Friday, May 31, 2019

The No Money Weekend "Family Edition"

It's the time of year when families are anticipating the summer break with no school and long, hot hours of free time.


Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash


We all know that a vacation can be very expensive, but perhaps you've saved and have a plan to pay for that special trip.  However, weekend activities are often not so carefully planned, even though it's possible to spend several hundred dollars in a couple of days.  Families eat out more on the weekend than during the week.  Add a visit to the movie theater, amusement park, or the mall, and weekend spending goes even higher.



Monday, May 27, 2019

Second Generation Minimalism




An anonymous reader had several questions after reading an earlier post about toys:

… I have two rather small children myself and my story resembles yours in so many ways....  How [do] your kids feel about this change today?  Do they remember?  Do they hold any grudge against you for introducing them to minimalism or are they thankful?  Are they minimalist themselves today?
I left a quick reply to this reader from Norway:

My kids are not minimalists themselves, but their homes are clean and tidy (though I find them crowded).  They do remember, and they've never expressed any grudges about having fewer toys.  I think I became better at choosing toys they really wanted, rather than buying stuff that caught my eye that they didn't really care about.  They had fewer things, but more cherished things....
Since then, I've continued to think about these questions.  Thank you, friend, for your thoughtful inquiries!

I needed to remind myself that minimalism is not a one-size-fits all concept.  It looks different for everyone.


Friday, May 24, 2019

The Family Read-Aloud

When our children were 9 and 12, we embarked on a very ambitious read-aloud project.  My husband and I had been fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings since we each read the epic in our teens.  In anticipation of the release of Peter Jackson's film, The Fellowship of the Ring, we wanted to reread the entire work, and also give our kids the chance to experience the novel as Tolkien created it, before their imaginations were influenced by the film interpretation.  Thus we committed to spend approximately one hour each evening, all through the summer and fall of 2001, reading aloud that massive and beautiful saga.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


I did the bulk of the performance, since I am the more dramatic reader and can do "voices."  And it was a performance - a demanding test of my fluency, expressiveness, and stamina.  My husband kept me supplied with soothing Earl Grey tea, and our family quickly became immersed in the tale of Frodo and his companions.  The kids clamored for more every night, and this became the high point of our family life at that time.  Our kids even taught themselves the runes that Tolkien had created, and would write notes to each other in that script.  When the movie premiered in December, they were legitimate Tolkien fans.

If we had not read to them from birth onward, we could never have attempted or finished this journey together.


Monday, May 20, 2019

The Joy of Cooking?


Photo courtesy of cravinghomecooked.com




With childhood obesity on the rise, modern-day food gurus encourage home cooking.  Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules: An Eater's Manual, and New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman both urge parents to cook from scratch with fresh ingredients.  Magazines such as Good Housekeeping and television personalities like Rachael Ray offer practical cooking advice, publishing recipes for slow cooker meals and 30 minute meals.  Michelle Obama emphasizes the role that mothers play in helping children make healthy choices.

The message is that good parents, particularly good mothers, cook for their families.



Friday, May 17, 2019

7 Secrets of a Clutter-Free Family Home

My husband and I live in an 800 square foot (about 74 square meter) apartment.  When people come over, they always remark that it is so clean.  I actually think they mean tidy and clutter-free.  But having things put away makes it seem clean.  Honestly, if you stopped by my house unannounced, most of the time I could invite you in and not be at all embarrassed.  That is liberating.


"Eli's Room" courtesy of Farmhouse 5540


When our children were young, we lived in a house that was about 1200 square feet (about 111 square meters).  Compared to the average American home, that is small, but my house was usually fairly tidy then too.  Even if the kids were in the middle of playing one of their epic pretend games, with dolls, stuffed animals, play dishes, dress-up clothes, Lego creations, and lots of homemade props, we could make the house "company ready" in a pretty short time.

Does that sound like an impossible dream?



Monday, May 13, 2019

11 Simple Needs of the Minimalist Baby



Photo courtesy of Steve H.



A young couple I know went into debt preparing a designer nursery for their first child.  At a baby shower for this young mama-to-be, gifts included dozens of cute and complicated newborn-size outfits, miniature patent leather shoes, two baby monitors, a white noise machine, a light-up musical mobile, and an elegant pram-style stroller that was very heavy to lift and probably too large to fit into the trunk of a car.

Family and friends were eager to welcome the new baby, and wanted to show their love by giving gifts.  But the cute gadgets and clothes, though fun to shop for and to give, weren't really going to meet the baby's needs.  Expensive clutter had been given in place of useful necessities, which would still need to be purchased.

Giving birth and caring for a newborn are wonderful but stressful activities.  Why add debt and clutter to sleep deprivation and first-time-parent anxiety?


Friday, May 10, 2019

The Busy Child

Just as more and more adults today are proudly wearing the badge "BUSY," so too are more and more children.  Too busy to stop, to engage with others, to listen, to observe, to pay attention, to reflect, to imagine, to properly rest.

Photo by Wayne Lee-Sing on Unsplash


The conventional wisdom is that we must multi-task, we must be on the go, we must push to have a valuable life.  We teach our children that they must do the same: reach for the proverbial stars, or be doomed to a second-rate existence.  We use social media to advertise our successes, making sure our activities, achievements, vacations, and celebrations will be envy-worthy.  What a false and dangerous pursuit.  As a result we are all anxious, acquisitive, insecure, and unsatisfied.



Monday, May 6, 2019

The Joy of Creative Deprivation


"Lazy Morning (275/366)" by Tim Sackton on Flickr


One of the big traps of lifestyle inflation is what blogger Trent Hamm calls the "repeated splurge".

Let's say there's a particular treat you enjoy.  Maybe you like buying books.  Maybe you like going to the coffee shop.  Maybe you like going to the movies, or eating out.  Whatever it is, when your income is low, you can't do it very often.  It's a splurge and so you look forward to it.  It feels special.

When your income goes up, it's very tempting to indulge in that treat more often.  The problem is that as soon as a splurge becomes a regular event, it stops being special and becomes completely ordinary.  You adapt.  Something you used to think was a great treat is now just an everyday routine… except now the everyday routine is far more expensive than it used to be.  You're not any happier, you're just spending a lot more and you no longer savor something that used to be a treat.



Friday, May 3, 2019

The 20 Toy Rule

Minimalism is not just for nomadic bachelors and downsizing seniors.  It's for everyone, including families with children.  Dealing with issues of clutter, debt, competition, dissatisfaction, busyness, and stress, while discovering true value, peace, gratitude, mindfulness, community, and abundance benefits everyone.  So in honor of Mother's Day (Sunday May 12th in the U.S.), I'm going to devote several posts to issues involving minimalism and parenting.


ds302 "Trail of Tears" by Sharon Drummond on Flickr


In 1995, I was a typical American mom.  My kids got toys on their birthdays, on their half-birthdays, at Christmas, on Valentine's Day, in their Easter baskets, on the first day of summer.  I didn't think I was spoiling them, since we knew several families whose kids got a toy every time they went to McDonald's or Target.  The fact that my kids' toys covered the floors of their bedrooms and half the living room as well seemed a normal part of family life.  And me yelling at them to put their toys away?  That was a normal part of life too.