When I was growing up, I think I had a pretty typical "middle class American" childhood as far as the possessions that I had.
We weren't rich, so I didn't have an extravagant amount of belongings. But, I did have a decent amount of toys and games. My sister and I had a playroom in the unfinished basement of our childhood home that had several shelving units full of board games, puzzles and the like, as well as a wooden chest of dress-up clothes, a play kitchen and even a full-sized chalkboard and antique school desk where we could play school.
And that was just in the basement.
Upstairs, in my bedroom, I had lots of stuffed animals, Barbie dolls, a Shirt Tales (holla!) record player and a few of my other favorite toys.
So, actually, come to think of it... we did have a LOT.
But, at the time, it didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary. In fact, if I'm being totally honest, I'm sure there were plenty of times through the years where my sister and I probably wished for something else that we couldn't have. Especially in comparison to things that our friends had.
For the most part though, we were pretty blessed. I had two authentic Cabbage Patch Dolls, my Barbie dolls were the real kind not the dime-store versions and both my sister and I even got a gift box full of our favorite cassette tapes for Christmas one year (when we got a little older).
But, even though we would occasionally play with some of those things from time to time, the majority of it just sat around and gathered dust. Sure, I had my favorite go-to items like my Lite Brite, the Viewmaster projector I would use to show movies on the wall of the bathtub and my stuffed Pound Puppies (boy, am I aging myself in this post). But, outside of that, there were an awful lot of random things that didn't budge from those shelves.
And the thing is, no one really noticed. They were just there... like background scenery or white noise. In fact, the only time we probably did actually take notice of them is when we would go through to have our annual yard sale.
But, now... being not only an adult, but also a minimalist... I can look back at my own childhood and look ahead to my future kids' childhoods and see things in an entirely new way.
Now, I plan to raise my kids as minimalists.
But, before you jump to the conclusion that they will be miserably unhappy and have a sad existence, let me tell you why.
Most of the time, they have too much stuff anyway. (Again, I am speaking in terms of the average middle-class American family.) It's just how it goes... it starts when they're a baby and there's all this excitement, so they get every learning toy the store has got. Then, they start to get a little older and start asking for things, so they accumulate between birthdays and Christmas lists and rewards for loosing a tooth or bringing home a good report card. And that doesn't even factor in all the gifts from other people.
It's a normal occurrence - this overgrowth of "stuff." But... it doesn't have to stay that way.
One of the best parts of growing up when I did is that we didn't have all these electronic devices back then. Me and my friends weren't brought up glued to a screen. If we wanted to have fun, we had to go make it happen. And a lot of times, that meant using our imaginations.
We would play school, throw talent shows for our parents, model in runway shows. Heck, I think I even played library once with my books and my dad's old date stamp.
The point was... that we didn't just plop down in front of a screen and zone out. We were engaged in our play. We were using our imagination, our creativity and our coordination skills to make these other worlds come to life.
And I don't want my kids to miss out on that.
Now, that doesn't mean that you automatically won't use your imagination if you have a tablet. But, it sure makes it a lot easier not to.
Even when we sat down to play board games, there was a certain amount of interaction required. We'd have to set up the board and all the pieces. We'd pretend to be bankers handing out the deeds to imaginary houses and hotels, or to get married and have kids as we traveled the road of life.
We'd talk, we'd laugh, we'd move, we'd imagine. We didn't just sit on the couch and stare.
But, before this turns into an anti-technology post... the other main reason that I plan to raise my kids as minimalists is because I want them to be FREE.
I don't ever want my children to feel like they are in bondage to things.
I don't ever want them to think that their happiness, fulfillment and joy in life come from how many possessions they can accumulate.
Yes, I want them to enjoy playing with toys and games. But, I want them to realize that their overall happiness is not dependent on them.
I want them to grow up with a passion to DO more and SEE more, as opposed to having more.
And, perhaps most importantly, I want them to be aware of other people's situations. I want them to grow up with compassionate, generous hearts that are aware of the reality that not all children get to have a room full of toys. That somewhere in the countryside of Honduras, there's a little girl who is so excited to receive a hairbrush, some erasers and a yo-yo that she will barely touch them out of fear that they may suddenly disappear.
So, THEY will, all on their own, want to then share those blessings with others. That they, on their own, will realize... "Hey, I think I'm done playing with this toy. I want to give it to another child that doesn't have anything to play with."
I want them to grow up understanding that it's better to have a few things that you LOVE and enjoy, than a ton of things that you barely touch.
As an adult, I know the amazing freedom, empowerment and peace that comes from letting go of things. So, of course, as a parent, I will want my kids to know that feeling from as early in their lives as possible.
Why wouldn't I?
It's not about deprivation or scarcity. In fact, it's about just the opposite.
It's about experiencing true abundance, true peace and true joy, that is not dependent on something you can buy at the store.
And in the end, I think that's the best gift you could ever give to your child.
Until next time... keep your worries tiny and your dreams BIG!