This may or may not be a surprise to you, but cluttered parents usually have cluttered kids. I was certainly in that category, and our daughter started out on that path too. We didn’t discover the benefits of minimalism until she was three years old, and we didn’t start working with her on clutter until we tackled our own.
I have seen some good posts on kid clutter and some not so good posts on kid clutter. Today’s feature article is a fantastic post on kid clutter. Kids and Clutter Go Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly by Christy King of The Simple White Rabbit.
Isn’t that a great title? The approach that Kristy took with her son is the exact same approach we took with our daughter. I want to highlight a few of her key points to bring more attention to them.
Lead by Example
Realistically, if your kids see you buying and holding on to a bunch of stuff you don’t need, apparently valuing stuff more than relationships and experiences, they’re likely to do the same thing.
Yes, yes, yes. Decluttering, a clutter free home, and/or minimalism all begin with you. Declutter your own stuff. As you declutter, begin to realign your relationship with stuff. Start placing more value in relationships and experiences, and less on status symbols and stuff. Lead by example and your kids will notice.
Declutter WITH Your Kids
We also encouraged decluttering, even required him to get rid of some things. But we left him have a say in what in what he kept, so he saw decluttering as annoying or inconvenient, but not punitive.
Again – Yes, yes, yes. Go into the room with your kids and approach it as a learning experience. Think of the entire process. Are you being too forceful when you apply your newly discovered desire to declutter? Teach your kids.
Sit down in their room with them and help them. Do all the physical work of picking up items, and let them sit back and be decision maker. The decision making is the hard part. Empower your kids to make decisions and show them that you respect their decisions. By doing this you build rapport with your kids, teach them trust and respect, and help them gain confidence in their choices and abilities.
When you help them learn to make decluttering decisions, they will later apply those lessons on their own. Also, the last point in that quote is important – decluttering should never be punitive. Decluttering is a positive step, so make sure you frame it as such.
Talk to Your Kids
I’d also like to think it helped that he often overheard my husband and I talking about what we believe is important.
This absolutely does help. Take time when you are not decluttering to talk about values, relationships with stuff, and your new path to minimalism. Share what you are doing, not what you expect them to do. Talk to them in language that they understand, but don’t dumb it down.
As additional reinforcer, and perhaps even more important than talking to them, include them in the adult conversation. When mom and dad talk about clutter, values, and relationships, include the kids. Including kids in adult conversation reinforces their feeling of importance in family matters.
Play with Your Kids
Let them play with sticks, mud and cardboard boxes.
Show them you enjoy simple pleasures like playing fetch with the dog, watching the sunset, sitting on the porch, warming yourself by the fire, and playing board games with your family.
When we were moving, my daughter and her friends had a blast in our moving boxes. The were forts, playrooms, and private movie theaters. When we were fixing up the house, we had a left over piece of wood that became my daughter’s wizard staff. That simple, imagination imbued strip of wood fueled her playtime for days. It even made the move with us to our new apartment.
Kids spend a lot of time playing with each other, but that doesn’t replace the need for parental play time. Shower them with attention and do some simple and fun activities to teach them that relationships are more important that things. You will teach them the value of relationships by fostering the ones you have with your kids.
Your weekend challenge is to talk to your kids. Talk while driving somewhere or take a walk and chat while walking. Share the changes you have made and the improvements that resulted from those changes. Include them in some adult talk with mom and dad. Ask them for their thoughts.
For those that don’t have kids at home, you have a different challenge. You are going to talk to your inner child. Think about your own childhood and consider what habits you developed while growing up. Keep it positive, this isn’t an exercise in blame, it’s a reflection on how you got to where you are. Then consider what changes in habit, attitude, or feeling you need to make to realign with the person you want to become.
Feature photo is a drawing of my daughter in her box.