A reader recently asked me if I felt it was better to raise kids with less space and stuff. I have written about this several times but my posts on Minimalist Children, Helping Kids See Past Commercialism , and Simplicity Parenting come to mind. I am no parenting expert by any means and my kids manage to throw me for a loop all the time but in regards to this issue I think my husband and I have found something that seems to work very well for us. It was a journey to get there though. We certainly didn’t start our married lives or our family with any intention of being minimalist anything.
When we got married we did what many new couples seem to do in this day and age… we got ourselves into debt because we felt entitled to the big house, new cars, and nice things right from the moment we said “I do.” Our grandparents and likely our parents had to work their way up to having nice things and nice homes. If they wanted a big TV and new car they worked their arses off and raised the money for it. It they wanted to go on a family vacation they saved all year for it and paid for everything in cash. Now though the attitude that we deserve all the nice possessions and fancy vacations even before we have worked hard for them seems to prevail. It was only a couple years after marriage that we found ourselves drowning in debt. All the nice things we charged to credit cards did not make us happy. Our first child was barely two before we started thinking about bailing out on each other because life was just too stressful. We did kind of bail out on each other I guess because my husband took a job were he traveled all but 4-5 days a month. We had to find a way to pay for all this debt after all.
Because we felt we were entitled to it all, it makes logical sense that we passed this on to our first child. The kid filled an entire walk-in closet (the size of a bedroom in our current house) full of his toys and there were plenty more to bleed all over the house. Literally every single time I went to the store (which was a lot) I bought him more toys and clothes.
I am not sure exactly what caused us to shift our lifestyle exactly but I think learning about attachment parenting and green living helped move us toward a new understanding and life philosophy. Maybe we were just sick and tired of messy finances, clutter in our lives, and spending most of our days apart because we were reckless and irresponsible. Either way we changed.
Shortly after the birth of our third child my husband returned home and took a local job. I had created a business working at home and felt a sense of accomplishment and pride I hadn’t felt in a long while. We were suddenly debt free and not wanting to make the mistakes we had in our past. We financed a new “used” car but paid it off in only 6 months. We paid for a second vehicle with cash. We got rid of all credit cards. We decided to downgrade our home and move into one with barely over 1000 square feet. We now live in one with 1100 square feet. ;) We found new forms of entertainment that didn’t revolve around spending money. We nixed buying the kids anything unless it was a birthday or holiday. The perks I get from blogging are an exception, although 8 times out of 10 we donate the stuff as soon as we review it. We buy all our clothing at thrift stores. That was very drastic but for my two youngest it is just the way life is and they don’t see anything wrong with it. Our older child has had a much harder time with it because he remembers the days of excess. He has tossed around words like cheap and selfish when he cannot get something he wants. We don’t budge because we KNOW we are on the right track.
We know this because our marriage has improved 100% and our daily stress has gone down to almost nothing. Our kids are still happy and healthy even though they aren’t being bombarded with all the new toys and gadgets of this consumerist society. Of course there is still room for improvement. As I mentioned before, we are still on the messy side where finances are concerned. But we no longer spend more than we earn and we don’t have debt. Just recently we started putting money away for emergencies and retirement the way we should have been doing all along. We buy Amazon gift certificates once a week before the holidays so that everything is prepaid and we have no issue getting the kids what they want. And we don’t go crazy. They get one big ticket item and one small item. If they get lots of gifts from family then they have to donate some other stuff so that it evens out.
We went from stress, clutter, overspending, and lots of unhappiness and did a 180 with our lives. Here are a few of the ways we handle things now and make life more minimalist and manageable.
- When something new comes into the house, something else needs to be sold or donated.
- Kids are expected to work around the house daily (15 minute clean-up) AND keeps their rooms clean.
- Furniture and personal belongings are kept to a minimum so that cleaning is easy to manage.
- If you can’t keep your room clean you have too much STUFF and some of it needs to go.
- If we don’t love it and use it often then we can do without it.
- Everything needs a place to call home, preferably one that its out of sight.
- Buying used is always preferable to buying new.
- We don’t DO fancy round these parts. Simple and easy is more our style.
- Limit media consumption so that demands for new “stuff” wanes.
- Act like a one car household by sending hubby to work with the keys to the other vehicle.
- If you are bored… read.
- Feeling antsy? Exercise or play a game.
- Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.
What works for you? I would love to hear!