Minimalist Living with Kids
“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” – Steven Wright
I am a minimalist by nature and prefer the simple pleasures in life. I have a hard time convincing my kids of the need to live our lives simply. Better said, I have a hard time convincing them we don’t need every. single. toy. ever. made. We don’t need to buy lots of new ones and we don’t need to keep the ones that aren’t getting played with anymore. After reading The Joy of Less by Francine Jay I realized, more now than ever, our tiny 550 sq. ft. of living space was being taken over by our stuff.
I emptied about four garbage bags from our shared closet and bedroom. I have yet to tackle the kitchen. I need to get on it, but keep making excuses like “how can I empty all the cupboards of breakable items (as advised by the book) if I have two kids playing on the floor?” Maybe they need to spend a day at Grandma’s so I can get the work done. The only resistance (besides my own procrastination) I faced was when it came time to look through “kid stuff”. Donating items to the thrift store without telling the kids started backfiring a year or two ago, so we had to face it head on. I talked and talked: Nothing seemed to hit the spot and explain it just right until I spotted a book (and then another) at the library on the newly released shelf.
More, written by I.C. Springman and illustrated by Brian Lies, is the story of a magpie and how he goes from nothing, to way too much, and nearly back again, resting in a comfortable place of just enough. The text is sparse, but the pictures illustrate how we can be weighed down under the “stuff” we collect in life. The front jacket cover explains “One magpie, lots of stuff, and a few friendly mice show us that less is MORE.” The author wrote the book “for her grandsons with the hope that one day there will be enough for all.”
Mole Had Everything, written and illustrated by Jamison Odone, was found on the same new shelf just a few weeks later. The same message of simple living seems clearer in this book due to the more substantial text. The story starts with a very content mole who has “everything”: Everything he needs, not everything he could possibly want or collect. The problem arises when his friend Emerson, the beaver, tells Mole he needs more. Mole sets out in search for more. He finds and collects lots of stuff and brings it back to his home where it piles up. The necessary care of these items takes up almost all of his time, leaving “no time for spooking birds, or running through fields”. Mole decides to purge “almost everything for free” and is left with everything he needs (all his original belongings), plus a tea cup for his friend.
I felt lucky to have found these two recent releases that articulated better than myself the importance of simple living. I don’t think my kids are ready to be as minimalist as me, but hopefully they better understand my need to keep our stuff at a minimum and our enjoyment of life at a maximum.