Raising kids is hard enough as it is, but what happens when you’ve embraced a more simple and minimal life and are trying to teach your children the value of less? It can be especially difficult if your children are older and more influenced by the mass amounts of busyness and consumerism they’ve no doubt experienced already in their lives. I was lucky enough that my children were still young when I started living a simpler life. My oldest was 9 and her two younger brothers were 7 and 5. At those ages, parents are still all knowing and kids usually have no problem accepting new ideas introduced by their parents, and are usually excited just to be included in something the adults are doing.
Although my children were an easy sell when it came to minimizing and living simpler, there were still some small rebellions here and there. Here are 8 ways I helped introduce minimalism and teach my kids the value of living with less.
- Be an example. When I first began simplifying and getting rid of unneeded items, my children were curious about what I was doing, why I was giving things away and why. As I explained to them my thoughts and feelings, they were quick to agree and want to help.
- Start small. Once they see what you are doing with your own belongings, many children depending on their age will want to go through their own things next. All three of my children came to me and asked if we could go through their clothes and toys. In fact, they were usually willing to get rid of much more than I wanted them to!
- Let them choose what to keep and donate. It is very important in the simplifying process to make sure your children have control over their own belongings and what stays versus what goes. This might not always align with what you would like to see happen, but it will allow them security in knowing they are responsible for their own possessions.
- Make it a game. Whenever you are considering donating or purchasing an item, allow your children to answer the following questions- Is this item a need or a want? Is this something that I will use regularly and have a place for? Is this item worth the money and time I will spend on it, or will someone else benefit more if I donate this item?
- Verbally point out benefits of simplifying. As we have decluttered our home, I try to be quick to point out the benefits such as, our loads of laundry are smaller with less to put away, we don’t have nearly as many dishes to wash, fewer knickknacks to dust off, etc. As I have done this, my children are learning to appreciate that less actually gives them more time to do what they really like.
- Taper off electronic time. One of the big areas we minimized in our home was the amount of time we spent watching TV, using the computer and playing video games. This was one of the harder areas for my children. My husband and I first reduced the time each day on a week by week basis. Once we were at a comfortable amount of time for our family, we instituted the ‘read to play’ rule. In order to play for their allotted time each day, the kids are required to read one minute for each minute they play. We have a cap on the total amount of time they can ‘earn’ to play. This has helped significantly in our home to allow the kids to feel as though they have some control and options when it comes to using electronics.
- Help those in need. The more opportunities you provide for your children to help those who are less fortunate, the more they will realize they have. We make it a point to use a set amount of money periodically and have our children shop for needed items for different organizations, we then take them to donate those items. As they get older, we hope to provide in person opportunities to work with those in need.
- Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel. My children love this book! As they look through the pages at families from all over the world and their belongings, they realize that living in the United States has allowed us to purchase and keep things that other people don’t even know exist. Best of all, they learn that it is not necessary to have all this ‘stuff’ to be happy. I love that they can look at the pictures and get an idea that people are happy with less. It’s the next best thing to being able to visit those countries in person.
As I have used these 8 ways of teaching my children about minimizing, they have become very familiar with it, and why I like to live this way. They are also very willing to part with their own belongings when they realize they no longer need or use them.
What have you done to help your children get excited about simplifying?