Posted on December 9, 2015
In my opinion, the hardest thing about being a minimalist is sticking to my ideas of what is important and needed versus what Bean feels is important and meaningful. Anyone with children knows how it is to leave the house empty handed and come back with various items collected along the way, whether it be rocks, leaves, candy from a kind person, cute plastic junk, they accumulate things at an alarming rate. I only have one child, but I can imagine what it is like to have many. The thought of all of the things they would bring in is positively frightening.
When Bean was a toddler and younger, I could tell her what she wanted for toys. I could also tell other people what I wanted for her. As she has gotten older, she now tells me what she wants and is very adamant about it. It looks like this is the point when things become more difficult! I do not always want to say no to everything. But, come on, what kid needs 10 stuffed animals, 7 purses, 150 books, a tablet…you get what I mean. It is just too too much.
In the beginning, I decided that we would curate Bean’s things together. I read a book years ago, The Tightwad Gazette, where the author made the discovery that children are interested in new toys at the most for two days before they return to the items that they like the most. She was right. I watched what Bean played with and what she didn’t show an interest in. One weekend when we had nothing to do, she was playing and had everything all over everywhere. When it came time to clean, I asked her what she would like to keep and put away, and what she wanted to give to other children who didn’t have a home and did not have toys to play with. I was surprised at some of her choices, but she was very good and honest about what she really did and did not care for.
I believe that sometimes, as a parent, it is hard for us to accept our children’s choices. A few of the items I thought were beautiful, she had no interest in…like some of her lovely felt food. I was able to ask her about some of the things I didn’t particularly care for (plastic princess items). On occasion, she was willing to let them go. It was also a good time to go through and dispose of all of the broken and torn items that may have been in her toy baskets.
Of course, this is not a one time fix all. Just like with the items that we find we no longer want, need or love, Bean and I continue to discover items that she no longer likes. I especially watch for times when we return after a church event, birthday party or community activity when Bean has been given so many brightly colored, throw away plastic trinkets. If she hands it to me to hold, I keep it and wait to see if she remembers it. Often, she does not. I will then put it immediately into the thrift store bag. If she wants it once we reach the house, I give it to her. Then I watch and wait to see if it ends up outside of her room and outside of the toy baskets. If it does, I will then place it into the thrift store bag. She never misses anything once it has disappeared.
The most important thing that I believe I do as a parent is watch what Bean REALLY likes to play with. I have been blessed to have received so many toys that are of value to us by friends with children who no longer find the toys of any use. I have not spent more than $30 on toys for Bean since she was born and she is now five and a half. By paying attention to what she finds pleasure in playing with has helped me to say no to offers of things I know she will like for only a day. It has also helped me to resist all of the cute dolls, dollhouse furniture, books, kitchen play accessories that I find charming. Bean has enough, and what she has, she likes. Knowing this reassures me that we don’t need the latest and greatest thing out for the holiday season. (I have no idea what it is anyway).
The nicest thing about it all is that Bean DOES notice what a difference it makes to have only what she really likes. She met someone the other day and told them “my house is really clean”. It was a funny thing to say, but proved my point and it made my day.
What do you do to keep your children’s life free from clutter? I am always looking for new ideas.