Living With Less (with kids)

Update: Read my latest Minimalism book review on “The More of Less” by Joshua Becker.

Minimalism has grown on my husband and I. The last five years we’ve begun dissecting our house and belongings. We’ve taken a look at the garage and weeded out what we don’t want. Everything we have weighs us down, one way or another – spiritually, emotionally, physically. And we prefer to live lighter.

So, we decided to live with less. We’re learning to let a possession burden go.

But what does that mean when you have kids? Does it mean you take everything away? Does it mean you live with the bare minimum? Does it mean your kids only have one plate, cup and spoon?

I don’t think it does. Instead, you own things that have true purpose and you use them frequently. By doing this you live a more fulfilled life with more experiences, time together, less arguing, more money (since you’re not spending it on stuff), and more honest and meaningful relationships.

This last Christmas my anxiety came from knowing we’d be collecting more toys and gifts we’d need or want and deal with the frustration of clutter (after de-cluttering the entire house). And we’ve decided next year we’ll simply be asking our parents and siblings (our children’s grandparents and aunts/uncles), to please only gift one thing to our children.

As parents, we’ll still be giving our children gifts. We don’t plan on completely depriving our son and daughter of a fun childhood. I don’t think a fun childhood revolves around having toys and things anyway. But instead of toys, we’ll mainly be gifting them with items they need (fun workbooks or board games for homeschooling, snowboarding gloves, a helmet for riding their scooter, arts and craft materials…etc.).

Mostly, however, we’ll be gifting experiences. A fishing trip with grandpa. Putt-putt with mom. A new creative class. Movie & bowling with grandma. A trip to the zoo… you get the idea.

As for toys, we’ve noticed as parents less toys means less emotional distress. It means less arguing over who gets to play with what. It means a calmer, more peaceful household. Less toys also means…

more imagination.
more creativity.
more cooperation with others.
more one-on-one time with siblings.
more time for conversations, prayer, reflection, meditation…
and more clarity and joy all around.

Don’t get me wrong. I know children learn through play. But this doesn’t mean they need toys everywhere. It means they play make-believe, wrestle, chase and jump and run, play games like hide and seek, draw or paint or explore and play outside, in nature, where children should be spending most of their time anyway. Not locked inside with plastic toys.

And since we homeschool (actually, we Christian Unschool) our home can’t completely lack any items for the kids, but we can make sure they’re being used and have purpose beyond simple entertainment or a keepsake collecting dust.

And if you homeschool, you still really don’t need that much “stuff” to teach your child. Our son, for example has a few board games he enjoys, books (we read daily), workbooks and writing/drawing/painting materials, stuffed animals and a few action figurines he plays with. Other than this, he finds other ways to occupy his time. Either reading, playing outside, working on a project or spending time with the family. (And we don’t offer screentime in our home other than weekends, yet, since the kids are so young.)

He’s never once said he’s bored.

And we have a corner of our living room in which I’ve been transforming into an “arts & crafts” area. I’ve been following Megan with The Art Pantry and she has some great, simple ideas for creating artistic spaces (big or small) for your home, that don’t mean spending your savings at the craft store.

As for my husband and I. We still have work to do. Slowly but surely, we’re curating a home experience requiring less upkeep, payments and storage and focusing on the enlightenment, happiness and freedom that comes from owning less.

And at the end of the day, when the kids are bathed and in bed, we generally never have to spend time cleaning up after them, because there’s literally nothing but maybe a book or a game to be put away.

I hope this encourages you and your family to live with less. Don’t feel like you have to do it all at one time. That’s pretty impossible if you ask me.

Instead, here are a few great resources to help get you started: (great newsletter)
How Can You Gradually Declutter Your Life? | The Minimalists Podcast (57:37) by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. The Minimalists have launched a podcast.
Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life.
The Example We Set | BecomingMinimalist
There are countless truths I desire to pass on to my children: being content with less is among the most important.
How to Program Your Mind to Stop Buying Crap You Don’t Need | LifeHacker
We can blame the stores all we want, but you won’t change how they operate.
Why I Got Rid of the Toys | Dallas Moms Blog
I found out the answer to my problem was having fewer toys, and picking the right toys.

3 thoughts on “Living With Less (with kids)

  1. Megan Schiller says:

    We have been going down this minimalism road for a while and still aren’t where we would like to be, but we are getting there. I completely agree with you about less toys = so much more of everything else. Thanks for mentioning my resources and I’m glad they have been helpful to you!


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