It seems that what to do about the kids is a huge topic in the minimalism world. In fact, entire books have been written on the subject. Should toys be minimized? Should rooms be clutter-free? Should a parent just go through and minimize it all on their own, or should they enlist the help of the child? How should new toys be looked at? What about birthday gifts? What about hobbies?
The questions are endless, really.
And while I don’t have all the answers, I do have two kids who have found that minimalism suits them quite well. We’ve managed to create some very peaceful spaces in our house (their bedrooms) and it all happened with very little prompting by me.
Lead by Example
I’ve never forced my kids to minimize or declutter anything. When they were younger, they had all the things. I bought toys and games and, due to having two kids with special needs, all the therapy related stuff. If it said on the package that a toy or gadget would help with sensory stimulation, I was the first person in line.
As the kids would grow, and I would notice them not playing with items, I would gather those items up and donate them. It was never some big event where I made the kids get involved.
By the time I discovered minimalism (2016), my kids were very well aware of how toys that weren’t getting used would get donated.
What I didn’t realize was that when I started decluttering all of my own belongings, both kids would be eager to join in and declutter more of theirs. Items that I still considered favorites to them were somehow ending up in the donation pile.
And what really started surprising me was when they would ask me to help them go through things.
Basically, the kids have come to realize all on their own that less stuff makes them happier.
It makes me quite proud as a mother.
My son will be 15 years-old in just ten days from writing this post. He is autistic. He also has anxiety and sensory processing disorder. I tell you all of that because I know that in writing about my children, I won’t be writing about the majority. After all, the needs in my house are different. Even so, I do believe that most children can benefit from a minimized space.
In the words of my son, “I feel more at peace.”
He says that by having less stuff around his room, he feels peaceful. Think about that. I wonder how many children out there are amped up all the time because of the clutter we inflict on them… We buy all the things, thinking we are being awesome parents, when what they really need is for us to guide them in getting rid of most of it.
Let me show you my son’s room:
In my son’s room you will find toys – just not a lot of them. He has a bin full of legos. He has the few stuffed animals that matter to him. And he has his gaming systems.
Yes, that’s a television in his room. He needs it to play his video games. He does NOT have access to any sort of actual television viewing on that television.
You’ll also notice his desk. He spends most of his time there writing and drawing. You will see there is no traditional bed. By his own choice, my son has slept on a foldout futon-style mattress for years. He doesn’t want a bed, and that’s ok.
Most of his clothes are stored in the dresser. His closet has some flannel shirts, a zip-up hoodie, and his winter coat.
In his nightstand, he stores a few books and some card games.
When my son feels stressed, anxious, or in any other way overstimulated, going into his room calms him down. And I think that’s what children need. They need a space where they can breathe, relax, and escape from all the chaos brought on by the world around them.
My daughter is 13 years-old now. She is developmentally delayed. She also ADHD and sensory processing disorder, and she is visually impaired. She’s also very much a girly girl. She likes her frill and fluff. She loves sparkles and rainbows. And her room looks nothing like her brother’s.
While she does have more stuff in her room than my son does, my daughter’s room is still quite minimal.
Let me show you:
As you can see, my daughter prefers a traditional bed. And she likes her bed to be colorful, bright, and cheerful. She also loves her stuffed animals. The ones that don’t sit on her bed stay in a bin next to her dresser when not being played with.
Most of my daughter’s clothes are in her dresser. In her closet are just a few dresses, a zip-up hoodie, and her winter coat.
She has some books and toys on her bookshelf. And in her nightstand, she stores a few more books and some little trinkets she has collected.
The desk gets used for coloring and art projects.
My daughter will go in her room and stay for hours, happily reading a book or coloring a picture. She says her room is her happy place, and that is exactly as it should be.
Kids Don’t Need All the Things
I think as parents we mean well when we buy stuff for our kids.
We want to give them the world.
Sometimes, we want to give them what we never had.
Other times, we just desire to make them smile.
Unfortunately, we often give our kids stress along with everything else. More toys and gadgets aren’t the answer to happiness for our children.
My son feels more at peace and my daughter has a happy place – minimalism works for kids.
If you are wondering what to do with all the stuff your kids have accumulated, my best advice is this: lead by example. Show your children the happiness that can be achieved with less. Show your kids how your decluttering of things also declutters the stress. And then show them the free time you get when you no longer have to organize and clean everything. Show them the fun your family can have together.
Kids are amazing little sponges and will absorb all of the goodness quickly.
Don’t just go in like a whirlwind and take everything away. That will create conflict and battles that no-one wants to fight. Lead by example and create peace where you want peace. And stop buying all the things. If you want your kids to do with less, then you have to commit to buying less. You can’t expect children to be ok with minimizing their belongings when you keep filling their space with more and more all the time.
I’d love to talk about this more in the comments. If you are finding it hard to deal with all the kid stuff in your life, let me know. Let’s brainstorm together. I’m happy to offer my advice, suggestions, or even just my listening ear.