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Jul 16

Helping Kids Simplify

Welcome to the July edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival – With Kids cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month, we write about keeping things simple with our kids. Please check out the links to posts by our other participants at the end of this post.

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I considered writing about many different aspects for this post, but one of the main questions I hear from parents is about how to get kids to let go of things. This isn’t what they really want to know, but feeling overwhelmed, this is what comes out. What they really want to know is how to raise kids who want to live a more simplified life free from a need to hoard material objects. They want to know how to help their kids from drowning in stuff. To some extent, they want to know how to help their children, and their families, to not turn to items and let stuff rule their lives.

Is it even possible to raise children who are not obsessed with stuff in a society which revolves around the acquisition of the latest and greatest new toy, whether that is a talking doll or a smartphone? Yes. The world may have changed, but children haven’t. Children are born full of love and acceptance, and learning from the most important people in their lives – you! The most important way to help your children keep things simple is to be there along the way.

  • Embrace simplicity. So many parents complain about how their kids keep everything under the sun, but a lot of those same parents are modelling just that. Learn how to hang onto what is important and let go of what isn’t. Model it. Talk about it. And if you are one of those minimalist parents who is feeling overwhelmed by your child’s desire for stuff, remember, he is a child. You have a had a long time to reach the place you are. He is just learning and figuring things out. Look to help and guide rather than force. And then, to some extent, you may just have to let go.
  • Listen. It isn’t bad to want things. It’s okay for your children to look at an item and think it is really cool or mention how they would like to have it. In fact, it is healthy to feel that you are worth something. Talk to a child who thinks she doesn’t deserve anything because her life holds no value, and you will see exactly what I mean. That doesn’t mean you need to buy everything your child wants, but you can acknowledge her feelings. An item may really be cool, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it fits within your budget, your home, or with your goals. You can still wish, and if something is really important to your child, it will probably come up multiple times. You might even suggest that she add it to her wishlist or that she save up for it.
  • Explain. We know the reasons why we don’t purchase items or even bring home a bunch of free items, but does your child? If you don’t  talk about your reasoning, don’ t assume he understands. Listening to others’ thought processes can help us develop our own reasoning skills. The next time you are faced with a potential purchase, getting rid of items, or some other decision about stuff, say your reasons out loud.
  • Be there. To this day, my children do much better at tasks such as cleaning out their special shelves in their closet if I am there. My involvement may only be holding items up while they make decisions, but having me there seems to help. They feel less overwhelmed about going through items, and sometimes they need to not touch the items. A friend, when listening to me explain this, pointed out an article which she read that claimed that it was easier for people to get rid of things if they didn’t touch them. Once the individuals touched the items, there were more likely to become sentimental and keep the items in question. From my experience, that seems to be true.
  • Fit the space. We have a certain amount of space in our home, and if our stuff is overflowing, we know that it is time to declutter. When we rotate toys, we gather up all of the toys together and my children go through them, deciding what they really want out to play with for now, what they want to pack away for the time being, and what they are willing to let go of, whether it is to the garbage bin or to someone else who can use the item.
  • Keep it manageable. While we have always been good about keeping toys manageable, I admit that I didn’t always do as good of a job with the art supplies. I wanted the kids to have access to everything so as not to stunt their creativity. By having to much stuff out, I was stunting their artistic inclinations. I have since recognized what I was doing and now we have a pretty good system set up. We have staple items available at all times, with some items up higher where older kids can access them but younger kids need help. Other items are brought out and rotated so they are new and exciting, inspiring new creativity, and others are up out of reach but visible and can be brought out at any time by request.
  • Don’t bring it in. As much as parents complain about how much stuff their kids have, if your children are young, it didn’t just magically appear. Most likely, some adult made that purchase. If this is the case, there is a simple solution: STOP! Don’t do it. When well-meaning adults ask for gift suggestions, give other ideas. Memberships make great gifts, as do magazine subscriptions, time with the said adults, consumable products such as art supplies, or quality books for your home library (still stuff….but hey, I’m a bibliophile).
  • Give them your presence. You have probably heard the saying that children want your presence and not your presents. It’s true. You are the most important people to your kids. Be there for them to help navigate life. Explain and model. Teach by example, and talk about your values.
  • Let go. At the end of the day, your child is her own person. While minimalism may be your ideal, you can’t force that on someone else. Give your child a space that is hers and let her keep her stuff there. Don’t throw away someone else’s stuff. That is bound to backfire on you with your child trying to keep control by keeping even more items. Recognize that different people do things differently and work together to meet everyone’s needs. Remember, it is not about stuff.

 

photo credit: Shagamaroo via photopin cc

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Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. Read about how others are incorporating simple living and parenthood. We hope you will join us next month when we discuss celebrations!

 

 

3 comments

  1. Kellie

    I love your thoughts here! We use a lot of these with our children, and they are very good about not accumulating or lusting after lots of possessions.

  2. sustainablemum

    My eldest and I had a clear out in his room this weekend and it was great to do it together. Most of what he was holding on to was actually stuff that he himself kept saying I think we should get rid of this, old empty boxes, pictures and stuff that was collecting dust. He is delighted with his new space!

  3. Lauren @ Hobo Mama

    Ok, this was the perfect article in response to my own swirling questions about minimalism & kids & stuff stuff stuff! Brilliant and thought-provoking — thank you for writing this all out.

    Your note that people might be better able to get rid of things they don’t touch is really intriguing. I was actually thinking of bringing in a professional organizer to help my husband and me make more headway on clearing out our storage. Now that I know that factoid, that’s one more mark in favor of hiring some help. It seems like an unnecessary expense to my husband, but I keep thinking it will force us to get through the sorting in a timely fashion.

    Anyway! Back to your post: I can see I need to work on (a) naming my reasons aloud for not accumulating or ridding ourselves of items (which I do, but I have to keep it up, because it will sink in over time, I hope), (b) acknowledging my child’s wants with talking about items and making wish lists but not necessarily going beyond that, and (c) allowing my child to be himself and not be at the level I’ve reached (low as it is) with regards to not being attached to stuff. Thank you!

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