Does having children mean an end to your minimalist lifestyle? Is it possible to continue as a minimalist and have children? Does bringing up a child always mean clutter and a flood of toys? Can you stay true to your values without depriving your kid of the joys of childhood?
If you have ever asked yourself such questions then I can relate to you. As someone who strives to be a minimalist I was concerned that having a child would mean an end to my organised lifestyle. I would imagine piles of toys scattered everywhere. Or I would see pink clothes with princesses and frills that I would not have the strength to say no to. My worst nightmare was accommodating clutter by inviting home a lot of unnecessary things. It would seem like an attack on my carefully curated and edited collections of beloved objects.
The good news is that the reality isn’t as bad as I had anticipated. Well, a lot has changed, including myself and my attitudes. I think I have become more relaxed and more tolerant about having some mess at home. And when this mess is creative it means that I have a happy child!
Of course, a lot of new objects have found their way to our home. Some of them were necessary and useful while some were just impractical and meant wasted money. However, I think that I somehow managed to successfully manoeuvre through the traps of buying too much stuff for my daughter.
Below are a few simple rules that I try to follow:
Smarter choices: children’s clothes
- I have a few favourite colours for my daughter and try to buy clothes within that colour scheme. In such a way everything matches everything (well, mostly) so it is fairly easy to compose her outfits. Also, I buy just a few patterns for easier matching (usually stripes and dots).
- I let my family and friends know my preferences so they have a better idea of what kind of clothes would be most welcome. But, most importantly, when I am asked ‘What could we buy for her?’, I politely say that she has enough and doesn’t need more.
- I part with gifted clothes and accessories that don’t meet my criteria of quality, functionality and appearance. If possible, I return them to a store, I resell or donate them. I do it without feeling any guilt. In my opinion a gift serves its purpose when it is thought about, purchased/made and given. After I have received it, it is my choice what to do with it. And if I don’t like it or don’t need it, I let it go.
Smarter choices: children’s toys
- I use similar criteria for toys that I use for clothing: a toy should be educational, purposeful and of a decent quality. To me, it is also important that a toy is visually pleasing. I believe that by choosing prettier objects I help my daughter develop a taste for nicer things and become a more aware consumer.
- If my child doesn’t play with a certain toy, I give it some time. I encourage her and show ways to use it. If it still doesn’t catch on, I get rid of that toy. And I don’t have any regrets about it; the money has already been spent.
- I don’t feel guilty about partying with the toys given by family and friends. In my opinion, it is my job as a parent to decide how and with what my child plays.
- I came to a realisation that even the fanciest toy is nothing compared to the time spent with a parent who is willing to play. It is better to have three toys and a company than hundreds of toys and no one to play with.
Teaching children that it is ok to part with things
How about inviting children to assist you when decluttering and cleaning? In such a way they can learn how to make first decisions as consumers.
I often invite my daughter to assist me when organising her things. By helping me she learns where all her things belong and where to put them back. She is getting better and better at this. Already now, at the age of 3, she often surprises me by remembering where to put things away.
It is also important to me that my child learns that letting things go is natural. She knows, for example, that to get money for the trampoline, we decided to sell her pram and some toys. Sometimes she helps me choose the toys to get rid off, and she sees me packing them and putting them aside. I hope that she will always value the intangible more than any material possessions. I also hope that in the future she will become an intuitive consumer: someone who can make smart shopping choices.
Of course, I do make mistakes. There are some things I bought on the spur of the moment. They were a waste of my money and my time. But I keep on trying and, hopefully, I am getting better at becoming a minimalist parent.
What are you tips for keeping your children’s clutter at bay?