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H. A. O'Connor

Parenting with More…of Less

Earthy, Ethereal, Living Sustainably, Minimalism: Less Is More, Neighborhood Homesteading, Parenting No Comment
Parenting with More…of Less

Generation after generation, parents have set out to give their kids more than they had. So why do I feel the constant desire to give my kids less?

On the surface, it might sound like a simple case of bad parenting, and I definitely have had (and will have) my share of parenting fails. I think I’ll be able to chalk this one up to a win, though, and I’m sure others feel similarly.

By Charles Ellis Johnson – Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections, Public Domain,
httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=54968740

To clarify how this less thing works, think: less busy-ness, less unnecessary technology, less consumerism, less time indoors, less stress…. (I could add “fewer possessions, fewer distractions,” etc., but then I’d have to mess with my “less” theme, so….)

In having less, kids also get more: more free time, more outdoor activities, more bonding with family and friends, more healthful living, more imagination and creativity, more appreciation for life’s basic pleasures, more peace….

Childhood, for me, had some definite highlights. Generally, the simple things were what I treasured most and still remember best: exploring woods and fields and farms with friends, climbing trees, riding bikes, writing, drawing, painting, spending quality time with family and pets.

By State Library of Queensland, Australia [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

I can’t help feeling we were onto something in those long-ago days of my youth, you know, back in the 1900s. I like to think of it as hands-on living.

This, then, is what I want for my kids: I want more…of less. I want them to be plugged into their lives, rather than plugged into electronics and disconnected from real living.

How do I hope to achieve this? (On a wing and a prayer?) The general idea is to stick with a back to basics theme. In terms of specifics, well, I’m still working on those. For now, I’m focusing on the following hopes and goals, some of which are already in the works:

(To simplify, I’ve grouped the details into broad categories.)

Image via Unsplash/Redd Angelo

The Minimal the Better (<–click for more on minimalism)

Minimalism can involve decluttering life on multiple levels–from physical items to activities/habits that use up time and energy.

*Clear out unnecessary belongings–donate!

*Buy less (e.g. instead of owning massive amounts of clothing, focus on fewer, more versatile items; for people who have young children, point out to them that one or two stuffed animals are easier to love and tote around than a dozen)

*Encourage (aka demand) less screen time–this was so much easier when my kids were little!

*Choose activities more carefully–weed out unnecessary distractions and use free time better (e.g. instead of an expensive indoor activity, go for a walk together at a state/national park. Add a dog, a camera, and/or a picnic lunch and it qualifies as a bona fide event, without too much fuss)

By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Self-sufficient? Naturally

Self-sufficiency can happen as an individual or on a larger scale.

*Individual self-sufficiency–encourage kids to do more for themselves. It may take longer in the beginning, but it will help them gain confidence and skills along the way and, eventually, might free up some time for the adults. (I did say “might.”)

(*Sidenote: I remember standing inside a store years ago, waiting for one of my sons to tie his shoe. I used it as a momentary reprieve–a chance to catch my breath before he was up and active again–but a woman beside me apparently found the whole experience exasperating. “I don’t know how you can do that,” she said to me, as he tried and tried again. “I’d just have to jump in and do it for him.” I smiled at her, still happy with my choice. If I took over for him this time and the next (and the next) how would he ever learn? By the way, I’ve definitely lacked patience as a parent–and as a human, in general–but sometimes I think I got it right.)

*Self-sufficiency on a bigger scale–in desiring to live more independently as a family, it will be important to work in harmony with the natural world. We hope to:

*Grow more of our own food–veggies, herbs, fruits, berries (*Another aside: we’ve already planted two fruit trees in honor of lost loved ones–a Grandma Hon Tree and a Grandy Tree. I think they’d approve, especially when their trees are in bloom.)

*Make more food from scratch–the closer you stay to nature, the better = great rule of thumb, when it comes to food

*Use natural remedies and preventative treatments to help improve our health–including herbs and common lawn weeds (<click to see that post)

*Make our own soaps and other personal products from natural ingredients (such as I’ve demonstrated on my little YouTube channel–* here*)

*Continue with our chicken keeping (love those girls!)

By Kheel Center – Flickr Adults and three young children make artificial flowers around a table at
home., CC BY 2.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=20256953

Put ’em to work

*Show kids the value of hard work–not only general yard work, housework, pet care, but also projects–currently, the boys are helping my husband put up a fenced area behind the house for the dogs (YouTube video on that soon to come)

*Add to our DIY lifestyle–this helps ease the strain on our budget, while showing the kids we’re capable of a lot, if we are willing to learn. For example, I started cutting everyone’s hair years ago (bit of a rough start, but I think I’ve got the hang of it. They might beg to differ.) Also, my “To be painted” list has quite a few rooms on it, so I’d like to start teaching the kids how to help me

*Have them brainstorm with us on future projects or current problems–this shows the kids they’re really part of the team, plus they have some great things to contribute

*Encourage creative pursuits (paints, paper, pens, cardboard, wood, hammer, nails, etc.–simple tools can spark all kinds of endeavors)

*Help them help others–from raising money for a child-driven charity, Our Children Making Change, to assisting the runners at Philadelphia’s annual Broad Street Run, to fostering puppies from the rescue where I volunteer (Greenmore Farm Animal Rescue), the kids have experienced how good it feels to offer someone a helping hand

Public Domain, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=268522

Become a Model

In addition to working with our kids on the activities I’ve mentioned above, parents can think about our own behavior as modeling. Some examples:

*If we want our kids to value long-term achievements over short-term pleasures, we can let them see how we work toward goals and, when met with challenges, how we adapt and persevere

*If we want our kids to be aware of society’s focus on consumerism, materialism, and other “surface” living, we can talk with them about things like need vs. want and how consumer-driven lifestyles can be damaging to us and the environment

*If we’d like kids to understand the value of learning, we can put down our smart phones or tablets and pick up a book, build/repair something, or start another kind of project

(*hint: our kids won’t be the only ones who benefit when we choose well)

 

Turns out I’ve listed a lot for a post on “less.” Granted, I may have overcomplicated things, but a list like this should only serve as a reference, anyhow. I find that when we set our sights on choosing a “back to basics” life, things begin to fall into place naturally.

I know I’m not the only one who feels less really can be more, so I’d love to hear how others are giving their kids (or themselves) more from less. Do you agree that a simpler life can help nurture healthier bodies, as well as happier hearts and minds?

H. A. O'Connor

A Minimal Path to Maximum Living

Ethereal, Minimalism: Less Is More, Searching for Inspiration 6 Comments
A Minimal Path to Maximum Living

To quote Lisa Simpson, “A decluttered life is a happy life. A decluttered life is a happy life. A decluttered life….” I think you get the point.

We haven’t watched The Simpsons in years, but caught part of the show one night and this is what Lisa was saying. My husband immediately turned to me. “Did you hear that?” he asked, because Lisa could have been channeling me just then.

I’ve had decluttering on the brain for as long as I can remember. It was a much easier goal to attain when I was young and would spend hours purging my bedroom closet and dresser drawers to end on the satisfying note of hauling away a big bag of trash (and/or donations). Since those days, kids and pets have arrived to fill my life with infinitely more love, but also lots more stuff.

Living a decluttered life has become slightly more challenging.

   

Before Kids versus After Kids (kidding–mostly)

Images via pixabay/Giovanni-cg and Hans

Happily, there are plenty of resources these days to help tackle the chaos. You see, I discovered a while ago that my real goal is minimalism. Cleaning out closets isn’t enough; I’d like to streamline my life, clear away all the debris that gets in the way of genuine living.

So, what is minimalism? You’ve probably heard the term, but if you’re not clear on its meaning, that’s likely because it’s a little difficult to pin down. Minimalism means different things to different people and that’s okay. If the concept remains open to some interpretation, it can be built to suit individual lifestyles. No matter what, rest assured minimalism isn’t designed to be a punishment; it’s supposed to be freeing.

Minimal requirements

Image via Unsplash/Andrew Loke

Never mind rules, but guidelines can be helpful. Here are some basic ones:

Minimalism is essentially living with intention (much like Buddhism, but I digress). A minimalist lifestyle asks you to be aware; it’s sort of like bringing meditation into your everyday existence.

Minimalism entails making your life more about experiences and less about “stuff.” So, take a trip somewhere special as a family in place of exchanging expensive gifts, or head out for a hike in the woods instead of going shopping.

Fishing trip, minimal style

Image via Unsplash/Przemysław Sakrajda

Be aware (and wary) of consumerism. Don’t let it dictate your choices. When you buy something, make sure it’s because you need it (or love it), rather than just purchasing things on impulse. It becomes easier to do as you let go of extraneous items. You’ll still be okay without them; you’ll probably also recognize the clutter and distraction they tend to add to life.

Could I, maybe, have a second serving?

Image via pixabay/pexels

The thing with buying into consumerism (pun intended), is that we’ll always want more. We yearn for that new thing we saw advertised, so we buy it (with money that took hours to earn). It’s exciting for a bit, until it becomes just another thing. Then, it’s onto the next must-have. How many hours of work go toward feeding such habits?

As Zen Habits and Mnmlist.com blogger Leo Babauta says, “It’s just too much. Minimalists say, ‘I’m getting off this merry-go-round. I opt out.’”

Another key component of minimalism? Decluttering. There are many methods for ridding yourself of unwanted physical belongings. One of my favorites is the tried and true “pile” method. Simply pull everything out of a closet, drawer, etc. and sort it into piles: keep, discard, donate. Box or bag the items that are heading out and send them on their way. Donations help other people, of course, so that’s a great bonus.

Minimal decorating, minimal dusting

Image via Unsplash/Siebe

Another decluttering option that’s become very popular is the KonMarie Method, based on Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You’re essentially asked to declutter by category, taking time to consider each item. I used this method to clear out unnecessary clothing and found it to be very effective. It made me aware that I was holding onto some pieces for sentimental reasons or simply out of guilt. The unworn clothing in my life, believe it or not, was piling up on my shoulders (figuratively speaking).

Another way to shed unnecessary clothing is to opt for a capsule wardrobe. Basically, you own a limited number of multi-purpose pieces and rotate by season as necessary. To read more about it, you might check out this blog post: How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe, or, if you’d like some suggestions on how to tailor a capsule wardrobe to fit your needs, I’d recommend: I’m Quitting Capsule Wardrobes!

What about the non-physical clutter? The “less is more” concept still applies. Our daily lives are complicated by things like overscheduling (our kids’ lives or our own), going after too many goals, spending an excessive amount of time online, even multi-tasking to extremes. We may not be able to eliminate all of these issues, but if we get them under control, they will be easier to address. Maybe try saying “no” sometimes, to avoid overcommitting yourself, set aside a specific day (or time of day) to answer emails or texts, limit time spent on social media. Something like bullet journaling might help keep you on track–but only if it doesn’t further complicate your life. Also, when engaged in an activity, give it your full focus. Limit what you do, and do whatever it is with intention.

Minimal Meal?

Image via Unsplash/NordWood Themes

Minimalism has additional benefits. It can help improve our health by reducing stress or even through our opting for a minimal diet (minimal in terms ingredients–choose whole foods or make meals from scratch, instead of dining on processed foods with chemical additives). Minimalism can improve our finances, through simplifying our lives and making us more thoughtful about our purchasing decisions. In addition, if we choose to buy wisely and waste less (think: reusable cloth paper towels, plastic sandwich containers, stainless steel drinking straws, stainless/other bottles to replace bottled water, etc.), we are also helping the environment.

Minimal plant, maximum green

Image via pixabay/scottwebb

Although I have a ways to go on my minimalist path, the changes I’ve made so far have already enhanced my life. I hope to share some of my personal experiences as I continue, and if you are on your own minimalist journey, I’d love to hear how it’s going.

For those of you who are new to minimalist thought, here are a few great resources:

Zen Habits, Mnmlist.com, Becoming Minimalist, The Minimalists

And some helpful reads:

18 Five-Minute Decluttering Tips to Start Conquering Your Mess

12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk

10 Creative Ways to Declutter Your Home

Why Kids Need Minimalism

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