Emphasize the why and continually praise the benefits.

We aren’t getting rid of stuff just to be mean or as a punishment. Nor are we simply just personally sick of looking at clutter all over the place. (Although, oh my word, the view is much nicer on this side of the crazy).
The decision to raise minimalist kids took a shift in our family mission, a change in our worldview. It came from deciding our lives will be filled with intention, joy, peace, generosity and purpose. I refuse to waste the precious time we have on chaos inducing clutter.

Our favorite things were still there, but hidden behind all that clutter. After going through 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 donated about 75% of our children’s books to their school. Hiding in all of those excess books was our lost joke book.

Raising Minimalist Kids

We had so much fun with that book before it was lost and we got it back! Getting another chance to enjoy our missing favorites, helped reinforce why we were doing this deep work in the first place.

Every time Jameson wears that ninja shirt or we laugh at jokes from our book, I subtly say, “Good thing we got rid of all that stuff we never used or we might have never found this [insert item] that you love so much.”

Use every opportunity to positively reinforce your life of less by emphasizing your why!

5. Be Sneaky?

Tread carefully here. Your kids won’t embrace minimalism if you sneak every toy out in the middle of the night. In fact, it could have quite the opposite effect.

They need to be involved in many decluttering decisions. However, sometimes we’ve gotta use our mad skills to move the needle.

“Sneaky” looks different depending on which of my kids I’m referring to.

For my daughter, it’s all in 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 that one?” See what I did there? (Wink).

This strategy doesn’t work as well with my son.  When he came home from school I had piled up all of his stuffed animals and presented him with just four I felt he may be ready to part with. I worded it the same way, but he saw right through me and counter offered. We of course negotiated and settled on one. Still a win in my mind.

I have since developed some stealthy ninja skills and occasionally roll the dice, opting to ask forgiveness rather than permission if necessary. So far it’s never been necessary.

Every now and then I’ll make an executive decision and snag an unsnuggled stuffed animals while they sleep or toss some junk toys that had reproduced under my couches over the years. My kids were none the wiser and I rested peacefully knowing I had slowly but surely made a dent in the crazy.

Raising Minimalist Kids

Minimalism With Kids

We have a critical role to play in raising these kids of ours. It’s a gift to be able to teach this valuable lesson at such a young age. I want them to grow up valuing people over possessions, and experiences over accumulation.

“Wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:21

Take this opportunity to redefine what treasure looks like in your home. Stay steadfast, remain patient with them, and find what works best for your family.

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