Do you ever feel like it’s impossible to be a minimalist because you have kids?
Maybe you’ve decided to pare down the number of clothes in your wardrobe, like Project 33, and you feel great about what you’ve given away until you realize your kids have so many clothes they can’t close their drawers.
Or maybe you feel the itch to finally clean out the minivan until you see all of the happy meal wrappers and toys that are covering the bottom of the floor, making it nearly impossible to find.
When it comes to your living room do you throw all of the kids stuff in the hallway closet because the thought of actually going through all of it makes you so tired you want to go back to bed?
If any of these describe you, the good news is you’re not alone. Minimalism with kids isn’t just a fantasy. Here are 6 steps to help you parent with minimalism:
1. Model minimalism for your kids.
Someone once said that things are more caught than taught. If you want your kids to embrace minimalism you’ve got to start by embracing minimalism yourself. Kids can smell a phony a mile away. Begin by decluttering your schedule and stuff before guiding your kids on this journey. Progress, not perfection, is the goal.
2. Don’t buy them everything they want.
One of the ways we teach our kids boundaries is by telling them no at appropriate times. As a parent you shouldn’t have to dread taking your kids to the store for fear of them nagging you to buy them something. In a loving tone, teach them that not every trip to the store (or McDonald’s) will involve a toy. Having this conversation early on will help your kids appreciate the times you do buy them things and help them appreciate those things that much more.
3. Decide how many activities your kids can participate in.
Before you let your kids sign up for something make sure it’s worth the commitment that goes along with it. There are a lot of great things out their for kids to do. But if we’re not careful their schedules will become too busy (and so will ours). Help them create a healthy rhythm now so they won’t give in to the busyness and frantic lifestyle that is so popular in our culture.
4. Determine how much space they are allotted for their stuff.
One mistake parents make when first starting out as a minimalist is deciding for their kids what they can keep and what they can’t. This will inevitably lead to unnecessary hurt, frustration, and conflict.
To avoid this talk with your kids about the space that’s allotted for their stuff and let them decide what to keep and what to give away. When your child has a say in what stays it’ll be easier for them to buy in to what you’re doing and it will teach them important decision-making skills.
5. Set ground rules for what kinds of snacks they can have and how often they can have them.
It’s no secret there’s an obesity epidemic in America (I say this as someone who struggles with their weight). Instead of buying your kids chips and cookies to snack on pick some healthy foods that they’ll enjoy and keep a good supply of them in your home. Let them know when it’s OK to have a snack and what amount is appropriate before and after meals. Save the ice cream, buttered popcorn, and pizza for special occasions.
6. Limit the amount of media your kids watch.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) — one of the only established organizations to make recommendations on screen time — discourages screen time for kids under 2 and advises limiting daily screen time to one to two hours for older kids. Studies have shown a link between heavy media use and issues such as obesity, lack of sleep, academic challenges, aggression, and other behavior difficulties.
Parenting with minimalism isn’t easy. We live in a culture that’s always telling us we need more. But when you decide to clear the clutter from your life and help your kids do the same in theirs you’ll experience more happiness and fulfillment. And so will your kids.