Less Stuff, More Happiness (and More Money)
I read a book last year that I may have changed my life. It is called “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne and Lisa Ross, and it’s sooooo good. The premise is that kids (and adults) are stressed out by having too many choices and too much stuff. Not to over-simplify it, but the authors suggest putting all of your kids’ toys in one place and getting rid of half of them. And then, get rid of half of what you have left. They provide research to back up the science behind using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier and more secure kids, and success stories that make you want to put down the book, jump out of bed, and get rid of 75% of all your stuff.
Reading the book reminded me of my own aversion to too many choices. I used to hate laundry day – I actually went to a hypnotherapist to hypnotize me into liking laundry day more (true story). Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t laundry day that I hated, it was the day after laundry day that I hated. I would stand in front of my closet to pick out clothes to wear, and I would feel stressed by having too many options. So, my mind would try to protect me from the day after laundry day by pushing off laundry day. After that lightbulb moment, I started looking into capsule wardrobes and creating a plan that made picking an outfit easier. Minimizing my choices brought me peace and made me happier – so I completely understood how giving my daughter less was a gift.
Buying less stuff, of course, doesn’t just save sanity… it saves money! Here are some ways buying less has helped our family…
I often see parents on social media seeking ideas to organize toys because it can be SO OVERWHELMING. Toys are something the authors of “Simplicity Parenting” talk about a lot… they describe how reducing the number of toys your child has can improve sleep and decrease stress and anxiety (they talk about these benefits for children, but I think parents have the same results!).
So, we try to limit the number of toys our daughter has. Although it can be tough to stay ahead of it, we do believe that an increase in toys leads to an increase in stress/anxiety in our household.
Also, the cost-saving ripple effects of limiting the number of toys in our house are incredible:
- I’m buying fewer toys, so I’m saving money on toys.
- I’m storing fewer toys, so I’m saving money on storage solutions.
- When you have fewer toys, you need fewer toys… meaning, if you don’t have the doll then you don’t need the house, the outfits, the cars, or the friends for the doll.
You may even realize you don’t need the larger house you thought you did because you don’t need an entire room devoted to toys.
All our daughter’s clothes fit into one drawer. One. Drawer. Before I buy any article of clothing (or accept from well-meaning grandparents), I think about:
- How much use we’ll get out of it. Instead of buying a shirt or dress that says, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” I opt to get something that is appropriate for the holiday but can be worn again and again.
- How difficult it will be to clean/store. My mother-in-law bought a set of new socks for my daughter. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a set of six different pairs of socks. NOPE. I decided right then I wasn’t going to deal with hearing “not THOSE Peppa Pig socks, I want the OTHER Peppa Pig socks!” and having to pair similar but slightly different socks each time I did laundry. We have mostly plain white socks and some plain colored socks. Easy.
- What she NEEDS. Kids (and adults) only wear a small percentage of their wardrobes. When I think about what Clara actually needs, I end up not buying items in my shopping cart. She needs one or two jackets (not five or six), and she really only needs a few (around three… only three!) pairs of shoes.
Here’s a good tip – if you ever want to buy something just so that your child has an option, don’t buy it. An example of that is buying a pair of shoes that are the same as a pair your child already has, but just in a different color or with a different character. I learned from the book that children really do better with fewer options.
Water Cups, Plates, Utensils
My biggest advice here is not to make a “thing” out of something that doesn’t need to be a “thing”… this is for everybody’s sanity 😊 If you only have one type of cup (or plate or flatware), then which cup (or plate or flatware) doesn’t matter. For our four-year-old daughter, we have five divided plates, three blue 360 cups (for water), three green 360 cups (for milk), and four sets of utensils. Sometimes we let her pick the color of the plate she gets, but mostly there is no choice. Owning fewer items means having fewer options, which means making fewer decisions – it’s one less thing to think about!
Save at the Source
While I am getting better, there have been many times when I buy something for our daughter that we didn’t really need (usually clothes). It looks something like this:
- I see something that I think she would like because it’s similar to something she already has (a nightgown featuring a princess she doesn’t have yet, for example) so I buy it.
- I wash it and give it to her, and then she either:
- Loves it and only wants to wear that nightgown (leaving her other perfectly good nightgowns in the drawer); or
- Doesn’t love it as much as her other nightgowns so she only pulls it out of the drawer when she’s looking for the nightgown she wants.
Either way, some nightgowns are almost never worn because she really only needs about five nightgowns (not ten).
- Eventually, she outgrows the nightgowns and I give them away – buy only about half of them were actually worn. Meaning, I spent twice as much on nightgowns as I needed and then stored nightgowns that weren’t being used… what a waste!
I try to mentally play out the lifespan of an item before I buy it now, to save the trouble of buying it in the first place! Another commonly played-out scenario is that a purchase leads to more purchases (example, “blind bag” type toys that encourage kids to “collect them all!”), so I try not to buy those items as well. I have found that if I don’t need something, my whole family is better off if I simply don’t buy it 😊
When to Spend Money
One thing I don’t want to be misunderstood… if investing some money in an item (or a duplicate of an item) will make your life easier, then I say DO IT! Daniel and I each have a car, but we mostly drive Daniel’s car. Does it make sense to spend $150+ for a car seat to be empty in my car most of the time? In my world it does… I don’t want to deal with having to move the car seat between cars and I never want to be stuck without a car seat in my car when I need it.
I hope this gave you some ideas on different types of items you can start to minimize in your and your child(ren)’s lives. I believe there are so many benefits to having less stuff, beyond just saving money (which is a pretty big perk to buying less!). If you’ve read the book or are inspired to read it now, I’d love to hear from you in the comments! If you want to learn more about spending wisely across all areas of your life, click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.