Is there a way to Minimalize my daughter’s tantrums? Welcome to Friday here at ParentalGrit, where we are still navigating through Minimalism and how it relates to Minimalism. On MONDAY we defined Minimalism and WEDNESDAY we explored the strange accumulation that occurs when you start having children. We continue on today with further discussion on the inevitability of a house full of junk and wrap up with one shining silver lining for the accidental hoarding of all things children. Throughout this week, I’ve been exploring Minimalism (h/t to theminimalists.com) and apparently I’ve learned nothing. I had a corporate networking even yesterday, and brought my daughter home a huge pile of randomly branded items that could possibly pass as legitimate presents for a toddler. Pens, miniature basketballs, post-it notes, magnets, and all the other junk you might find at one of these expos…and I packaged it as a gift to Eliza rather than forwarding straight where it belongs: the trash. Maybe this Minimalism thing isn’t for me.
I want to start by re-sharing this quote from theminimalists.com:
Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.
As I mentioned in the first two posts this week, I am not a Minimalist. I can’t keep a single drawer uncluttered, let alone an entire house and life. Regardless, what’s drawn me to the movement and inspired me to smuggle (my term for throwing things away without my wife or daughters knowing) away several items is how ridiculous parenting in the 21st century has become. We touched on this extensively Wednesday, but it’s insane how the sheer volume of clothes, toys, and accessories proliferate like weeds across our lives. Pull one out and a dozen more are ready to take its place.
While many people associate excessive possessions with wealth, children’s paraphernalia doesn’t necessarily conform to that narrative. I am an unabashed cheapskate with a very thrifty wife, so baby and toddler shopping sprees certainly are not the reason for our over-accumulation of kiddo loot. We very fortunately have 6 girls cousins older than our own two daughters and the hand-me-downs cascade into our house as the seasons change and “2T” becomes “3T”. While hand-me-downs have blessed us more than imaginable, they do come with one drawback: more junk hauled in. Hand-me-downs aren’t the only suspect in our hoarders house, as child celebrations generate 14,000 gifts per year. If it’s not a baby shower for a couple’s fourth child, it’s a 200+ guest list to someone else’s child’s first birthday. All this is always much appreciated but nevertheless manifests itself in a need for a new wing on the house.
For all the possessions and crud we acquire throughout parenthood, it can be difficult for children to grasp how fortunate they are to have such things. As they get inundated with more and more, the allure of something special loses its appeal. The great misfortune of the non-Minimalistic life isn’t about the money spent or the space consumed, but rather the hollowed value of what each item represents. Minimalism, as I understand it, is about each possession, each toy, each piece of clothing holding and providing value. When the association gets lost between a gift or a purchase and its inherent and continuing value, we open the door for entitled children numb to the constant influx of the latest and the greatest.
As I’ve mentioned, I’m no Minimalist and I don’t know how we’ll deal with all of our stuff moving forward. Eliza is two and a half so our journey is just beginning. I do, however, know what my wife and I will begin doing with her this next year to combat the accumulation blues. If there is no way to temper the incoming, then we will simply focus on the outgoing and begin speaking with Eliza about which toys she uses and which ones she doesn’t. Once I’m confident her comprehension level is adequate, we will speak with Eliza throughout the year and allow her to select toys and clothes she would like to donate to the local children’s home. It’s not much and it won’t cure her of the natural stuff fever that all children get from time to time, but hopefully we can somehow help her understand how blessed her life is and where legitimate value and happiness is derived. Possessions aren’t the enemy, but apathy to those possessions just might be.
Have a great weekend…and go give something away!