I grew up in communist Bulgaria.
I was only six years old when I saw my country brought to its knees, where people were reduced to one kilogram of flour and sugar per month, a liter of oil.
Nothing more or less.
I remember standing in those lines with my mother: the line for bread, for oil, for meat. Some time back then, I got my first and only Barbie doll for Christmas. That’s right, I had “only” one doll.
Being a parent myself today, I can imagine, how difficult those years must have been for my parents. But I never suffered because I had a few toys. Quite the opposite – I had the happiest childhood running around in the woods collecting rocks and playing hide and seek till midnight.
The positive thing that came as a result of growing up in poverty: I was raised sheltered from consumerism.
The world I live in today is very different.
A world of everything
Our western society today has much more than what we need to sustain ourselves.
We’ve got a lot of clutter…
Our homes are filled with all kind of knick-knack.
And even if we do a very good job of organizing it, it is still organized hoarding.
Our kids are raised in a childhood that is beyond messy and chaotic. And while many people have embraced the journey towards minimalism, many others also believe that minimalism and kids don’t belong together.
I can assure you that minimalism with children is entirely possible. However, it does require a little more effort, a little more thoughtfulness, and a lot more patience.
As parents today we have so much going on, that we often go into “survival mode”.
If your kid won’t sit down for a meal, there is a device for that. If your kid won’t sit quietly while mum drinks her coffee, there is an app for that.
How often do we get caught up in the chaos and end up living these precious days of our children’s childhood on autopilot?
How often do we count the minutes till bedtime instead of sitting down and reading stories to our kids?
This was me.
This is still me every time I lose focus and slip.
But this would have been me every single day if it wasn’t for…MINIMALISM
So what is minimalism?
Minimalism is not about deprivation.
It’s about bringing what is important and I think, really, what it comes down to is adding value to one’s life.
We often think of minimalism as having “enough” and that is the core of it. But it is just as much about finding happiness and acceptance in our lives the way they are now, in the present moment.
It is much about stripping away the unnecessary so that you can focus on what is important.
Ever since I started the beautiful journey towards minimalism, my life has become much more meaningful and complete.
In this post, I want to tell you why my husband and I are teaching our son to live by the principles of minimalism. I will also give you all the practical tips and tricks that are working for us and could help you kick-start your own journey towards simple, yet more meaningful living.
Physical clutter impacts children
Scientists have found that physical clutter negatively impacts a person’s ability to focus and process information and that the way children are raised in the western world, causes stress and anxiety in both parents and children alike.
A child needs harmony and calmness to thrive
Before we had Viktor, it was pretty simple to keep our apartment in order and practice our passion for less. Everything had its place, we implemented conscious consumerism and contributed to the environmental conservancy by recycling and repurposing whatever we could. Our desire was to live with as small a footprint as possible, trying to avoid being caught up in consumerism.
Kids and all their things
Then came Viktor. All of a sudden, my oh-so-clutter-free-life became more difficult to maintain. I couldn’t understand the “baby essentials” shopping lists which had hundreds of items on them.
I made the conscious decision to stay away from over-consuming, to have a more aware, more balanced relationship with stuff.
In raising my son as minimalist, I am doing exactly that.
There are several practical steps that you could take if you want to teach your children minimalism, and today, I will walk you through each of them:
1| Declutter your home
If you are ready to move towards minimalism, taking the first step of decluttering your home is the most natural one. I believe that clutter in our physical environments energetically blocks the flow of abundance. Besides, it is so freeing to let go of the unnecessary stuff and only keep what you love and use regularly.
Decluttering became part of who I am and set me free. I do it on a regular basis now. It allows me to focus on what really brings value to my life.
If your kids are old enough, involve them in the decluttering process and explain to them why are you doing it.
2| Implement conscious consumerism
Today I think through my buying decisions much more carefully than I used to. I no longer buy stuff just because we can afford to, I buy things because we truly need them.
3 | Inspire minimalism by being a living example
I am lucky that Delyan and I are on the same page. But I never pushed him to change. We changed over the years together. You can’t push your family to change either. What you can do is be a living example yourself and inspire others.
Help them learn to appreciate what they have by being appreciative yourself.
Let them experience the joy of giving first hand.
Your positive attitude will reflect in your children’s attitudes and eventually without even knowing it, minimalism will come naturally to your home.
4 | Ask your friends and family not to buy them presents
If you let it be, your family and friends will most likely bombard your kids with all kinds of unnecessary things. What you could do instead is provide them with a list of things that your kids really need. Or you can ask them to pay for their swimming lessons, chess or piano classes.
My grandparents didn’t buy me lots of presents. But the fondest memories I keep of my grandpa are the times he taught me to ride a bicycle or of us playing hide and seek in the fields of wheat.
5 | Minimize media time
Most people would agree that nowadays our culture spends too much time with technology.
We, as a family, are trying to be more conscious of our digital time. This doesn’t mean that we are completely depriving ourselves of technology, we are just trying to minimize the time we spend in front of devices. Here are some rules we have made which are working great for us:
- Schedule a daily quiet time – we have decided on a daily quiet time after 19.00 where none of us is using their smartphone, computer or tablet. We might watch a movie or a TV show together but we only do it after we had put Viktor to bed. I have also scheduled a “do not disturb” daily time on my iPhone from 10 pm till 7 am.
- Limit screen time for your kids – Viktor is nearly 2 years old and we have managed to keep him completely off any devices so far. And as he grows we plan to keep his screen time to a minimum.
- No TV in our bedroom – one room that we keep super simple is our bedroom. It’s also one of the most peaceful rooms in our home – no TV, no tablets, no computers.
- No TV while your kids are still awake – you can make a rule that the TV will be off until your kids go to bed. This will not only keep your kids away from the screens but it will also give your family the chance to have more meaningful time together as a family.
6 | Spend more time outdoors
Spending more time outdoors is a habit you can choose to make. Don’t let bad weather be an excuse to turn on the computer.
I love the famous German saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
It’s so true, you choose how to spend your time.
Bad weather never stopped me from taking the bicycle to work every day or having a walk by the river with Viktor.
7 | Find fun ways to replace stuff
You excitedly buy your kids a ton of toys, delight in their smiles as they open the first two and then immediately suffer from buyers’ remorse as we watch them have more fun with the wrapping paper and boxes than with the actual toys. Sounds familiar?
Children are absolute masters of pretend play and often require no or very little supplies. Let your imagination run wild. Build castles from cardboard boxes, play hide and seek outdoors, bake muffins together, “I spy” – are just a few examples where you can have lots of fun together and won’t need any special supplies.
8 | Be engaged and encourage your kids to think about social issues
Very often parents who are really busy give their kids a lot of things instead of spending time with them. It’s a compensation mechanism.
Parenting is hard and time-consuming, yes.
But it is such a blessing!
If you are too busy to dedicate play time on a regular basis, you can involve your children in activities that won’t steal from your time and will encourage them to think about stuff outside of themselves. Some examples are: donating on a regular basis together, keeping a garden, shopping at second-hand stores.
As with most good things, the process can be long and daunting. But I can assure you, it is worth it.
Design your minimalist life. Start today.
Design your life of less – as more.