In many ways, minimalism and creating a welcoming, calm environment for children (and their parents) with executive functioning issues go hand in hand.
Here are a few ways minimalism has helped our family.
Less Visual Clutter
Due to ADHD, the kids and I all have trouble concentrating . Things are very distracting, whether it’s mirrors, paintings, or seeing toys and clutter.
As we were homeschooling, finding a spot where I and the kids could concentrate was a high priority. Minimalism gave us a framework for figuring out how to do that. This started with simple things: taking down paintings; putting up curtains to hide the open shelving; and removing all the little ornaments our geeky family accumulated on shelves. But then it evolved. When we removed the ornaments, we started looking at the books behind them. Did we really need two copies of that book? Had we ever re-read that collection? Would we rewatch that TV show? It became easier to get rid of our stuff when we could see it!
Everything Has a Place
When we reordered our stuff and got rid of excess, it became easier to find permanent places for the things that remained. This is super important. For people like us with executive functioning issues, the ‘tank’ of energy for making decisions runs dry pretty quickly. If everything has a place, there is one less decision to make every time an item is put away.
Tidying is Less Stressful
For kids with executive functioning issues, figuring out where to start tidying is hard. More stuff means more decisions to make. Put one thing away? OK. Put 10 things away? Where do I start? It is paralysing. Taking the first step when the clutter gets too much is no longer just difficult, it becomes impossible. So, if there is less stuff, the times clutter will reach ‘Danger Will Robinson‘ levels is far, far less.
Simplifying Routines Means Less Burnout
When I don’t have to decide if my shirt matches my pants (because I have a simplified capsule wardrobe), when I don’t have to think about where the scissors go, or how I’m going to fit the plates and cups in the drawer, I am calmer. This means I can devote my limited ability to make decisions to more important ones, like which science experiment we will do, or how to set up my daughter’s art activities for the day.
Also, for kids who need time to decompress from an out-of-home activity, simplifying the amount of activities we do means none of us end up burned out. My kids are (slightly) better at getting out the door, and I have the energy to push them out! When we did more activities, this was not the case. Inevitably, we would start missing things when burnouts happened – meltdowns, health breakdowns etc. This happens less often. Is it perfect? No. Is it better? Oh yes.
Not Doing All the Things
One major benefit is that I feel less stressed at ‘not doing all the things‘. Particularly things that were more a reflection of what other people thought was important, but which were overwhelming and stressful for our kids. We will probably never go to an Easter show, or a Wiggles concert. And I’m OK with that. Minimalism helps me let go of the guilt by realising that space and time are just as important as busy.
Intentionally Deciding What to Include
This has been super important for me. There are so many things I would love to do – and there are many more things that I feel I ‘should’do. What makes it worse is that for a lot of those ‘should’s’ I know that I can do them well. Realising that time and rest are also valuable (and finite) helps me to say no. Yes, I could do Y, but I can’t do Y and also do X and Z as well.
Minimalism helps me become intentional with my focus by forcing me to ask, “Do I have the time and energy for this?” and “Do I really want or need to do it?” These are necessary questions, particularly when I don’t know when my chronic conditions will flare up again. Pacing myself means less time collapsed in bed at a later date. Minimalism helps my shiny-seeking brain find reasons to get over wanting to say yes to every new and exciting idea.
Calmer Me Gets More Stuff Done
I get more done when I don’t have to sift through what to do, or spend as much time breaking down simple tasks for my kids. My to-do list is shorter – so it’s more likely to to be used. I get closer to actually finishing things, and have been pleasantly surprised by how much stuff I actually get done. By seeing these benefits every day, I find it much, much easier to do all the intentional little steps to keep our home minimalist.
And that’s how we used minimalism to create environments that support our executive functioning challenges. It’s a big topic and I could keep going on about it for a long time (just ask my very patient hubbie). But there are writers out there who not only know more , they are also far more brilliant, funny and inspiring.
If you want to learn more about minimalism, I recommend starting at these places:
Becoming Minimalist has great tips on how to do minimalism with kids.
Be More WIth Less has wonderful ideas on how minimalism can help with living with chronic illness
and The Minimalists because they are just super cool (and have great tips on how to get started)