So much of the time, people have the idea that minimalist motherhood is an oxymoron. They think living a minimal lifestyle and having children in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos, but they’re wrong. In the age of iPads strapped to car seats, childhood obesity being at an all time high, and nearly every kid in the U.S. being insufficient in Vitamin D, the kids of today need minimalism more than ever.
There are so many positive side effects of minimalism for mothers, and I spend my days helping my fellow women reshape the way they’re doing mom life based on a realistic, empowering philosophy of less clutter. What I want the world to understand too, is how minimalism makes an impact on children.
As a mom of four little ones, I can testify for this strongly! In the last five years of raising my babies under the minimalist lifestyle, I have seen a huge shift in my children and our family as a whole, and I notice some truly amazing differences in my kids on a regular basis.
The Effects of Minimalism on My Children
Lack of entitlement
My kids do not feel entitled to a new toy when we go to Target, they don’t even think to ask. Sure, they’re human beings and they see things they think are awesome and will occasionally ask for a toy- they’re not robots- but they don’t expect it; they don’t feel that they have the right to getting it. And to me, that’s the problem with so many kids today.
My kids also do not expect constant entertainment, they make their own. Driving for three days straight across the country last week, there was only one meltdown and it was from the two-year-old on the final day who was tired of being in his seat. The older kids made up stories and games, they laughed and played while buckled into the same seats for days in a row.
Sitting at the DMV a couple weeks ago, they pretended to be Princess Toadstool and the Mario Brothers for an hour without complaint.
When Brian and I have work to do, the kids are around because we homeschool, so we are literally all together 24/7. It’s rarely a problem because the kids will go outside and play for hours.
This is a reality so many parents don’t think is possible, but I’m telling you- it is.
So many of us want to raise grateful humans, but we overwhelm them with entertainment, gifts for no reason, and the philosophy that they should never want for anything or ever be uncomfortable. I don’t purposely create unfortunate situations for my kids, but life is crazy and stuff happens. Everything is not fluffy unicorns and butterflies and my kids are aware of that, even at very young ages, and they’re some of the most grateful people I’ve ever met. It’s a pleasure for me to bless them every once in awhile with something special because they truly deserve it and they’re so grateful.
They take better care of their belongings. They’re authentically thankful when someone gives them a birthday present. It’s beautiful to see that.
Playfulness and wild imaginations
I’ve seen my kids come up with incredible play scenarios literally out of thin air. I’ve seen them turn the most random, inanimate objects into the most entertaining play tools in the world. All kids are naturals at this; it’s us adults who get in the way by giving them loud toys that do all the imagining for them and rob them of their natural gift.
My kids know how to make friends, have conversations with other kids, and talk to other adults because that’s something they do all day every day. They’re not pinned to screens, so they actually converse with other people. I may sound sarcastic but I’ve been on a couple of playdates where this wasn’t required and didn’t happen.
On one, the kid was allowed to sit in the car and watch a movie on the car TV. On another, the kid was glued to his iPad while sitting on the swing at the playground.
My kids wanted to play with their friends, but screen time won, so they played without them and went and talked with kids who were actually there to enjoy their childhood.
Stronger relationships with each other
All my kids do is be each other's best friends. They play with each other, do school work with each other, do chores and clean up with each other, and fight with each other every single day because, that’s real life. They’re passionate and close and they love each other hard. Their sibling relationships will last a lifetime, so it’s important to Brian and I that they are close. Minimalism has definitely gifted them that, and if that were the only thing it did for them, it's worth it.
When you don’t have a lot of toys, you use your God-given creativity to make up games and stories. Years of that will make you one super creative kid in one way or another. My daughter Bella (8) is a master artist (she even teaches her own module in my course and shows other kids how to draw pretty pictures instead of playing video games all day. Proud mama here!), my son Leland (6) is basically a Lego engineer, Hudson (4) is super active and great at coming up with fun games, Emmett (2) is the chief of boyish play and is constantly pretending to “get the bad guys”.
As my kids get a little older, they’re becoming very in tune with their personal skills, and I love seeing them confident in what they’re good at at such a young age! What a gift!
They’re happier in general
Whenever my kids (one of my sons in particular) does get screen time, I can see such a difference in their attitudes. Less technology and more old fashioned playing is so good for them, and they’re just generally a lot happier than other kids because of the way we live.
An awareness of community needs and charitable giving
We’ve always made minimalism about the giving, not about having less clutter and a clean house. It’s really important to me that my kids see the good in this lifestyle and not resent it. They have always donated their toys and books to orphans and they each have such a tender heart for those in need. It’s been painful and beautiful to show my kids that that world exists and is right in front of us. I love that they voluntarily talk to me about giving and helping the needy, and I know that comes from our approach to minimalism and decluttering.
The desire to be outside most of the time
It’s a safe bet to say my kids spend 80-90% of their day outdoors. That fluctuates depending on what state we’re in, but stays relatively steady. And the best part is that I rarely have to do the mom thing and kick them out yelling, “go be outside!” They want to be out there and it’s awesome. They get dirty and sun-kissed and they adventure every single day- nothing says childhood more than that to me!
Everything is calmer
Being a mom automatically comes with plenty of chaos- that’s a given, but parenthood today is just so demanding and loud and insanely draining. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming- that’s your choice. I feel like minimalism has made our home and our life so much calmer and deeply enjoyable. I don’t have to fight my kids to get off the video games or turn the TV off for the hundredth time or nag them to be together or love each other better. Life is slower and more peaceful because we have removed the excess, the clutter, and the noise of too much. That’s something our busy society has yet to learn.
If this doesn’t resonate with you at all, totally get it. Click away and never think of it again. You do you, mama. But if this is speaking volumes to you, you might be wondering how to make the transition from where you are right now to this life.
How to Implement Minimalism For Your Kids in Your Home
1) Declutter the toys
In order to get started, you have to let go of all the things that have been keeping you overwhelmed and your kids overstimulated with entertainment. Start slow, don’t overthink it, and just start- those are my biggest pieces of advice here. Don’t sneak around and get rid of stuff behind your kids’ back- that’s not what we want here. We want them to be aware and understand this process, so it’s better to go slower and wait for them to get on board than to lose their trust.
You buy stuff with your time, not just your money. Less clutter equals less stress and more time. It's as simple as that!
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2) Choose outdoor time over screen time
It’s a habit you can choose to make. Technology is awesome and there’s a time and place for it, but it doesn’t have to be the only way to fill your kids’ time if you don’t want it to be. Don’t let bad weather be an excuse to pull the iPad out either. If you live in a state with lots of freezing or scalding days, you have the challenge of getting creative and encouraging your kids to do the same! Nothing amazing comes easy. Sometimes you have to fight for what you want and make it happen like the warrior mama you are!
3) Play with your kids sometimes (but let them learn how to keep themselves entertained too)
Get outside, have a living room dance party, make up a game together… be the mom who plays and makes awesome memories!
4) Conscious consumerism
What kind of toys are you choosing to keep as you declutter? What kind of toys will you buy going forward?
Personally, I choose to have things in our house that encourage my kids to use their imaginations or to build things. Legos, blocks, dress up costumes, things like that are so worth the space they take up and always inspire creative play. If you have things like this and your kids don’t play with them, declutter the rest of the toys, give it a week and watch what changes.
5) Lead by example
Kids know what you show them. When I implemented minimalism in the rest of the house and we started living this way in every area, my kids learned that this was just a part of our family and how we roll. Now they don’t remember anything else and it’s just the way things are. :)
Have you implemented the idea of less with your kids at all? Do you want to? Share your thoughts in the comments!