Minimalism as a trend has been on the rise for a while now – from capsule wardrobes consisting of a limited number of pieces, to Scandinavian-inspired minimalist décor, everyone seems to be embracing a simpler, more streamlined way of living. There are many benefits to ‘minimising your life’, from increased clarity of thought to lower stress levels, more happiness and even improvements in physical health.
But, beyond how you manage your household possessions, how about applying the concept of minimalism to your parenting, too? This certainly doesn’t mean less love, less quality time, or less attention paid to your kids – it’s about incorporating minimalism into your parenting so that you end up with more of the good stuff, as you let go of the unnecessary.
When you first have a baby, well-meaning relatives or friends may shower you with stuffed toys or a wide assortment of items that end up gathering dust on your shelf. All kids are different, so it’s best to wait until your child starts playing with toys to see what she likes. For example, one child may love his collection of toy cars, while another may never touch that pricey doll’s house.
Rotating toys works well, too – put a batch away for a month and then switch them so that older toys seem “new” to your 18-month-old. She’ll rediscover new aspects of toys now that their skills are developing. There are also toy rental services such as Smart Toy Club, where you pay to “borrow” age-appropriate toys for a month, which will save you both space and money.
Western parenting has become about racing from one extramural activity to another, packing our own schedules, and those of our children, chock-full of a variety of activities. There is a sense that to be a good parent, we must allow our children every opportunity – who are we to stop them from becoming a child violinist or a mini Picasso? But when we do this, we often become exhausted. Children need time to be bored, as this encourages them to use their imaginations and to simply be children.
Sometimes, the most fun afternoon is spent in a cardboard box pretending it’s a rocket ship. Let your kids become bored, give them your attention, and you’ll be amazed by what transpires.
With many parents over-worked and over-stretched, an element of guilt comes into how we parent, and we may compensate for our time with material things. But this doesn’t provide many benefits for children, as they quickly become bored with the latest expensive contraption you’ve gifted them and it ends up gathering dust once again. The old adage of “something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read” works well at times like the festive season or their birthdays.
“You can’t be serious – you’ve only worn these shoes twice.” Parents all over the world find themselves uttering these words regularly, as they try to fit last summer’s sandals on their child’s rapidly growing feet. Buying overpriced clothing that is also impractical is a clear waste of money and time. For example, baby girls learning how to crawl really don’t need that many skirts or dresses, as they’ll only cause your tot to trip up and gather dirt. A good idea is to find a friend or relative who has had a child just before you or just after you (preferably in the same season) and then pass clothes and shoes between you.
That way, you’ll clear out clutter as your child grows out of things, and you’ll save money along the way.
Sometimes less is more. The amount of information available to new parents these days is overwhelming – you have thousands of answers at your fingertips. Find a few resources you admire and trust, whether it is peers who’ve gone through a parenting stage before you, or a particular website you identify with and trust. If you try to follow each piece of advice instead of following your instincts, you’ll only end up exhausted and unhappy.
As your children grow up and become well-rounded adults, the time and experiences they have with you is what will resonate and stay with them – not the expensive toy they received one Christmas.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.