4 Ways Minimalism Can Improve Parenting

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Mike Burns of The Other Side of Complexity.


For a number of years, my family has been pursuing a life of more focused simplicity. We realize life can be complicated. But we don’t want to just surrender to the complication. This is why minimalism has been so attractive to us.

On my blog, I document how minimalism has caused us to do all sorts of unique things:

  • value and maintain clutter-free spaces
  • get rid of 75% of our toys and games (it’s okay, the kids survived and they’re still smiling)
  • cut our wardrobe by more than 50%
  • eliminate paper clutter
  • whittle my collection of hundreds of books down to 18
  • keep only what would fit in a 6×12 trailer when we moved our family of 8 across the country

The examples above display how minimalism affects our physical “stuff.” But minimalism is about eliminating the unnecessary in order to focus on the most important. And it is a mindset that works its way into all areas of our lives—including our parenting.

Recently, I have been discovering how minimalism has made us better parents. And how it can improve your approach to parenting as well.

Here are 4 ways that stand out:

1. It causes you to take your parenting role more seriously.

If you’re like me, you consistently read material from people who value simplicity and minimalism. This steady diet of inspiration reminds us to prioritize and focus in the everyday moments. As parents, when we weigh the various activities and passions of our lives, our families will likely rise to the top. It is a huge responsibility and we should take it very seriously.

2. It reminds you to guard the calendar and say “no” to a lot of things.

Parents sometimes feel that we have to take our kids to every activity and enroll them in every sport. But, in case you’ve forgotten, you can’t do everything. We have to learn to say “no” to many good things so we can say “yes” to the things that are more important to us at that time. Manage your calendar well. You are the gatekeeper.

3. You begin to choose your battles more carefully.

When I say “battle”, I don’t mean to imply heated conflict. I’m referring to the issues that we “make a big deal over” as parents. I’m referring to those times when we have to decide if we are going to force our preferences about friends, clothing, music, movies, activities, language, and other things onto our kids.

Minimalists acknowledge that options are unlimited, but capacity is not. We have to choose what we give our time and energy to. In our effort to help our kids transition from dependent to independent, we have to learn to let go in appropriate areas. There are times to stand our ground, and other times when it’s not worth it.

If everything is a big deal, then nothing is a big deal.

We have to decide which things are most important in our relationships with our kids and let those drive our decisions. The secondary “clutter” issues can be very distracting, and may cost us more than they’re worth.

4. You become more focused in what you teach your children.

Truth is truth, right? But don’t let that deceive you. All truth is not equally important.

It is possible for me to pursue accurate information all my life and not find happiness and purpose. There are some things in life that are absolutely essential for my kids to learn above all else. I have to make sure that I focus my guidance on those things and help them to stand out amidst all the information that comes their way as they develop.

I have to get clear on the answer to this question: If my children only remember 1 or 2 things about what I teach them in their years at home, what do I want them to be? Then, emphasize those things in all that you say and do.

There are other certainly other ways that minimalism can affect your parenting, but these four stand out to me as the most significant.

For those of us who have children in our home, there is no denying that this is one of the greatest opportunities of our lives. And, as parents, we must do the hard work of eliminating the clutter that will hinder us from our super-important task.

Let’s do it.


Mike Burns blogs at The Other Side of Complexity where he writes about living a life focused on the things that are most important. You will also enjoy following him on Twitter.

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. says

    I am not a parent yet, but I know I have read of several bloggers saying that everything you do is being watched by your little ones. If you are spending hours in the stores, buying things that you do not need, you can believe it that your children will grow up to do the same thing to pass their free time. Even without the role of parenting at the moment, my life is so filled with stuff. I really admire those who are living their dreams, blogging, parenting and managing to do it all with a smile on their face. An ode to the hard-working parents of the world (including mine, who have to deal with my idiosyncrasies). :) Thanks for the post!

  2. says

    I wish I could show my parents this. I worry about how my siblings will grow up to be. The only reason I came out differently than how I imagine my siblings will is because I grew up with my grandparents until I was 18. I did not have the influences of my parents, but I had the example set by both my grandparents who were naturally very minimalistic.

  3. says

    At 63, my wife and I have raised four good kids. That said, I truly wish I had paid attention to these things when I was a young father raising young kids. I can only pray that my own kids can heed the call to minimalism and take value from it.

  4. Lisa says

    I love this. I especially identify with #3. We have a 2-year-old and a crawling baby, and as we’ve been simplifying our lives, I’ve noticed that many of the things I get upset with them over are actually a result of clutter. When my son is trying to pull things off the kitchen counter or my daughter is making a beeline for the cat food, I have to ask myself if those things 1) need to be there at all, and, if yes, 2) are in an appropriate location. Not surprisingly, as we’ve removed excess from our home, our children’s behavior has improved, which makes it easier to pick our battles because there are fewer of them. I am so excited that we are doing this now instead of when they are older, and that there are so many great people out there who have paved the way and are willing to share their experiences.

    Great post!

  5. says

    I had never really though about it, but minimalism is a mindset and not just about clutter and stuff. It sounds like it forces you to really think about what you bring into your life, not just material goods, but activities as well. How fascinating. I’m intrigued.

  6. Monica says

    Great article! We are iminimalists in process. We just downsized from a 2-story house into a 1-story house. While we have more de-cluttering and minimalizing to do, our son already enjoys this space better than our old house. It is cozier and we feel more connected. As a whole, our son did so well with downsizing his stuff and is learning with the rest of us how changing priorities helps our family. This blog continues to inspire me. Thank you to Joshua and all the guest writers.

  7. Sue says

    “Manage your calendar well. You are the gatekeeper.” That really jumped off the page (screen) at me. Love this – am off to write that on the top of my calendar. Thanks.

  8. says

    Good stuff. My child is grown and on her own… I really wish I would have found this way of being when she was smaller. However, she is positively impacted by my current way of living and is opting for a similar way for herself.

  9. says

    I was the happiest when we lived overseas and couldn’t take a lot of things with us. I’m the happiest in our 36 foot long 5th wheel camper. My husband and I don’t have a big home, nor do we own a lot of things. Yet, I feel we still have too much. Being a minimalist is a reminder we can’t take it with us.

  10. says

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Minimalism is an attractive approach to me because it helps me prioritize relationships. One of the mantras that Jen (my wife) and I have repeated through the years is, “People are more important than things”. Reading your comments reminds me that I’m among friends!

  11. says

    Thanks Mike. What a great thought-provoking post and a reminder about the immense value of being a parent and our influence in guiding and shaping our children’s lives. I like your comment about concentrating on a few ideas that our children may take with them through their lives. It’s a great idea to make that decision more conscious so we can reinforce it along the way rather than feeling overwhelmed with the volume of stuff we could teach them. I think for me it might be to teach my children about spirituality, the value of simplicity, and the importance of relationship skills – I’ll do some more thinking about it. Thanks again.

  12. says

    This is excellent. One thing I would add, however, is simply the fact that having less STUFF means having more TIME. And time = love in the eyes of children.

  13. says

    As a teacher, minimalist and a dad I get to see on a daily basis the influence of parents on the development of their child.

    ‘I have to get clear on the answer to this question: If my children only remember 1 or 2 things about what I teach them in their years at home, what do I want them to be? Then, emphasize those things in all that you say and do.’

    The importance of the above passage should not be underestimated. It’s not just the things you say, it’s also the things you do which children the values with which you hold strongly in your life (which are also likely to be the values with which you would like your child to grow up).

    I make a big point of taking my 2-year old with me to fix the neighbour’s fence/broken bollard in the road, because I want him to understand the importance of COMMUNITY. In the house this week I felt so proud when my son turned the television OFF whilst I watched a seemingly dull, boring show. He knows, from our behaviour, that the television is not something that should be on 24/7 and that there are things in life for more fun and purposeful to do than sitting and staring at a screen all day!

    Becoming a minimalist has made me prioritise what truly counts in life. Life is not just about an endless pursuit of Stuff, with which you feel every room of your life (and your childrens). Life should be about living purposefully, about flourishing and finding happiness in your health, your home, your family, your work and your finances, the five foundations of life.

    If you want to enjoy reading an inspiring blog about how to live a simple,
    frugal, debt-free, minimalist life then please check out the

    My latest blogs include:

    Are you a clutterist? Take the 5-a-day challenge (and i’m not talking fruit!)

    The duvet which made a difference (a tale of giving)

    Is the iPhone such a smart phone?

    A tale of opportunity cost (and the effects of compound interest)

    What ever happened to the idea of a 15-hour week? (A tale of priorities and the value of time)

  14. says

    Great post, Mike.

    As a young, minimalist father, I’m glad to have read this. I’ve always looked up for inspiration from Joshua in raising his family, now I’m very happy to have found your blog. :)

    Thank you, Mike. Keep on!

  15. says

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    Don’t be swayed by excuses you hear from your abuser.
    Although this does not necessarily have anything to do with the nature of the violation.

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