How I got rid of the clutter + overwhelm to achieve a more peaceful family life

Originally posted on Becoming Minimalist.

As a child, I had the type of closet that you opened at your own risk. Because when you opened that door, only God knew what barrage of toys, clothes and “stuff" would come barreling forth. I didn't know it then, but as a kid I needed minimalism.

I always said, “I am just messy, period." Like it was some kind of personality trait: Messy. Cluttered. Overwhelmed. Anxious.

As a kid 30 years ago, I needed minimalism. But today…for my kids? Minimalism is essential.

I grew up in the time before Amazon and one-click ordering. This was the time before snack-catchers existed for children to carry around snacks and mindlessly eat around the clock.

The time before kids needed iPads hanging over their car seats to survive a trip.

The time before you could get virtually anything on television at a moment's notice.

The kids of today need minimalism more than ever.

Childhood of today is beyond messy and cluttered. It's chaotic. Research shows us the way we are raising kids in America today causes stress and anxiety to overwhelm both children and parents alike. As parents, we have so much going on that we have resorted to “convenience parenting" to hold it all together. If your kids won't sit down for a meal, there's a device for that. If your kids won't ride quietly in the car, there's an app for that.

As parents, we just try to survive. We struggle to hold it all together. Because it's consuming. It's heavy.

Raising kids today is heavier than any parent can handle.

I know this because I have two young children. They inherited my eyes and my hair. But they didn't inherit my messy, overwhelmed traits. That is because “overwhelmed" is not a life sentence. It's a choice—and I have made intentional choices for my kids and my family.

I have chosen to trade chaos for calm.

Not only is calm possible, but it's also good for our children and our families. In my uncluttered, calm grown-up life, I have a Ph.D. in Child Development. I specialize in Family Wellness. I know what a young child needs to grow, develop, and thrive. And I know a few things about what it takes to bring harmony and happiness to a family unit.

So what's the secret? Minimalism.

Minimalism isn't just about getting rid of all your stuff (although I have done some of that too—and it's pretty amazing). It's about focusing your family on what really matters in life.

Joshua defines minimalism as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it." In raising my kids as minimalists, I am doing just that.

I am trading the status quo of American childhood by choosing a specific value set for my children:

I choose gratitude

I am trading an abundance of holiday gifts for gratitude. My kids don't get much in the way of wrapped, tangible gifts. Birthdays are about celebrating life. Valentine's Day is about love. Easter is about religion. Christmas is about family. Life, love, religion, family—those are the real gifts. Wrapped gifts can mask the importance of the real gifts.

I choose family

I am trading three nights per week of kid's activities for family dinners. Kids who eat dinner with family have higher levels of academic achievement and improved psychological well-being. I am a huge fan of under scheduling. There is nothing I love more than an evening or weekend with nothing planned. Because “nothing" is not nothing. Nothing" means more time to intimately connect with family.

I choose health

I am trading boxes of prepared food with animated characters for locally grown produce. Research shows that the eating habits we instill in our children from the earliest days make a lasting impact on the years to come. I skip the Goldfish crackers and the Bunny Fruit Snacks. My kids don't eat all day long. This means they don't carry snacks around the house or munch in their car seats. They sit down at the table and eat real food.

I choose the outdoors

I am trading screen time for outdoor play. I refuse to let my kids be sedentary. Playing outdoors offers children ample opportunity to exercise, learn respect for the environment, and appreciate natural beauty. By dialing back the screen time I can create more opportunities for active play that challenges my children's social and motor skills. Kids (and adults) need to get up and get outside.

I choose conscious consumerism

I am trading Amazon's one-click ordering for buying intentionally. We think before we buy. We choose to fill our home with things we love, things that are beautiful, and things that are necessary. Plastic toys from the most recent hit movie don't make the cut. Instead, we choose classic, sustainable toys that will last for years. Toys that can be used for open-ended play by children of all ages, genders, and interests. Children grow up too fast, let's choose toys that will grow with them.

I choose calm

By choosing minimalism, I am trading chaos for calm. I am my children's first teacher. I am my children's biggest role model. It all starts with me. I am making choices for my children that will impact their childhood and entire life in the years to come.

What are you choosing for your family?

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