I have three beautiful children. In all honesty, they are a big part of my decision to start down the path towards simple living. I found that I did not have the time, nor energy, to invest in taking care of all my “stuff” along with taking care of my children. In the midst of the juggling act, I found that, too often, it was quality time with my children that was dropped. I wanted more time with them and they desperately needed more time with me. However, leaving the house a mess and myself a mess as a sacrifice for more time with them was incredibly stressful. Simplifying and getting rid of much of the “stuff” was the perfect solution.
With children, often, comes much stuff. It doesn’t have to be that way.
When I first started getting rid of stuff, I mostly avoided anything that belonged to them. I wasn’t sure how to go about down sizing their things in a healthy way. I didn’t want to be sneaky about it; nor did I want them to be hurt. Also, somewhere in my mommy heart, I was worried that they would grow up feeling deprived if they didn’t have lots of toys, clothes, and things to be entertained with. As it turns out, they are happier than ever with less stuff and more room for imaginative play. They have learned how to entertain themselves and be creative. They are also learning gratefulness for the items they do have. I no longer worry about them being deprived. Having less has made their lives full and vibrant!
It starts with YOUR attitude
I believe the most important thing to keep in mind as you help your children minimalize their stuff is your own attitude. Help them see that “things” are not what is most important in life by living that out in your own life. Help them learn to appreciate what they have by being appreciative yourself. Let them experience the joy of giving first hand. Your positive attitude will begin to reflect in your children’s attitudes and living minimalistically as a family will become easier than you originally thought. My four-year-old daughter told me just the other day that she wanted to give one of her toys away to another little girl who didn’t have as many toys as she does. She is learning the blessing of giving and contentment and it warms my heart.
Think “Memories” not “Things”
Memories, not things, are what your children are ultimately going to remember about their childhood. Memories are part of who we are, items are not. Therefore, focus on making memories with your children rather than buying them more stuff. Despite simplifying all areas of my life, there is still laundry to be done (though a lot less of it!), dinners to make, and a house to clean. I have come to realize that these activities can be some of the richest times with my children if I allow them to participate in any way they can. While you may be concerned that your children will be bored without much “stuff”, children can stay busy doing everyday tasks with you. We play together, read books together, and they play alone, but we also have lots of fun taking turns stirring dinner, loading up the washing machine, wiping down every inch of the house they can find and laughing and chatting all the while. No TV, computer, or toys required and they have a blast.
We have also started to give memories instead of tangible gifts to our children. Or, sometimes we give both. We gave our daughter a beeswax candle making kit for her birthday last year and have enjoyed countless hours of fun together making and burning candles. Think about giving gifts like that, which is more about the time together than the object, or think about gifts like:
-Classes (such as dance, swim, music, etc but keep it simple, don’t do more than one at a time!)
-Gift card to get ice cream or donuts together as a family
-Go play Putt-Putt together or with a friend
Remember too, that it’s the memories, not the extravagance, of their birthday parties that’s important. You know how you buy something flashy for your young child and all they want to do is play with the box? It’s often the simple things that children enjoy and remember for a life time. You can show your child they are special without spending a fortune and stressing out over grand party details.
Toys seem to be the number one thing that overruns many a house of families with children. As I’ve mentioned, we have a misconception that our children NEED toys to be entertained, to be happy, and to not feel deprived. Some toys are good, but within moderation. We like to focus on toys that:
- Encourage imaginative play
- Encourage learning
- Stay age appropriate for many years
I have heard of the “Twenty Toy” idea, and I think it’s a good one. However, for our family, I found it simpler to pair down differently. I decided to do three categories of age appropriate imaginative play toys. Each one has multiple pieces within the categories. Ours include (we obviously have girls):
- A kitchen set with a small tub of plastic food and dishes
- A baby doll each, with a small tub of baby doll clothes and diapers and bottles
- A small bin of dress up clothes
We also have a small bin of infant toys for the baby and some fun creative items like crayons and coloring books, play-dough, puzzles, books, and a couple board games. Our kids stay busy!
Wardrobe is another category of “stuff” to consider simplifying for your children. Although children can be accident prone, leading to the need for more changes of clothing, most still have way more than they need. After I achieved a minimalist wardrobe for myself, I decided to do the same for my children. Their drawers were running over with clothes and I was tired of it. I used these same general guidelines:
-33 Items of clothing out at any time
-50 Items total, including shoes, coats, and accessories
-A color scheme (this has been fantastic for my four and two-year-old who like to dress themselves! They can’t go wrong now that everything in their drawer coordinates!)
A general list might look like:
-5 pair pants
-5 long sleeve shirts
-5 short sleeve shirts
-3 pair shorts
-2 skirts (for girls)
-2 dresses (for girls)
-1 light weight jacket
-5 pair shoes (including sandals and a pair of boots)
-15 accessories (hats, sunglasses, belts, hair bows, etc)
This is an example of my four-year-old daughter’s spring/summer capsule wardrobe. It’s missing some hair accessories, but it gives an idea of what a minimalist wardrobe might look like for a child. We didn’t even make it to 33 items and it works out wonderfully! I bought all their clothes from consignment stores and didn’t have to spend much. I look forward to teaching them how to think through and put together their own minimalist wardrobes when they get older!
Have fun making memories with your children and watching their imagination and creativity grow!