There’s a movement toward minimalism, essentialism, and intentional living. The younger generations are seeing the clutter with which their parents are dealing and choosing to live in smaller homes with less stuff. They are purchasing fewer items and readily discard more. But, living a minimalistic lifestyle doesn’t have to mean living in a sterile space. This point was recently reinforced when my daughter went to college. So to the parents of teenagers who have spent the last few years decluttering, this lesson is for you…
When my three children were younger our home became filled with their toys, books, and clothes. I would purchase bins, baskets and bookcases to contain and organize these small items. Then, eventually, found myself moving around and organizing the larger bins, baskets, and bookcases.
When my youngest child turned five and was out of the toddler phase, was when I began letting go of the items they no longer needed. Things like baby toys they no longer played with and baby clothes that didn’t need to be passed down to a younger sibling.
Letting go of items as the kids outgrew them felt amazing. It opened up space in our home and I felt like I could breathe a little easier. The feeling became almost addicting and made me want to remove more and more items from our home. We began purging about every six months.
All three kids actually enjoyed living with less clutter in their own bedrooms and were always willing to spend an afternoon going through their bedroom and removing items they no longer needed or wanted.
My kids are minimalists. They have averaged-sized bedrooms that house only the necessary furniture, clothes they wear on a regular basis, a few books, and little else.
I’ve encouraged them to choose pictures to hang on the walls because I still wanted their rooms to represent them and not be a sparse box. Yet, not one of them ever did. They each chose the wall color but little else hangs there.
This year, my oldest daughter started college. From what I hear, her move was like most college students’ – take only what you need and leave the rest.
The day she moved into her dorm, I came home to find a few small piles of clothes, bags of high school papers to discard, an unmade bed, and dust bunnies galore!
Since her room was already half empty, I used the opportunity to really get in there and clean. Clothes were folded, old papers and other trash thrown out, bed linens were cleaned and changed, curtains were washed, and the vacuum cleaner got an intense workout.
When the cleaning was finished and the bed neatly made, I stood in the doorway and cried.
What I saw was an empty room. Her bed with a plain, white comforter, two white bureaus with nothing on them but a single lamp and a television, and a small white empty nightstand with a hairbrush.
From the angle at which I was facing, I couldn’t see the two small shelves of her high school sports photos and awards.
The room could have been a mistaken for an empty guest bedroom in our home.
This room didn’t represent her. I had picked out the furniture for her when she was a toddler. It’s really not her style now, but it was very nice furniture that served its purpose so she never asked for anything different. Although she had chosen the bright blue and green wall colors (when she was 12 years old), there were no photos, posters, or fabrics on the walls that provided any indication of the type of person that lived there for the past 19 years.
My heart broke.
I wasn’t sad about the fact that my daughter is a minimalist and held on to very few possessions; but I was sad that the space didn’t display a little more of her personality and dreams for the future.
While everyone in our family enjoys a clean, organized home, I now, more than ever, believe it’s important not to lose your unique style and personality. There’s room for both.
A few carefully-chosen decorative items that represent the person who lives there will have an enormous impact on the feeling evoked in the space. It’s okay to hang a photo on a blank wall or showcase a favorite hobby. In fact, I encourage you to and urge you to encourage your teenager to include a few.
Allow your teenager to create a bedroom that tells the story of the person they are and the person they hope to become.
We as parents want to learn about about our kids. One of the best ways to do this is to let them show us. We may be surprised to find the similarities to ourselves and even more surprised by the differences.
Disclosure: Post contains affiliate links.