At first glance, minimalism sounds much more approachable for single 20 somethings without much responsibility. How can minimalism work for those of us who’ve built a life and accumulated decades of stuff, debt, and obligation? And what about the kids? Is minimalism for families with children?
In Why Kids Need Minimalism, Denaye Barahona of Simple Families says,
“The kids of today need minimalism more than ever. Childhood of today is beyond messy and cluttered. It’s chaotic. Research shows us the way we are raising kids in America today causes stress and anxiety to overwhelm both children and parents alike. As parents, we have so much going on that we have resorted to “convenience parenting” to hold it all together. If your kids won’t sit down for a meal, there’s a device for that. If your kids won’t ride quietly in the car, there’s an app for that.
As parents, we just try to survive. We struggle to hold it all together. Because it’s consuming. It’s heavy. Raising kids today is heavier than any parent can handle.”
It’s heavy for the kids and the parents. Minimalism is for families. It may take more time to declutter, climb out of debt, and challenge what you thought your life would be like, but even if you have a family with children minimalism can help you live more intentionally, be more present, and experience more health and happiness as an individual and as a family.
Related: How to Lighten Your Heavy Heart
Minimalism for families: The Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t let your enthusiasm overshadow your love.
You may be so excited to simplify that you dismiss your partner’s desire to hold on. Instead of feeling frustrated that everyone isn’t “on board” be grateful for your relationship and remember why you chose this person to spend your life with. Stop convincing, begging, and wishing loved ones would change and want what you want. It never works. As Rob Bell says, “You can’t bring people where they don’t want to go.” Instead, stay focused on your own stuff and demonstrate the benefits of living with less. Eventually your joy will be contagious.
Do encourage gently.
Instead of pushing for change, talk about what you want out of your simplicity journey. Talk less about the tasks and more about the benefits. Decluttering is a task, more space is a benefit. Paying off debt is a task, freedom is a benefit. What excites you about living with less? Share that. Daydream together about the opportunities that minimalism may provide. Use this new adventure to bring you closer as a family.
Don’t force your children to change.
My daughter was a pre-teen when we started decluttering for good, and when I launched Project 333 and started dressing with 33 items or less. I didn’t ask her to clean out her closet, take the challenge or hold her possessions to see if they brought her joy. I could be an example through my actions, but I knew she had to find her own way.
Do give your children an opportunity to change.
Instead of telling your children to live simply, offer opportunities to give it a try. For instance …
- Invite them to a minimalist scavenger hunt.
- Let them sell their stuff at a yard sale and keep the money.
- Bring them to a local women’s and children’s shelter to donate a few toys.
Encourage conversation and your child’s approach even if it’s different than what you had in mind.
Don’t talk about the simple life.
We don’t remove clutter, reduce stress, and reject busyness to have a simple life. We do it to have a life. We do it to have a life with more love and connection, not to have a life with more organized book shelves.
Do enjoy your big, beautiful life together.
As you are taking steps as a family to simplify, enjoy the journey. Living with less is not a sacrifice unless you make it one. Take advantage of the time and space you are carving out to spend time with each other, explore new opportunities, and really start living. Live small so you can live big.
Don’t compare your pace or path.
Minimalism looks different for everyone. It’s taken me 10 years and I’m still on the path. Others take 2 years or 5 years. Some paint a pretty picture, other’s proudly display their messes. Don’t compare your beginning to some else’s middle. Don’t bother to compare at all. Comparing and competing will compromise your confidence and motivation. This is your journey, your family, and your life. There isn’t one best way to do it. Do what’s best for you.
Do be inspired by other stories and simplicity messages.
Don’t try to change everything overnight.
You didn’t create the life you are living overnight, and you won’t create a new one overnight either. If you are interested in using minimalism to reduce stress, keep that in mind with your approach to change. Fast and furious change may add stress. Slow and steady change is sustainable. There is no rush.
Do let things unfold in their own time.
Consider one change at a time. When that feels like the new normal, try another one. If you don’t know where to start, try one of these 8 little ways to simplify your life or check out A Beginner’s Guide to Minimalism.
If all of this feels a little overwhelming, just do this when simplifying life with your family … be loving, patient, curious, and kind. Let go a little, hold on a little. Smile. Hug. Spend time with each other.