Minimalism seems like it has been living its best life ever since Marie Kondo arrived on the scene with her advice to keep only what sparks joy and ditch the rest. We all probably know someone who has embraced the ideals of living more simply and surrounding themselves with only beautiful, useful things.
For some parents, however, the idea of getting rid of most of the toys in the house sounds like an ordeal we just don’t want to deal with. Even those who have a desire to declutter are contending with the constant onslaught of new toys from doting family members and holiday toy hauls.
What Makes Minimalist Parenting Different?
It turns out that minimalism in parenting goes a little deeper than just getting rid of toys and keeping a tidy home. It has become a philosophy of parenting that includes getting rid of the things in your family that are taking away your time and energy in an unsustainable way. It’s less about how much you leave behind and more about what you’re choosing to keep around.
One: Less of This
So what kinds of things are minimalist parents getting rid of? Specifics might vary between homes, but minimalist parenting often involves having less of these kinds of things:
Of course, anything with the label of “minimalism” is going to focus at least a little on cutting down on stuff and clutter. Minimalist parents know that when a child is empowered to make their own choices of what to play and do, they’ll be more content in their space. Having fewer toys on a shelf, especially when the toys that are available are well-loved and appealing, helps empower kids by taking away the overwhelm of cluttered play spaces. Tidy spaces help them actually see the options they have and also makes cleanup more manageable.
A unique aspect of minimalist parenting is the idea that activities and commitments can clutter up our lives just as much as toys do. For the minimalist parent, blank space on the calendar is something to prioritize and celebrate. Picking only one extracurricular activity at a time, limiting weekend events, and only saying “yes” to the important things might feel odd if you’re someone who likes to stay busy. But minimalist parents believe that kids deserve a chance to rest and relax without the pressure of a constantly full schedule.
Minimalist parents are the direct opposite of “helicopter parents” when it comes to how much they stress about managing their kids’ every move. Focusing less on intervention in their children’s activities doesn’t mean ignoring their children. It simply means allowing and encouraging autonomy and exploration in their kids. Sometimes that looks like setting up the home and other spaces to make things more accessible to the kids (like step stools for getting water, or keeping the art supplies down low). Other times it looks like intentionally standing back when our kids get adventurous at the playground.
Two: More of This
The end goal of minimalism is never to be miserable with how little you own. Instead, the goal is to focus on how having less of some things leaves room for more of these important things:
When kids are entertained all the time by their parents, screens, and toys that do the work for them, it’s easy for them to rely less on their own creativity. Bored kids might be a pain to deal with at times, but with practice, boredom can become the path to creativity. It’s not wrong to sit and play games with our kids, or engage in pretend play with them from time to time. But experiencing boredom is actually an important part of developing resilience, creativity, and self-sufficiency. Don’t be afraid to let your kids get bored sometimes!
Less time spent running from activity to activity, less time cleaning up, and less time finding ways to keep your kids entertained means that there will be more time to just exist together. Minimalist parents prioritize the ability to exist in the same space together without an agenda or to-do list. Lingering over dinner, spending time reading or playing near each other, and taking your time to do chores together can all have a resounding impact on how connected you feel to your kids. Of course, no parent can avoid the moments where we need to push our little ones to stop dragging their feet and get out the door. But spending more relaxed together is a common goal in minimalist parenting.
One of the things most kids need more of is rest. (Most parents do as well, for that matter.) Rest is often held as a luxury in our busy parenting world. Instead, minimalist parents view rest and down-time as a priority. Even (especially) if your child isn’t an enthusiastic sleeper, they can benefit from time set aside for quiet activities and mental rest. Quiet toys, cozy sensory environments, and calm music can help facilitate an atmosphere of rest for many kids. Prioritizing extra time to wind down at the end of the day before bed is a great place to start for most families.
Is Minimalist Parenting for You?
The great thing about different parenting styles and trends is that most of them have something we can learn from if we’re open to it. Even if you don’t have a desire to purge any toys from your home, maybe you love the idea of scheduling fewer activities. Maybe you love being able to play with and entertain your kids, but the idea of having fewer toys to clean up is super appealing.
One aspect of minimalist parenting that many families can appreciate is the idea of encouraging experiential gifts instead of toys for birthdays and holidays. Things like children’s museum memberships, zoo passes, or trips to a special park are all great suggestions for doting family members who want to spoil their favorite little one.
Is full-on decluttering and committing to minimalism for you? Only you can answer that. But as with most parenting trends, there are at least a few (not too many, though!) really great ideas that come from minimalist parenting. What resonates with you?