Minimalism: A lifestyle that could promote positive youth development?

by Charlene S.-M.

I’m been reading and thinking about minimalism for a little while now. In part, my interest started three years ago when I introduced the topic of “consumerism” to my first year “Concepts in Recreation, Leisure, and Sport” class. To prepare, I did a lot of reading of academic literature, but I also came across a number of articles and blogs that were focused on “slowing” life or your home or discussed the concept of a minimalist lifestyle.

Minimalism, according to Zen Habits blogger, 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.”

As I searched for more information, I found minimalism discussed from a variety of perspectives – financial, environmental, family relations, and psychological. I began considering the concept of minimalism with my “leisure” lens. For example, if minimalism meant less money spent on “stuff,” could this mean more money to spend on leisure experiences? If, as a minimalist, you cut your cable service, does this mean more time outdoors? More time interacting with family?

As this academic term approached and I prepared for my Youth Development through Recreation and Sport course, I started wondering more specifically whether a minimalist lifestyle could promote positive youth development. I did a quick search for academic literature that linked a minimalist lifestyle with youth development. Nothing. I’m left to speculate based on what I know/understand about minimalism and what I know/understand about youth development.

I examined the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets and considered whether youth may be more likely to acquire them if they were living in an environment that promoted aspects of minimalism.

  1. One minimalist blogger talked about killing the Internet. He suggested that no Internet at home results in 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. Perhaps more time for creative activities such as music or art. Perhaps more quality time interacting with parents and other family members developing a relationship and sharing experiences.
  2. Another blogger, 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. Is it possible that fewer toys could increase the opportunity to develop the interpersonal competence asset (one of the Social Competence assets)? Is it possible that if there are more opportunities for social interaction, children will be more likely to also develop their conflict resolution skills? Joshua Becker suggests that fewer toys means more sharing, collaborating, and working together which could involve negotiating and learning to resolve conflicts associated with sharing toys.
  3. Finally, 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 is one of the steps toward living a more minimalist lifestyle and he suggests that it may teach both individual and communal responsibility. Perhaps this could help youth in acquiring the asset related to personal responsibility (one of the Positive Values assets). Involving youth in the processes of cutting down on possessions and having/living with less may also contribute to their sense of personal power – the feeling that they have influence over what happens in their life (one of the Positive Identity Assets).

The possibilities for connections between a minimalist lifestyle and acquiring assets exists. Of course, I’ve only considered one side of this story. There may be some opportunities for asset acquisition that are lost as a result of a minimalist lifestyle (something perhaps one of the student bloggers could explore). Clearly, academic research is needed on this topic in order to be able to make clear conclusions about the interaction between this lifestyle and the affect on PYD.


About Charlene Shannon-McCallum

I passionately teach, research, blog, and tweet about leisure, recreation, and sport. My focus is on youth development, gender issues in leisure and sport, family, leisure education, leisure and health, and bullying in recreation and sport settings.
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One Response to Minimalism: A lifestyle that could promote positive youth development?

  1. Pingback: Minimalism, Simple Living, Acesticism…. ships heading to the same port | Tadpole Into Frog

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