Living a minimalist life as a family – and why that is something worth considering

This is a very special day for me because I want to share some ideas with you  that I’m very excited about: Minimalism.

Have you heard about Minimalism?

In case you haven’t I’m more than glad to give you a short introduction. Minimalism is a highly idealistic philosophy and a way of life that focuses on living a kind of essentialistic life.

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I know, that is very theoretical and I’m going to show what it means to live a minimalist life in practice and why that might be something worth considering in just a minute. But first I want to tell you why minimalism sparks me so much and why I think it is a deeply Christian way of living.

Do you know the saying “less is more”? I guess you do and if you do you also know Minimalism – because that is what minimalism is all about: owning less, consuming less, polluting less, harming less. Minimalism is all about focusing on what really matters and not getting bogged down in details.

So what does really matter to you?

Growing into a Minimalist lifestyle actually requires two things in the first place: Finding our what really matters and reducing things. Minimalists often refer to the “5 R’s”:

  • refuse
  • reduce
  • reuse (+repair)
  • recycle
  • rot

Those are actually not only the 5 R’s of Minimalism but also the principles of Zero Waste – but I will come to that later. So what am I trying to tell you here?

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We often get bogged down in details – simply because we own too much, we consume too much and we want too much. We kind of lose track of what really matters, what really is important and essential because we are so distracted. Other than that we cause pollution and harm others with these kinds of lifestyle choices.

Do you remember what Jesus says in Matthew 6?

No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

~ Matthew 6:24

This is Minimalism. Consumerism doesn’t only cause pollution and harm other people due to awful labor conditions in many countries – it also distracts us from what really matters: God and his message to us – the Good News.

Minimalism can do so much for us, for our neighbors and the entire planet. It can help us grow as a person, it can help us grow in faith, compassion, responsibility and love and it can help cure the planet.

I’m very excited about these ideas and how Minimalism can look like in practice. So be prepared for a whole bunch of articles about Minimalism and its benefits! How do you feel about that?

Why idealism and perfectionism are just not the same

Just last week I told you about my idealistic values and how that affects my life and the life of the people around me. This week I want to talk about perfectionism. And I want you to understand something very important: Idealism is not perfectionism!

Being idealistic means to stick to a certain value orientation, to believe in certain values and to be willing to always learn and become better at things. It’s actually an optimistic worldview – and it’s really not about being perfect. It’s just about getting better and better.

Perfectionism means to always strive for the best result possible. And that’s basically all, it’s not about learning and growing – it’s just about never being good enough, because no one of us is perfect. Perfectionism is a very pessimistic worldview.

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Do you know perfectionists?

I do. Almost every mother I know is to some extent a perfectionist. Moms tend to always feel they could do more and what they are doing is just not good enough. So many Moms always feel bad because of that. And that’s horrible.

So what is my goal with this article?

Actually I want to encourage you and tell you that you perform a whole lot better than you might think. You can’t do it all. I can’t do it all – nobody can. And that’s OK, you know? Just think about it: Do your children really mind when the house is messy? Do they mind eating pasta for the third day in a row? They don’t.

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And you shouldn’t either, because taking care of your kids is the most important thing you do. And as long as they are happy with you – no matter how imperfect you are – you’re doing a pretty good job.

So what am I doing here?

I’m striking a blow for imperfectionism. Be imperfect! You are imperfect anyway, so let’s celebrate it.

Idealism and parenting

I’ve always been an idealist. I’ve always been called a do-gooder and a goody two-shoes. And you know what? I agree.

I think being idealistic is a wonderful virtue. And I think there is a dramatic lack of idealism in our society. Being idealistic doesn’t mean to be naive. I know my ideals will never come true – but that doesn’t stop me from striving for them.

The way is the goal – remember?

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When I first became a mother people laughed at me because of my idealistic parenting values. But I still stick to them. I know I will never be a perfect mother, or a perfect wife or a perfect Catholic – that’s not the point. The point is that I’m confident that I will learn and grow so much along the way that I will benefit from that. More than that: Others will benefit from my ideals, too.

I am pretty confident that my children will not only benefit but also learn from my idealism. I strive to teach them that it’s a good thing to treat others well, to act responsibly, to be eco-conscious and to honor God. I want to teach them that it is worth striving for ideals.

How do you feel about idealism?

Need-oriented parenting – a Catholic Approach

and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

~ Matthew 18:3

There is a lot you can read about need-oriented or Attachment Parenting in the media or on the internet – but one question you will hardly find to be answered:

Is there any Catholic Approach to those need-oriented ideas?

A few websites do offer a Catholic Attachment Parenting Approach, e.g. the Catholic Attachment Parenting Corner, Intentional Catholic Parenting or Simply Charlotte Mason. Mostly Attachment Parenting is a secular philosophy of education, though.

How so?

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Attachment Parenting is all about freedom, need-orientation, respect and about being loving, caring and understanding with each other as a family. Somehow, these ideas seem to be more popular in secular circles – maybe because they can be considered very liberal.

But let’s see, does Attachment Parenting require a secular and/or liberal worldview?

Not really. There is nothing wrong with living social-conservative Catholic values – it’s just an unconventional Approach: You don’t teach your values by indoctrination, you simply live by them. So you’re creating kind of an observational learning experience for your child.

Besides, freedom, need-orientation, respect and being loving, caring and understanding with each other are Catholic values, too, right?

Let’s talk about the Bible verse quoted above: Jesus tells us we should become like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. He truly appreciates children! So how could we not treat children according to those beautiful Attachment Parenting ideas as we strive for loving our children just as much as Jesus does?

What do children really need?

Preparing for the birth of a new baby is a great thing to do – but sometimes you kind of get distracted by all the “needs” you will probably have to meet.

How many playsuits does your baby need? Will you be in need of a baby stroller or will a baby sling do? Will there have to be a nursery or will your baby sleep with you?

What does your baby really need?

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After all there is really one thing that your child will need: You. And that’s basically it. Your child needs you and your sensitivity. It s in need of your love and care. Combined with all the basic needs such as being fed when the baby is hungry, being rocked to sleep when the baby is tired, being comforted when the baby isn’t well, being held warm and dry, being cuddled that’s all there is to it.

Your baby doesn’t care about the color of his playsuits. Your child doesn’t care if his playsuits are all new or if they were pre-owned by another baby. Your baby doesn’t care too much about toys, baby strollers, a beautiful nursery and all the equipment you are made to believe a baby needs. However, your baby deeply cares about you!

So don’t get lost in details, don’t invest too much in “baby equipment” – try investing in yourself as a (becoming) parent, in inner growth, in your relationship with God and in your relationship with your child. That will do!

Why we’re treating our children respectfully

Somehow that sounds like a platitude: Treating children with respect should be the most natural thing you do. But what does that actually mean – to treat a child respectfully?

Just consider the following situations:

“Oh please, give Grandma a kiss!”

“A little teasing is just fun, right?”

“Don’t make such a fuss about that, it’s not that bad after all!”

“You’re such a cute little doll!”

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Would you consider that respectful? Would you feel treated respectfully if someone talked to you like that? However, that sure is the key question. What would you define as respectful?

I would consider the Golden Rule as a pretty good definition of respect. We can find the Golden Rule in Tobit 4:15, Matthew 7:12 and Leviticus 19:18. But I prefer the Golden Rule as it is written in Luke 6:31:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

~ Luke 6:31

So, do you like to be teased? How do you feel about kissing random persons who consider you cute? Do you feel appreciated, when your thoughts and worries are not taken seriously? How would it make you feel when you’re called “a doll”?

Yes, treating a child requires a lot of thinking and pondering, it can be hard, it needs tons of patience and good will and willingness to personal development – but as a matter of fact not treating a child respectfully is really not an option!

God trusts us with our children as we can see in Psalms 127:3:

Certainly sons are a gift from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb, a reward.

~ Psalms 127:3

So we should treat children as the gift they are, we should treat them the way we want to be treated, we should treat as the little persons they are – not as cute little toys.

Two under two – Structuring the day

There are two things that you really need as parents of two kids under two: Structure and flexibility. That may sound contradictory, but actually it’s not. You need enough structure to get everything (or more likely: most things) done and enough flexibility to react to your children’s needs right away no matter what you’re doing.

Both things can get you through the day and both things can make life a lot easier.

So how does our family do it, how does Mom structure the day with enough flexibility to meet the children’s needs?

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Mom actually divides her day into two major parts – before naptime and after naptime. There are so many chores that need to be done and Mom distinguishes between before-naptime-chores and after-naptime-chores and she makes herself promise that she will only do as much as possible and to leave everything else half-done or even  undone. This seems to be a continuing learning process: Leaving things undone in order to not get bogged down with details.

So Mom found out she is able to neaten the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedroom before naptime. She does laundry right before she puts the toddler to bed for her nap. Then she has a little time to herself – that is: if the baby takes a nap, too…

After naptime Mom and the toddler have lunch, hang out the laundry, neaten the living room, go out for a walk or to the playground and do a lot of other neat things.

That sounds to easy to be true? Well, you’re right. Remember the part about leaving things undone? That is actually a huge part of everyday life with two kids under two…

But you know what? You can’t turn back time, so why don’t you go for moments that are worth remembering? Children grow up so quickly, so at the end of the day  what do you want to think of? Your neat and clean home or the fantastic afternoon on the playground with your little ones?