Minimalism for Parents 101: Your Get-Started Guide
When expecting their first child, many people envision happy scenes of simple bliss. Then reality hits home. Yes, babies are cute – but they’re also messy, on so many levels. And they keep you awake almost round the clock. And they come with so much STUFF. Is minimalism for parents an impossible goal?
Not necessarily. But it takes a lot of conscious effort, both before and after your child is born, to raise your offspring with a minimalist mindset.
How to Embrace Minimalism for Parents:
Minimalism for Newborn Parents
The more conscious thought you give to implementing minimalism for parents before your firstborn even comes, the easier it is to continue along this path. Here are two key traps to avoid if you want to give minimalism parenting a go:
a) Before Baby comes
The first step to minimalism for parents is to resist the hype that our consumer-driven society pushes, about all the things you NEED to raise a baby.
Yes, some of these things may make your life easier. But, as I’ve written before, your baby’s needs are actually pretty basic.
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Sure, it’s worth consulting versions of “The List” that come your way. But also be sure to ask your parent-friends what things were a waste of time and money. (The biggies in my “skip” category, based on what other mamas told me, were wipes warmers and bottle warmers.)
If friends offer you used versions of big-ticket items, by all means take them up on it, as long as the item hasn’t been recalled. (You can check an item’s recall status here.) This alone will save you tons of money.
But rather than buying (or registering for) everything under the sun, only get the basics you KNOW you’ll need. You can always get more things as needed later.
b) After Baby arrives
Once your bundle of joy is here, you’ll quickly realize which things are essential for you, and which you can skip.
While I made different choices on many of these, I like this mama’s breakdown of All Babies Really Need into five basics:
- Backside coverage
- A place to sleep
- Something to travel in
- A carrier
- Basic protection from the elements
Raising Your Child From A Minimalist Perspective
The older your child gets, the harder minimalism for parents becomes. But with effort, it’s totally doable. These are some of the tips we’ve embraced in our own journey:
a) Skip TV
Besides the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages passive screen time for kids, just stop and think about the purpose of all those things between the shows.
Not to mention all those things within the shows themselves. Which are often a lot less blatant than the movie Wayne’s World made them:
As a couple, Dear Husband and I made a conscious decision – long before parenthood – to eliminate live TV from our lives. We don’t have cable or satellite bills to pay each month – just our modest streaming subscription.
And as a result, our children never beg us for the latest toy, the newest sugary breakfast cereal, or anything else that they’d otherwise see advertised on TV whenever they turn it on.
b) Less is more
Do your kids really NEED the latest toy? Or a cell phone in elementary school? They may want these things, but that does not mean they need them.
Ask any seasoned parent what infants do on Christmas morning, and I bet they’ll tell you the same thing: Their babes couldn’t care less about the new toys. All they want to play with are the boxes and wrapping paper.
Ditto for the average toddler with a roomful of toys, who’d rather play with the canned goods and pots and pans in the kitchen, because Mama or Daddy is out there making supper.
As experts who’ve combed through the research have concluded, the more toys kids have, the less they play with them. They get too easily overwhelmed. With so many demands placed on kids nowadays, sparing them the stress that comes with toy overload is an easy way to lighten their load a little.
And many parents who streamline their kids’ toys to the bare minimum find that everyone is less stressed, and their kids are happier. Take away toys and leave kids alone with a few basic objects, and their imagination soars.
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Not to mention, spending less on expensive toys could leave you with the unexpected “problem” of extra cash in your wallet. Which will make it easier to focus on another strategy of minimalism for parents:
c) Experiences matter most
According to researchers at San Francisco State University, people who spend their money on “stuff” end up less satisfied than those who invest memory-making experiences.
This works best, though, if you are explicit with your kids about what you’re doing, and why. To date, my 9-year-old and 7-year-old have each had only a single big “friends” birthday party. At which they each got tons of “stuff,” most of which they stopped playing with in a month or so.
The standard for kids’ birthday parties is pretty high where we live: most families spend literally hundreds of dollars for an all-in package at some local destination. So instead of spending that money on throwing two kids’ parties, we instead spend it on two kids’ plane tickets for a family winter vacation.
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Every so often, the girls whine about wanting a big fancy party like their friends have. We remind them that we can do this IF they don’t want to go on winter vacation. They quickly change their minds.
d) Teach them about sustainable living
If you’re going to give minimalism for parenting a real go, it’s worth embracing – and teaching your children about – sustainable living while you’re at it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean a drastic lifestyle overhaul, unless you want it to. Sure, you could grow all your own food, as the blogger behind Angel Hearts Creations does. But you could also just make a conscious effort to buy fresh, local vegetables in season from your nearest farm stand, or by investing in a CSA share.
You can also consider
- frequenting your local library more;
- participating in gear swaps, or buying secondhand instead of new whenever possible;
- focusing on sustainable clothing choices;
- and getting those around you to consider issues of sustainability as well.
Baby steps are what matters most. Over time, your children will learn to embrace the minimalist lessons you’re trying to teach them, and will pass them on to others as well!
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