Minimalism has many benefits on mental health by reducing clutter, reducing stress, improving sleep, improving relationships, and increasing gratitude. Spending the extra effort to teach kids minimalism provides them with the same benefits for them as it does for you.
What is Minimalism?
While minimalism is centered around having less stuff, it is not about deprivation. Embracing minimalism is about keeping essential items and adding value to your life.
The core to living a minimalistic lifestyle is having “enough,” but it is also about finding happiness and acceptance in your life and living consciously in the present moment.
When you remove the unnecessary clutter, you give your mind the space to focus on more important priorities.
5 Life-Changing Benefits of Teaching Your Kids To Live a Minimalist Lifestyle
Children are highly adaptable and are remarkable at learning many things in a very brief period. Learning minimalism and using it to reduce stress and anxiety is no different. To teach kids minimalism strategies, and to appreciate those efforts, is giving them a life-long gift that will better equip them to properly budget their future income, manage their stress, and live a more simple life.
1. Embracing Minimalism Teaches Children Good Financial Habits
One of the best lessons learned when you teach kids minimalism is good money habits. When they learn to think more deeply about their choices for purchases, it teaches them the value of money and work. This will also teach them to take care of the things that they buy, and make them last. Be sure that they understand this part of the process. These habits can be lifesaving skills when they reach adulthood.
2. Teach Kids Minimalism Through Gaining A Willingness To Share With Others
When you are teaching minimalism to your child, practice what you preach and lead by example.
Show your children how to decide to keep and what to give away to make room for something else they may want by talking them through the process you use to determine what to keep, what to replace, and what to give away. Once they made their decisions on what to get rid of, ask them to put the clothes, toys, or other items in a donation box.
Talk to them about understanding the correlation between cleanliness, a calmer mind, and an act of positivity. Tell them about the joy and excitement their discarded things will bring to other kids to help them grow their empathy and encourage future giving.
3. Minimalism Inspires A Healthy Sense of Self-Esteem
When your young child sees you cleaning, one of the first things they want to do is help or imitate your actions. Practicing cleanliness leads to feeling accomplished, which grows kids’ confidence and self-esteem, especially when the mess isn’t overwhelmingly large.
Once they are old enough to confidently clean and develop more competent organizing skills, they can build accountability and responsibility by delegating removing clutter as one of their chores.
When assigning clean-up chores, the most important part is to help them understand that they are helping you, they know they are taking care of their environment, and they are taking care of their minds, bodies, and family. Showing them the importance of keeping a clean space will result in growing and taking pride in their surroundings. Don’t deprive them of that, and you will set them on a good path, with great habits.
4. Minimalism Increases Spending Time Together
Talk to your children and tell them why you chose to live as a minimalist. When they understand you want to simplify life so you could spend more time with them, you will earn their respect and appreciation.
Take the time while cleaning to talk to them, and turn cleaning tasks into games and competitions to encourage excitement and fun in small ways. Then spend the time saved because of their help to do something fun together, whether its playing a game or having a dance party in the living room.
Your time will always be the greatest gift to them, so let them know what that means to you.
5. Reducing Physical Clutter Improves Mental Health and Behavior
Scientists have found that physical clutter negatively impacts a person’s ability to focus and process information. Living in a constant mess causes stress and anxiety in both parents and children (and pets too).
Cleaning and organizing affect your mind directly. As you clean, you feel your mind is able to think more clearly. Teaching your child the benefits of cleaning and how easily they’re able to think and play afterward is an invaluable gift they can use to minimize their own mental wellness when they become adults.
Everything should have its place. “Conscious consumerism” is much easier to understand and implement when you decide not to purchase something you don’t need because you don’t have the space for it. Practicing conscious consumerism also helps with environmental conservancy by recycling and repurposing old or broken items and discourages getting caught up in consumerism.
Having too much stuff quickly becomes difficult to maintain, turns into an addiction, and results in emotional attachments to keeping everything, even if it’s no longer useful.
Make the decision to stay away from overt materialism, and instead choose to be more aware and more balanced with your relationship with stuff.
12 Ways To Help Teach Kids Minimalism
There are a few things to do start living a minimalistic lifestyle and teach your children minimalism.
- Declutter your home
- Start with organizing their favorite items
- Remove materialism through conscious purchasing
- Become a living example
- Encourage family and friends to gift experiences instead of things
- Ditch TV (and other screen-time activities, especially those that show advertisements)
- Spend more quality time outside
- Encourage more time being creative and less time with toys
- Encourage EVERYONE in your home to participate
- Use positive reinforcement techniques
- Establish a daily and seasonal cleaning routine
- Set boundaries, and stick to them
1. Declutter Your Home As A Lesson To Teach Kids Minimalism
When you’re ready to journey into minimalism, the first step is to declutter your home.
Releasing the unnecessary stuff and only keeping what you love and use regularly feels liberating and therapeutic.
If your kids are old enough, involve them in the decluttering process, explain to them why you are doing it, and work together to decide what is usable, what is not being used, which items are needed, and which items are just taking up space.
Sometimes this starts off feeling like you’re making a bigger mess as things are divided up into piles.
- Donate pile
- Keep pile
- Decide later pile
- A try to sell pile
- Recycle or reuse pile
Take some time to sort and organize everything that is in the keep or decide on later piles.
2. Start To Teach Kids Minimalism By Sorting Their Favorite Items First
When you are ready to start decluttering, have boxes and bins ready for sorting. This helps streamline the process and make decluttering faster and easier for everyone.
We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Simplify the process by starting with their favorite items, which serve to point your kids in the right direction so they can identify what they really need, love, and use every day.
After they have set aside their favorite items, sorting through the stuff that is leftover becomes much easier. Clothes that are too worn or too small, toys that are broken and haven’t been played with for years, and other ignored items just taking up space and collecting dust are all candidates for packing up and removing from your home.
An idea for organizing clothes is to turn all your hangers backward, then turn them forward each time you put them away from the laundry, showing what you wear over a few months. The number of clothes you have that you don’t wear may be surprising, and using this method will show you that not everything in your closet is being used. This helps to purge the extra “clutter” taking up space in your closet.
Banish Clutter and Teach Kids Minimalism Acceptance By Organizing Saved Items Into Bins
Prevent future clutter from creeping out by using nice-looking boxes, bins, or baskets to stash toys and art supplies. Using sturdier storage bins is a wise decision to enable your kids to easily clean up after themselves.
You can use the same process mentioned earlier to organize clothes with toy bins. Organize all the toys into different bins. For example, in my home, we have a toy bin for Lego Duplos, regular Legos, Micro Machines, Matchbox Cars, wooden trains, battery-powered trains, farm playsets, Paw Patrol, farm animals, and a variety of art supplies.
Once the toys are organized, take a sticky note or some painter’s tape and write down the last date your kids played with the toys in that bin. If they haven’t played with a particular bin of toys in several months, have the conversation about giving those toys away to a younger child you know or donating them.
3. Practice Mindful Shopping as a Family
The one benefit of hyperinflation is that as a family, you’re less likely to buy things you don’t need to leave room in your budget for necessary expenses. But even without the hyperinflation, practicing conscious consumerism helps minimize becoming a slave to your stuff, reduces stress, and empowers you to be more conscious of the time you spend with your family. When the whole family is involved in this practice, the tasks involved to teach kids minimalism become much easier.
If you don’t change the habits that led you to accumulate clutter in the first place, your household clutter will return to seemingly explode all over the house, defeating the whole purpose of embarking on a journey to implement minimalism in your lifestyle.
Make a commitment to shop mindfully and be mindful of your purchases. Before buying something you may not need, ask your kids and yourself, “Is this something we really need?” and “where will this thing fit in my home?”
Even when you go to buy gifts for birthdays or Christmas, continue to be intentional and mindful with your spending.
There are so many amazing non-toy gifts that you can give your children that will contribute to less clutter and ignite their creativity. Non-gift ideas could include trips, special time together, outdoor activities, or club memberships. Other ideas could include lessons for musical instruments, sports, woodworking, or other specialized skills.
4. Leading By Example To Inspire Your Kids To Embrace Minimalism
You can’t force someone, even your family, to give up old habits and change their lifestyle. What you can do is make changes to how you live to become an example to inspire your spouse and children to follow your lead.
Help them learn to appreciate what they have, and encourage them to experience the joy and freedom that comes with giving and reducing the amount of stuff you have lying around the house.
Positive shifts in your mood and mental well-being will reflect in your spouse’s and children’s behaviors, and your family’s minimalistic habits will naturally increase.
5. Ask Your Friends and Family Not To Buy Your Kids Unneeded Presents
Many friends and family members tend to find physical gifts to give, especially if they are left to shop for Christmas, birthday, and “just because” gifts if you don’t give them specific direction. Instead of dealing with unwanted or unneeded gifts, provide friends and family members with a list of things that your kids really need and enjoy. You can ask them to pay for their swimming lessons, woodworking workshops, special interest clubs like 4H or the YMCA, chess lessons, instrument music classes… etc.
Your friends and family love you, and would much rather their hard-earned money purchase something your kids will love than buy clutter that will end up discarded. And you’ll help reinforce your efforts spent to teach kids minimalism by showing them other fun amazing adventures this world has to offer outside of things.
Instead of toys, I ask my parents and In-Laws to limit their gifts to things my kids can do, such as artistic boxes from Artza and Kiwi Co, Woodworking Club subscriptions, paracord craft supplies, painting supplies, books, swimming lessons, piano lessons, local zoo or botanical garden passes, camping trips, or memberships to local event or activity centers (such as the Trampoline Park).
6. Minimize Screen Time To Reinforce Your Family’s Values As You Teach Kids Minimalism
Technology is undoubtedly helpful in many applications, however as a culture, we do tend to spend too much time staring at screens and receiving advertisements for all the “amazing” items you don’t have, distracting you from living real life around you, and potentially setting your kids up for behavioral issues related to unrealized stress.
After becoming more conscious of my family’s electronics use, and comparing it to behavioral changes in my kids, I’ve found the studies are true. Too much screentime contributes to my kids being overstimulated, acting irrationally, “needing every little thing,” and craving over-stimulation which motivated us to set some strict rules to minimize the effects.
- Schedule quiet time every day. Each day during the early afternoon, everyone is required to take an informal time out. On rainy days, we might watch a movie, and the kids play a board game or do some quiet reading. I scheduled the “do not disturb” setting on my iPhone from 7 pm until 7 am, leaving that time dedicated to spending time with my kids as they get ready for bed, and then with my husband before we go to bed.
- Limit screen time for your kids. My kids do not use tablets unless we are on a car ride that will last more than 3 hours one-way, and even then they are limited to 2 hours maximum. Their computer use is limited to some specific homeschool activities. Their TV time is limited to a maximum of 2 hours each day.
- Limit TV, especially in bedrooms. My family actually only has one TV in our home (and RV), and that is located in the living room. If there is no agreement on what to watch, we leave it off and find something else to do, like play a board game.
Implementing these rules took a few days to get used to through a digital detox. Within a few days, their behaviors changed to be more empathetic, cooperative, helpful, fun, and curious. They ended up wanting fewer things, trading toys for time exploring and playing outside in nature.
7. Teach Kids Minimalism By Spending More Time Outside
There is a German saying that embraces the Forest School learning approach my kids love: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
With so much exploring to do outside combined with the benefits of immersing yourself in sunlight, you’ll quickly realize the hype about spending more time outside is not overrated.
Your kids will appreciate the running around they’re able to do, while you enjoy watching their joy and listening to their laughter. They’ll be so busy exploring, playing, and running around to notice the lack of “stuff” cluttering your house. Not to mention everyone will be more grateful for the time consciously spent together instead of fretting over all the things that need to get done first. Less cleaning and organizing means more quality time spent together, which is ultimately what matters most.
8. Teach Kids Minimalism By Challenging Them To Find Fun Ways To Replace Stuff
While it is fun to buy your kids toys, seeing the delight in their smiles as they open the first two. Then immediately end up laughing and joking about how you could have saved more money had you just given them an empty box, as you watch them have more fun with the wrapping paper and boxes than with the actual toys.
Children are masters of imaginative play, and often require very little supplies, if any. The best gift you can give them is to use their imagination. Build castles from cardboard boxes, play hide and seek, chase bugs outside, and bake something special to share together are just a few examples where you can have lots of fun as a family, and won’t need any special supplies.
Dedicating regular playtime hours each day doesn’t need to be difficult. Kids are perfectly ok to engage in imaginary play by themselves or with siblings. Or, you can enroll your children in extracurricular or co-curricular activities that will encourage them to develop additional creative and critical thinking skills outside of dedicated family time. Some examples are: joining a sports team, picking up an artistic or creative hobby, learning to play an instrument, growing a garden (I love using these tower gardens with my kids), and reading together.
9. Encourage All Adult Family Members To Participate In Your Efforts To Teach Kids Minimalism
Encourage EVERYONE in your family to participate, including your spouse.
Each and every family member needs to take responsibility and accountability for their own possessions, including decluttering, dusting, and organization. Any time something is taken out of its proper place, it needs to be put away when it’s done being used.
10. Use Positive Reinforcement To Maintain Good Minimalist Habits
Do not use throwing away, donating, “toy jail,” or other methods of decluttering as a means to “punish” your child. Doing so will cause anxiety and negatively encourage your child to develop emotional attachments to everything he or she has.
Try your best to grow your own patience, and focus on the positive benefits of decluttering. Remind your child that by donating their unused items, they are not only making someone else happy but also giving the toys a new opportunity to play. Let them know that removing old items they no longer use or want from their space allows them to bring in something new they will enjoy more right now.
If there are special toys they really don’t want to give up, offer to put them in the attic in a box to save for when they have kids. One of my kids is very nostalgic, not wanting to get rid of anything ever, especially with moving around a lot as a military family. When we offered to put a few mementos into a small box to save for when he has kids, he was much more receptive to removing the items from his shelves to make room for new books and toys he did want to play with.
Giving positive reinforcement, like praise and more time spent together having fun, will help develop better habits and the willingness to understand and participate in adopting a minimalist lifestyle.
11. Schedule Daily and Seasonal Cleaning To Enforce Lessons As You Teach Kids Minimalism
After completing a significant purge of unnecessary clutter, you’ll only need to maintain the hard work you’ve accomplished. Practicing healthy habits with putting everything away each day and wiping down surfaces will help reinforce keeping a clean and appreciating the clean space. Your family will also enjoy the creative thinking and anxiety-reducing benefits it encourages.
I have a rule in my house. Everything you take out gets put away when you’re done using it. When my kids finish playing with one bin of toys, those toys are required to be put away before anything else is taken out. At the end of the day, we have scheduled time in with our bedtime routine to clean up the play area and bedrooms. This way we can all wake up to a fresh new day without any tension or tasks waiting for us.
Then, at the end of each season, we schedule a day for decluttering and removing any items that no longer fit our needs. Each decluttering session takes less time because we have fewer items to worry about (and our kids are getting older so they aren’t going through multiple sizes of clothes each season).
12. Set and Enforce Clear Boundaries To Your New Minimalist Routines
After decluttering, organize your family’s activity equipment, books, and toys in a single location. When everything has a proper place and is properly put away, then everything you have and need becomes easier to find.
If your kids bring toys or stuffed animals out to play with, make sure they understand that they are responsible for returning them to their proper place afterward. Hold yourself and your spouse to the same standards. Come up with age-appropriate consequences to help reinforce putting things away.
My family does a lot of financial education with our younger kids (under 10), so one of the consequences of not cleaning up after themselves is to pay me to do their cleaning for them, after having direct conversations about why it is important to be helpful, and how much fun and together time they’re missing out by not helping.
Cleaning up after themselves, helping with cooking, dishes, our animals, our garden, dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, laundry, and basic DIY home repair are required chores they must do each day. They earn an allowance by doing extra work around the house and yard. Any time they refuse to do their required chores, they owe me $1 for each chore. If they run out of money, their schedule is cleared and nothing happens until their responsibilities are completed appropriately.
A Note From Nicole
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Nicole is a military-trained research analyst, homeschooling mom, healthy lifestyle coach, flexible business consultant, and writer for MotherhoodTruth.com and GracefullyAbundant.com. After living through and overcoming a season of homelessness and chronic health, Nicole developed a passion for helping others develop healthier habits using functional nutrition, herbalism, and renewing faith.