Raising a Minimalist
If traveling has taught me one thing it is that happiness is resilient and not dependent on things. I have seen music and song, laughter and smiles blooming from the most modest of circumstances. Mothering.com struck a chord in me with “Why I’m Raising a Minimalist” by Sherri Vettel. Vettel’s message is of self-sufficiency and finding a freedom to focus on what is important in life.
Why I am Raising a Minimalist
While I do not live a completely minimalist lifestyle, there is a certain freedom that I have come to associate with it, a freedom I wish to share with my son.
It’s a freedom to live without superfluous stuff weighing me down; freedom from meaningless items and monotony; freedom to find a passion and a purpose; freedom to focus on what really matters in my life.
Several months ago my family and I were handed a blessing in disguise. We found we needed to make several lifestyle changes and evaluate what we really wanted out of life. My initial reaction was to think about all the stuff that I would have to let go of. My husband, a true minimalist at heart, quickly convinced me otherwise.
Within a few months, we had a pond for an aquaponics venture in our backyard, a nearly constructed chicken coop and more time together as a family — all of which were dreams we had deferred. We now have a plan to start living with less, while opening ourselves up to a fresh way of sorting our day-to-day lives.
Minimalism is defined as “a way to escape the excesses of the world around us — the excesses of consumerism, material possessions, clutter, having too much to do, too much debt, too many distractions, too much noise.”
Here’s why I want to raise my son as a minimalist:
1. I want my son to be self-sufficient.
Between the high price tag of wholesome, organic food and the rising cost of living expenses, we decided self-sufficiency is key.
We are slowly teaching our son how to grow and prepare his own food. He worked on a farm, planted his own seeds and harvested homegrown vegetables. He is watching his father build, create and plan for a better life for ourselves and our community. Our investment in these principles is an investment in his future. He will need less if he has the freedom to do more.
2. I want him to have a zest for life, not money.
Is life worth working 40+ hours a week for a little extra spending money? What lifestyle changes can be made to consume less? I believe self-sufficiency is one answer — if you can do something for yourself, you may not have to pay someone else to do it for you.
Changing my beliefs about money has served as a starting point for me. I began thinking about the money that I spent as energy. Before I purchase anything I ask myself: “Is this where I want my energy to go? Will this purchase help us fulfill our life journey and what we believe in?”
Because of this thinking pattern, my purchases have been wiser. We are working less and have saved money, even though we are paying higher prices for what we value (buying goods from a small business owner may be more expensive, but we no longer spend money on things that are not meaningful).
I hope that teaching my son to appreciate money in this way will help him avoid buying into consumerism and allow him to find financial freedom at a younger age. This freedom will ideally give him a zest for life and going after what he really sees as his purpose.
3. I want him to collect memories, not things.
When I reflect on my childhood, I value the experiences that I had, not the toys that I got to play with. I hope my son will do the same.
I want my son to collect so many memories that he is bursting at the seams with them! He will be the best person that he can be because he tasted new experiences, gained fresh perspectives and stepped outside of his comfort zone a time or two.
To honor this, we are choosing to gift him with these experiences instead of flashy toys. In lieu of gifts, we spend his birthday on an adventure of his choosing. Instead of requesting birthday party presents we encourage donations to a local charity or non-profit. Two Christmases ago we saved for months, and instead of blowing the budget on “things,” we gave him his first passport stamp and went to Costa Rica (he still talks about it even though he was less than two!).
My son has a minimal amount of toys and he is happy. He finds delight in nature and is perfectly content to throw rocks in a pond, make mandalas out of leaves, splash in mud puddles and hike for miles. I have fewer trinkets to organize and he has more opportunity to use his imagination.
Getting rid of the extra toys can be quite freeing too!
4. I want him to appreciate the people in his life.
I am awakened to the fact that in the past I often appreciated ‘things.’ I worked harder for better grades and more money than I did for the people who really mattered in my life. There is no comparison between things and loved ones. Loving people and loving yourself is worth more than all of the material things in the world. I hope my son always remembers this.
John Green summed it up nicely: “People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved and people are being used.”
Photo credit: Philippe Put