I’m an anxious person – I always have been. When I was a kid, my room was always full of junk, and I could never get a handle on how to be organised. Stuffed toys, old books, and all manner of detritus invaded my room gradually and I didn’t have a way of dealing with it. It filled me with dread. My room was a mess, and my mind was full of chaos.
It wasn’t until I was much older that a psychologist I was seeing for my post-natal depression pointed out that the out-of-control feelings I had in my mind and my house were entirely related. “Get rid of the chaos in your house,” she suggested, “And you get rid of the chaos in your brain.”
That day, a light went on and I knew what I had to do.
I also know that I inherited a tendency towards anxiety from my father, and there is a very good chance that my children will also need to find ways to deal with anxiety as they grow up.
That’s why I’m raising my kids to be minimalists.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a humourless ogre who only lets her kids have three toys each, but I’m raising my kids to be more mindful about what they consume, and what they decide to keep.
Christmas has become a holiday much more about family and experiences rather than acquiring stuff. We slow down and spend time together, playing games and telling stories. My children have received gifts such as being a zookeeper for a day, swimming with dolphins, and publishing their first ebook on Amazon.
Easter has become a time for baking delicious treats and enjoying some down time. (We’re not religious but I know other parents who have really brought it back to that focus, and that works well for them.)
Birthdays are a day where we really celebrate the person whose special day it is. We do things they love to do, and we do what we can to make them feel loved.
And yes, all of the above include presents. Like I said, I’m no ogre. But the gifts are beautiful and well-made, and they’re always things that I know will be loved, and that will last.
There is no wrapping up plastic crap just for the sake of opening gifts. And there is a whole lot of talk of gratitude and appreciating what we already have.
Sure, sometimes my kids wish they could have the latest Happy Meal toys like their friends, but kids are programmed to want what they don’t have. They’d eat ice cream for breakfast if we let them.
It’s our job as parents to teach them what is important and show them a way to live that we think will benefit them and the world in which they live. For me, that means no ice cream for breakfast, and a life of simplicity and gratitude.