My kids are 10 and 14 and I’ve had time to think about habits we’ve developed as a family. Some I’m happy with and others, not-so-much.
As my husband and I have embraced minimalism more, it has become obvious to us that there are some habits and expectations we should have enforced more when the kids were younger. (Why did I jump on the dry Cheerios bandwagon?!)
Yes, there is still time to shift them. But we all know that it’s a hell of a lot easier to instill a habit when kids are young rather than try and make big changes when they are older.
We’re still working on many of these ourselves.
Start early. Start late. Either way, these 9 habits will help your family live a more simple, minimalist lifestyle.
Family Habit 1: Eat Real & Simple Food
Why: There is nothing fun about throwing away food that’s gone bad or buying packaged products because your family believes that real snack food comes in plastic.
- Less food waste
- Healthier eating
- Simple meals = easier to stick with cooking schedule + less eating out
Beware: Convenience food including those you pack for school lunches.
Family Habit 2: Keep Holiday Celebrations Realistic + Simple
Why: Just look at Pinterest to see how elaborate, time consuming, and expensive holiday decorating and celebrating has become. Choose a way to celebrate that you enjoy and that doesn’t stress you out. Don’t compare what you do with others and your kids will enjoy the simple novelties that come with celebrations.
- Spare yourself from mom guilt and stress about making everything amazing year after year
- More focus on the meaning behind the holiday
- Kids less likely to associate holidays with consumption
Beware: Christmas. Grandparents. Stockings. Elf-on-the-Shelf. (Do I need to say more?)
Family Habit 3: Expand Your Definition of Gift
Why: There are only so many toys a child can have. Really. Widen their definition of gifts to include special treats such as trips, meals, plays, fun with friends, etc.
- Less stuff to manage
- Less consumption
- Focus on experiences rather than things
Beware: Doing so many “treat things” on a daily basis that your kids expect them instead of thinking of them as special.
Family Habit 4: Be a Reusable Household
Why: Once you stop using lots of disposables you will realize the benefit of this family habit. Not only do you save money and brain space (you don’t have to remember to buy paper towels anymore!) but it feels really, really good. Not only does it feel great to know that what you are doing is better for the planet but it just feels good to have less waste.
- Save $$$
- Less items to remember to stock up on
- Better for the earth
Beware: Lunch pressure—once kids see Lunchables, Capri Suns, packaged snacks, etc. they will want them.
Family Habit 5: Be Mindful of Small Spending
Why: It’s very easy for kids (and Mom and Dad) to spend mindlessly on “small” things – coffees, snacks, small toys, digital upgrades. This is a bad habit because it makes you inclined to buy and spend more. Even if you or your kids don’t end up spending a huge amount of money, it programs you to constantly spend.
- Stronger willpower to say no to buying
- Less brain space about what to buy next or how to “treat” yourself
- More respect for money
- Less purchases to keep track of
Beware: It’s easy to give your kids—or yourself—rewards for doing something: ice cream, Pokemon cards, etc. Tiny digital purchases—$1 games for example—are also easy to fall prey to.
Family Habit 6: Provide Tech Limits & Hold Tech Conversations
Why: You know how some things spread without you even realizing it (hello, Covid-19?!)? Well, technology, game, and app usage is the same way. Because technology is integrated into almost all we do, we have to be mindful of time spent on technology. Otherwise, the technology uses us instead of us using it. Get your kids used to talking about how and why technology usage must be monitored so that your children understand it’s a tool, not a body attachment.
- Balanced life
- Healthier kids
- Awareness of how powerful technology is
Beware: Technology usage can creep up on you easily. After all, do you remember ever consciously choosing to use Facebook or Insta as much as you do?
Family Habit 7: Remove Outgrown Toys/Clothing Often
Why: Managing stuff gets exhausting. This is one of the big reasons people choose a minimalist lifestyle! But with kids comes clothing, toys, shoes, books…the list continues.
And since young kids are not really the ones taking care of their things, they are not as inclined to get rid of stuff as we are. But if you train your kids to donate outgrown toys or clothing on a regular basis, they get used to it.
Once your kids learn that getting rid of things that are unneeded or unwanted is normal—and means less clutter in their rooms—they won’t bat an eye at filling big bags with stuff to donate.
- Less stuff to manage and maintain!
- Kids get used to giving things away
- Less emotional attachment to things
- Items get used instead of sitting around
Beware: Taking free stuff from friends/family + little kid prizes from restaurants, parties, and school.
Family Habit 8: Go Thrift Store Shopping
Why: From a bigger perspective, buying used items ultimately means less things need to be produced—this is better for the earth and saves money. It also teaches kids that used does not mean dirty or gross or useless. It teaches them to look at the benefit of the item instead of getting a thrill from the crisp, new shopping bag and cutting off the tags.
- Saves $$
- Better for the environment
- Lessens the power of new purchases and consuming
- Gives everyone a chance to try new clothing/items without a huge investment
Beware: It’s easy to overbuy because of the deeply discounted items.
Family Habit 9: Treat Work as Fun
Why: Minimalism appreciates the simple things. And work—washing dishes, putting up clothing, wiping the table—is simple. Plus, work is just a part of life. If our children look at work as boring or torturous, they are in for a rude awakening when they get older.
- Encourages kids to find joy in daily life
- Nurtures a positive attitude towards work
- Makes life easier because everyone chips in
Beware: Not letting your toddlers help you because it’s more work when they do.
Family habits can be a tough thing to think about. Some of them develop without us really thinking about them—family movie night for us—and others we consciously choose.
Either way, family habits can strengthen our bond and help our children as they grow into adults. If minimalism is a lifestyle you value, consider working on one of the family habits above and see how it changes your family. I’d love to hear about it!
Related Articles on Minimalism:
Minimalist Lifestyle Tips: 5 Ways to Create a Nurturing Home
WAY Too Much Stuff & No Idea How to Purge
How Minimalism Helps Me Deal with a Chronic Illness
Minimalist Toys–How to Prevent Toys From Taking Over Kids’ Spaces