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.