We are the cliché of the Expat Family. Moving to a new country every other year, packing and unpacking pro, able to tell the weight of a suitcase just by glancing at it. I live in the city with the kids and my husband works on another island. When we travel to visit him, I am the only one carrying the bags. Hence my motto :”Pack lighter, go further!”
There is not much in our house either: my poor children don’t have a playroom and we don’t even have a TV or a car. I know it’s a real shame.
Bad parents? Call us Happy Minimalists!
- We create more and consume less
“Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less, explain Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, Gurus of the Minimalist Mouvement. Rather, we focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth and contribution and contentment”.
We know for true that if you overwhelm a child with stuff (and choices), they will only know one emotional gesture: ‘More!’ In Simplicity Parenting, Paynes writes “A smaller, more manageable quantity of toys invites deeper play and engagement. An avalanche of toys invites emotional disconnect and a sense of overwhelm”.
As you decrease the quantity of your children’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deeper play and engagement: When Ms Attila wants to write, she can do without crayons and papers. She just takes whatever’s at her disposal, like the pin in her hair or a shell. Her brother does not need an oven to pretend he’s cooking. The less they have, the more creative they get.
We don’t buy snacks anymore, we make them. We spend hours in the kitchen slicing, mixing, cooking, tasting, baking. The kids have become more patient and much more cooperative. They are also far less picky with their vegetables since they are growing and cooking them themselves. As a kitchen control freak myself, it had not been the easiest journey. Every day is a chance to learn to let go, and it has been a very healthy experience: Yes, our kitchen is turned totally upside down, but so the huge smiles I get in return, the pride of Mr Attila being able to crack an egg are worth the “little” time we spend cleaning the mess.
Make short recipes, select few ingredients, get your apron and have fun! Check the amazing blog of Minimalist Bakers if you are looking for inspiration. Dana shares delicious recipes that require 10 ingredients or less, one bowl, or 30 minutes or less to prepare!
Consuming less is also appreciating more: the kids spend most of their free time outside, and nature is their playground. Come rain or come shine! it’s all about marketing and leading by example. If you show them that a rainy day = TV, they will never get out.
But you are inviting them to jump in muddy puddles…
- We take care of our things
Our family shopping mantra is “Buy less, choose well”: We don’t buy many clothes, but they are always of great quality. Same for the shoes and the toys. My Attilas are the ones who select all their garde robe. We give them options, we negotiate, and eventually we all agree. The best way to enjoy your favorite things every day is .. to only own your favorite things! So make sure you do regular decluttering, leave space in your drawers, and again, always go for quality. Zen Habits has a few good tips to share with you, as well as the Minimalist Mom.
Whenever we decide to buy something new, we apply the “One in, one out” policy. If it works out well, it’s probably because it is a family business, we are all on board. It is probably also because the kids are giving away their clothes to less fortunate friends. My daughter is taking good care of her dresses because she wants her “friends from the island” to be happy with them. More than second hand clothes, those are really preloved ones.
3. We collect memories, no things:
We don’t do big birthday parties. In the Philippines, parents get totally crazy about celebrating the birthdays of their kids. It’s a cultural thing, and I can tell you that coming from an average income European family, it can be pretty shocking. The clowns, the princesses, the give away presents, the incredible mountains of toys, the royal buffet in fancy hotels … Even if we could, we would not compete.
We’d rather take a few days off to “go somewhere”: it’s a total surprise for the kids, a treasure hunt that will lead us to discovering a new place together. It’s never too early to explain that we don’t have to live life like everyone else. We don’t treat our kids with material presents, but with fun experiences. And they clearly understand we’d rather spend money on a place ticket to visit their grand parents than on a collection of plastic toys.
It’s all about searching happiness not through things. But through life itself!
4. Decluttering as the ultimate reward: less to clean, to organize and to store! Adios Mess!
I am sure you too decided to throw it all the day you walked (again!) on a Lego and when your kids were fighting (again!) for the same useless toy. Keep the good intention but add some methods.
Have you heard about the The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Japanese tidiness expert Marie Kondo? She’s not interested in tidying solely for cleanliness sake: Kondo wants you to love, really love, everything in your home. That means anything that doesn’t “spark joy” needs to go. I love the concept of having nothing your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.Took me a while to get started, but it is really worth it.
- First and foremost, the very comprehensive website of Becoming Minimalist. You’ll find all you need there, tips, stories,books, you name it! You can also follow them on twitter and Pinterest.
- Joshua Becker has been advocating for minimalism for years. Here are his 10 creative ways to declutter your home.
- The Minimalists also have local free Meetup Groups in USA, Canada, Australia, UK and Ireland
- Zen Habits: one of the top 25 Blogs in the world. “about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what is important”.