minimalism and children


reader caron recently asked:

    “how do your children feel about living the minimalist lifestyle?”

my simple answer is “very well.  better than i expected. and better than their parents in many regards.”

to give you a little background, my son is 5 and my daughter is 2.   my daughter has had little input in our minimalizing, but we have worked hard to include my son in the process.  we feel that it is important for him to understand what is happening and feel included in the process.  wefirst noticed his better-than-expected attitude when we minimalized his bedroom.  he loves reading and we were dreading the process of going through his books.  but we were shocked when he pulled out far more books to sell at our garage sale than we envisioned.  next, he picked out more stuffed animals than we had pictured.  thirdly, he cared little about his clothing and didn’t object at all to removing the things from his dresser top.  after his bedroom came the big test when we moved downstairs to his toys.  again, we were surprised that he had little hesitation in getting rid of many toys that he no longer uses.  i even wrote about it here.


the only hiccup that we have encountered was when we removed the toys from our living room and moved them downstairs in the newly formed toy room.  as a compromise, we decided to keep some of his books on a shelf in the living room and reminded him that he could still play toys in that room – he just had to return them to their new home downstairs when he is done.


the thoughtful question from caron has caused me to ask the follow-up question: “why exactly has it gone so well?  why has my son adjusted so much quicker than his parents?”  and i think there are a number of reasons. 

  1. he didn’t pay for the things that we’re discarding.
  2. he’s still got more stuff than he could possibly use in one day.
  3. his security is not found in his possessions.  his security is found in his stable family.
  4. his memories are not wrapped up in his possessions but in the people he loves.
  5. he doesn’t look for joy in his possessions.  he finds it in living life to the fullest.

which makes me think that we’ve all got a lot to learn from 5 year olds.


related posts: benfit #2 – the example for your kids, operation: basement, day 1




Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. Jana says

    Very well written. I also think that the less they have to play with, the more imaginative the are with the things they do have.

  2. says

    I love the 5 reasons you gave at the end. I think parents can have a hard time with reducing toys b/c they look at them as stuff for the kids to do when they need/want the kids to be busy.

    I’ve just started the minimalist process. It’s quite daunting with all that we have. But at least one thing – we’re not bringing as much new stuff into the house!

  3. Trish M. says

    This is a good conversation. I’d like to add that the less children have, the more they learn to value what they do have.

  4. Catz says

    It’s so hard to choose which toys to give away… I feel guilty because it’s not my stuff, and many are things people have given to use. Anyone got any ideas on sorting children’s toys in a pain-free, rational way?

    • di says

      For me, sorting toys was always age-related. For example, baby toys may be inappropriate for school-age children.

  5. rshwery says

    I do believe children have an easier time adjusting to a minimalist life. The younger they are the easier it is. They haven’t yet LEARNED to put their self worth in things (yes, I truely believe this is a learned behaviour). They haven’t LEARNED to be attached to things, though they like things… especially when they are new things, (but they quickly loose any attachment to old things that they’ve had for a time). The younger they are the more their joy is in the playing rather than in the things they play with. Their imagination is still growing and contributes to their joy since it hasn’t been stiffled by the learned behaviour of trying to put their joy in things. And their security is still in their parents/family. WE as adults teach them where to put joy, and security, and what to hang on to (things or relationships and experiences).

  6. Amanda says

    My 11 yo struggles the most with my minimalism. It frustrates her as she is a little hoarder. My 3 boys however aren’t really fazed :) I often do worry though that me being so less is more is going to mean they will become hoarders because they couldn’t have things as kids. Seems weird I know but they watch their friends consume and consume and consume and yet they get experiences not things.

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