4 Priceless benefits of being a Minimalist Family

fam 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!

  1. 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: specialmessageWhen 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! rain

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…

  1. 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.

Ms Attila’s friends wearing her pre loved Ballet outfit and the Burberry’s dress her godfather offered her last Xmas. Fashionistas of the World 🙂

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. no car 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.

It has became a lifestyle the day I finally understood that simplicity is not about deprivation, but about creating space for living. wantingless More about minimalism:

  • 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”.

62 thoughts on “4 Priceless benefits of being a Minimalist Family

    1. Thanks a lot Terri 🙂 When we visited the kids’ cousins last Spring, the Attilas had never seen so many toys. I was a bit worried that they would want to spend the day inside, but in spite of all the cars and dolls, they still preferred to go for a treasure hunt in the park (and managed to drag their cousins !) Yes, it takes more involvement and creativity from us parents, but it’s so worth it. What’s more important than spending quality time together ? X

    1. 1000 thanks my dear 🙂 Welcome to our world, I am so glad you like it too! Have a brilliant day

    1. Thanks a lot Andrew 🙂 It is all about being simple again. I guess it is in our DNA but we forgot it, there is so much pressure in our society to have always more. It’s about Being more, not having more 😉 Have a great week end!

  1. Many thanks for your lines, as usual magnificently phrased.
    In a wonderful book about travelling in a very basic sailing boat the author states what reducing is actually giving back: time. With the family, friends, and mostly oneself. Time for thinking, and being.
    And you are having a more than fab time, by the sounds of it, because of having more “real” time available… 😉

    1. Thanks so much for your very kind words, they really mean a lot 🙂

      Yes you are totally right: It’s about quality time for us and the ones we really care about.
      It’s about values as well, teaching the kids to define themselves by Who they are, not What they are. When my 4yo daughter recently asked me for another Disney Princess, I had to explain that if she wanted more toys, then I ll have to work so we get more money. So she would obviously only see me in the evening. It took her a few seconds to tell me that she’d rather play with me than “just having a doll”. So far so good 😉

  2. I often wonder at the abundance our kids live in. When I see a three year old playing with an iPad, I cannot help shaking my head. People who drown their kids in toys seem to me like they don’t want to spend time with their kids. Of course, they should learn to entertain themselves with whatever they have around, but if you’re just gonna leave your kid with tons of worthless plastic toys to keep it silent, why did you even make a kid… Congratulations on your lifestyle Estelea, I think many people could learn from it!

    1. Thanks a lot dear 🙂 I totally hear you, all those toys and especially the Ipad really tend to become family substitutes. It s all a question of measure to me, of balance. We do have an Ipad, but in the parents’ bedroom, we are the ones selecting the cartoons, and when they can watch them. We actually broke the screen in France, and totally forgot about it for weeks. We fixed it only when my comp crashed 😉 Ipad are the Mum’s best friend when you want to wash your hair with two hyper loud kids unable to stay still for 5mn though 😉 Not when you go for a family diner and take it as a nanny…
      ANd you are so right to say that kids should learn to entertain with whatever they find, but it does not have to be plastic toys. They have so many other ways to stimulate their imagination..
      THanks again for your kind comments, have a lovely week end X

      1. That sounds like s great way to handle all of this! I mean it’s totally okay for kids to watch a few cartoons or play a game on an iPad every once in a while, it just should remain an exception. That way they will also enjoy it more 🙂
        The same goes for rubbish plastic toys. One or two of these are okay I guess, every kid has some wishes 😉

      2. You’re totally right, they appreciate much more the things they gave in smaller quantity. It’s like a present, not a given 🙂

  3. I am 22 years old and my mom told me that she had to buy me a Christmas, despite the fact that I’ll be in Thailand over Christmas. She would go so far as to buy me that present three more the early to ensure I have it before I leave. I just thought that was so utterly ridiculous for her to feel the need to do that. I really don’t need/want anything more anyways. At 22, not getting a Christmas present from my parents is the least my concerns. I absolutely love this post, Estela. As I grow older, I’m realizing how I really dont want things. I want experiences, I want to live. Things weigh us down. Not just physically, but mentally. I’d love to develop habits that will lead to more of a minimalist lifestyle and I found your words so inspiring.

    1. I can’t agree more! spend the money on experiences, you’ll feel so much richer.. in memories and feelings! those are the most precious things, the ones who shape your spirits, open your mind and your heart, and at the end of the day really make you happy. There is no price tag on a sunrise, nothing you can frame and put in a box.
      Your Mum is really sweet though, she wants you to have something that’ll make you happy for Xmas. I bet she’s worried about your trip, so it’s her way to be there with you, somehow. Ask her to turn the Xmas present into a nice diner/gateway when you come back or into an elephant ride when/if she’s visiting you in Thailand 😉 XXX

      1. That’s why I feel okay spending my money on Thailand. It’ll be the experience of a lifetime. Getting there certainly isn’t cheap, but I’m certain it will be worth it. 🙂
        Ah, yes, I know she is. She’s really nervous for me to journey off across the world. There is talk of my parents visiting me while there though, so perhaps I should look into that elephant ride. 🙂

      2. Would be great if you could all meet up there 🙂 you ll see you don’t need much over there for delicious meals and for traveling …

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! I wish more parents will learn from you! I love your “one in, one out” policy 🙂

    1. Thanks a lot Amy 🙂
      The”One in One out” policy works wonder! I now think twice before buying something new, it’s like asking myself “do I love this thing so much that I can take one out of my cupboard for it?”.. . Worth a try 😉 X

    1. I found those links very interesting because it’s all so simple and easy to follow. I too can do better, but hey, perfection is a bit boring isn’t it? 😉

  5. A very well-said as always, Stephanie! You are such a wisdom person, you always make me think more about a lot of things! I absolutely support you and try to be a bit minimalist. I do not like a lot of things and always buy only what I need. I do not like a lot of furnitures in house and a huge wardrobe. You should be able to enjoy simple life things, even the smallest, and find happiness in every item, then you are a lucky person! Thank you, nice mood after your nice post!

    1. Oh thanks so much 🙂 Your messages always but a huge smile on my face and heart ! As you said, it’s about really enjoying what we have. I’d rather have a few shirts I really love than dozens I am keeping “in case” “for cleaning” … Last time we decluttered, I felt as if the positive energy was back in my house .. and my spirits 😉
      Have a Grande We! X

      1. Thank you for your lovely words! I always write as I feel, I just wonder how wisdom you are and how much you can teach us, at least, me! It’s such a pleasure to be able to meet such interesting people. Have a wonderful happy weekend with your adorable kids and hubby!

      2. Heartfelt Thanks my dear for making me feel so high ;)) you re right, we can meet up so many great people here, I had never ever thought I could be so much into flowers. Your blog is like a poem, can’t wait to finally get a proper connection and visit it again ! Have a beautiful day ☀️

      3. I feel the same, thank you, dear! Your words are so sweet, thank you for compliments! By the way, I recommend you to check one of my video post about squirrels it is called Directed by ANRO, it can make you smile! Have a wonderful day too!

  6. Estelea, I love this! Not indulging your children’s every wish and whim has so many payoffs! You’ve listed some and alluded to others. The “side benefit” of character development, relationship skill building and brain stimulation is impossible to quantify.
    I love what a previous commenter said––that reducing is actually giving back TIME! And who couldn’t use more time. That is a brilliant observation.
    Thank you again!

    1. Thanks dear, I am glad you too agree on this. Yes, it is indeed about giving back time, this is perfectly said!
      And as you pointed out, I believe it really helps with their relationship skills. Most of siblings are fighting over toys, and by having far less and doing more things together, they learn to cooperate, they encourage each other, I love that! 🙂
      Thanks again for your kind words, have a beautiful week end

  7. Estelea, this post is coming at a perfect time…My whole family are trying to cut back on all the “stuff” in our homes…Thank you for sharing with us how you and your family make your home life as clutter-less as possible! Oh, and having your kids cook is wonderful! This is so important for children to learn how food is cooked, prepared and they’ll enjoy eating more!
    And those links to the other blogs/websites will definitely come in handy as I try to declutter and get rid of those items that I no longer need and don’t really enjoy anymore.
    Thank you again for sharing all this very important information with us!

    1. My pleasure my dear 🙂 the kids know that if they do really well, a great US Italian Chef will teach them how to cook the best eggplants parmiggiana ever !

  8. Dear Estelea, this is one of the best posts I have ever read! I agree 100% with you. I want also to say that I am very proud of you and very thankful for our friendship! I will share your post with close friends. Thanks so much! Love your photo with the children! The V you are making means Vida (in Portuguese) (Life) for me. H, :-)ugs to you, your husband, and your children

    1. Oh I love that about the V!!! I love that very much :)) massive hugs from all of us back at all of you! My comp crashed and I don’t know when I’ll hear from it again (for now in the hands of the apple surgeons…), but I’ll do my best to connect and check on your posts this week too. Would not miss the Friday one, that’s for sure, even with our hyper slow connection! Have a beautiful week X

    1. I m so flattered to figure on your blog, and moreover to share the stage with Mr Awesome Auden
      🙂 thanks so much! Happy belated Shabbat shalom my dear ☀️

  9. Great post! Nowadays people are thinking that everything can be bought yet not much we need to be happy

  10. Wonderful and thought-provoking post. Estelea. Collecting memories, not things are words to live by. Also, I loved the image of your kids cooking with you. So valuable.

    1. Thanks a lot Jane, I am glad you liked it! Cooking is definitely our little fav treat, I love those little moments when all of a sudden, it is all quiet in the kitchen for a couple of minutes. I love to see the kids so focused that they dont mind the silence . My little reward was when my 4 yo asked me if she could invite some friends for a baking day for her Bday, instead of going to Mc Do like most of them are doing. We drafted the program together, cooking and treasure hunt. So much more exciting than Mc Do and movie, dont you think? ..Have a lovely week!

  11. This was very inspiring and I already bookmarked it to read it countless times.
    You talk about the education of your kids, and perhaps you didn’t realize that your beliefs and values serve to re-educate adults too.
    Having more, growing more, becoming bigger and bigger and more ambitions, has been the “cancer cell” of our modern societies.
    How much more can we or need to have, and what can we do with all of that?
    And why have more than we need? To show that we made it and are better?
    Your words hit home as I have been thinking a lot about that lately.
    How much pressure are we accepting from a society that expects us to do and have more?
    You nailed it down with your wisdom, and am grateful to you for having shared it with us. Thank you.

  12. Thanks a lot dear Lucile for your precious comments, as usual 🙂 Again, I am not sure I would have come to this lifestyle by myself. Again the kids have been the ones who inspired it. Like my iphone detox 😉
    We decided to turn mimimalists when I realised that even though they are only 3 and 4, they did not pay attention to their surroundings anymore. Everything was “normal” to them, beautiful sandy beaches, very rich schoolmates and very poor street kids. If we only fuel their material word, what will become of their spirituality, their values, and what will they stand for when they ll turn adults? Ms Attila will turn 5 next week and we are working on her give away presents ( a must do in the Philippines). You can’t imagine how proud I felt when she said that we could give it all to the kids who can’t afford anything, so they would feel “like celebrating their Bday too”. Would have been easier to buy a bunch of Chinese made plastic toys, but we ‘ll be baking cookies for 2 days instead; far more inspiring, dont you think? 😉

  13. Love this post! So true that the more they have, the less they appreciate things. How great it is to get creative and be in tune with nature! With a patent like you, they’ll grow up to be brilliant for sure! Bangkok spoils us – and for the kids, not in a good way. Makes me want to ship my kids to you in cebu!

  14. Not sure I am ready to become a minimalist quite yet – but I am definitely aligned that we have way too much stuff. And it is not what makes us happy. The experiences are! But try telling my husband that, he refuses to get rid of anything:)

    1. Hehehehe, my husband has been the most resistant to change. You wouldn’t believe the amount old Tshirts he can not get rid off! But he is getting there, slowly and surely – Not that he has much choice though 😛

  15. Lovely post. Most children don’t play with a lot of toys. One of my nephews only plays with his blocks, but he does not go anywhere without some in his pockets. But I guess his life might be cluttered soon, if he is like the older kids: hanging on to toys they have grown out of. And I can certainly identify with not getting rid of old t-shirts.

    1. Hehehehe, the Tshirts thing is really special! I guess you all find something sentimental about them don’t you? 😉

  16. “The best way to enjoy your favorite things every day is .. to only own your favorite things!” I really connected with this part of the minimalist mindset awhile back. Since then I have slowly but surely been on the minimalist journey to owning less and having more to show for it! My husband and kids are not as intense about it, but I find that when I “minimize” my own stuff, they are more open to minimizing their own. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I often wonder about the degree of intensity that a family of four can handle on this path. So far it seems that a gradual approach is best. Our home is changing, but at a rate that everyone can adapt to.

    1. You are perfectly right to say “at a rate that everyone can adapt too”. I think if we want to see changes in the long term, it can not be radical. Or else it is seen as a punishment for the kids. So we have to take time to explain the why so they get totally involved in the process .. Same here, I am definitely leading the Minimalist Effort 😉 But I can really see the kids being really into it, and little by little the hubby is joining ..
      Thanks a lot for your comments, and let’s keep it up 😉

    1. Thanks so much and welcome on board 🙂 Becoming Minimalist has been the highlight of those last months, it has changed so many things. Now we are pretty focus on the food, how to cook with what we find on the market so no need to rely so much on preserved foods.. it’s tastier, cheaper and last but not least far healthier. More on the blog soon … Thanks so much for the follow, looking forward to chatting here or on your blog ! Happy Valentine’s ❤

  17. Agree totally. Who needs TV when there’s a whole island o explore and the beach to write on? (J’en sais quelque chose). ainsi les enfants deviennent moins matérialistes. Way to go Estelea.

    1. Thanks a lot! I am reading this as my 3 yo son is sitting comfortably on the sofa, (pretending he is) reading a book. He is totally into his deciphering the letters he learnt at school.. Sometimes I hear “O OO Octopus! Mum, SSS Snake!”

      The mere idea of watching an Ipad does not even cross his mind, and that makes me so proud! Another intellectual in the fam 😉

  18. Super post. Most of the things are at the back of my mind as a desire but you have structured it into neat do-able categories and ‘caringly’ shared many resources..
    I like Marie Kondo’s philosophy about ‘sparking joy’ but wonder if this won’t encourage those who find joy in material things to buy more? However, I am an ‘environmentalist’ and there is a lot of clutter waiting for recycling as I hate to leave my footprint in a garbage dump. It definitely does not bring any joy .. but is stored somewhere till I find a recycler or someone who wants it 😦 Guess I should go all out now to find an acceptable means of disposal 🙂

    Sharing your post … the minimalist revolution is on 🙂 Pope Francis too has urged it 🙂

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