This is a guest post from Lorilee Lippincott from Loving Simple Living.
Commercial society has done a great job filling up kids lives. Couple that with the fact that houses keep getting bigger and most kids are now getting their own rooms. Kids have room for more and more stuff. Retail has done a great job of translating love to equal gifts and often it is kids that get the brunt of this lie. Kids collect gifts at birthday, Christmas, every other holiday, when they get a good grade, when they behave in the store, as a reward for doing a chore, as a apology or a way of making up for parenting mistakes, and sometimes for no reason at all. Kids get gifts from parents, grandparents, relatives, teachers, friends, and more. There is a constant flow of stuff into our kids life and space.
In my home, and probably in yours, my kids have more stuff to process and sort coming in that I do. Pair that with the fact that minimalism can be seen by some as cutting back, almost depriving, it is the last thing we want to inflict on our kids. We want to show them that every gift is special, ever art project is valuable, and that nothing should be wasted. However, in doing this we are further telling them that stuff is tied to love, experiences, and value.
As a parent it is our job to teach the opposite. To teach our kids that love is shown in many ways and that a person is not more or less because of the stuff that they own or have given as gifts. At the same time we need to guard against our kids being overwhelmed and stressed out because of their amount of stuff. We are responsible from birth on up (in different degrees to match ages) to create a living space that will inspire, relax, and grow them as ‘little’ people. I want my kids to love their room and have no trouble maintaining, playing, or cleaning it up. I want them to have time and space for lots of creative play.
Minimalist living, for us and for our kids, is about the benefits and environment we are creating and giving, not about depriving or anything we are taking away. Because that is the focus lets look at what kids should have access too: (not every kid at every age needs these, but this is the list I use for my kids)
- Art supplies – a few good quality ones not a whole pile of broken crayons, dried markers and half finished projects.
- Building/Structural Toys – blocks, legos, or something similar but only one or maybe two sets. They don’t need a bunch of pieces that get mixed up and don’t fit together.
- Relational/Nurture Toys – Dolls, Barbies, stuffed animals. Same with above, they don’t need all of them. There are dolls of so many sizes with cloths and accessories to match. A nice set of one or two types of dolls is all that is needed.
- Active Toys – Proper equipment for a few sports or activities that they enjoy.
- Puzzles and group games – A few age appropriate and quality options.
- Dress up – Probably more applicable for younger kids. A few quality, none character specific options that can fit many roles for creative play.
- Books – more books don’t equal more reading. Having a few age appropriate books and a clean spot to read them equals more reading. Kids go through books fast so it is always good to have new and interesting books, but they don’t need to keep the ones they have read. Libraries or other book sharing options are amazing for this.
- A few more child specific pieces can fit in as well.
Once we know what they need to have, it is very easy to see everything else as stuff that they shouldn’t have.
I first started to understand this when I noticed that my kids played the best after I had cleaned and organized their rooms for them. They were too overwhelmed to clean it themselves. They were crowded and overstimulated. They suffer from the same clutter stress and are overwhelmed just like we are.
We cut back on almost all of our kids toys a year ago (when they were 7 and 4). They now share a room and it is still mostly manageable for them to keep clean on their own. Their clothes and toys all can be put in their closet and they have lots of floor space to play. It was a huge change for us, but I wish we had done it sooner.
Lorilee writes about her family’s pursuit of less stuff and more living at Loving Simple Living. You can read more about how they downsized from a 2000 sq ft home to a 900 sq ft apartment here.