mnmlist: minimalism with kids

I’ve often been asked, “How can you be a minimalist with six kids? I only have two kids, help me!”

It can be pretty hilarious calling yourself a minimalist when you have six kids … but 1) I didn’t become minimalist until after I had the kids, and 2) anyone can be a minimalist, it’s a mindset not a matter of being perfect at it.

Let me repeat that: anyone can be a minimalist. It just means you’re trying to opt out of consumerism, trying to be more mindful of how you live your life, and trying to figure out what’s important and what’s not.

So if you have kids, try this:

  1. Explore a life without as much consumerism. What would it be like to shop less? Watch fewer commercials? Go on Amazon.com less? Try to do without or find a creative solution rather than buying stuff to solve everything? Try to explore this on your own, but also talk to your family about this. See if they might come up with ideas of their own. Make it a game or a challenge, and they might actually be open to it.
  2. Be mindful of your life with your kids. As you live as a family, see what you typically do that involves buying stuff. How do you accumulate possessions in your life? What do you have that you can get rid of? Start to make changes, but start with mindfulness.
  3. Try to figure out what’s essential for you personally, and for your family. What do you actually use on a daily basis? How about each week? What do you need? What do you love? What have you not used in months and can probably do without? Slowly start to pare the non-essentials, and try to bring fewer things into your life from this point on. Sometimes a weekend purge of the kitchen or garage or your bedroom closet can be a lot of fun, but no need to go crazy! Just small, mindful steps in a helpful direction.

What you don’t want to do is try to get down to almost zero possessions. It’s not recommended, and for most people who live with other people, it’s not even possible. We just can’t control other people’s possessions, and living together is always about the art of compromise.

What you don’t want to do is try to force your spouse or kids. They will resent you, you will probably fail, and even if you don’t, you’re not teaching them how to let go of consumerist desires … you’re just teaching them what a jerk you are. And possibly that they should hide their things from you so you don’t toss them out!

Instead of forcing, talk to them. Have ongoing conversations. Be patient and compassionate. Remember what it was like when you didn’t care about minimalism. Make it a game, or a challenge, or a fun family activity, to see what you can donate to needier families, to try to have fun without spending money. Explore, play, breathe.

My Journey

To be honest, my journey with my family hasn’t been “perfect” … I don’t even think that exists. We’ve had a bumpy road, but I’ve enjoyed the journey.