Like most parents, I set out to give my kids more than I had. More trips, more memories, just more which basically meant more "stuff". Birthdays, Christmas, Vacations were overflowing with stuff, just because. I loved the way they lit up when they got something new, and how excited they were to open another box. But then I realized most of that expression was for the "stuff". The stuff that would be tossed to the side after a few days sometimes hours of playing with it.
When I transitioned to this lifestyle, I didn't even think about the kids. Then I realized it would be new to them too. Here are 5 ways I started to introduce minimalism to my kids, to help them focus less on "stuff" and more quality time and making memories:
Purge with (and without) your kids. This one was tough for me. At first I tried to have all the girls involved from the beginning. I asked them what was important and what was OK to give away. In the moment EVERYTHING was important to them and they needed EVERYTHING. So, instead, I did the first purge without them. If I wasn't sure I left it, if I hadn't seen the toy in a while I got rid of it. Then, for round two, I got them involved. We made a pile of favorites, 'not sures' and giveaways. Once they realized the giveaways were going to kids that didn't have toys they pile grew and grew! I didn't push them or try to convince them to get rid of the 'not sures'. I put those in a box and stored them out of sight. What didn't get touched in a month, we gave away. I haven't yet had to pull toys out of the out of sight box!
Designate an area for toys. Inside that area ensure all toys have their own labeled place. In my house, there is one closet all three girls share that houses all their toys. Each shelf and drawer is labeled (baby toys, electronics, crayons, art supplies, board games for example). We have a strict rule, if the toys cannot fit in the toy area or shelf, you have to make room by giving something away. If there is nothing you want to give away, then you don't need the new item. This also works well for clean up (especially when friends are over). Every toy has its place!
Start saying No. This was a hard one for me. There were so many times I would buy something for the kids just because. Just because you have the means, doesn't mean you have to say yes. Teach them to be satisfied with what they have by saying no to them and yourself for things they don't need.
Encourage outdoor play. After we got rid of so much of the toys, we made a point to emphasize doing more outside. Now that the summer is here, we make sure that the hour right after they get home from school is for outdoor play. They have a snack, kick a ball, play tag, hula hoop..something! This means less time for stuff and more time for play. It also made no electronics during the week a breeze!
Lead by example! The less emphasis I made on stuff, the easier the transition. Of course just like us, they will have the urge for something new. Its important that anything new is intentional and thoughtful.