Using Minimalism to Teach Our Kids That Less Really Is More

by ParentCo. August 08, 2017

boy and girl lying together in bed looking up

Marie Kondo started a minimalism craze with her book, "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing." Her method, which involves only keeping items that truly bring joy, has transformed messy homes and cluttered minds for many readers.

As someone who loves Kondo's books, I was excited to get my hands on "Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism" by Fumio Sasaki. Reading it reignited my desire to stay true to simple, minimalist methods and to pass them on to my kids.

Some people shy away from the idea of minimalism because they view it as a system that demands deprivation instead of simplicity. However, minimalism doesn't have a checklist of items that are or aren't allowed. There are no specific requirements. It's a movement that's more about personal growth and conscientious living than it is about trying to win a prize for owning the least number of things.

While some people, like Sasaki, take it to the point of having one bowl and a single towel, with only a roll-out mat to sleep on, for most people embracing minimalism doesn't go quite that far. Regardless of what it looks like for each individual, it can teach our kids important life lessons they can carry into their adult lives.

1 | Teaches want versus need

There is nothing wrong with desiring an item, but many kids and adults have lost the ability to actually distinguish between a want and a need. For those of us lucky enough to have the essentials covered, it's easy to consider our wants necessary because food, shelter, and other basics are something we've never struggled to have. We start desiring more and calling it need.

Minimalism causes adherents to stop and think about if they actually need an item, or if their want is strong enough to justify its existence in their lives. There's a pause and an acknowledgment that buying something will not offer us permanent happiness, so if we're only grabbing an item for the quick high purchasing offers, it's a bad idea. This is an essential lesson for kids, and one they should learn young.

2 | Achieves freedom by focusing on less

Minimalism is not just about physical items, though that is the best place to start purging. Minimalism is about getting rid of distractions, whether they are material distractions or mental distractions, that zap our energy. Worrying about money, storage, or organization takes away time and offers mental stress, something minimalism helps alleviate.

Teaching kids that things don't have to be their masters frees them to let go of items that aren't worth keeping. They don't have to remain consumers.

Those who try minimalism may also analyze food and free time choices. It could lead to eating simpler meals and cutting out processed foods, focusing on less. Parents and kids may practice minimalism magic on their calendars, opting for less activities with a more meaningful focus.

Many find they are also more intentional about technology use, opting to set aside times to perform tasks online instead of letting it be an all-day interruption that simply takes up time. All of these changes offer the freedom of less.

3 | Opens us to experiences

Minimalism often opens up time for its adherents, and it also helps them value experiences over things. Experiences make us happier than material items anyway, according to a study from San Francisco State University. The short-lived thrill of a purchase fades, but memories of experiences bring us joy long after the experience is over, enriching our happiness.

Experiences don't have to be exotic or expensive, though they can be. They simply need to offer a child memories he will enjoy looking back on that will last longer than that trendy toy he thought he wanted.

4 | Stops the comparison game

Minimalism is a journey of self-discovery, with the focus on making our lives work for us. In this way, comparisons are of no use. It doesn't matter how much or how little those around us choose to consume. We exit the game where participants constantly compare their purchases and nice things to someone else's.

This is a great lesson for kids because it's easy for them to look around and assume they are supposed to have the same items other children do. By focusing on minimalism, we are teaching kids to develop self-control and think about how having less things, a more open schedule, and less stress helps them. They can then make choices that positively affect their lives without worrying about anyone else's decisions.

5 | Helps the unorganized kid

We believe that giving our kids things is a way to show love, but for unorganized kids, it can be an overwhelming burden to carry. I know because I was one, and I'm now an unorganized adult who is helped tremendously by the practice of minimalism.

I needed to be a minimalist in the 1980s (when it wasn't common) because I didn't care for things, but I would have loved the mental clarity and lack of guilt that comes with being able to properly sort a few items.

Unorganized kids can be unburdened quickly if they learn how to prioritize their wants and needs, find a special place for the items they deem essential, and learn some basic skills for keeping things sorted. It builds confidence in kids who can otherwise snap under the pressure of handling more than they are capable of.

6 | Makes us grateful

Having less can truly make us more thankful for what we have. Having more doesn't particularly make us grateful for it. If anything, having more can make kids expect more instead of being thankful for what they have.

Helping kids embrace minimalism in every aspect of their lives promotes being grateful for the big and little things in life. It can leave our kids happy with less instead of always thirsting for more.



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