Every few years, there’s (at least) one word that comes into our culture that becomes so popular, it seems like everyone on the entire planet is talking about it. In this particular era, one that immediately comes to mind, is “minimalist”.
Although the definition of the word—which is actually more like a movement—varies based on who you talk to, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (two men who are considered to be leaders in minimalism) provide one of our favorite ones:
So what is this minimalism thing? It’s quite simple: to be a minimalist you must live with less than 100 things, you can’t own a car or a home or a television, you can’t have a career, you must live in exotic hard-to-pronounce places all over the world, you must start a blog, you can’t have children, and you must be a young white male from a privileged background.
OK, we’re joking—obviously. But people who dismiss minimalism as some sort of fad usually mention any of the above “restrictions” as to why they could “never be a minimalist.”
Minimalism isn’t about any of those things, but it can help you accomplish them. If you desire to live with fewer material possessions, or not own a car or a television, or travel all over the world, then minimalism can lend a hand. But that’s not the point.
Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.
Yes. Minimalism is about freedom. And, of all the things that you could raise your children to be, shouldn’t “completely and totally free” be on the top of your list?
If you wholeheartedly agree, here are some of the best ways to make that happen.
Here are some of our favorite tips for truly becoming a minimalist parent.
Make the Most of What You (Already) Have
When your child is 30 and the two of you are sitting on your porch discussing what they remember most about their childhood, you can best believe they’re not gonna talk about their favorite toy or any other purchase that you made for them. What they are going to remember most is the time you spent (or didn’t spend) with them.
Unfortunately, a lot of parents are missing the quality time they could have with their kids. They are spending long hours at the office trying to afford “the good life” instead. As a result, a solid foundation and strong emotional connection with their children are not being established.
Your kids need your presence and attention more than any tangible item. If you don’t believe us, think about what you cherish most when it comes to your own parents.
There’s a set of parents we know who take a pretty cool approach to gift giving. Whenever Christmas rolls around, they tell their kids that they can get two things of their choosing. Whatever those things are, they then buy two more of those same things. This way their kids can give them to children who wouldn’t be able to afford to get those items any other way.
Not only does this model minimalism from the standpoint of not going overboard with presents. It also teaches their children the beauty of generosity, along with how all young people are deserving of good things (because they are).
It’s never too late to learn gratitude. Before your kids are old enough to write (but are old enough to talk), encourage them to share something they are grateful for around the dinner table (make sure that you join in too). Once they are old enough to write in a journal or diary, invest in a gratitude journal.
None of us should wait until Thanksgiving to reflect on what we are truly thankful for. The more your children express gratitude, the less there will be an emotional need for unnecessary excess.
If you’ve never heard of helicopter parenting before, think of what helicopters do—they “hover”, right? A helicopter parent basically does the same thing. They do things for their children that their kids should be able to do on their own. They can be so controlling that their children never learn how to become more responsible individuals.
Sometimes helicopter parenting is due to fear, sometimes it’s due to what a parent’s parent did to them. Either way, nothing about control or fear speaks to a life of freedom.
As a parent, you’re there to instruct and support. But don’t clip your kids’ wings so-to-speak by being so scared that they’ll hurt themselves that they never get out of your nest (again, so-to-speak).
Practice the “Half-and-Half Principle”
It’s OK—encouraged even—for your kids to learn how to earn certain things that they want in life. Not only will it teach them responsibility, it will also show them how to value money more.
If there is a big purchase your child (or teen) desires, rather than just purchasing it for them, instill the “half-and-half principle”. You pay for half and let them pay for the other half. In the time that it will take for them to get the amount of money that they need, they will learn another important principle along the way—patience.
Schedule in Free Time
Some parents have their children in so many different activities that their kids barely have time to sleep (at least) eight hours, let alone play outside or daydream. That’s not good because time is one of our most valuable assets; it’s something we can’t get back once it is gone.
In the midst of school, clubs, sports, chores and whatever else is on your children’s to-do list, set aside at least an hour a day for them to “get off of the clock” and just BE. On the weekends, try and set aside at least half a day for the entire family to spend some quality time together.
Them getting personal relaxation time and also getting to hang out with you shouldn’t be a rarity. It’s something that should be used to doing on a regular and consistent basis.
Again, minimalism is (ultimately) about cultivating freedom. One of the tools that can help to make your children feel free is showing them how to tap into their creativity.
There are plenty of studies to support that music, art and other forms of creativity will reduce stress, improve self-esteem, make it easier to learn and retain what is learned—and that’s just for starters!
Whether it’s doing arts and crafts at home or enrolling them in some sort of class that will get their creative juices flowing, make sure your children’s lives don’t just consist of academics. For the sake of their children’s health and well-being, a great minimalist parent is going to nurture their kids’ creative side too.
Make Family Your Top Priority
A priority is “the right to precede others in order, rank, privilege, etc.; precedence” and if anything deserves to be that, it’s your family. No matter how much you tell your kids that you love them or they are the most important people in your life, it’s not gonna hold nearly as much weight as you showing them. You can a) not work so much that they hardly see you; b) spend more time with them than money on them and/or c) create great memories rather than give them lots of things. Or check out our other awesome activities you can do with your family to strength your relationship even more!
The beautiful thing about minimalism is the less you focus on “stuff” and “things”, the more you can focus on what matters most—love, life and freedom. Including with (and for) your children.