Whether you are on the road to introducing a minimalist lifestyle or you just have a heartbeat, role modelling is important, it’s how we learn. From a young age it is how we come to know right from wrong. It is often what informs our values. The following story is an example of how role modelling a lifestyle change, rather than imposing it upon your loved ones can turn you all in the right direction.
Since starting the 30-day Minimalism game (from http://www.theminimalists.com ) C. and I have amped up our application to the minimalist lifestyle. This has meant that we are often having to explain to our four children (well the baby’s not asking any questions – yet!) why we are walking around the house counting out loud with armfuls of miscellaneous items. But here we are on day 28 and our children are roleplaying ‘let’s donate’. Our two middle children often walk around the house saying out loud “I’m donating this” or “Hey let’s donate all of this” (‘This’ often belongs to Mummy and Daddy).
But the real benefits of the role modelling became apparent when our 5 year old daughter came to us and asked if she would be able to get a doll set she had ‘wanted for months’, to which we suggested that if she was going to bring something new into the house, that she should think about getting rid of some items, at this point she asked if she could donate some of the toys she didn’t play with anymore to ‘little boys and girls who maybe don’t have nice toys’.
C and I were stunned. (Our children have in the past been fiercely protective of their toys due to the fact they have so many siblings and often hide them from each other to ‘protect’ them) After picking each other up off the floor we sent the little one upstairs with the following piece of advice;
“You don’t have to get rid of anything you don’t want to, they are your things, as you don’t have to get a new cold doll and her icy horse” and only one rule;
“You need at least 3 dolls if you’re going to bring in two” (Because of the excess we used to live in we have found that encouraging the children to minimise more than they bring in is essential.)
After some time, our daughter came down with a handful of the tiniest, broken and dishevelled toys she could find, which if she were a novice minimalist this would have more than sufficed.
Not this time kiddo, you have been doing this a little while now – for no toy gain – and I’m wise to your act.
C. and I took her back upstairs and explained that the idea of donating toys is to pass on things that she no longer got joy from of or ‘didn’t like anymore’ so that another little boy and girl could get some joy or use from them, we don’t donate derelict items, that’s what the trash bin is for. Also the doll set she wanted, from a particularly cold princess film, has two rather large dolls and the ripped Barbie dresses she bought down were not going to make the cut this time around.
She definitely got it
She didn’t get it.
After going through her toys again and again she just couldn’t come up with that final doll to make up the three. At this point we reminded her again that she did not HAVE to donate anything.
She was determined.
We tried many, many different ways to help her to make the tough choices but she was overwhelmed by choice and simply couldn’t see a single toy that didn’t give her joy, neither could she pick out her favourite. I had some thinking of my own to do!
Ultimately what we came to was… let’s make a game out of it. And this is how it unfolded:
I sat with all of her toys behind my back randomly presenting her two at a time asking which she preferred from the pair, essentially asking my five year old daughter to pass judgement like an ancient Roman Emperor over a pair of gladiators.
The one she preferred went into the keep box and was safe.
The one she didn’t choose went into another pile.
This continued until all the toys had been through this process, the keep pile growing and the reject pile dwindling.
Finally only three remained.
I then explained that she had, by process of elimination, chosen her three least favourite toys and maybe one of these could be donated to make up the last slot she needed to fill in her donation roster. Without hesitation she picked a doll and launched it into the pile.
(It was at this point that I was reminded of the fact that over a month before this my two eldest daughters chose to donate a large chunk of their toys to children who were victims of the horrible bush fires ravaging Australia, and not once since doing this had either of my daughters asked for, or even mentioned, a single toy they had donated. They didn’t even miss them. I guess when you get rid of your favourite toy, another one must fill the void.)
From there we jumped on her bicycle and rode to the store to promptly buy the last ‘Cold’ doll and horse set the store had in stock.
Today our daughter put in an amazing effort and showed great determination to achieve a desired outcome. Spending time together, going through that process, riding to and from the store, talking about and planning how we would play with the dolls allowed us to connect and learn together. And that is ultimately why we decided to start this minimalist journey, to have fewer things that needed our attention so we could give more of it to our children.