16 Ways Minimalism Has Positively Impacted My Kids Over the Last 16 Years


Sixteen years ago today, on an otherwise ordinary Saturday morning in Vermont, I was introduced to minimalism. That day, way back in 2008, my wife and I had set aside time for annual spring cleaning. I volunteered to clean the garage, hoping my five-year-old son would enjoy the project with me. His interest lasted about 30 seconds, leaving me alone to tackle the mess.

As I sorted through the dirty piles of stuff in my garage, the time passed and my frustration grew—one thing just seemed to lead to another. My son kept running up to me, asking me to play with him in the backyard, but I kept pushing him off, determined to finish the task.

My neighbor, working on her own yard that day, struck up a conversation with me. When I innocently commented to her about how much time had gone into my garage project, she replied, “That’s why my daughter is a minimalist. She keeps telling me I don’t need to own all this stuff.”

I glanced at the pile of dusty items in my driveway and then at my son, swinging alone in the backyard. And in that moment, I realized something that changed my life: My possessions weren’t making me happy. But even worse, they were stealing my time, energy, and attention away from the very thing that DID bring me happiness—my family.

That conversation sparked a change. Over the next nine months, my wife and I removed 60-70% of our possessions, and to this day, I cannot think of a single negative effect from embracing minimalism. This decision has brought nothing but positive outcomes, enriching our lives in countless ways.

And now, here I am 16 years later, with a moment to reflect as I do every year:

But this particular Memorial Day weekend is especially significant in my home. My youngest daughter graduated high school this week and is preparing to leave for college in the Fall. Our minimalist journey began when my kids were just 5 and 2… and now, 16 years later, they have both graduated high school and are ready to embark on their own adventures.

This beautiful season of life with our children under our roof is about to come to a close. And this has me both emotional and reflective. It is the perfect time to consider how minimalism has shaped their lives and the lessons they have learned along the way because of it.

16 Ways Minimalism Has Positively Impacted My Kids Over the Last 16 Years

1. They’ve learned that they don’t need to buy things to be happy.

For the rest of their lives, advertisers will bombard both Salem and Alexa (and us as well) with the message that happiness can be bought. This is the message of every advertisement we see—that our lives will get better if we buy what they’re selling.

My children have seen, from our example and their own experience, that true happiness doesn’t come from accumulating things. It comes from faith, relationships, selfless impact, and living a life true to one’s values.

2. They’ve learned that you don’t have to live like everyone else.

Society often encourages us to chase bigger houses, nicer cars, and the latest fashions. And I’m sure almost nobody gets through school without feeling the pressure to conform and buy what everyone else is buying.

But my kids have learned that it’s not required to follow all the trends and it’s perfectly okay to live differently. In fact, choosing a path less driven by consumerism has brought them more joy and satisfaction.

3. They’ve learned the value of living within their means.

No matter what their income level might be in the future, my children understand the importance of not overspending to find happiness. Overspending leads to stress and unnecessary burdens. Contentment comes from appreciating what you have, enjoying simple joys, and living within your means.

My children will make their own financial decisions when they get older. But I know they have learned over the last 16 years that living with less is possible and wonderfully enjoyable.

4. They’ve learned the importance of being deliberate in their purchases.

As they’ve pursued new hobbies and interests, my kids have seen us carefully consider each new purchase. They’ve also seen their parents debate and ponder purchasing questions around clothes, and cars, and furniture, and upgrades.

They’ve learned to ask important questions: “What do I truly need? What do I already have that will work? Is this a purchase that is necessary?” This intentionality will serve them well in life.

5. They’ve learned the importance of sharing with others.

Generosity is a natural byproduct of minimalism. My children have witnessed us declutter and donate items, and use our excess resources to help others. They’ve seen us use the book advance from my writing to form and support a nonprofit now providing families for orphaned children in four countries.

No doubt, they understand that their time and money can be powerful tools to solve problems and make a difference in the world.

6. They’ve learned the value of spending time together.

With fewer possessions to clean and organize, we’ve had more time to spend together as a family. My children have learned that the greatest gift we can give to someone else is our time. The memories we’ve made together are priceless and I like to think my children can hold their own at any table playing Pinochle, Rook, Bridge, Euchre, or Spades.

7. They’ve learned they are in control of their stuff, not the other way around.

The more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you. For 35 years of my life, that was nothing more to me than a saying one might find on a bumper sticker. But now, I fully understand its meaning. And in that regard, my kids are decades ahead of me!

My kids have learned that they don’t have to be burdened by their possessions. They are in control of what they keep and what they let go.

8. They’ve learned they don’t need to follow fads.

In a world artificially obsessed with trends and fads that vary from television to fashion, and retail stores to toys and household appliances, my kids have learned to value timeless quality over exaggerated hype. They are confident in their choices and, I believe, will be less influenced by the ever-changing whims of society and viral marketing.

9. They’ve learned they have something to offer the world other than being a consumer.

Every single day is full of opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives of others. These opportunities are much greater than making a lot of money and buying a lot of things. In fact, many times, those pursuits become the very thing that keep us from making our biggest positive difference in the world.

My kids know that their worth isn’t defined by what they buy or own. They have unique talents and abilities that can contribute to the world in meaningful ways.

10. They’ve learned there are other ways to impress people than with flashy purchases.

My children have seen that character, kindness, and integrity impress more than any material possession ever could. Buying a really fancy car might impress a percentage of the population… but a generous lifestyle impresses everyone.

11. They’ve learned the joy of living for things greater than this world.

For both Kim and myself, our Christian faith has played a significant role in our lives and in how we seek to live out minimalism in the world. My kids understand that more than most—as would be expected.

There are eternal pursuits and there are temporal pursuits. Given the choice, the eternal is always better. And always worth the sacrifice.

On a related note, I have been publishing weekly, faith-based Christian devotionals (Focus on Faith) for the last 16 months. You can find those here or subscribe to receive them via email.

12. They’ve learned the beauty of simplicity.

By living with less, my kids have discovered the beauty of a simple life. There is calm to be found in a focused life. But even more, there is such opportunity for passion, meaning, and fulfillment to be found in the clarity that comes from not being overwhelmed by stuff.

13. They’ve learned to be resourceful.

Dave Bruno, in his book The 100 Thing Challenge, was the first person I ever heard connect the dots between minimalism and creativity. There is more than one way to solve a problem and I trust my kids have seen that lived out numerous times over the years.

14. They’ve learned to prioritize experiences over things.

Our family has chosen to spend money on experiences rather than things. The research on this is very clear: Compared to physical possessions, spending money on experiences results in more happiness before, during, and after.

And now that they will begin the next steps of creating their own lives and families, I am so, so grateful that they will carry with them many wonderful memories. And hopefully be motivated to create their own memories with their own kids some day.

15. They’ve learned to not see the world through the lens of competition.

As I have written previously, I’m competitive by nature. Without minimalism on my radar, competition came easy to me and made perfect sense. Work hard and make more to buy more and have more.

Minimalism hasn’t changed my nature entirely. But it has caused me to reevaluate the role of competition and greater appreciate the benefits of cooperation and encouragement. Even more, it has paved the way for more selfless living—working hard to lift others up rather than tear them down.

I hope my children have learned the importance of cheering for others, lifting others up, giving back to the community, and that true fulfillment comes from serving others.

16. They’ve learned to live intentionally.

Above all, my children have learned to live intentionally. They have learned the importance of (and how) to make choices based on their values and priorities, not on societal expectations. No doubt, this lesson will guide them throughout their lives, helping them to live with purpose and meaning, wherever they end up and whatever they end up doing.

Looking back over these past 16 years, I am immensely grateful for the journey minimalism has led us on.

Not only has it changed my life in countless ways, it has positively shaped my children’s lives in ways I could never have imagined. As they prepare to leave home, I am confident that the lessons they’ve learned from our 16 years of minimalism will continue to shape their values and inspire them to live the best lives they can possibly live.

To my readers, thank you for being a part of this journey. Your support and encouragement have meant the world to me over the last 16 years. Here’s to a new season in our family’s life—and hopefully many more years of living intentionally and inspiring others to own less and live more.

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