The hardest part of simplifying a life and reducing the amount of stuff we own is having children. We are taught to buy them stuff before they are even born, television teaches them to want things. The media make us think that we are poor parents if we do not buy our children things. Kids are no happier than they were decades ago. Once you get out of destitution happiness only moderately increases as income rises but there is no happiness connection to having stuff.
Think back to your childhood, what do you remember? What made you happy? Do you remember what you got on your 4th birthday party or your 10th? or your 15th? Probably not. You may remember eating dinner with your family, what your family did on holidays, the first time you had a friend sleepover.
I remember specific times in my life,the only stuff I remember receiving were Legos and my first computer. I do not remember the Lego sets I received but I remember always receiving them for my birthday and Christmas. It was my favorite toy growing up and I spent quite a bit of time building and rebuilding.
Since my daughter has been 2, I cut cable. We she had it again when she was about 6 but again got rid of it. The only thing this has made difficult for us is when it comes to Christmas and she has no idea what she wants. We end up buying more than we need to, but try to focus on things she might need. It also has made us fortunate because she watches no commercials, and therefore rarely wants for anything because she is not taught to want.
For children the biggest thing we can do is to spend time with them, do our best to teach them what we can and relate to them on their level. Let them use our things, but keep them away from television. Television is the biggest killer of our attention, our anti-consumerism and our ability to think rationally.
My daughter remembers the first time she flew in an airplane, The first time she visited her Grandmother in Chicago, the first time she went camping, her password to the homework site visits, the prayers we say every night, the entirety of Cinderella and random other things. While she may remember who bought random articles of clothing most almost appear as if by magic to her.
I am not sure if I have been fortunate or have inadvertently created a child that has little connection to stuff. My suggestions are to use “educational” television when kids are young and then stop it. Then just do your best to spend as much time with them as possible. You will lose your freedom and you may only be able to accomplish tasks early in the morning or late at night but you will find more joy in your life.
Teach your kids to do things for themselves as much as possible. This one requires some up-front work on your part, but it’s a life skill every kid needs to learn. Not only will it make your life simpler, learning to do for themselves gives kids confidence and self-reliance that can’t be taught. Younger kids can clean up toys, get out their pajamas, pick out a snack from a preapproved snack bin, sort their laundry by color, or sweep up their spilled crackers with a small broom. Older kids can make their own breakfast or snack, dress themselves, set the table or wash dishes, get their own drinks, fold and put away their laundry, or gather their supplies for school and extracurriculars using a list you provide. It’s all about setting the expectation with your kids that they can do it and that you expect them to.
Keep your bag or car stocked with kid necessities. If you have babies, that means fully stocked diaper bag at all times. For toddlers and older children, this could mean having extra snacks, refillable water bottles, some back-up clothing for potty or messy food accidents, a first aid kit, and a few books or small toys to keep your kids occupied in the car or for unexpected wait times. Baby wipes, even after your kids are potty trained, are a must-have for cleaning up virtually any mess, from sticky fingers to spilled snacks and playground dirt. I always keep a few fun character bandages in my wallet for boo boos — they cheer up kids fast and are a great way to make friends at the park.
Let your kids donate clothes and old stuff with you. My daughter loves our trips to Goodwill. By focusing on what her stepmother and I donate it has helper her to get involved in donating old clothing and toys she no longer uses or fits. It helps to get her buy in instead of us simply “stealing” her clothes or toys and having them disappear from her. She is actively involved in donating what she does not use.
In the end involve your children in as much as possible to have them accept your way of life instead of what the Disney Channel, kids at school or the media tell them to enjoy,