How to Embrace Minimalism When You Have Children

Are you one of those parents who wants their children to look beyond materialistic aspirations and lead a life of purpose? Look no further. Read on to know more about adopting a minimalist lifestyle

By Jayanthi Madhukar

How to Embrace Minimalism When You Have Children

Minimalism is a way of life, best described as being content with only what’s important and necessary. While those who opt to do so are happy with their choice, some parents may find minimalism a challenge. How easy is it to explain to your children that not having cable television is a sensible decision? Or that having a birthday party without gifts is not a big deal? Sounds impossible, right? We beg to differ. Having a minimalist lifestyle, when you have children, is not impossible. The key to its success is simple -- just replace materialistic aspirations with memorable experiences. What will follow is instilling values in them, which will have far-reaching benefits.

Here is how you can adopt a minimalist lifestyle:

Lead by example

Examine your lifestyle first. Minimalism is not about having all your possessions fit into a bag but about having just what you need. Do you frequently clear your cupboard of clothes that you don’t wear? Do you buy things just because it is good or on sale, rather than because you need it? Do you frequently express gratitude about what you possess? Do you use your own vehicle to go to a place which is accessible by public transport? All these questions address your day-to-day lifestyle, which is imbibed by your children. Children follow by emulation and parents remain their first-ever role models.

Explain your actions

Let’s suppose you need to buy a smart phone. Do you choose the latest in the market or one which has all the features you need, even if it is not the ‘top of the line’? When you buy what you need, explain to your children the reasons why you chose what you did, rather than just show them your new phone. Similarly, whenever your kids want to get something, encourage them to list out the reasons why they want it. Let them evaluate whether they need an item or ‘want’ it. A word of caution: This exercise will succeed only if you have the patience to hear out their reasons. Be careful not to always say ‘no’ to your children. Give them alternatives - the ‘good’ kind.

Make it Fun

Madhu and Jayesh have been practising minimalism since a decade. When their nine-year-old daughter wanted a birthday party, the two sat her down and explained that they would rather use the day to do something for the needy. But they gave her an afternoon of fun and frolic with her friends at home and asked her to request friends to gift money instead of toys. The money collected was used to buy things for the charity of their choice. “But when it came to the day of the party, we make sure that the children have lots of fun. I make a big chocolate cake and we call a magician or a clown because, we feel that will give the kids an enjoyable experience. Sometimes, there are games and instead of prizes, we make sure it is an experience they earn, like making a flower garland that can be taken home.”

Let them get bored

A long school holiday and nothing planned? While millennial parents tend to panic at such a scenario, it is often best to let things remain unplanned and impulsive. An afternoon at home with nothing to do is not exactly a bad thing. Make sure that there are enough art supplies and books from the library. Parents, especially those who are working, need not feel guilty with such days. Instead, plan a day out at the museum, park or library. To make such visits memorable, do a bit of research on activities to be done in these spaces. For instance, take drawing paper and charcoal sticks to the park. Make them hold the paper over the barks of trees and run the charcoal stick on the paper. What they will get to carry home is exotic site-specific artwork. Similarly, carry a small recorder (even a smart phone would do) and record insects and bird noises. Some days they can just sit around. Don’t feel the pressure to plan an activity every day. The values that such experiences give them will help in their holistic development.

Pass on values

When you talk to your children and explain your actions, they will tend to talk to you freely. By helping them ask why they need something, you will automatically equip them to be able to take necessary actions in the future based on reason. Minimalism isn’t about denial. It is about satisfaction and empathy.