When I had Malachi in 2013, I wasn’t a minimalist by any means, but I knew I didn’t need a lot of baby stuff. I had a friend with a child make a list of things she thought I really needed. It was short and concise- much unlike suggested registry lists at Target or Buy Buy Baby.
Now that my second child is here, I’ve actually purged more than I’ve acquired. I find it upsetting that manufacturers go after new parents, playing off their inexperience and their desire to do a good job. Yes, all new parents are insecure to some extent. No, it isn’t okay to tell them that having a Diaper Genie and matching wipe warmer will make them better parents.
I personally loved the 2010 film Babies. French documentarian Thomas Balmes shows real life examples of babies born in Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo, and San Francisco. These 4 children represent a wide range of culture, environment, technology, and parenting. It doesn’t matter that the Namibian baby plays mostly with sticks and dirt – she learns how to dance and make her own fun. The Mongolian baby who doesn’t have a crib, car seat, or even a real pacifier, learns to play with the animals who live in and around his yurt. Spoiler alert: all of the babies grow into beautiful and thriving toddlers as the credits roll.
I’m not out to judge anyone whose child has a lot of things. I’m simply trying to reevaluate. I’m asking is it necessary for happy, well-developed children.
As far as frugality goes, the big secrets are buying used, and sharing with other parents. I love that so much of my kids clothes are passed down. I love that my friend and I can share large items like a swing, bassinet, and certain toys back and forth so they’re always being used and I don’t have to store them in my basement.
Borrowing is a lost art in my opinion, at least in the US. People feel they need to own everything in order for it to be theirs. My family is different. We would much rather walk to the park than have a large yard. We would much rather frequent the library every week than own a ton of kid books. (This was actually Malachi’s idea. Josh was going to the library anyway and Malachi sweetly asked “Can you pick out some books for me?” Melted our hearts!)
Cloth diapers are also a real money saver and eco-friendly as a bonus! I would recommend everyone give it a try. It might take some trial and error to figure out the best soap and wash cycle for your washer, but I think most people would truly surprised at how easy it is! Startup costs are nothing compared to years and years of disposables.
Okay, time for the nitty gritty details of my two boys rooms.
Shiloh’s room is simple: Just a crib, changing table (that also holds his clothes) diaper pail, and a guest bed that I currently use for late night feedings.
Eventually we want the boys to share a room and this will be a guest room again.
All the furniture in both rooms is gifted via friends or Freecycle. When we found out I was pregnant with Shiloh, we transitioned Malachi to a twin mattress on the floor. He still loves it at 2.5 years of age and won’t outgrow it. When he decides he wants off the floor we can build a platform for it.
Malachi also has a dresser and kid-sized table and chairs.
All the toys are gifted or borrowed! Literally the only toy Josh and I bought is a set of stainless steel pots and pans for Christmas last year. $10.
Besides that, we have:
Good quality instruments
Kitchen / wooden food
Action figures / animals
A couple stuffed animals and a baby doll
Legos / wooden blocks
The only electronic toy is a Leap Frog alphabet game that has taught Malachi all his letters -upper and lower case- and he’s currently learning the sounds they make. It came to us via Freecycle and I love it. All other electronic toys have moved on to other homes. I find them annoying, don’t like replacing batteries, and they usually aren’t as versatile as those that require imagination.
Malachi is also learning to play a few games. He loves Uno and Chutes and Ladders.
Having family and friends who understand the journey is incredibly helpful! I’m really grateful for grandparents who respect our desire for simplicity and ask before purchasing gifts. Both sets of grandparents live close and have different toys at their homes. This is an added bonus for Malachi, as it gives him one more reason to enjoy visiting them. Again, there’s no need for us to “own” a lot; he has access to different toys lots of different places. I think this concept might have helped him be less possessive. As of now, Malachi is great at sharing, doesn’t beg for things when we’re out, and is totally fine leaving other peoples’ toys at other peoples’ houses.
I’m also a big fan of active play. We go for a lot of walks and spend as much time outside as we possibly can. We have bubbles and a couple balls for backyard play. This summer I let Malachi play with plastic dishes in a tub of water outside, which was a huge hit and cost me nothing!
The bottom line is kids don’t need much. They are resilient, creative, imaginative little people, and all we truly need to surround them with is love and tools for learning. A book that really inspired me on this topic is Their Name is Today by Johann Christof Arnold. If you’re feeling discouraged or burnt-out on parenting, this book might just re-kindle something deep inside of you. It did that for me, at a time last year when I was in a dry spell.
Happy simple parenting!