Being a minimalist is one thing. Taking my teenager along with me is a whole other story… or is it?
As we eased into the summer holidays this year I suggested a trade; declutter your room in return for us moving your xbox in there… in principle this was very well received “seems fair, sure, why not?” although in practice was somewhat less chilled “urgh, what? now? why?!! You do it mum!”
So we broke up the task into:
3. lego & games
… and we tackled one area per day.
This is not our first declutter and so he knew the drill “how do you feel about this? what does it bring you? do you love it?”
I’ll tell you what I love about decluttering with a teenager…
I love going through this process with him; his face is so expressive and it’s a delight to watch how he feels about his possessions as emotions flit across his face…
- joy (the books he has devoured after lights-out), boredom (the books he’s ready to let go)
- excitement (lego characters from favourite films, and inevitably xbox games)
- nostalgia (complex lego models made years ago when they were a real challenge for him, but he no longer loves)
- disgust (the cheesy quaver found under his bed, escaped from a packet eaten in a rush last week)
- nonchalance (school stuff…)
- wistfulness (cuddly toys he wishes he was still small enough to love like he loved them when he was smaller)
… and so it went over that first week of the summer until his room was tidy, clean and clear of the unloved stuff that was just taking up space.
My favourite conversation during that week?
On being reminded that it needed cleaning occasionally…
Him: “Hnnggg! It’s such a responsibility owning all this lego mum!
Me: *fist pump*
Yes, that’s exactly it. Stuff is a responsibility.
That stuff (all of it, we’re not just talking lego here) needs cleaning (and dusting under too, sometimes), tidying, looking after, fixing, moving, packing and unpacking if you move… that’s a lot of energy. And time. Your energy and time. What else could you be doing with those precious, limited resources? Whatever your answer, I bet that ‘dusting lego’ isn’t top of your list?
It wasn’t for him either, so we now have a metric ton of lego to sell on eBay. And a pile of books for the local charity shop. Old magazines and school books for the paper recycling. And, yes, the vintage quaver went in the compost.
And that led us nicely to his birthday week… we bought him a new guitar earlier in the year, clear that it was an early birthday present, and although, let’s be honest, we all love unwrapping a present (or at least that moment before we rip the paper; that moment when it could be the single most perfect item we’ve been missing in our lives…) there was no way was I filling up his space with another bunch of stuff to be cleared out again next year.
So, here’s what I spoilt him with; two graphic novels (that’s fancy comics), sweets, crisps, a ruler and pen for school and the next book in a series he’s been desperate to read.
Was this really enough for him?
Well, about three years ago I started a ‘lottery’ for his birthday and Christmas presents – each was numbered and hidden – he picked a number at random and could only retrieve the present with the appropriate label, even when he uncovered bigger and more enticing parcels along the way.
This simple trick helped spread out the unwrapping over several hours and gifted us with many giggles as we watched the alternating delight and mock frustration of the game. His verdict? Loves it!
This year I made it into a treasure hunt, with clues of varying trickiness.
So, a few favourite consumables, some reading material and necessary school items plus felt tip pens and an hours’ clue-writing. The result? Three hours of hilarity, teasing, groans as a super-hard clue unlocked a new ruler (“mum!!”) and a yelp of joy followed by blissful silence as the eagerly-awaited book-two came to light and he quickly absorbed the first few pages to ease the cliffhanger-torment of the last few days since finishing book-one.
What’s left to say about teenage minimalist?
We’re not there yet but I’m super proud of my boy for seeing through the clutter, being clear on what he really needs and learning to let go of what he doesn’t.
And, go on then, I’m proud of me too, for starting him on the path for a simpler life.