I just took a short break from writing anything new. During my time off, I thought of several topics for my next post (this one). There’s a crapton of crazy stuff going on in the news I could comment on. But instead, I decided to write another post about minimalism.
I wrote about minimalism on my Hip Diggs blog for five years. I support people’s honest attempt to live a simple life. I still live fairly simply myself. But I quit promoting “minimalism” because I believe it’s become a commercial and consumer-based trend in itself. And although most minimalists will tell you there are no rules, people get shamed for not practicing minimalism good enough all the time.
In fact, once The Minimalists once mentioned me on their podcast. It was their first podcast if you want to go find it. I had posed the idea that it was harder to practice minimalism with children. They basically mocked me and shamed me for not truly being a minimalist and using my child as an excuse. Pompous, coming from two guys who had no kids. The truth is, it’s harder to be a minimalist with kids.
Teenagers and Minimalism Don’t Mix
I have a teenaged girl. Growing up, I tried to teach her to practice simplicity. She had toys, but not as many as most kids. She had clothes, but not really much more than she needed. But like most parents, I’d buy her more than she needed at times. Worse, family and friends would shower her with stuff. She learned the American way of consumerism.
Still, I taught her to let things go, to give them away when she no longer found use for them. To this day, she’s still always letting go of things she doesn’t want anymore. So maybe I instilled some good values in that regard.
But teenagers don’t get it. They want what they want when they want. They leave messes behind them without even thinking about it. They are experimenting and learning about themselves and the world around them. If a teenager is naturally prone to live simply, that’s great. But most are not, and I don’t believe we should quell their rights to spend their money as they please, (within reason).
The Real Problem Is Ideological Indoctrination
And here’s my biggest problem with minimalism as a whole, but especially with minimalism as it relates to kids and teens: ideological indoctrination.
We’re already living in a world that attempts to indoctrinate us from all sides: religion, politics, education, environmentalism, consumerism, etc. We are constantly getting beat over the head with messages that we must conform to one thing or another. As a parent, I don’t think I should add to those voices, forcing certain beliefs and values on my child.
Don’t misunderstand me, I believe we should teach kids basic values and morals. It’s okay to expose them to your ideological beliefs. But as they reach their teens, I think it’s arrogant and damaging to attempt to force any of your ideologies on your children. I don’t make my kid go to church. And although she knows my political leanings, I would never force them on her. In fact, in a recent survey we both took, she had more libertarian and conservative values than I do.
And so it is with minimalism. I’m not going to tell my kid not to buy another pair of shoes when she has money to spend. It’s her choice. I might point out that she already has enough shoes, but it’s still her choice. In time, I believe she will learn the value of money, and think more critically about how she spends it.
Forcing Leads to Fighting and Frustration
If you’ve been watching the news, you’ve seen the protests in some major cities this summer. You’ve likely seen news about violence and riots. There are some violent protesters. That’s a fact. But if you’ve been on the ground, the violence is often the outcome of force. I’m not anti-police, but I’ve seen peaceful protests turn into riots when police attempt to use too much force.
It’s the same thing with my teenager. It’s human nature. If I try to force my daughter into practicing minimalism, she’s going to fight back. After all, she sees how the majority of Americans live. If I’m overbearing about her keeping a certain amount of stuff, or keeping her room and other areas of the house perfectly neat, again, it will like lead to frustration, because teenagers aren’t wired to comply. And in many cases they shouldn’t have to comply, but rather should be allowed to learn through their own actions and mistakes.
Recently, I wrote that Hip Diggs may not be dead yet. And it might not be. There’s a fair chance that after my daughter goes off to college and starts a life on her own, that I’ll return to living much more simply. I have a shitload of stuff that I keep for her sake. But until that time, I’m not going to use force or indoctrination to get my own way. I’ll live moderately and allow my kid the freedom to choose her own path, simple as that.