Minimalism & Kids: Let’s Talk About Books & Toy Story

October 2, 2019

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This month is #AllieReadsOctober and we’re talking all month about some of my favorite books. Books that have shaped me, that have influenced my worldview, the way I live, and the way I parent. 

I’m also interviewing a couple authors of books I read this year that impacted me and I think are totally worth a read! Click here to listen to the most recent episodes.

Since my job is to help women declutter their homes and teach their families the importance of living with less, I wanted to be sure to include a few books that can help you mamas raise little minimalists.

As parents, we have this amazing opportunity to shape the next generation. That’s powerful and pretty amazing!

If you ever doubt your purpose, that’s it right there. Or at least part of it 🙂

I say it all the time: I’m raising world-changers. You’re raising world-changers, too. 

Our kids will leave some kind of impression on this planet. So, we have a pretty big responsibility, and studies show it can do only good to raise kids focused on non-material things.

How awesome is it that we have the chance to break the over-consumeristic cycle of our society just by raising content adults? If you’re sitting there like, “Mmmkay, Allie. But how?” 

Let me encourage you to listen to episode 066 of The Purpose Show. I talk all about how to raise minimalist kids and why you should. 

I’m teaming up with a child play therapist to bring you a new FREE web class.

We’ll shine a light on the things you need to know and teach you how to begin the process of minimalism with your kids (or succeed in it if you’ve tried before!). 

I believe that raising kids in some version of minimalism is the key to raising grateful, non-entitled, content, self-sufficient, happy adults. And I truly believe that’s what most of us want, am I right? 

These books that I’m including in #AllieReadsOctober are actually children’s books. And they’re really, really good. 

We have these books. I’ve read them to my kids, and I think they do a great job of explaining minimalism to kids in a way they understand.

So, this is a really good way for you to open the door to have a conversation with your kids about minimalism, contentment, generosity, and living simply.  

Side note: there’s a much deeper conversation about resources for helping you raise minimalist kids and all the training you could think of in my course, Uncluttered Kids, which I created with a child play therapist. It’s such a good course and I’m super proud of it! I know it can help you. Check it out!

[***I want to make sure I put a little disclaimer right here: The first two books that I mention are a part of the Berenstain Bears series. And I just found out that this series is Christian-based. I had no idea. I grew up reading these books and I don’t remember any Biblical references or anything about the Bible. So, I think this series of books is safe if you’re not of faith, or if you’re not of the same faith as me. That being said, the first book I mention definitely has Biblical references (that’s what had me Googling the rest of the series to find out if the whole thing is Christian). The book mentions that Mama Bear pulls out a storybook Bible and shows her kids the story of a king. That’s it. But I just want to always be sure to let you know if something is more geared toward the Christian faith because I know that not everyone is of the same faith as me, or of any faith at all.***]  

The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Things by Jan Berenstain & Mike Berenstain

This book really does a great job of drawing attention to our culture’s obsession with things. The plot shows a typical day in the life of a typical family. 

Mama Bear sees an actual need that the family has (they need new sheets and pillowcases) and announces that she’s going to the mall. But, of course, the minute that she announces it, suddenly everybody wants to go because they all magically “need” something. (How accurate is that?)

But Mama Bear isn’t really feeling everybody going to the mall, she doesn’t think any of them need anything else. Nevertheless, they all pile into the car for a trip to the mall. 

The book highlights how crowded the mall was and how much effort it took to actually get there. Once they’re inside there’s a huge crowd. Everyone’ s busily shopping for things that they probably don’t need. 

The first thing they do is get the things that Mama Bear came for—you know, the things they actually need. But then Papa Bear wants to go to the fishing store and the kids want to go to the toy store. 

So, Papa Bear buys a new fishing reel (that he doesn’t need), and the kids walk into the toy store and immediately start asking for all these new toys (that they don’t need either). And Mama and Papa Bear are pissed, basically. 

Papa Bear says, “I’m so shocked by how greedy you are!” Meanwhile Mama Bear is whispering in his year like, “Hmmmaybe we shouldn’t be so shocked because we’re the ones who gave them all their things in the first place. Oh, and also you just got a new fishing reel you for sure didn’t need.” (I’m paraphrasing)

And so, basically, they go to the book store, they get the Bible out and Mama Bear shows the cubs the story of the king with all the riches, the golden crown, and all the robes and how he wasn’t really satisfied by any of those things. 

Papa Bear tells them that nothing that the king can buy with all his money is as beautiful as the simple beauty that God created in the world. And the Bernstein Bears realize the beauty in simple things and in having less. 

They decide to make a commitment together to just enjoy nature more, to get outside more, to enjoy each other more, and to not put so much importance on things. 

What I like love about this book: It emphasizes that family is really important and that things are not so important.  ???

The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need by Stan Berenstain & Jan Berenstain

In this book, Mama Bear is taking care of the house and she notices that their house is just really full of a lot of stuff. She’s always cleaning and it’s taking her way too long to maintain and manage all of it.  

There’s crap everywhere (it doesn’t say crap in the book, but you know it is). In the attic, in the closets, in the drawers. 

Basically, Mama Bear is standing there thinking that they have so much stuff while others have so little. 

This bothers Mama Bear a lot. She goes to sleep worried about this and ends up having a nightmare. She dreams all their stuff comes to life and is pouring out of every drawer, closet, nook and cranny and just chanting at her, “Too much! Too much! Too much!.” 

She wakes up in a cold sweat and tells her hubby, “We have to do something about all this stuff.” The next morning she makes a family announcement that they have too much stuff and they’re going to get rid of a bunch of it. 

After some back and forth, they decide to have a yard sale. But once they see how much stuff they have that they don’t even need, they decide to give it away instead.

They donate to the old folks’ home, the hospital, the veterans who are out of work—basically people who need it more than they do. And they learn some valuable lessons along the way. 

What I like about this book: It shows that many of us have the good life. And it focuses on the common problem of too much stuff, and how difficult and time-consuming it is to maintain all of it.

What I didn’t like about this book: The traditional gender roles. Mama Bear is taking care of everything in the house and Papa Bear’s just coming home from work, trying to relax. The only way he notices that his house is filled with crap is when he tries to sit down and there’s just stuff in his way. So, that kind of sucks. It would’ve been better if Papa Bear was also helping clean. But, ya know, we can’t win ‘em all. 

If I was going to get just one of the Bernstein Bears books for my kids, I would get this one over the Trouble with Things.

Robbie’s Toys—A Boy With Too Many Toys by The Go 2 Girls LA

This book is about a little boy named Robbie who has too many toys. Obviously. 

And the more toys he gets, the bigger his mess gets until his mess has grown so big that he can’t even play with the toys he has. Sound familiar? 

It’s just too much. So, his mom tells him that it’s time to donate some toys to other kids who don’t have as much as he does. 

He decides to only keep the toys that make him really, really happy. And now he has more room and he organizes the things he kept into bins so that he can actually find what is special to him and so it’s easy to clean up.  

What I like about this book: It’s really good for super, super little kids. I would say definitely no older than five years old. 

My son, Emmett, is four right now and if he was turning six, or even 5 and ⅓, I would not read him this book. Because he would laugh and think it was a joke. 

But it’s a really great book to start a conversation with your really young child about the fact that he has too many toys (which is totally normal). It rhymes, and it normalizes the typical decluttering process. 

I also think this book could present you with the opportunity to hear your kids’ concerns before purging. This would open up the door to say, “So, we’re going to do this just like Robbie did! But before we start, do you have anything that you’re worried about? Are there any toys that you’re worried about losing or that you don’t want to get rid of?” 

I say this all the time, and I’ll say again here, I think it’s super, super important to involve your kids in the decluttering process. Don’t do this without them or just go in while they’re sleeping or at school and just get rid of their stuff (unless they’re younger than like 3). 

You wouldn’t want someone to do that to your stuff, so don’t do that to them. We don’t want our kids to feel betrayed. 

We want them on board with decluttering and minimalism. And that will be really, really hard to do if they don’t trust you.

OK. Now, let’s talk about a non-book issue that ties in here… the Toy Story movies. 

I get asked about these movies all. the. time. 

A lot of moms who are in the process of decluttering or are about to start decluttering have concerns about showing their kids these movies because they give toys life. And it just seems really dangerous to show kids these movies and then try to get them to give their toys away. 

I’ve never really spoken on this topic because I’ve just thought it needs to be the parent’s judgment. But now, Toy Story 4 has come out.

Since I get asked pretty regularly about these movies, I just want to give you a little bit of info on what the movie is about so you can make an informed decision if you haven’t seen it. The makers of Toy Story 4 really laid in heavy on the sadness of getting rid of toys, even more so than the other three.

In the beginning of the movie, there’s a throwback scene to when Andy was a child. Andy’s mom is decluttering (way to go, mom!) and gets rid of Bo Peep. 

And there is this really sad separation scene between Woody and Bo Peep. And honestly, it’s friggin’ heartbreaking. 

Like even for me, as a mom, watching it was like, “Oh my gah. This is so sad.” So, I can absolutely understand why some moms have said to me, “I wish I hadn’t taken my kids to see this movie. We’re about to get into decluttering and I’m learning how to purge and I want to do this with my kids but now they’re all freaked out and they think they’re toys have life. Sooo, this sucks.” 

Yep. Totally get it. 

That being said, we love the Toy Story movies. We’ve seen them all. We own the first three and watch them regularly and, actually, they’re my kids’ go-to choice when I say “pick a movie!”

My kids also have most of the toy characters. Toy Story is a big part of our life. It’s special!

And it’s been fine because I’ve raised my kids in minimalism. My oldest, Bella, was 3 when I did my first purge (she’s 10 now) and Hudson was an infant. Emmett wasn’t even born yet. 

This lifestyle is all they’ve ever known. They understand what should stay and what shouldn’t. And they have a say in what stays and what goes. So, that’s an advantage for sure. 

But I wanted you to know that Toy Story hasn’t had a negative impact on them, our minimalist lifestyle or our seasonal toy purges. 

Having said that, because I’m super minimal everywhere else, I don’t really care if their toys are the most minimal ever. It’s just not my goal, so if Toy Story bothered them, I would probably be gracious and relaxed about it (kinda like I am with birthday parties and the influx of toys then).

Minimalism is something that’s regular for us, so it’s regular to them. It’s normal. 

They will come to me and tell me if they decide they don’t want to play with something anymore and they’ll donate it. I don’t have to force or even prompt them. This is how we live. 

We live and breathe this way. It’s a part of our family culture, and so it’s not a big deal. And Toy Story has always been a part of their childhood, in the midst of minimalism. 

But, if you’re new to this and you’re about to purge for the first time, Toy Story 4 could be confusing and totally mess with your kids. So, maybe don’t show them right now. It’s your call, and I wanted to shine a light on what I think, how we live, and what about the new Toy Story movie might make it hard for your littles. 

Maybe save it for another time after this lifestyle switch is old news and they’re feeling a little more grounded in it. 

At the end of the day, you know your kids better than anyone else. So, I just encourage you to be confident in your motherhood, and use your best judgement. You got this!

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