Less is more. We’ve all probably heard this saying and even used it a time or two to describe things like decorating, accessorizing, or applying makeup. But what about parenting?
Can the ‘less is more’ mindset help you and your family find a peaceful balance amidst the craziness of everyday life?
YES. A hundred times over, YES.
And as parents, isn’t that what we all want?
I know that personally, I was constantly looking for ways to live a simpler, more balanced life while still providing my family with the tools and opportunities that they need for success.
I even had an entire Pinterest board called ‘Simplifying My Life’.
But before minimalist parenting, I could never find the time to actually explore it! (Or do much of anything else for myself.)Which, I’m guessing, plenty of you can relate to.
And if you can, it’s time to really look at your life and ask yourself, do I need to simplify my life?
Trying to Do It ALL
In this day and age, running a family is a full-time job – more so than ever before.
In fact, I recently saw an ad that a family placed looking to hire a Virtual Assistant.
Not a Virtual Assistant to help Mom or Dad run their business, but a Virtual Assistant to help them run their family.
They were looking for someone to update their family calendar on a daily basis, send them daily reminders, and manage email communications with teachers and coaches.
This family was so busy that they were outsourcing to keep track of their own kid’s tests and soccer games.
That seemed crazy to me.
Don’t get me wrong, if you can afford it, I understand how something like this would be immensely helpful.
But, isn’t it also a sign that we’re simply trying to do too much?
Let’s be honest, modern day parenting can be overwhelming. Our kids are overscheduled and we as parents are overextended.
With the mass amounts of information, opinions, and choices that we’re bombarded with through social media and the internet, parenting can often feel like playing a constant game of catch-up.
Not to mention the competitive nature of parenting these days. I regularly struggle with comparing myself to other parents.
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve felt like a complete failure after running into another Mom and hearing about what her child is doing or learning. It usually sends me into a tailspin of questioning my own parenting…
Should my kid be learning more than one language at a time? Is a Montessori style school better than the school we’re at? Am I using the best organic, chemical-free laundry detergent? Can we afford that la-ti-da summer camp that all the other Moms are raving about?
The list goes on and on.
Because we want the best for our kids, we often try to do it all – to be SuperParents.
But in the end, this need to do and be the best at everything usually ends up burning us, and our kids, out. It’s just not a sustainable way of life.
And it’s certainly not healthy.
At my last checkup, my doctor informed me that I had dangerously high blood pressure, likely resulting from stress.
It was then that I knew I needed to make some changes. I simply couldn’t do it all for one more minute.
Which is what led me to minimalist parenting.
What IS Minimalist Parenting?
Contrary to what many people think, minimalist parenting does not mean taking a back seat to your kid’s needs and parking yourself on the couch with a glass of wine and the remote. (but it might help you find the time to occasionally do that!)
According to Christine Koh, one of the authors of the book Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less, “It’s about identifying your unique values and paring down and prioritizing so you can find what works for your family.”
Sounds simple, right?
Well, that’s because it kind of is!
The entire concept is based in simplicity and finding ways to simplify your family’s way of living.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking, “HA! Obviously, I’d love to simplify my family’s life – but, how the heck do I do that? And when will I find the time?”
Here’s the thing – minimalist parenting isn’t some magical solution or instant fix. You will have to consciously make time to reevaluate your life and implement some concrete changes.
But if you can make the time to start the process, then the rest is actually pretty simple.
At its core, minimalist parenting is about editing and decluttering your family’s entire lifestyle – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The goal is to refocus on your family’s individual values, needs, and wants and to cut out all the extraneous ‘stuff’.
It’s about curating not only your schedule, but also your belongings, to make sure that you and your family’s life is filled with only things that act as a source of happiness, fulfillment, and fun!
By default, doing this allows you to eliminate that ‘keeping up with Joneses’ mentality that so many of us get sucked into these days.
Since your focus will be on your family and your family alone, it won’t matter when you hear that Suzy down the street is learning Mandarin and how to cook a six-course gourmet meal while also taking violin lessons and playing on an All-Star soccer league.
Because with minimalist parenting, you’ll experience firsthand just how much your family thrives when everyone embraces a ‘less is more’ lifestyle.
Again, minimalist parenting is not about doing nothing – it’s simply about spending less time trying to do everything.
To get you started, here are four actionable tips to help you master minimalist parenting.
4 Ways to Master Minimalist Parenting
1. Talking as a Family
The first step to minimalist parenting is to talk as a family.
You want to find out what parts of your family’s current lifestyle are most important to each family member, including yourself!
If your kids are old enough, make time to sit down and have a conversation with them about what they want, what they’re passionate about, what their goals are, and what they can live without.
Too often we push our kids to spend time doing activities or extracurriculars without getting their input because it’s what we want them to do or what we think is best for them.
But over-scheduling our kids or forcing them to be involved in the things that we’ve chosen for them can end up seriously stifling them.
Point being – talk to your kids. Ask them what they want to do, what they really enjoy or want to pursue.
And if they don’t know, you can easily help them figure it out!
Try exploring books at the library, going on nature hikes, playing around with different recipes in the kitchen, coloring, taking pictures together, kicking the soccer ball at the park – the list of simple, organic ways to explore various interests with your kids is endless.
And let’s not forget – sometimes kids just want to do nothing.
Which can feel scary for a lot of parents – that idea of unscheduled, unplanned time.
But for kids, sometimes a little bit of downtime is exactly what they want or need.
And you’ll never know unless you ask.
So, start talking! And listening!
Understanding what each individual family member wants and needs in order to thrive is the foundation that minimalist parenting is built on.
2. Overhauling Your Calendar
Once you’ve determined what each person really cares about the most, it’s time to edit your family calendar and schedule.
Christine Koh describes doing this with her own family, “…with my eight-year-old and my husband, you know, we laid out the weeks of the calendar, looked at them and just kind of figured out a way, you know, when we had too much where we could trim down, really looking at it with a critical eye of what felt like too much – not just, you know, for one of us, but for all of us. So, I would say the general broad sweep on the calendar is a good place to start.”
Let’s say that for you, it’s important to have one evening a week where you’re not spending hours in the car picking up and dropping off kids at various activities. This might mean that your partner needs to do the driving on that night or perhaps one of your kids needs to give up an extracurriculars.
I know some of you are thinking, Give up an extracurricular? (gasp)
While that may sound harsh, try to look at it objectively. Realistically, it’s highly unlikely that your child will be less successful in life if they give up one of their many activities or sports.
However, there’s a good chance that you’ll be a more successful parent when your needs are being met and you can have that one night off from driving duties.
Paring down your family schedule sounds like an impossible task, but the way that Christine Koh described it was extremely helpful to me, “…really, I like to look at it not as losing out on things but curating, you know, the best things on the calendar and to-do lists and getting rid of the stuff that, you know, you don’t want to do or have to do.”
Try explaining to your kids that by doing less, they can actually focus on doing more with the one or two things that they are really passionate about.
The sooner that everyone can start thinking in terms of the greater good of your family, the simpler life will get.
So, break out that family calendar and cut back, pare down, and simplify – everything.
3. Eliminating the Clutter
Editing and simplifying your family schedule is a huge part of minimalist parenting – but simplifying your home environment is important too.
The minimalist approach can, and should, be infused throughout your entire life.
If your kids aren’t going to hold on to every single activity on the calendar, then they don’t need to hold on to every single stuffed animal they’ve ever received either.
And this goes for every single member of your family.
Do you really need ten pairs of black jeans?
Does your son actually play with every single toy in his playroom?
Will your family ever use that dusty ping pong table cluttering the garage?
Physical clutter has the ability to seep into your emotional and mental space, causing stress and exhaustion.
Now, I’m not advising you to get rid of everything or try to de-clutter your entire home in one weekend – the goal is to simplify not stress you out!
However, periodic purging can be extremely helpful in simplifying your entire lifestyle.
For example, maybe one afternoon, you and your son clean out the pantry together and use what’s left to make a fun afternoon snack.
Or maybe on a lazy Sunday morning, you and your daughter can try on your ten pairs of black jeans and get rid of those that aren’t your favorites.
De-cluttering doesn’t have to be a chore and it doesn’t have to be done all at once.
But, in order to keep your space as clutter-free as your new schedule, it should be something that you and your family work on over time.
4. Streamlining Your Decision-Making Strategy
As parents, we make countless decisions every single day.
Some decisions are easier…
“Mom, can I jump off the roof onto the trampoline?”
While others are more involved…
“Is it too soon to talk to my eight-year old about cyber-bullying?”
No matter what kind of decision you’re trying to make as a parent, there is an endless supply of information available to help you make it.
And that’s often the problem.
Over-researching and agonizing over every single decision that you make is not only complicated and stressful, but can be a major time suck.
Last week, I think I spent 20 minutes reading labels on peanut butter jars at the grocery store, looking for the least processed brand.
TWENTY MINUTES on PEANUT BUTTER JARS.
I ended up getting so frustrated with myself that I said screw the peanut butter and decided everyone was getting jelly sandwiches that week.
Situations like this happen all the time due to a combination of information overload, over-researching options, and believing that you must make the absolute best decision or disaster will ensue.
Christine Koh and author Asha Dornfest address this need to over-research and seek the absolute best choice by saying, “You’ll save a lot of time and energy by stopping the search at, say, three items with positive reviews from reliable sources. It’s natural to want only the best for your child–simply broaden your definition from a binary best/not best choice to one of several good options.”
Practicing minimalist parenting includes simplifying our decision making strategies.
It’s important to pick and choose which decisions we spent our precious time researching and agonizing over and which ones it’s better to just go with our gut.
Similar to what Koh and Dornfest said, for certain situations, sometimes making a good decision is actually better than trying to figure out the best decision.
As you simplify your schedule, calendar, and belongings, keep in mind that it’s equally important to simplify your decision-making strategies.
There you have it – the four tips that have been incredibly helpful in simplifying mine and my family’s entire life while I work on mastering minimalist parenting.
If you’re interested in learning more on the topic, I genuinely recommend getting a copy of Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less by Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest.
I’d love to leave you with a quote from Asha Dornfest that I printed out and hung on the refrigerator for those days when I need a little reminder about what minimalist parenting is all about…
“Minimalist parenting isn’t minimal parenting, it’s the mindful choice to do less of the unimportant stuff so there’s more room for important stuff. Take a deep breath and consider what you might like to make room for in your life.”