How Simplicity Can Make You a Better Parent

Simplicity means spending your energy, time, and money on what really matters.So how does that pan out when you have kids?

Whether you refer to it as voluntary simplicity, simple living, or minimalism, the conscious decision to live with less is driven by the same principle: simplifying one’s lifestyle to lead to more satisfaction.

David Thoreau is one of the best known advocates for simple living. In 1845, he left it all behind – family, friends, home – and built himself a modest one-room shack in the woods where he lived alone. He would later explain that his choice had been driven by his desire to “live deliberately.” Thoreau lived by the motto for which he would become famous: “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.”

Thoreau was the king of simplicity. He was also a bit extreme: “Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.” Although the principles of minimalism or voluntary simplicity encompass different practices, they’ve had a hard time shaking the false notion that one must “refrain from the best things in life.” Minimalism is not synonymous with fanaticism. It’s not about living in poverty.

Choosing to live simply is about choosing to live better with less. It’s about spending your energy, time, and money on what really matters. It’s about being self-sufficient.

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There’s a common misconception that practicing simplicity with kids is an impossible ideal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Choosing to live simply can free up your time, your energy, and your resources, and allow you to use them on what matters most.

In their book, “Simplicity Parenting, Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids,” Kim John Payne and Lisa Ross argue that both parents’ and children’s lives today are much too overwhelming. There’s too much stuff, too much stress, and too many distractions.

The book offers strategies to simplify everyday issues such as sleep and meals to help children flourish. According to the authors, when families save their time and energy, they can spend this time in more meaningful family activities.

How can you adopt simplicity when you have kids?

Simplify, simplify, simplify!

Having less clutter brings multiple benefits, including less time spent cleaning up and the need for less storage room. Taming the toys can also ignite creativity. As Payne and Ross assert, just as too many toys may stifle creativity, too many scheduled activities may limit a child’s ability to direct themselves, to fill their own time, and to find and follow their own path.

Our desire to simplify has to be grounded in action, so don’t just say you need to simplify, do it! Start by giving away the stuff you no longer need. What wouldn’t you miss if you were to lose everything? What’s been lying around your house for way too long? Start a challenge with your kids to see who can get rid of the most clutter!

Enjoy simple pleasures

Living in a consumer society, we often forget what Art Buchwald once said, “the best things in life aren’t things.”

One of these simple pleasures is enjoying the outdoors. There are many benefits to encouraging outside play. Proposing less-structured environments that enable your children to explore helps them develop multiple skills such as independence, creativity, and greater verbal ability. Take walks together. Let your child see you stop to smell the flowers.

Find alternatives

Teaching children to find alternatives can help them develop their sense of creativity and make them less dependent on store-bought items. Encourage your kids to check out Youtube videos to get ideas of what they can make with things around the house. Borrow craft books from the local library. Recycle.

Establish routines

Much evidence supports the idea that routines help children develop a sense of security. Daily routines lead to less stressful environments for both children and their parents and have been known to improve behavior.

The authors of the book “Simplicity Parenting” argue that rhythms and rituals give kids important roots. They propose that things should be kept as simple as possible and encourage parents to establish routines for everyday occurrences such as meals, bathtime, and bedtime.

For instance, the authors suggest that mealtimes should be simplified by making them predictable: choose one theme for each day of the week. (Monday is pasta night, Tuesday is pizza night, Wednesday is rice night, etc.) They argue that making meals predictable gives children a sense of stability and is also less demanding for parents to prepare.

Less stuff leads to a fuller life because you have more time and more energy to enjoy the people you love and do the things you love doing. Let’s try a challenge this week. Let’s give away at least one thing every day for the next seven days. What will you start with?