Monthly Archives: October 2013

“I never have time” – Shifting away from using lack of time as an excuse

One spring day in 2000, while I was a graduate student working on my Ph.D., I was having tea with a fellow doctoral student and we had an interesting conversation about time that has stuck with me. Discussing our lack of time was a common part of our weekly visits. That day she was particularly agitated about being busy. She explained that a friend of hers was encouraging (perhaps demanding) her to change the way she spoke about her time. “She doesn’t want me to say, ‘I don’t have time to have coffee with you this week,’ she wants me to say, ‘I choose not to take time to have coffee with you.'”

As a leisure scientist, I have a particular interest in time and how we think and speak about time because of the connections between time and leisure. Often, people think of time or lack of it as something that is beyond their control and would therefore view it as a “structural constraint“. Those individuals generally have an external locus of control and feel controlled by what happens to them that is external to themselves. They tend to blame other people and events, positive or negative, for what is transpiring in their lives. Therefore, the reason they would not have satisfying leisure or time for leisure would be viewed as a result of factors external to them. In my friend’s case, she was viewing preparation for comprehensive exams as dictating her time. The stack of books she had on her desk and floor in her home office – they were in charge of her time. The looming date on the calendar was marked in red “methods exam” also controlled how her time was spent.

I have fallen into this similar trap of seeing time as outside my control. In some ways, it’s comforting. I don’t have to take responsibility for my choices and even get to feel a little sorry for myself when I “have to” deny myself opportunities for fun because of class lecture preparation or grading is “eating up my time.” But at the end of the day, this external locus of control can mean that I miss out on satisfying experiences, that I experience a feeling of helplessness, and that I can even have a negative attitude about what it is that I’m doing (e.g., feeling annoyed at a work event because I feel I “have to” be there).

On the other hand, there are those individuals who see time use as something they have considerable influence over and have an internal locus of control. Those with an internal locus of control tend to experience a greater sense of personal freedom – feeling that they control their life, that they possesses a sense of power, are responsible for their life and their choices, and direct their efforts toward mastering their environment.

I have revisited the conversation about choosing how to spend time on many occasions. Would I make different choices if I had to phrase my time excuse as a choice? What might change for me if I thought about or spoke about my time use as a series of choices? In particular, I was curious if it might help me to understand my own values and choices related to how I spend my time.

The Experiment

A few years ago, I gave focused attention to altering the way I thought about and spoke about my time. I committed to a month. It was during a term when I was teaching “leisure education” and the topics I was covering that month were focused on leisure awareness and self-assessment. I thought that teaching those topics would help me keep this internal locus of control experiment at the forefront of my mind.

First of all, I found the exercise of shifting my thoughts and words to be a challenge. I didn’t realize how many times I used, “I don’t have time” or “I ran out of time” as a reason for not doing something or for explaining why I didn’t get to something. I found I used “I have to” quite a bit to explain why I could make a different choice.

I also became much more aware of what my values were related to my time. Work certainly seemed to be a priority as I was regularly choosing this over other things – my personal, solitary leisure pursuits, my social leisure activities, and even my health (e.g., not taking time to exercise or make healthy meals). I found that I was uncomfortable saying to a friend, “I choose to work instead of spending time with you”. It didn’t communicate what I perceived to be my values. It was a bit of a wake up call to realize that blaming the time demands of work had masked the choices I was making and that these choices were not necessarily representative of what I valued.

The other thing I discovered was what I truly enjoyed doing and what I did not. I would be inclined to use the time excuse for things in which I really had no interest. The things I wanted to do, I found a way to make the time. This raised the question for me of whether it’s okay to simply tell people that you’re not interested in, for example, going to a horror movie instead of saying “I’m too busy this week.” Did I risk being excluded in the future by being clear about what I chose to participate in and what I chose not to? It seemed easier to say, “I’m busy” rather than “I’m not interested in seeing a horror movie, so I’m going to choose not to go.” And yet, how could I truly expect friends or family or acquaintances to get to know me or demonstrate they knew me if I masked my interests and choices in the “lack of time” excuse?

The other change I noticed was that as I “chose” to work or “chose” to go grocery shopping, and “chose” to clean the house, or “chose” to do something with a friend that wasn’t really my thing but meant a lot to her, I approached these task less begrudgingly. I didn’t suddenly love cleaning, but there was something different when I used “I choose” instead of “I have to” language. I also found that I had a greater appreciation for those times when I “chose” leisure as well. It wasn’t something I did with what time I had left over. This seemed to enhance the experiences I had with those leisure pursuits. I was also practicing what I preach – taking personal responsibility for one’s leisure

Certainly, there are times when we cannot choose. I teach classes at a particular time and I don’t choose to show up or not – it’s my responsibility to do so. I fulfill this responsibility. There are many things parents do for their children that are not necessarily choices – but a responsibility that comes with being a parent. However, we each have some room in our days and weeks to make choices.

The Challenge

I encourage you to experiment with your thoughts and language related to time and leisure. Rather than saying, “I never have time for leisure” or “I can’t get leisure time” or “No one gives me time”, try saying, “I am responsible for making time for my leisure.” Tell your partner/spouse or children or friends what you are “choosing” – be it work, your family, your friends, or yourself. Be honest with yourself about your choices. Sometimes we make work a priority for a particular length of time for a specific reason. Other times we choose family over time with friends and vice versa. If you don’t like what you see (or hear yourself say) when the mask of “no time” is removed, you are in a position to make different choices.

If you accept the challenge and try the experiment, observe yourself in the process. What do you notice when you switch your language and thoughts? Do you feel differently about what you’re doing? Do you experience an increased sense of freedom? Do you find yourself making different choices?

Since my personal experiment with the time excuse, I still fall into my old traps. I catch myself saying I don’t have time for something when really,… even with all the time in the world, I would not choose to do it. I still catch myself saying “I have to” for things I am really choosing. It is easier at times to blame the clock or a full calendar for what I fail to accomplish or enjoy in my leisure. It absolves me of the responsibility. And yet, in the long run, it doesn’t help me in leading a fulfilling leisure lifestyle. In this way, shifting the way I think about time is indeed a work in progress.


Leisure Makeover Monday: Negotiating and Navigating Constraints to Leisure

leisure time makeover seven

This is the last post in the “makeover” series. If you have followed along, you have hopefully given some thought to various aspects of your leisure – what constitutes a satisfying experience for you, what needs are met through your leisure pursuits, what leisure skills you personally have, and even the things that get in the way of you accessing leisure or enjoying leisure experiences you are able to access.

If you completed the identify constraints exercise offered in the last post, you already have an idea of what the most common factors are that stop you from accessing or enjoying leisure. The next step is to work at finding ways to negotiate or overcome these constraints. There are a few questions we can ask ourselves to help in negotiating constraints: Is the activity or experience meaningful enough to you to bother with the negotiating process – do the benefits outweigh the costs? Are the barriers possible to overcome? Can I modify aspects of my life in order to access this leisure activity? Can I modify aspects of the activity or my participation in the activity in order to gain access or improve my enjoyment?

Meaningfulness of the Leisure Pursuit or Experience. A first step to negotiating a constraint involves deciding whether the activity we can’t seem to access – whether because of time or lack of transportation or limited finances – is meaningful enough to move forward in negotiating. For example, you may feel you do not have time to take after dinner walks. You first must decide whether walking is an important activity to you – do the benefits outweigh the costs that may be associated with overcoming the constraints. You may have ideas about how you could access this leisure (e.g., skip doing dishes; delegate these tasks; go later in the evening; wake up early and walk in the morning), but you need to consider whether the benefits you will receive (e.g., physical activity, reduced stress, time for self) are worth the costs (e.g., messy kitchen, walking later when it is dark, giving up an hour of sleep in the morning).

Constraint Can Be Overcome? Sometimes one of the things that keeps constraints from being overcome is that we don’t believe it is possible to overcome them. If you do not believe that lack of time to pursue things you enjoy can be overcome, you will not move any further in the constraints negotiation process. If you feel that lack of skill to participate in an activity is not something you can overcome, again, you won’t go further in the negotiation process. This means we need to believe that a constraint can be overcome and there needs to be a desire to overcome it before we can begin to consider or implement negotiation strategies.

Skills and Knowledge. I have already discussed that in some cases lack of knowledge or lack of skill are constraints to participation. If you can indeed link either of these factors to why you are not participating in a particular activity, refer back to these posts for suggestions on what you can do related to these constraints.

Modify Aspects of Life – Depending on the nature of the constraint (e.g., time), it may be possible to make changes to aspects of your life that would allow you to overcome the constraint.

  • Getting up earlier may buy you an extra hour to participate in an activity (e.g., go for a run).
  • Rather than sitting at your desk or working through lunch, you may want to take this time to participate in a leisure activity you enjoy (e.g., knitting, shopping, walking, socializing with friends, reading).
  • Consider how delegating obligatory tasks (e.g., cooking; housework; taking children to activities) to other family members could allow you to access leisure you enjoy (e.g., either more time for leisure, or more freedom to choose to do what you wish).
  • Consider where you are spending your money and whether making changes in where money goes may allow you to have more money available for leisure pursuits. For some people, it is not possible to reallocate their funds or to cut costs, but for some people, this is something worth visiting.

Modify Participation – Changing aspects of the way in which you participate can help you to successfully negotiate some of the constraints you face and allow for participation in some form.

  • You may not be able to get the 45 minute cycle on the trails that you were hoping for, but you may be able to bike around your neighborhood with your children. The physical activity experience may not be as long as you would prefer. It may not be just you and your bike and you may not be able to speed along as fast as you like, but there may be other elements that meet your needs (i.e., being outside, being active).
  • Some women who are fearful of running alone at night will take a dog with them when they run or only run when they are with a partner or group of people.
  • If body image issues stop you from going to the gym, working out at home may be an option. Again, research on women’s leisure has found some who are self conscious opt for women’s only facilities or program as a way of negotiating this constraint.
  • When finances are limited, it may be important to modify when you participate. For example, renting movies rather than going to the theater or going to the theater on cheap night and forgoing the concession stand snacks. Although purchasing a book allows you immediate gratification, using your library and placing holds on books you’re interested in may be a way to read new novels or biographies that you’re interested in. Many communities offer days when museums are cheaper or when attending an art gallery is free. You may not be as free to participate exactly when you wish, but by being flexible and modifying your participation, you may still have opportunities to participate in activities you enjoy.

Not Everything Can Be Negotiated at an Individual Level. Unfortunately, not all constraints to leisure can be modified by individual cognitive or behavioral processes. For example, if there are no swimming facilities in your community, modifying aspects of your life or participation to overcome that constraint may not (likely will not) be effective. It may also be difficult to negotiate social norms related to gender role expectations without the help of a partner who, for example, is willing to share equally in household and child rearing responsibilities. Therefore, it is important to recognize which constraints to leisure you experience are factors you can respond to individually, which constraints you need support in negotiating (e.g., from your partner, friends), and which constraints may require a more collective effort (e.g., lobbying for facilities or recreation opportunities).

Leisure Makeoever Monday: Identifying Constraints

leisure time makeover week six

The last area that many people need to consider when working on making changes to their leisure is the constraints they experience. Constraints (or sometimes referred to as barriers) are those structural, interpersonal, and intrapersonal factors that can influence one’s leisure preferences and/or one’s ability to follow through on what they are intending to do for leisure or during available leisure time.

Structural constraints are those things that interfere in your leisure after your preferences are formed. For example, you may prefer to go skiing on a particular weekend in December, but the weather has not cooperated and produced enough snow on the hills (weather). You may want to sign up for a yoga class, but the times offered at your local studio do not fit within your schedule (timing of activities).

Interpersonal constraints are those factors that arise as a result of interpersonal relationships; they involve social factors. For example, you may want to try ballroom dancing, but your husband/partner does not want to go (lack of leisure partner). You’d like to go to a movie tonight, but cannot locate a sitter (lack of support for leisure). We may have social roles that create constraints. For example, when you take your children to the beach, supervising them in your role as a parent may mean that the experience does not have the elements of “leisure” for you (e.g., sense of freedom).

Finally, intrapersonal constraints are individualized factors that influence leisure preferences. These factors can sometimes be a result of socialization (e.g., perceptions that ballet is for girls and football is for boys – perceived appropriateness of activities; women socialized to look after the needs of others before their own – known as the “ethic of care”). Other times, intrapersonal constraints are related to our abilities – for example, we may perceive that we lack the skills to join a bowling league. Or, our health (e.g., illness, injury) may stop us from participating in activities we enjoy or forming preferences for particular activities. Finally, some people do not feel entitled to participate in leisure. For example, if you subscribe to the philosophy that you “earn” your leisure, if you find yourself unemployed, you may not feel entitled to spend money on leisure pursuits. Some parents do not feel they are entitled to take time for themselves if it means their kids will need to go to a baby sitter.

Below is a table that outlines many of the constraints that leisure researchers have discovered as common. Some of the constraints are more common for particular segments of the population. Ethic of care, for example, is primarily a constraint women experience.


Identifying Constraints

Since you worked on clarifying your needs and priorities, you have a better sense of what you want to do during your available leisure time. In other posts, I have discussed specific factors that can influence our leisure preferences or stop us from pursuing things we’re interested in (e.g., skill level; knowledge, experiences). There may, however, be other factors that affect your ability to pursue things in which you are interested. Take time to consider what is getting in the way of what it is that you enjoy doing.

I’ve created a fairly simple exercise that will get you thinking about and monitoring the constraints you face related to your leisure. In some cases, you may discover that you engage in self-talk that serves to constrain you (e.g., “I’m too tired”). Monitoring what gets in the way of you having satisfying leisure experiences is an important step to finding ways to “negotiate” those constraints and having those leisure experiences you’ve identified that will meet your needs.

Next week, I will discuss strategies for overcoming constraints.

Leisure Makeover Monday: Processing Experiences

leisure time makeover week five

This week, I want to focus on experiences. Our experiences with and in leisure and sport have a significant influence on whether we will participate again or how we feel about participating (e.g., eager, apprehensive). Sometimes, we participate in activities in our free time that are negative experiences and we do that over and over and over. Maybe you go to a favorite restaurant and consistently get bad service. Maybe you started going to a cooking class with friends, but the instructor isn’t your cup of tea and the class isn’t as hands on as you hoped. These hardly feel like “leisure” experiences when they do not elicit positive feelings like enjoyment or excitement. And yet, our precious free time, our leisure time is taken up.

If you’re feeling like your leisure is not satisfying or not as satisfying as it could be, another factor (in addition to your needs, your knowledge, and your skills) to consider is your experiences. It is important to understand the impact of the experiences we have and develop an clear vision of the type of experience you want and how you might best go about getting it.

The Importance of First Experiences

My niece, just a few weeks ago, had her first swim lesson (okay, she did have some parent and baby pool time when she was in diapers, but this was her first “beginner” class experience with an instructor leading). She was invited to jump in the water with the instructor poised to catch her. The instructor does catch her, but lets her head go under. She’s shocked. Upset. As my sister reports the tale to me, we discuss how this probably isn’t the best way to orient a “beginner” to the water. We were both swim instructors back in our high school/early university days. We would never have done this. Why? Because there was a pretty good chance those kids wouldn’t come back. And, if they did, they would return with anxiety and fear, not excitement and eager anticipation. But aside from reminiscing about how we did things “back in the day,” I couldn’t help but reflect on the idea of “first experiences.”

Having a good first experience makes it easy to go back. My first hot yoga class was an excellent experience and I looked forward to going to the next. The instructor was warm and friendly. She was clearly knowledgeable. I learned new things each week. I felt great afterward.

Negative first experiences present more challenges. These experiences require processing – why was it a negative experience? Is this something you can change or is was the negative experience tied to something about the nature of the activity or event? Some people don’t have the time or energy to process negative experiences. They simply do not go back to the event, activity, or program. And sadly, sometimes negative experiences in one context (e.g., a negative swim experience as a child) spills over into how we anticipate we will experience the activity in other contexts (e.g., swimming at the beach). So the negative experience can have a wide spread impact.

Spending time thinking about what will provide you with a good first experience can be beneficial. If you can think about times when you’ve had good first experiences and first experiences that left you wanting to quit, you can gain some valuable insight. One of the reasons my Zumba class was a disaster for me for two reasons. First, there was no “first class”. The facility ran beginner Zumba classes regularly for its membership so there was never a real “first day” where there would be a collection of new folks. The instructor did recognize I was new and kept an eye on me, but she did do a lot of explaining. I had to figure things out as we went along. Second, I decided to try a 10:00 a.m. class. It fit well into my flexible work schedule. Out of a class of 20, I was one of two people under the age of 60. The class wasn’t labelled as a senior’s class, but it was clearly structured as one. I hadn’t done my research. I blame that bad first experience on myself and know that it wasn’t the activity itself that was the problem. I need to find a class that is a beginner level that has a clear start day and is targeted at people like myself (e.g., reasonable fit; 41 years old).

Unfortunately, each leisure activity or experience will have its unique factors that may shape your first experience into something you perceive as positive or negative. This means there is no single checklist that I can provide to help you ensure your first experience is great. However, I can prompt you to think about how you might work to improve your chances that your first experience will be great. Here are three common factors that could influence your experience.

  • The instructor/leader/facilitator (e.g., their level of experience, enthusiasm, their ability and willingness to adapt to the needs of the participants, openness to feedback and to making changes based on feedback). If possible, learn what you can about the individuals who may be leading an experience you’re interested in. This knowledge will help you make a decision about whether you anticipate your first experience will be a good one.
  • Timing. Timing can be considered in a couple of ways. Are you participating at a time that fits in your schedule well? Having to rush into an activity or event or rush off afterwards may not leave you with the best experience. Are you participating at a time that will offer you the best experience (e.g., crowds, wait times)? In Canada, we are in Apple Picking season. I noticed one U-Pick posted the “busy” times on their website (12-3 p.m. each day). If you want an experience that doesn’t involve crowds, this information helped you make choices that could provide you a better experience. If a positive beach experience for you involves swimming, it may be important to know when jellyfish season is and avoid planning your beach vacation then.
  • Quality of the service/activity. You’ve familiar with the old saying, “You get what you pay for”. Sometimes we do not invest enough money in our leisure activities and therefore, end up with a lower quality experience which may not be positive. To ensure a good, first experience, do your homework. A summer swim pass at the outdoor pool may be cheaper, but if you hate cold water or swimming when it’s raining, you may want to reconsider. Depending on the nature of the activity you’re interested in, you may want to check out the quality of the equipment (e.g., at a gym facility) or the amenities available at a facility or event (e.g., locker rooms, showers, towel service, parking, food services).

Sometimes we do not think about how to set ourselves up to have the best experience. It may be worth taking some time to think about what will make an experience “good” or “positive” for you and then work on locating those opportunities that will most likely provide that experience.

Overcoming Bad Experiences

Sometimes first experiences are not positive. As I mentioned above, negative experiences can turn someone away from an activity. If you have avoided an activity you are interested in because of a negative experience, it is important to understand what factors made an experience negative and consider whether changing those factors could contribute to a better experience. Some factors could include:

  • skill/readiness – you didn’t have the skill needed to participate at the expected level or the skill to enjoy the activity as delivered
  • instructor – it may not have been the right “fit”
  • program/event delivery format – a running “club” format where runners gather and head out for a run may not be for you, but perhaps a “learn to run” may be a better match; you may not like the unpredictable weather factor that comes with attending outdoor concerts, but attending a concert at an indoor venue is perfect
  • size of the group (e.g., small group versus large group experiences) – you may find you do not enjoy leisure learning experiences in a larger group
  • group dynamic – you may not have felt there was a good fit between you and the other participants; the dynamic may not have appealed to you
  • activity – it was not for you

Once you understand what may have contributed to your negative experience, you are in a better position to make decisions about giving an activity/event/experience another try. If the activity or experience (e.g., the ballet) did not appeal, it may be best to move on and look for something that captures your interest and brings enjoyment. If your negative experience is linked to modifiable factors (e.g., size of group), learn from that experience and look for opportunities that offer the activity in a format or group size, for example, that may be a better fit and, therefore, better experience for you.

Ditch Activities that Consistently Produce Negative Experiences

Finally, do not let yourself get into a rut where you accept poor experiences as status quo. If it isn’t fun; if it isn’t meeting your needs; if you don’t feel comfortable – don’t settle. Very few people have enough time to participate in things that are not offering wonderful experiences. Stop. Take time to figure out what is contributing to the ongoing negative experience. If nothing can be done on your end to improve the experience, move on. If you feel you can offer feedback or suggestions that could change the nature of the experience, great. Take action. But if nothing changes, move on.

Next week – constraints to leisure. What constraints are most common and how do you negotiate them so that you can access leisure experiences you want to have?

Minimialism and Positive Youth Development

 Minimalism and Positive Youth Development

As I mentioned in one of my first posts, I’ve been reading and thinking about minimalism for a little while now. Over the last few days, I’ve been preparing an “example” post for a blog my Youth Development through Recreation and Sport class with be contributing to. Not wanting to “steal” a blogging topic that might at the forefront of their minds (e.g., social media, selfies, trends related to the lives of youth that could be connected to youth development), I decided to write about minimalism and its connection to youth development. I enjoyed the processes of using my “leisure” lens and my “positive youth development” lens to explore the concept of a minimalist lifestyle. I decided to rework that post I developed for my students and expand my discussion here.

Minimalism, according to Zen Habits blog host, Leo Babauta, is “simply getting rid of things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It’s living without an obsession with material things or an obsession with doing everything and doing too much. It’s using simple tools, having a simple wardrobe, carrying little and living lightly.”

In considering minimalism’s potential contribution to positive youth development, I decided to consider the principles of minimalism and link those with how they may help youth acquire the Search Institute’s Developmental Assets. The Search Institute has done extensive research with young people in the United States and developed a framework of 40 Developmental Assets which “identifies a set of skills, experiences, relationships, and behaviors that enable young people to develop into successful and contributing adults”. These include two categories of assets. First, there are the external assets (support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, and constructive use of time). External assets are the positive experiences that youth receive from the world around them – their family, school, neighborhood, sport club. Second, there are internal assets (commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity). The internal assets identify the characteristics and behaviors that reflect positive internal growth and development of young people. Research shows that the more assets that youth have, the more likely they are to, for example, be persistent in the face of challenge and adversity, take care of their own health, and be involved in leadership roles. The more assets youth have, the less likely they are to engage in underage drinking, use tobacco, and be involved in violent behavior. These are just some of the powerful outcomes associated with acquiring the assets.

In reviewing the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets, I considered whether youth may be more likely to acquire a particular asset if they were living in an environment that promoted aspects of minimalism. I focus on three asset groups here:

Constructive Use of Time Assets: One minimalist blogger talks about killing the Internet. He suggests that no Internet at home means more time to do meaningful things – read, write, exercise, spend time with friends. If a family with children cut the Internet this might provide opportunities to acquire assets associated with Constructive Use of Time which include the following:

  • Creative activities: Young person spends 3 or more hrs/week in lessons or practice in music, theatre, or other arts
  • Youth programs: Young person spends 3 or more hrs/week in sports, clubs, or organizations at school/or in the community
  • Religious community: Young person spends 1 or more hrs/week in activities in a religious institution
  • Time at home: Young person is out with friends “with nothing special to do” 2 or fewer nights/week (meaning, the youth spends time at home or is engaged in activities aside from “hanging out” with friends)

It is possible that not having the Internet would reduce the amount of time youth are engaged in surfing the Internet and participating in social media activities. This may open the door for more time and opportunity to engage in creative activities such as music or art. If a youth already has the skills or is learning, there would be more time for learning, practice, and enjoyment of that creative activity. Perhaps it would mean more quality time interacting with parents and other family members developing relationships and sharing experiences. The money that was once devoted to Internet costs could be redirected to the young person’s participation in sports or other extracurricular activities. One might also argue that without the draw of the Internet at home, a young person might be more interested in participating in school-related activities (e.g., student council, attending school sports events or activities, volunteering with school initiatives).

Social Competency Assets: Another blogger on the topic of minimalism, Joshua Becker, discusses that less toys for children (something that would be consistent with a minimalist lifestyle) can be very beneficial. He suggests that children with fewer toys have better social skills because they interact more and develop relationships with other kids and adults. He suggests that fewer toys means more sharing, collaborating, and working together. It is possible then that fewer toys could assist in developing two social competency assets: the interpersonal competence asset (the young person with this asset has empathy, sensitivity, and friendship skills) and the peaceful conflict resolution asset (young person seeks to resolve conflict nonviolently). If fewer toys does indeed increase social interaction, it is possible that from a young age, children have an opportunity to develop and practice skills that lead to acquiring these two social competency assets.

Positive Values: Mike Burns, author of the blog “The Other Side of Complexity” talks about  involving children in decluttering. Getting rid of those things you don’t need or love is a step many families take when working toward living a minimalist lifestyle. He suggests that it involving youth in the process may teach both individual and communal responsibility. One of the positive values assets is personal responsibility – the young person accepts and takes responsibility for his/her behavior. The lessons of decluttering could include the child developing a sense of responsibility to look after what he/she has because there is not an endless supply of “things” or “things” are not being bought all of the time. Maybe there are lessons linked with environmental responsibility – how our consumptive behavior affects the environment (and not in a positive way) and that the choices we make individually (related to consuming and throwing out more and more things) has an impact that reaches far beyond the individual.

Another positive value asset is caring. Caring is an asset whereby the young person places high value on helping other people. Many articles I’ve read about principles of minimalism discuss that higher value is placed on experiences and relationships with others than on things. This value or principle associated with minimalism may be influential in helping youth to learn and gain experience with caring for others. Youth living in a family that practices a minimalist lifestyle may see their parents invest their time in others – neighbors and family, for example. Their parents may be engaged with activities within community groups. At times, their engagement with others may be to share experiences and have fun and at other times, being involved in those relationships may mean providing care. Having parents who model this value and who encourage this principle of valuing relationships and others may help to involve youth in caring activities and develop youth who care.

I’d enjoy hearing about the experiences of those who are raising children while practicing (or moving toward) a minimalist lifestyle. Are you seeing your children develop some skills and behaviors that will help them to reach adulthood with the assets I’ve discussed? What other developments do you notice that are positive?

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