Minimalism and your Teen: an interview with Courtney Carver

My teen years were angst ridden and fairly unhappy. I often thought my life would be perfect if only I had a better wardrobe, we drove a nice car and lived in a new home. The teen years are tough.

Many of you have asked about how to approach life simplification with your teenage children. I’m a few years off having to deal with someone asking to use the car and demanding money for the movies, but Courtney Carver isn’t. Courtney is a wonderful writer with a HUGE following on her blog BeMoreWithLess. You’ve probably seen me link back to her before. I really connect with her take on moderate minimalism and the joys and benefits of a simpler life.

Courtney was kind enough to answer some of my questions about introducing minimalism or life simplification into a household with teenagers. Enjoy!

Minimalism and your Teen: an interview with Courtney Carver of BeMoreWithLess

How old was your daughter when you introduced the idea of minimalism/life simplification to her? What was her initial reaction?

I started quietly simplifying years ago, but it was only last year, when my daughter was 14 that I got serious. While I thought she would be horrified, she didn’t pay much attention initially. I think she thought I was “going through a phase”.

I know you have a love of cosmetics and you’ve been very open on your blog about your past love of Sephora (my Kryptonite is Williams-Sonoma). How do you negotiate the delicate ego of a teenage girl, and the branding and buying that can be tied up with it, while embracing a simpler or minimalist life as a family?

This is a big, big challenge. With my daughter, and I assume most teen girls, if you tell them how it should be, they’ll want the opposite. Even though I’ve gone through a huge transition, I try to take a softer approach with her, so I don’t push her away from the idea of living with less. She’s directly affected every day because we do less shopping, and she sees the changes I’ve made. I notice that she naturally buys less and wants less. That said, she’s made it clear that she is not an aspiring minimalist.

You gave away your television which is unfathomable for most families. What was your daughter’s reaction? What have you replaced the mindless tv watching hours with?

This move caused a bit of an uproar, and still does today. Before I canceled the cable, I found that while my husband and I would be watching something upstairs, our daughter would be downstairs watching something else. The very week I canceled the cable, we started spending more time together as a family. Our dinners linger longer and no one is working around the TV Guide. My daughter still jokes that she goes to friend’s houses because “they have TV”, but overall, it’s been an amazing change.

What has surprised you most about simplifying your life?

The most surprising thing is how many other people crave simplicity but don’t know how to get started. It’s hard to see the light when you are knee deep in debt and exhausted from trying to keep up with life. My very genuine connection with readers has been the best surprise.

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Courtney’s first book, Simple Ways to Be More with Less, has just arrived! I was lucky to receive a preview copy and loved it. If you need motivation or ways to start simplifying this is a great read.

Things I loved about this book:

  • it’s simple: I know that sounds redundant but it’s true. There are many chapters to the book but they are short, inspiring and filled with very clear actions for creating simplicity in your life.
  • it’s inspiring: if you’ve read Courtney’s blog you know she mixes Zen with a bit of tough love. That’s this book. She has a great little chapter in the book on being busy, why we crave it, why it hurts us and those around us. In a kind way, Courtney expresses that you need to get over yourself and the idea that busy = important.
  • it’s real: as you know, I’m into moderate minimalism. This is a great book if you crave simplicity but have kids, a home, pets and long to-do lists. Courtney provides many small straightforward ways to make changes in your life that can be implemented right away.

 

 

Congratulations on the book, Courtney, and thank you for all the work you have put into this book and BeMoreWithLess.com.

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  • Hi Rachel and Courtney!

    Wow Courtney, you’re just everywhere I turn today. :)

    Congratulations on the release of your book (the Smalltopia you spoke of yesterday I presume!).
    My kids are still little (six and 19 months), but I fret over the day they become teenagers. I know how important branding myself was when I was a teen, and I want my kids to see all of it for what it really is. I want them to use their own brain for deciding who they are rather than letting advertisers tell them who they should be.

    Times like these are when I get frustrated with my spending fast. As soon as my last consumer debt is paid off this summer, I’m stocking up on all of the e-books I’ve been dying to read — including this one!

    • I worry about teenager-hood too. Maybe it is different with boys? I just had so much of my self-esteem wrapped up in what I wore and what the label was. Of course, I grew up in a very wealthy community and we were not wealthy.

      Yes, Courtney is everywhere! Her book will still be there when you are done with consumer debt.

      We’re possibly moving to debt-free status in the next few months. Making some hard decisions…

  • Being a mom to a teenager, in my experience, is not nearly as horrifying as I thought it would be. I still have a few years to go but instead of trying to “get through” them, I am embracing them.

    Rachel – Thanks so much for interviewing me!

  • I’m not really a minimalist but we live simply by necessity and now that our 3 oldest kids are teens I’m finding that because we’ve always lived simply, frugally and on a budget they don’t know any different. We’ve always shopped at 2nd hand stores so if they find a trendy brand at the 2nd hand store they are thrilled. So far they’ve never asked to go buy something trendy NEW. I have many things I wish I’d done differently with these 3 oldest BUT am thankful we did this one thing right. The hardest thing for us with teens is technology … how to manage, provide and monitor the essential and non-essential technology all around us. Phones, laptops, iPods, iPads … it totally overwhelms me.

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