A Mother's Shade of Green: Can Living with Less Lead to Having More?

By Kate Agliata:

I recently took on a personal challenge to try and create a more efficient home, one that is also a better representation of us as a family and our desire to live green. While tackling each room one at a time, I’ve put a good deal of effort into de-cluttering household items that are either unused, duplicates or, things that we’ve simply outgrown. Although I’m only about half way through the house, I’m finding the process to be incredibly gratifying-not to mention very liberating! It feels great to let go of so many of the things I always thought we needed. In fact, I’m starting to see just how little our family does really need in order to get by and, to function with on a daily basis. More importantly, I’m finding that by having less, I’m actually gaining more.

One of the greatest benefits of minimalism is that it helps prioritize what’s really important. What parent wants to spend their Saturday afternoon re-organizing endless clutter? Simply said, having minimal “stuff,” means minimal clutter, and when there is less clutter, we are free to enjoy more of life. As parents, we’re often spread too thin. There never seems to be enough time, and it’s a rare day when we actually have the chance to complete our never ending To Do list. We go to bed each night stressed out because we still haven’t found the time to pick up the gazillion toys strewn across the playroom, or worse, to figure out how in the world we’re going to afford the growing wish list for Christmas this year. To get by, we rely on quick fixes and disposable products. And although we hate it, we find ourselves giving in to our children’s pleas for one more show, or another pointless plastic toy at the grocery store, just so they’ll stay content while we work to complete those never ending tasks.

The irony however, is that all of the “stuff” that we accumulate, the stuff that we somehow think will help us, is actually working against us. It’s mere presence is a representation of our having to work harder to afford it. It means more time dedicated to picking up and putting away each day, it means more to clean and organize, and more for our children to have to process. Just thinking about it all is exhausting.

Minimalism works as a method to help us live our values, rather then just talk about them. If enjoying life experiences with family and friends is more important than having to have the latest and greatest advertised on TV, then we should be actively showing our children that belief. Bringing our kids on board with minimalism can offer tremendous benefits for them as well. Here’s how:

Living Green. We’ve become a disposable nation, tossing out anything and everything that we no longer need or want without so much as a blink of an eye. We disconnect ourselves (and our responsibility) to that item the second it lands in our garbage can-it’s no longer our problem. Yet, the reality remains that it is our problem-one that is only getting worse, and won’t go away. Finding ways to reuse or re-purpose items we already have instead of buying new, is a great way to teach kids about reducing waste, and about living a greener lifestyle. Show your children you’re committed to reducing waste by helping them to fix a broken toy instead of replacing it with a new one. Strengthen their emerging personalities by providing them with items that spark their interest, rather then filling their rooms with a plethora of knick knacks and things we want them to like.

Learning Value. As adults we know how much effort goes into sewing a handmade dress, or building a house, but most children aren’t yet capable of understanding the extent of material, costs, energy, etc…involved in such creations. Minimalism encourages selecting items that are well built and made to last. Think of the value you see in certain items at consignment sales-you are probably much more open to the idea of reusing clothing when it is a quality made product. Teaching your children to see that same value in items they select (whether new or reused) will help inspire and motivate them to make wise choices about what they acquire. James Brown said it best when he wrote, “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Expand your options. Subscribing to a minimalist way of life doesn’t mean you and your family have to deprive yourselves. There are many ways to still benefit from all that is available. Instead of spending a fortune on new books, make it a family affair each week to visit the local library. Every few months, organize a neighborhood toy swap by setting up tables marked specifically for each age group and allowing each child to take one “new” toy home. Ask your children to make two lists for Christmas this year; the first, a list of the few toys they’d like; and the second, a list of seasonal activities for which they’d like the whole family to participate. Make a huge effort to prioritize those activities-hopefully you’ll find that they’ll be enjoyed just as much, if not more, than any other gift your children receive.

So, Can Living with Less, Lead to Having More? You betcha!

About Kate:

Kate, a freelance writer and mother of two, most often finds creative inspiration in writing, but occasionally at the bottom of an empty wine glass. She has hijacked her family’s former lifestyle and is in the midst of creating a simpler and greener approach to life. To follow her family’s challenges and successes in this endeavor, visit her blog, at Kate’s Musings. She and her family have lived in Birmingham since 2009.

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