Better Living

8 Minimalist Principles for Our Kids

Tips to teach kids the true value of material goods, generosity, and shared experiences
BY Mollie Donghia TIMEAugust 1, 2022 PRINT

Sometimes my kids are the biggest reminders of what it means to live more intentionally. At a young age, their innocence and unfiltered comments (often embarrassingly honest) resonate with me as they take in the world around them.

The other day, my daughter made a remark which made me realize how much she really is perceiving and why it matters. She was noticing how much “stuff” someone else had and the degree of clutter and overwhelm it had caused them.

But even at 6-years-old, she realized a significant change in the way our family has chosen to live.

My husband and I are still relatively new to our minimalism journey and certainly don’t live in a “magazine-worthy minimalist home,” but we do have everyday practices and routines that have influenced our desire to live intentionally.

Choosing to live with less stuff, spending our money on what we value most, and deciding how to best use our time are habits we’ve chosen to instill into our own lives.

We’ve seen the benefits for ourselves and want to share this lifestyle with our kids too, so in this post I’ll share eight lessons in minimalism that we aim to teach them as they grow into more independent thinkers.

Lessons in Minimalism for Our Kids

Be grateful for what you have. 

It’s amazing how the “keeping up with the Jones’” mentality kicks in at such an early age. Kids notice what others have and suddenly the grass is greener on the other side. It’s natural to have wants and desires, but we try to teach our kids that being grateful for what they have—and not constantly wishing for more—is a healthier way to live.

You don’t need a buffet of choices to be happy. 

When it comes to breakfast and lunch, we aim to keep our options simple, healthy, and limited. I’ve realized that kids don’t need a buffet of choices to be well-fed and satisfied. Eating healthy consistently is better than continuous novelty.

More isn’t always better. 

With three (soon to be 4) young kids running around the house, they each have their interests in toys and activities. Years ago, I used to think that in order to have a “fun home” we needed to have bins filled with toys and many choices to avoid boredom.

I’ve found that more toys creates more overwhelm during play, not to mention more to clean up at the end of the day.

We use a toy rotation system (swapping out toys every few months) and allow each of the kids to have a “special toy drawer” in their room where they can keep only what fits inside that drawer.

Live generously. 

With multiple siblings and neighborhood playmates, our kids have frequent opportunities to practice sharing and generosity. While we still observe some selfish behavior (because they’re still kids), we aim to help them see that what makes them happy might make someone else feel the same way.

Simple notes of encouragement, sharing toys, or doing an unexpected act of service are tangible ways that we encourage our kids to live generously.

Every item has a home. 

When every item has a determined home, it eliminates clutter. Teaching our kids this habit from a young age encourages them to put things back where they belong instead of on the floor or counter tops.

By limiting the number of things they own (toys, clothes, or other belongings), it helps them put their things away as a matter of routine.

Contribute as a valued member of our home.

As parents, we take on most of the responsibilities around the house. But as our kids get older and more independent, we expect them to help to take on some of the household responsibilities. By giving them age-appropriate chores, we teach them to value our home and possessions.

Value experiences over things. 

Like most children, our kids definitely enjoy getting new toys and trinkets. We want to teach them that our “things” won’t keep us happy. Toys break, clothes get holes and stains, and treats are a temporary pleasure.

What will they most remember years down the road? Hopefully the family vacations and day trips we took, splashing in the creek on summer days, Sunday dinners at Grandma’s, having campfires in the fireplace, our weekly homemade pizza and movie nights, or the 1:1 dates we took with each of them.

P.S. Making a yearly family photo book is one of our favorite ways to look back and remember all the fun memories we’ve had over the years.

It’s OK to live differently. 

This one will certainly take many years to realize and practice, but just because neighbors and friends have certain things, doesn’t mean we also need to have them to live a happy life. What makes others satisfied might not have the same effect on us. We aim to teach them to love others and that life is more than just a pursuit of our own pleasures.

Mollie (and her husband, Mike) blog at This Evergreen Home where they share their experience with living simply, intentionally, and relationally in this modern world. You can follow along by subscribing to their twice-weekly newsletter.
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