INSIDE: Minimalist living with kids can be a challenge. In your journey to simplify are you unintentionally teaching your children the wrong lessons?
We stand in the doorway of the bedroom looking in at her newly-clean space. I give my daughter’s arm a quick squeeze, “It looks great, honey. I love what you’ve done.” As I scan the room, slowly taking in all the details, I catch a glimpse of my daughter’s face and smile. She’s absolutely glowing with pride.
She breaks from my embrace, jumps over to her bed, and grabs a book from the shelf strategically placed within reachable distance. She smiles, “I love my new room.”
I reply, “Me too, but the works not done yet. We’ve still got boxes in the hall.”
Her face drops and then she says it. She says the one statement that makes all the time and effort of this decluttering Bedroom Swap over the weekend worth it.
I don’t want to bring anything else in to my room. I have everything I need.
And with that one statement, I am the one beaming with pride.
I know in THIS very moment — as she sits in her room surrounded by the things she loves most — she FEELS the joy of minimalism.
I don’t want my kids to think of minimalism as decluttering and getting rid of everything they own. I want them to see it as the exact opposite. I want my children to learn the power of surrounding themselves with people and things that bring them absolute joy.
I carry a box full of her stuff over to the bed and sit. I quietly start to shift through the items. I pick up a calico cat piggy bank, raise my eyebrows, and look over.
“But I made that when Nana took me to Clay Corners.”
I grab a small chipmunk stuffy. Before I can even glance in her direction she replies, “But that’s from our trip to South Dakota.”
I pull out the Rainbow Loom.
“But I like that,” she tells me.
I pause to reassure her, “Honey, I’m not going to force you to get rid of your stuff.”
She takes the box and starts to rummage through the trinkets. She picks up a handful of kitty shaped erasers and laughs, “Remember when I got these at the book fair?”
When I ask her where she wants to put the Rainbow Loom her smile disappears.
THIS moment — she FEELS the mental weight of clutter, this is a powerful realization.
As parents, when we force our minimalist beliefs and give our children belongings away without permission, the result is often the exact opposite of our intention — we train children to desperately want to hold on to things and to feel resentment towards us.
Instead, we need to find ways to connect the dots for them. We need to find ways for them to EXPERIENCE the joys of minimalism.
Often people define minimalism as a mass decluttering, but I want my girls to hold on to a different definition. Again…
I grab two boxes and explain one is for donations while the other is for stuff she feels unsure about giving away.
As we start to go through the items I teach her a gratitude lesson from Mari Kondo that has been helpful for me.
“Many people may feel guilty when letting go of items,” she says. “By expressing gratitude toward the items you let go, it will lessen the feeling of guilt.”
I suggest my daughter talk to her things and thank items as she donates them. At first, I get an “are you serious?” face, but then she gives it a try and it helps.
We look at each item and truly assess how important it is, when the last time it was used, and if she really wants it in her room where she’ll put it. We talk about if we know someone we know who might love receiving the item. We talk about if we want to donate it to the local women’s center or Goodwill.
She makes the choices, I simply guide her.
The items that are too challenging to donate in this moment go into another box. We make an agreement and write a date on the top with a Sharpie. We will store the box up on a high shelf in the garage and if in three months’ time she hasn’t needed or missed anything from that box, I have to permission to donate it without rediscussing it with her again.
As our family continues forward on our minimalism journey I often think about an old proverb I learned through Montessori.
Tell me, I forget;
show me, I remember;
involve me, I understand.
In what ways are you involving your children in your minimalism journey? Are you truly teaching them the lessons you are intending? Pause and ponder today.
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