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Raising Minimalist Children in a Society of Excess

by Tiffany in Children, parenting

Raising Minimalist Children in a Society of ExcessThere is a growing trend toward minimalism and voluntary simplicity. I have written about it many times here. We made a huge leap towards minimalism and a more simple life last year. We moved from a large house in the suburbs to a small 1000 square foot house in the city. We downgraded to one car and we got rid of 50% of our belongings. You kind of have to when you move into a smaller place. It was a wonderful experience and has helped us see more clearly what kind of life we want to shape.

We are moving again to a better area of town and a slightly nicer home but it is only 300 square feet bigger and lucky for us that wiggle room translates into better closet space (so we can ditch our dressers), a dishwasher, and an extra bathroom. Once again we chose a place that is right next to one of the major Metro Parks because being close to nature is what we value. It was only after living so simply that we can move into this equally modest home and feel like we are living luxuriously. And because we don’t want to move tons of stuff.. even if it is way less than what we had a year ago… we have given away or sold another 50% of our stuff.

Another benefit is seen in the kids. They use to be big time beggars for new stuff and they rarely showed appreciation when they got the stuff they wanted… it was just expected. Now they ask for a lot less and they appreciate what they do get, more.

When you choose to raise your children in a frugal, non-consumerism sort of way, you are going against a powerful advertising media. Images of the latest movie and its accompanying toys, video games, and action figures are all over the walls, cups, trays, and containers of fast-food restaurants. Television commercials tempt your children with compelling advertising, making your children think they just have to have the latest cereal, candy, video game, or toy.

Some families are collectors every modern convenience there is. You take your child to Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s house, and the Smiths have every imaginable gadget. Your child gleefully plays with the electronic games and toys, thoroughly enjoys the big plastic kitchen, and watches all kinds of DVDs. You may even feel guilty, thinking you are depriving your child of all this fun.

What can you do to counteract the materialism that still dominates much of our culture?

* Don’t feel guilty. Modern parents are made to feel as if they are depriving their children of “the best” if they don’t sign them up for every lesson, take them to every movie, or buy them every brain-enhancing toy. Advertising companies are paying billions of dollars to make you think this. It is not reality… it is a fictional version of reality they are selling. Let it go. Don’t “buy” into it. You are not depriving your children; you are enhancing their mental and emotional development by letting the real world around them captivate and interest them. Do you think the Smiths’ kids are really better off because they spend all their free time in front of a television or playing with an iPad?

* Minimize media first. This includes movies and television. After all, it is advertising that manipulates us into thinking we need this and that. If possible, get rid of cable entirely. We opted to get Netflix and stream it to our TV via our Wii.. which was a gift. We get a lot of gifts now from family who think we are deprived, LOL. Anyway, the Wii is not played very much. Instead they use it to get on demand movies via Netflix. No commercials!!!! You can also choose to limit TV to DVDs or videos, preferably those that you check out from the library. And speaking of the library…

* Use it! The library is there for a reason. Plan a trip with your kids at least once a month. Stock up on books and other materials, and take advantage of free library programs. Many local libraries host various children’s activities from storytime to matinee movies to live music.

* Involve your children in cleaning clutter and donating to charity. Let them help, but make limits and rules so they don’t end up keeping everything. Give them a box and tell them you expect them to fill it with stuff they don’t use or play with. Tell them you are filling your own box too and do it. You can also Freecycle the boxes of toys if you prefer.

* When you do go to the Smiths’ house, talk to your children beforehand. Let them know that the Smiths have a different lifestyle than you do. Don’t be critical of them, but help your child “own” your frugal lifestyle by emphasizing that minimalism is your way of life. I tell my kids that our minimalist lifestyle is what allows us to have season passes to the zoo, science center, water park, ect. It also allows us to take vacations and it allows them to go fishing a couple times a week, like they love because mom and dad don’t have to work as much as the Smiths do. We value life experiences and spending time with family more than accumulating “stuff”.

* The Smiths are nice, of course, but it’s helpful to look for families with children who have a similar minimalist philosophy. When your children get together, they can enjoy being creative together and won’t come away with “green eyes” of envy.

It is not an overnight process to change things if your kids have developed a taste for living a life of excess but it can be done and everyone can be a lot happier for it. We are not against buying things that make our life easier or more enjoyable but we are against mindless consumption and raising our kids to link their self worth to how much cool stuff they have.

What about you? How do you counteract the effects of media and modern society in your home?

  • Pamela

    I am so on the same page as you! We moved out of our 713 sq. ft home and sold or gave away a lot of stuff while packing. We are house sitting for “the Smiths” while we are in transition to our new place (that is bigger and in a nicer part of town, yay!) My kids love it here, at our friends’ house, because there are soooo many toys. Frankly, it drives me crazy! I am very minimalistic with our stuff, toys included. Not only do I think my children appreciate toys more when there are fewer, I think it helps them to be more creative in their play AND we all have MORE time! The immense amount of toys makes an immense mess and picking them up SUCKS so much time! I love that we have somewhere to stay in our transition but I will be so relieved to settle our minimalistic home! :)

  • Great post Tiffany! I don’t have children yet, but when I do I plan to raise them minimalist. I’ve worked with kids for years and the amount of stuff they have (and the sense of entitlement that comes with it) is ridiculous.

  • Brittany

    I love this post, as me and my family have decided to pick 4 things each day that we can live without and we box it up! It goes to goodwill or someone we know that could use it. I love the minimalist idea and I am embracing it! Thanks for the tips :)

    • Louie

      What a great idea, Brittany! I think my family is about to adopt a new habit.

      As for the article, I have HUGE mother guilt when my friends and family tell me “You should let your daughter watch TV! Look at how much she can learn! My kid can count to ten in spanish and japanese!” It makes me so angry! We stream Netflix on our Wii too, and on the opposite spectrum, I feel bad that I let her watch her Elmo movie. (We received so many Sesame Street toys as gifts and I grew up with it, so I love it! Even though I don’t love Elmo.) I think we have found a good balance of minimalism and taking advantage of technology. Our daughter has some interactive story books and a couple of battery operated toys, but the majority of the things that she loves are little plastic animals and dollhouses.

  • What a wonderful, wonderful post! You know, I haven’t even had my baby yet, and already I am experiencing your first bullet point of guilt for not giving in to every activity and excess available! The first eye opener on this was doing a baby registry. Cloth diapers, glass bottles are one thing, but requesting “gently used items” for my newborn??? Some peoples reactions to that were astounding. There is a very real pressure to have the newest, most, and best for our children before they even meet the earth. Thank you for the support.

  • Thanks so much for sharing this! I think many of us want to reduce chaos and media influence in our homes, but it is difficult. I love your helpful ideas on how to prepare your children for other families who don’t share the same values.

  • I relate so much to this article. We live in a smaller home with four children. We have also recently cut our TV viewing to a few hours on the weekends and very special occasions only. This has helped our children to interact better with their natural environment. It has given us more peace.

  • Thanks so much for the great tips! I get so inspired by reading other moms stories of how they are teaching their children to live the life that they want them to but I often find it overwhelming to think about how I can implement any of the things that they are doing.
    Your tips give me some places to start. Thanks so much!

  • Traci

    Excellent post! This is exactly what I am dealing with right now. We are definitely a minimalist family and are visiting our relatives who have everything except for time to spend with their kids. I hope my kids see the value in relationships and not possessions!

  • lyann

    I truly believe this for my daughter. I am reading Simplicity Parenting.
    Kim John Paynes is amazing.

  • Juliana

    Nice topic. Thanks for sharing.

  • andiscandis

    I was in the middle of writing you an email asking you to post on a subject very similar to this. I already typed the freaking thing, so I’m just going to send it anyway. :-)

  • Shena

    Thanks for the reminder. My business has been picking up recently and with a bit more money coming in it is tempting to start buying “stuff” when I know we need to save for the things you mention, such as vacations. We do live in a small house near downtown instead of a large one out in the suburbs. Sometimes we like it…sometimes I crave those beautiful, new, pristine houses in quiet neighborhoods. But I like keeping things to the minimum. I I find that just making the decisions of what to get rid of is the hardest part. We know we can’t get it back once it is gone so you really have to trust yourself or just say, oh well. I like to make a “maybe” bag. Then I usually find myself not looking in it then just getting rid of it a week or so later.
    My kids don’t watch much TV and we don’t have cable. So when I take my daughter to speech therapy, she is amazed by the commercials on the TV in the waiting room and starts saying, “I want that!” with every commercial that comes on. I kind of laugh self consciously and say to the parents, “She doesn’t watch much TV.” But I also feel a little proud when I say that.
    Anyway, once again, thank you for the reminder. The kids do always want stuff and I want them to have everything…buy my everything…not some one else’s version of “everything.”

  • Heather

    Yep, I guess that’s me. I have a three-year-old who’s been raised without tv, DVDs, Disney, princesses, Dora or battery operated toys. It’s not easy to find stuff that’s not covered with licensed characters, but I think it’s worth the extra effort. Some other parents act like I’m insane and wonder how I keep her occupied and how I find time for myself. Believe me, she finds things to do. She learned the alphabet at 16 months (from wooden blocks) and is now reading. Her days are filled with imaginative play and time outdoors. Stupidly simple, isn’t it.

  • tiffany,
    i appreciate your thoughfulness on this post. your tips about not feeling guilty, use of media, and respecting other people’s houses are particularly important.

  • Carrie

    hi! What a wonderful post and blog – I came across it via Zen Habits. My kids are older, and have grudgingly embraced minimalism over the years. The toughest thing when we started out was having both kids and husband see that they had outgrown a LOT of their stuff, and that we didn’t need to keep it for a rainy day. They pass through so many different stages on the way to adulthood and seriously accumulate “stuff” appropriate to each age. They got the biggest lift in giving toys/childrens books/VCRs (ok, they’re dinosaurs but in mint condition and we had the entire Disney collection!)/sporting goods to a local school and some of the city’s underfunded community clubs. The entire kindergarten class was thrilled to get it all for (literally) rainy days. The librarian loved getting almost brand new books to expand what the entire school could choose from, and a lot of kids got to play sports using the boys’ stuff that might not have otherwise been able to. The kids loved the huge increase in the space available in their own rooms, I think were a little embarassed at how much they had that they had never even used, and it was a huge eye opener for them. I hope it stays with them as they move out on their own, and learn to budget for what’s really important.

  • Nelly

    Well Said!!!! Our little family is walking proof of this post. I’m so glad to find more people like you, who share the same values. It makes me feel like we (our family) are not alone on this way of life:)

  • Nelly

    Wonderful post! That’s how I’d like to raise my future kids, definitely. Plus, upon reading this, I firmly decided to re-examine my strategy for selecting gifts for children of relatives or friends. Where I live, you do feel guilty and “looking bad” if you don’t waste a lot of money on gifts for the kids of your closest. I am aware that the things/toys we buy are often used just once and eventually only add to consumerism and non-disintegratable waste, but still haven’t found a working alternative solution…

    • Lisa in Chicago

      I am reading Simplicity Parenting By Kim John Payne. He was just at my son’s school last week. It is time to purge!

    • Bethany

      This conversation was a while ago, I realize, but we like to get small amounts of cash for our kids’ savings accounts rather than toys. Or clothes for our oldest since she doesn’t have any hand-me-downs to grow into. :) Or if you have nieces/nephews, take them on a birthday “date” for ice cream or a treat the parents approve of. That way you don’t have to deal with the “stuff” at all!

  • Jeff

    THANK YOU for writing about this issue for families. I’ve read so many articles about young people moving into the city with nothing more than a bicycle and a Macbook to live the simple life. I love those stories but I was never sure how they could ever apply to me with a wife and child. Nonetheless, my wife and I decided to try anyway…we’re (slowly) working our way through nearly all the things you talked about, but it really felt like we were alone and we’ve really worried if we were being good parents or were just being selfish. It means a lot to hear from others and see that there are a lot of “pros” to make up for the “cons.” We’ve only just started our journey, I’m hopefull that by next year I’ll be able to identify with everything you’ve written.

  • Piotr

    Interesting post. I am living in Warsaw, Poland, on 70 square meters (about 230 feet) – it’s a standard size flat for a couple with one kid. So it’s nice to read that you’ve moved to a “small” house, which is only 1000 square feet (more than 300 sq m) :) Everything is so big in U.S.

    • Damien

      Perspective is what we often miss in the USA, thanks for sharing yours. : )

  • nicole

    Piotr – 70 sq meters is actually 753.5 sq feet, but yes – here in the US everything is bigger!

    On this subject – Due to the distances, doing errands takes so much time and money (gas). While I grew up in Europe, and lived in Munich inner city for years without a car, I find it strange that many people here drive their car over to the other side of town to pick up one item. Then, the next day, they drive again to do something else. That’s how I try to simplify, even if it takes some planning and patience. My baby is just 18 month and so far enjoyes plastic cups, little boxes, and rocks and twigs much more than the actual toys she has. I hope to keep this sense of adventure in her.

  • Piotr

    @nicole: You are absolutely right, i’ve miscalculated it completely! (converted feets to meters not including square – stupid me!) So, yes, 1000 square feets it’s just about 90 square meters – ideal for small family :)

    On blog post subject – our 6 months old boy favorite toy is a package of moisturized wipes – this rustling sound!

    I was living in US for few months – what surprised me the most where long distances – on the first day I wanted to take a walk to the shop. I was walking for almost 40 minutes, and I’ve met just one or two people on the walkway, Some people from the cars were greeeting me – I think because it looked so unusual that I am taking a walk on this particular road (although I was on a walkway) :)

    The other thing were contrasts – I’ve seen only fat people or very fit people, jogging every day. The group of “in beetwen” “average” people in terms of body mass was the smallest.

    But opportunities your country is giving are enormous! If you want to do something, you can just do it!

  • A very important post. Kottke shared this; more should.

  • Salem

    I remember one little neighbor who took pity on my son and tried to give us his old video game setup when he got a new one. He was so puzzled when I said it wasn’t because we were poor that we didn’t have video games, and I felt a little bad telling him it was about brain development, because of the implications about his brain development. But because I generally treated our offbeat lifestyle as superior to the consumerist lifestyle, I think my kids always had a little bit of a superiority complex about it. They’re proud of the unique wardrobes they put together at Goodwill, of learning to read labels in the grocery store at a young age because mom would only accept snacks with NO Red 40 (and, later, high fructose corn syrup), of having only one old retro TV in the house. I have to say, though, I never out-and-out forbade Disney nightgowns & such; don’t you find kids are drawn to things that are totally withheld? Plus gifts from grandparents & friends tend to include at least a few of those items, and I didn’t want to teach them to be rude about gifts. (I know other parents who make lists of proscribed gifts, and that always seemed rude to me as well.) I just gently pointed out that Disney characters never have mothers and how Disney changes stories — brainwashed ’em against Disney. That seemed to work. The only thing I out-and-out forbade was Red 40 because it makes kids hyperactive and the video games because of their proven addictiveness, which is so easy to see in every kid who has easy access. Otherwise it was just about downplaying the current craze and making sure they had plenty of access to the natural world, musical instruments, books, parents and grandparents. Two are now in top colleges and the third in high school and they all continue to confound the “haves” with their voluntary (and cheerful) simplicity. The secret, to me, was making them proud of their simple lifestyle.

  • KBJS

    I completely agree with this article. We have been living this way even before our kids were born. Now, we have 4 kids under the age of 10, and they all understand the value of a dollar, how it is important to think about what you want to buy, and that sometimes in waiting, you decide you don’t want that item. We also regularly donate to Goodwill, with the kids all pitching in and filling the boxes. We don’t own any video games, and when our kids ask for Wii, we just tell them that is something to enjoy when we go to their cousin’s house! We limit commercial T.V., using Tivo to watch shows and get rid of the commercials. The kids even agree they hate the commercials. We live in a suburb, but have a small house on 5 acres, where the kids run, discover plants in the fields, have bon fires, and simply enjoy the outdoors. We live across the street from a metropark and regularly fish and play there. Our kids walk to school (the school is only a 10 minute walk) with some of the neighbor kids, and prefer to walk than ride the bus for 45 minutes. We have just tried to keep our kids grounded and appreciative of all of life’s gifts. At times, it is hard to resist buying them things on a whim, but we have really tried to only give gifts at Christmas and their birthday, so getting gifts is a big deal. They show their appreciation ten-fold this way…. and they don’t ever complain about not getting something. Love the blog!

  • Damien

    We used to call this being broke or poor.

    • Except we are not broke or poor. :) We just spend less than we make, a lot less.

      • KBJS


      • Damien

        I think you are missing my rather subtle point, and that is related to a lot of complex societal values and theories such as maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Your intentions are noble, just a little isolated by your cultural and income bracket.

        Simply put: It’s was “we called being broke or poor” as in when refraimed from a culturally elite perspective one adds the artifice of social responsibility/nobility. The reality is most people live in poverty on this planet and our consumption/lifestyle is a part of that poverty – EVEN when reduced. We just like to feel better about ourselves when we are consuming – and justifying our consumption.

        I hope that makes a little better sense. Thanks for letting me respond on your blog.

  • Jenny

    I love your blog – but this is one of the best posts lately! We started restricting my son’s TV to the weekends only (and limited even then) about a month ago, which at first was hard on him. Now he doesn’t ask for TV during the week. Next to tackle is the stuff in his (and our) rooms as we continue to trade in for a minimalist lifestyle.
    Also, I believe it was on one of your posts, not buying food with characters on it. It makes a world of difference in food choices and reinforcing good habits.
    Can’t wait to read and hear more!

  • brandi davis

    Our family chooses not to have a TV. We have an 11 yr old girl, 13 yr old boy, newborn and hopefully pregnant with another! My husband sold his 73 inch flat screen (yes thats seventy three) when we decided that we wanted a social active family and agreed that TV interferes with more than you realize, which you never find out how much until its gone. The kids are very happy to have it gone and constantly tell us about what they have been able to accomplish. We had one woman sit beside us at a table the other day talking about how she had a tv in every room even her bathroom. When I introduced our kids ages, she said oh you know how 13 yr olds are (with an exhausted look). all of us were shocked. we are very close as a family and it was like saying your best friend is a nuisance. We all figured that it must be having all those TVs that might be keeping her and her kids from building that connection. Ive had the people trying to help you cause they think you are in need also. we have had 3 people offer us free flat screens!

  • Eric Henyey

    I don’t think Damien quite “gets it” – his “rather subtle” commentary notwithstanding. Tiffany is simply trying to raise better children. Claiming that her motivation is to assuage her anxiety about consumption demeans her efforts – no matter how pedantically or elliptically it is “refraimed” [sic]. Bravo to Tiffany for doing the best she can for her kids!

    • College Student

      I am not sure you’re giving Damien enough credit. I saw a link to this post on another blog I read regularly, and was curious as to what would be said; I have to say, as a young adult who would have said she was raised in a fairly “natural” way, many of the other posts on this blog are written from a position that seems startlingly unaware of the position of economic and social power from which the author writes. I do understand that the author *does* come from this position of power and it is natural for her to write to an audience of a similar class. However, I am only able to compare it to the experience of myself and the community in which I grew up; none of the families I was close to in my childhood were anywhere near as well off as Tiffany appears to be, and the efforts they put toward “natural parenting” were generally more in the way of conversing with their children about topics than flat restrictions. Expecting their kids to walk rather than be driven, talking to them about commercials rather than simply forbidding them to watch TV.
      Rob’s approach regarding technology, as stated below, seems surreal to me (although at least partly because of the surprise that anyone would suggest that they were exposing children to less media than “normal” kids by not having DVDs in the car or personal TVs!) – I grew up as computers were beginning to enter homes of some normal lower middle class homes; since my father works with technology in libraries we had one before many of my peers. I would say that technology has only assisted in encouraging me to be interested in the world around me; for example, when I was in middle school, I learned the universal language Esperanto to a fluent level solely through the Internet, a skill that made it much easier for me to study the four languages I have put my mind to in the years since. My family did live in town, and did have cable, but that doesn’t mean that I am now tied to a television at all times; I find it useful to watch the BBC news or old movies on the weekend, but when I finish college and cable stops being free I doubt it’ll be something I’d want to spend my money on.
      And finally, even Roger Ebert has admitted that those who don’t know a thing about video games have no reason to assume that they are necessarily “addictive” and damaging to “brain development”. One of my close friend’s families had some fears regarding the former when their then-9-year-old son insisted that he wanted a GameBoy for Christmas, a serious request that would, in their family, easily be his sole gift that year for financial reasons, as he well knew. They made up their mind, he received the present. He enjoys it when he wants to play a game with his friends, but somehow has avoided becoming “addicted” and has not ceased all imaginative play or engagement in the world around. And, well, regarding the latter… I do hate to put myself forward, but I am a year from graduating from a respected liberal arts college, having enrolled two years early, and will be receiving magna cum laude degrees in violin performance and abstract mathematics (two skills I think most people would agree require a fair bit of brain development). I venture to suggest that Salem’s little neighbor’s brain development will differ from Salem’s child’s solely due to Salem’s actual education of his child and not because of which modern art forms Salem’s child was barred from experiencing.
      I apologize for using your blog to express my strong reactions; however, I felt that you, Tiffany, and your readers are certainly dedicated enough in your efforts to respect those who may wish to suggest a different perspective that your positions of privilege might not expose you to.

  • Krista

    I appreciate the comments about respecting other people’s homes. With that in mind, I’d like to add a few thoughts.

    Judging someone negatively because of their *abundance* of “stuff” is no more righteous than judging them negatively because of their *lack* of “stuff.”

    The root – deriving our self-worth from a comparison to others, run through our own personal frame of reference – is enmity, and it doesn’t do anyone any favors.

    Rather, we can focus on the positives of our choices and values, and explain their virtues of them, without denigrating others or their families for their choices and values, however much we may disagree. In my opinion, we *must* do that, or we’re only going to create more antipathy and hurt.

    It’s a tough line to walk, but avoiding judging people for their things will help our children do the same, inspiring cooperation rather than enmity. Additionally, any sensitivity we can muster can win more friends over and open more minds than condemnation of others ever will.

    The whole point of simplifying is that people are more important than things, isn’t it? :)

  • Rob O.

    My personal spin on being more minimal is focused on limiting media & technology exposure. We have no DVDs in the cars. Our son doesn’t have his own TV nor a videogame consoles.

    I’m continually floored by the mindset of “technology has to be good for kids, so let’s shovel it at them” that has become a societal norm without any substantial proof that tech literacy does in fact boost academic achievement or improve quality of life.

    For example, there’s very little evidence that having computers in the classroom actually improves student performance. And worse yet, it seems that the committees that push so hard to get computers into the classrooms are largely manned by representatives of tech companies & agencies that stand to benefit economically from the added business. This is a classic – and very dangerous – case of putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.

    I urge you to read Tech Tonic: Towards a New Literacy of Technology from the Alliance for Childhood for more on this.

    Like you, I believe technology has a place in school, but the current adoption of computers in education seems reckless and shows little consideration for the long-term effects or even any specific goals.

    If we want to give our kids a base from which to build sustainable futures, we need to instead focus on equipping them with abilities to think creatively, solve problems, and be able to communicate. We have a responsibility to give them the tools to thrive in the real analog world before we aimlessly plunge them headfirst into the digital abyss.

  • marcyinak

    Because I live in northern rural Alaska, I have maximized the amount of house I have, but inside…well that’s another story. We only have what we need. I think too many toys = over stimulation = bored kids who don’t take care of their things. Sure my kids ask for things, but it’s a give and take. Example: Just yesterday we went to a rummage sale, my son wanted to buy this toy pinball set up. I said he could use his money to get it, but first had to decide on something to get rid of that was of equal or greater size. He thought for over 20 mintes (which is a long time at a rummage sale) and came up with a solution. He bought the toy for $1 and was able to post (on a web – classified thing for our city) and sell his other toy for $5 that afternoon! It was a total win-win on everyone’s part.

    I also don’t have a lot of pajamas for the kids. The boys usually sleep in thier underwear and my daughter just uses stained clothes as sleepwear….saves on laundry too! And, yes, my kids go to bed without any trouble.

    One thing I totally splurge on though….books…can’t get enough!

  • dendy

    thanks for sharing!

  • Jen

    Thanks for this great article. This is what I am striving for with my family and find it to be a challenge given the societal pressures we are exposed to every day. My hope is to move to a small modest home nestled in the woods where my kids can learn what is really important in life.

  • Great work done! I have no kids but the question this article argue with was stuck in my head for some time! I love the idea that it’s not only possible but also easy to raise kids this way. Thank you very much!

  • nicole

    Great post! We don’t have kids yet but this is great advice to heed before we even get started! We’ve already given up cable tv and it has made a huge difference in our lives, we don’t plan on getting it back when we have kids either.

  • Some really great advice, thank you! With our kids we were really careful to not “brand” them by purposely buying things with a particular cartoon character on them. (Some things have slipped in recently from friends and grandparents, but it’s not too bad. We actually like Thomas and Bob the Builder…) We don’t have a TV, use Netflix and watch movies. My son still asks for stuff, so I don’t know if going completely commercial-free like we do is the only answer. And most of his toys are “imagination” toys like Lincoln logs, cars, and building blocks like Duplos. Any other suggestions for helping kids appreciate what they have?
    We’re paring down a lot, including toys, but I’m sure we could do more.
    Anyway, thanks for your blog.

  • Mneiae

    I completely agree! I was raised in a city of Smiths, one of the richest towns with more than 1,000 people in America. My parents bought me a lot of toys and I loved them, but I valued the time I spent with them far more. I spent a lot of time wishing they’d come home. I was raised by a nanny, babysitters, and daycare.

  • CG

    It is a challenge trying to get the grandparents/friends, etc to not get us “stuff”, especially for our son on his birthday and Christmas.

    I now ask for art supplies — Crayola watercolors/tempras and markers & appropriate paper for coloring, making paper airplanes and boats, etc. My son loves drawing, painting and cutting out shapes. And he loves the toys we make. The toys all tend to break of course (paper and cardboard do that!), and then we start all over.

  • Melissa M

    Great post. I ‘ve been working on this with my 11 yr old daughter since she was born. My family gives her big presents as well, thinking we are depriving her. She got a Wii one Christmas, too. Funny.

    We have a rule, that many have, which is whenever a new thing comes in, a similar thing has to go out. Example-if she gets a new stuffed animal or pair of shoes, she has to give away an old one. It helps control the clutter.

  • Shelly

    I need help!! My daughter lives at my house and her dad’s house equally. He has a big screen tv, playstation, Wii, a tv in every room as well as cable. He lets her watch tv in bed and takes her to fast food all the time. At my house, we have no cable, no video games, we are vegetarian and never eat fast food. My daughter and I fight contantly because she is always begging for things and doesn’t take no for an answer. How can I deal with this situation? Any  tips? Thanks!

    • Thepilatzkes

      Stand by your principles. You don’t mention how old your daughter is, but eventually, with time and maturity, it’s likely that she’ll eventually come to see the intrinsic benefits to the care and discipline you’ve been providing for her all this time. As with the “Smith’s”, try not to down “Dad’s way” (I struggle with this element myself) but do point out the underlying philosophies that have lead you to these choices. When my daughter tells me jealously about her overindulged friends (see, there I am being judgmental again!) I just try to point out all of those who have less than her – practically speaking (i.e. starving children), but especially less in terms of love, health and happiness, and to encourage her to focus on how blessed she is. Good luck!

  • Mark Aldridge

    ” … it’s helpful to look for families with children who have a similar minimalist philosophy.”

    This has been my struggle. 
    There are just so many people that truly believe (and express indignation if their belief is not followed) that a child is to receive everthing our consumer society has to offer (though I think it is not an offering, but a burden).

    I hope the minimalist movement continues to grow.  Good post, thank you for sparking up this conversation.

  • I love this advice, and we follow much of it. Our biggest obstacles are probably the grandparents and family members who want to buy, buy, buy for our children, no matter what we say to them.

  • Kim

    I share a similar vision! I want my child to grown up being full of life, loving the simple things, playing in mud, picking up worms, playing tag! I do believe our selfworth is about how we feel about ourselves, not what we have! I work part time and i always get the same response: how do u do it! I reply:simple, we don t have cable, i don t have a cellphone, i make food, i buy used clothes etc.. i make choose that suites my needs and i m happier with these choices. Everyone is different! Doesn’t make it right or wrong, just different :) cheers

  • Emily Brown (Crunchy Mama Scie

    I love this so much! I am working very hard to embrace minimalism and teach my daughter simplicity!

  • Mr. P

    You live in the city. You are a blogging minimalist wannabe who praises herself online about getting rid of stuff and living in small home. Ugh. You are part of the problem. Just go away

    • Please inform us what we should be doing kind sir.