Why I want my children to have less in life




It probably isn’t often that you will come across a parent openly stating that they would like their child to have less in life. After all, why on earth would a parent want their child to have little? Surely we ought to want them to have the whole world and more, shouldn’t we?

Not me.

To be fair, it isn’t that I want them to have little. From the day each of them were born I hoped and prayed for their good health, for long lives, for happiness and for contentment.

I never hoped for money for them. Let’s be clear, money makes life easier, there is no doubt about that. When you have enough money you have choices and freedom. Money can’t buy you love but it can buy you security. It can secure your home leaving you safe in the knowledge that you will always have a roof above your head. It can ensure that your bills will be paid so that you won’t have to worry about which to prioritise over what. It can clothe you so that your feet will never feel the rain seeping through your shoes. And money will allow you to stock your fridge and cupboards enough food to reassure you that you will never go to bed hungry.

But you only need enough.

That’s not to say that if they were to become hugely successful businessmen or financial whizzes that I’d feel disappointed, of course not. But I do want them to know where true value lies.

I want them to know that once their basic needs are met, the rest doesn’t actually matter.

If you have enough money to pay your mortgage or rent, to cover your bills, to clothe your body and to feed yourself, you can focus on making yourself truly happy. And that doesn’t mean spending your money on more things. It’s about realising where true value lies.

I want them to know that it’s about quality of life, not quantity of stuff.

I want them to know that it’s not about the things.

I want them to know that things won’t make them happy.

I want them to know that ‘having less’ doesn’t mean going without the things which, one bought and the novelty has worn off, won’t actually matter, but that it means getting more. It means getting more time and opportunity to do what you want to do, rather than what you have to do.

I want them to know that it’s what they do – not what they own – that makes them who they are.

I want them to know that it’s what they do – not what they own – that holds the key to true contentment.

And being content with your life will make you happy.

I fear that in today’s selfie-obsessed, somewhat narcissistic society, the next generations will be focussing too much on how they appear and what possessions they can show off rather than what lies beneath because that’s what gets the approval of others – or so it seems.

Meeting basic needs isn’t enough. And the cycle then begins. They will work more and for longer in order to buy more things which will ‘earn’ another person’s approval.

What on earth is the point?

A fully functional mobile phone, for example, is considered ‘old’ once the latest model comes along. Rather than thinking, ‘I have a fully functional mobile phone that does exactly what I need it to do,’ we instead are faced with people forming queues for the newest model because, well, because it’s new. But once that product has been bought, what then? Once the cycle begins where happiness is generated only by the act of possessing more ‘stuff’, of acquiring ‘newer’, or ‘better’, it’s difficult to break free from it.

I want them to understand that stuff is superficial. Appearances are not important. Nobody knows what debts and restraints lie beneath a person’s facade. And that superficiality will impeach upon your life. You’ll be so busy working to create a particular appearance that you won’t have time to live. You’ll be making plans about what you can do when you finally retire at 70, but who is to say that you’ll be fit enough or able enough or, let’s face it, even alive, to rely on the then?

Get your priorities in order, think the right way and be free enough to live for the now.

And there is the keyword I want my children to know.

Being free.

I want them to know that true happiness lies in freedom. Freedom to not have to work longer and more hours to acquire more stuff. The confidence to be happy in your own choices, in your individual decisions and independently of marketing gurus, advertising agencies and media moguls. The freedom to actually live your life, not live to work. I don’t want them to spend more time working in order to pay for gadgets and gizmos that will be outdated when the next upgrade hits the shelves.

I want them to have less so that they can experience more.

I want them to do things, to see new places, to meet new people with new cultures and different ways. I want my children to be comfortable in life and for their basic needs to be met without worry, yes. But I want them to place value on their time and their freedom, not on their things.

Even though Mike and I had always lived our lives with a bigger picture in mind of things we wanted to do, we were aware that it was often at the mercy of mirth and mockery from others. We didn’t shop til we dropped, we bought what we needed, we bought old vehicles (as long as they drove us from A to B, they were good enough for us), we didn’t kit ourselves or the kids out in designer gear or buy new clothes unless we needed them. Yet now the bigger picture is almost complete: we are able to spend quality time as a family as a priority not just on work days off (tick), we are not wage-slaves to an employer (tick), we work for ourselves (tick), we are free and able to take our children travelling whenever we want, for as long as we want (tick), we will shortly own our home outright (almost tick).

In short, we are relatively free.

My friend Nicola shared this excellent article on The Science of Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, Not Thingsand reading it was a real ‘Aha!’ moment for me. Even though we lived for what we hoped to one day achieve and hoped to raise our children to think beyond ‘stuff’, we never analysed the workings behind it. This article does and it makes so much sense. Instantly I thought of all the experiences we had that the children remembered from long ago, yet asked what they received for Christmas and birthdays in the same year and they could remember one or two things, if at all.

The last few weeks were great fun for us all. The Easter holidays meant we got the chance to catch up with several friends. We ate, we chatted and the children played. One main game was ‘Slub’ (from the word ‘slubberdegullion‘ – their current favourite insult), a game Eddie and Harry created which is quite like a cross between air hockey and try-not-to-smash-the-glass-on-the-bedroom-door-or-Mum-will-hit-the-roof. It needs nothing except a LEGO wheel and at least two eager participants to play it and, judging by the enthusiastic competition and laughter, it was clearly one of the best games ever to have been devised.

Yes. A LEGO wheel.

And friends.

Nobody remembers who was wearing what, or what anyone did or didn’t have.

They do remember having a great deal of fun and making fabulous memories.

Why should that stop just because you become an adult?

But liberating yourself of materialism and consumerism is vital in order to do that.

I want my children to have less so that they can step off life’s treadmill to sit back and enjoy the simple pleasures, not spend six days a week working around the clock to fill their lives – and eventually their lofts – with junk.

So they can value themselves, their lives and their time more.

So that they can do and see and learn and grow.

So that they can experience more.

So that they can live.

Because happiness doesn’t lie in what you own, but in who you are and what you do.

And that is why I want my children to have less.




52 thoughts on “Why I want my children to have less in life

  1. I totally agree with you but I wonder at what age do the children begin to understand this. I grew up with very little and was always jealous of all my friends who had a lot of stuff. Although saying that we didn’t have many positive experiences either so maybe it makes a difference if children are enjoying life. Maybe if they’re having lots of fun they don’t have time to think about all the items they don’t have.

    Also this is a totally unrelated question to the above article but can I ask, is your house painted white inside and how do you stop the children making it all dirty? I’m thinking of doing the same but worried it’ll all be grey within a week.

    1. Good question! I think the easiest way is to start early. Put it this way: if you start handing toddlers iPads and newly released games consoles, and hire a 10-year-old a limo for a party, where will it end? The bar and their expectations have already been set. Why buy designer clothes for them when high street outfits clothe them just as well?

      I am not saying that choosing to do these things is wrong, and it’s not about deprivation either, it’s about educating them enough so that they can make informed choices. Encouraging a child to think along the lines of: “We have £100. We had to work x amount of time to earn that money. We can spend it on sweets/toys/clothes (insert object) or we can go go-karting/snorkelling/visit the Eiffel Tower (insert activity). Once the money is gone, that’s it. Do you have enough sweets/toys/clothes (whatever object) to not miss any more and to actually do something that will give you memories for a lifetime, or do you want (insert object) that won’t. What would I choose?”

      Whether parents can comfortably afford to give a child ‘everything’ or not, it pays more to think about the expectations and character you are building. It’s encouraging kids to learn whether they really need something and whether it’s worth the investing the time it takes to pay for it.

      We aren’t ostentatious when it comes to Christmas and birthdays but the children do each get a gift from each sibling – even if it’s a book or colouring set or a single t-shirt. Often they just look through the Argos catalogue when making their lists and ask for anything and everything, regardless of knowing what it is or does or not. And let’s face it, more often than not, they have enough stuff around that they don’t bother with half the time anyway.

      We’ve decided to offer children aged ten upwards a choice for birthdays: to go on a trip somewhere or to do something they’ve always wanted to do, or to give us a birthday list of stuff. Guess what they’ve opted for?

      1. Oh, and about the white! The lower living room is gloss -painted wipeable panels so easy to wipe down daily. The sofa covers are removable (although I ruined the last lot and am waiting for replacements). The sofa is also covered with throws. The carpet is usually washed on average every six weeks and Magic Sponge cleaning sponges are truly wonderful creations!

  2. Our boys had more fun playing slub with yours than playing with any of the endless toys in their cupboards over the Easter holiday – so simple and yet so much fun. I’ve been slowly selling any toys that haven’t been played with for the last few months so that we don’t have so much to store when we go travelling and what is amazing is that the boys just haven’t noticed things disappearing – like a huge climbing frame from the garden – gone weeks ago and not one of them has realised…!

  3. Great article, and an important message particularly in this day and age where we’re bombarded by marketers wanting us to buy more more more! Remember folks – ‘money can’t buy you happiness’!

  4. Such a lovely post, I believe in the exact sentiment. I was just telling my mother the other day to stop buying presents for my daughter and she was surprised by this statement. I told her that my baby has loads of stuff already and I don’t want her to grow up thinking stuff just comes for no reason. Looking back on my childhood, it was so happy and I didn’t get loads of stuff, nor did I lust for anything. Of course I got presents from my birthday and Christmas or even a special occasion, but I knew we couldn’t afford a lot so I was happy with what I had. I really want to pass that on to my daughter, its not what you, it is who you have.

    1. Let’s be honest, how much of what we remember from our childhood is ‘stuff’? Most of my memories are of days out or family gatherings. Very few memories involve things. Thanks for commenting, Fiona!

  5. Yes! I 100% agree.
    I always remember something my nana would say “Never ask nor wish for more than you need”, something which has stuck with me, especially since becoming a mama.

    I’ve often seen parents get frazzled trying to keep up with demands for the latest gadgets from their children, which really aren’t necessary

    1. Yes, I know what you mean. I find it unsettling when parents plunge themselves further into debt to give their young children the latest gadgets or tablets especially at Christmas time – they don’t need them! Why?

  6. I love this post! I definitely agree with you, I want my boy to get the most out of his life by working for it, feeling a sense of achievement, learn how to be kind to himself mentally and for that to be what is important to him. Your post was added to #SundaySharefest, come link up your favourite post of the week x

  7. This is excellent and well said! We fully agree with you on making sure we give our kids enough but not giving them everything because we believe that having more things doesn’t necessarily make you happy.

  8. This is spot on! It worries me sometimes the conversations kids are having “my dad has this car” etc.
    Wouldn’t it be amazing if we heard our kids chatting about their time with us more than the stuff we have!

  9. That is just soooo true.My daughter has six kids and they just have enough.just 2 gifts at Christmas and share everything.You are an example too soo many people with kids.congratulations!

  10. Gosh, yes. One of the best posts I have read in a very long time. This sums up my approach to life too. Nowadays I choose to volunteer as it means I do a job that makes a difference but I can be there for my family. Mich x

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